This selection of case studies provides good examples of community engagement by councils across the country.
Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council has joined up with housing association Bolton At Home and other partners, to deliver a Peer Navigation scheme. Peer Navigators are paid employees recruited from within their local community, to support their local community. They act as a key point of contact between decision-makers and vulnerable residents. This has created a powerful engagement channel between citizens and local government, and was particularly valuable in fighting the physical, social and economic consequences of COVID-19.
Darlington Cares—an organisation bringing together Darlington Borough Council with local businesses keen to undertake corporate social responsibility within the borough—has organised ‘Pick Pie and Pint’ days since 2017. These fun events enable the community to practically contribute towards enhancing the appearance of their town. Rather than accepting that fewer financial resources mean poorer services, Darlington has shown that with the right approach, residents can be engaged in a way which not only helps maintain service levels but brings the community together.
Exeter City Council has created Wellbeing Exeter, a strategic alliance with Devon County Council and Sport England, which aims to link community, healthcare and wellbeing services, and to reinforce local assets which might strengthen wellbeing outcomes. The result has been to create deeper roots in the community and a more co-produced approach to local services, including collaboration with residents in one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods, on the design and construction of a new community wellbeing hub.
With the aviation industry hit hard by the pandemic, the London Borough of Hounslow is providing training for 60 ‘green jobs’. Applicants, however, tended to come from less deprived communities. The council wanted to ensure that environmental jobs and economic equality were not mutually exclusive, so set out to understand the barriers stopping deprived groups from applying. Findings showed, among other things, that the term ‘green jobs’ was itself a problem so the council changed the way its training is marketed and delivered, to make it more locally rooted and inclusive.
Two neighbourhoods of Teignbridge District Council were awarded Garden Community Status in 2019. Residents were offered the opportunity to be part of the plans to build vibrant, green neighbourhoods but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted face-to-face engagement. Determined to involve local people in the project, the council pioneered a set of digital initiatives, the success of which has given Teignbridge Council the confidence to explore other ways to increase resident participation.