Our story so far – action research in local democracy…Year One

A lot has changed since we started Public Square. Fortunately we’ve been able to keep working remotely during the lockdown – recording learning from the first year of Public Square and looking ahead to an exciting year two – which we’re now in the midst of.

Action research in Calderdale and Frome

We are excited to share reports from our Year One work with Calderdale Metropolitan Borough and Frome Town Council.

These prototyping reports document our design process, and what was learnt from prototyping some new approaches to citizen participation.

Calderdale Prototyping report

Frome Prototyping Report

And the discovery reports outline the needs we were responding to, and give an understanding of the context in each place.

Calderdale Discovery Report

Frome Discovery Report

We hope these are useful for sharing:

  • Learning and reflections about what helps build effective citizen participation at a local level
  • Our experiences of documenting a design process, and capturing learning from testing new approaches.
  • Resources created along the way, which you are welcome to draw on and reuse. (These are linked out from within the reports).

In Calderdale our approach was informed by a co-design process, based around Calderdale Conversations.  In Frome we worked on their Participatory Budgeting process, with an emphasis on involving citizens in creating new project ideas.

The big one

If you want to follow the whole story of the first year of Public Square there is a full Public Square – Year One Programme Report  This was developed for our funder – but we thought it might provide some interesting insights for others.

There were two other councils we worked with this year. Our work with Glasgow City Council is at an earlier stage, and ultimately, we didn’t continue with a Public Square partnership in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – our learning about both of these councils so far is in ‘the big one’.

Year Two

This year has a different emphasis and we are focusing on:

  • Capturing the learning across all the local government work delivered by The Democratic Society, rather working with a specific cohort of councils;
  • Reaching out to others (you perhaps!) to record, celebrate and share learning happening across the wider sector working on democratic engagement;
  • Presenting learning and sharing resources in ways which makes them usable for anyone who wants them.

We’ll be sharing some updates on our approach to this soon; and in June we’ll also be revamping the Public Square website. We’re keen to capture stories of local democracy in action for this new space. If you have a story you’d like to share, we’d really love to hear from you!


We hope you enjoy reading about our action research so far. If you have something you’d like to share through Public Square, or you want to find out more, we look forward to hearing from you on: team@thepublicsquare.org or @publicsquareuk