Event: ‘People not Politics’: a guide to best practice community engagement for Councillors

28 Nov 2017, 09:30–16:00
Central London

Early Bird LGiU Members: £224.95 +VAT

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Non-Members: £299.95 +VAT

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Forget the theoretical models – this is a guide to hands-on ‘real’ community engagement, where councillors, officers and other stakeholders alike can work together for the good of communities no matter where they are or what the issues.


At this time more than ever, it is becoming more and more apparent that the focus of the elected member needs to be on the reality of their community leadership role, not simply the political aspects that got them elected in the first place.

Whilst it is the membership of a political party and the accompanying support of the electorate  that allows a party candidate to walk through the doors of a Civic Centre or Town Hall as an elected member of the Council, it is at that point that the political aspects should be left – or their importance at least significantly diminished – if a member is to adequately and successfully build their relationship, work and reputation with the whole community they have been elected to serve, not just their political supporters. The focus needs to change.

Recent and highly tragic events in the news have highlighted a lack of communication and understanding between local authorities and their communities, giving rise to a culture of suspicion, division and broken relationships.    For an elected member, and the wider Council, to be successful and fit for purpose as a community leader, this relationship needs to be reconciled and strengthened and the trust and cooperation so often missing to be restored.   Councillors cannot afford to be perceived as remote from their communities, nor expect officers to simply get on with it.  Challenging levels of resource cuts often means there are no  – or at least limited numbers of – staff, and very limited budgets available to them to assist with community engagement activities and bolster a flagging relationship between the Council and its communities.  Councillors need to be more involved, more visible and more accessible, standing by communities to lead from the front and inform the design of services and policy in challenging times.

Delegates will gain:

  • A practical understanding of what community engagement is, why it is important in Local Authorities today
  • The difference between being an elected party political member and an elected member of the Council as community leader
  • How to write a community engagement strategy or action plan, using a joined up approach to include and involve the community and all other stakeholders
  • Putting strategy into practice

Delegates should bring with them an example of an issue or problem within their community or Council that they would like to address through better community engagement.


09:30     Registration & refreshments

10:00     Welcome and introductions

  • Introduce yourself
  • Motivations for attending today
  • What do you do in the other non-Council part of your life?

10:15     So You’ve Been Elected – Congratulations!


How did you get here?

What were your motivations?

What did you understand your role as an elected member to be?

10:45     So You’ve Been Elected – Now What?


How do you think your new role enables you to influence Council policy, services and outcomes for

residents and stakeholders?

What else do you think your role is responsible for other than that?

Where does the politics fit in?  Or does it/should it?

11.15     Putting it into context – Community Engagement

  • What is it?
  • Why is it important?
  • The ladder of engagement

11:45     Refreshments   

12:00     A little piece of history

A look at Government led community engagement initiatives in the past twenty years

Traditional methods of on- the -ground community engagement

12:30     Ladder of engagement


Where do you think your Council is on the ladder?

Thinking of some real examples to add to the ladder/different rungs/stages

Could it/should it be better?

12:45     How can you get to know your community better?

Relationship with voluntary and community sector

Being visible and reaching out

13:00     LUNCH

13:45     Putting engagement into practice


Where have you seen (in your opinion):

  1. Examples of good engagement between Councils and communities – why is it good?
  2. Examples of bad/inadequate engagement between Councils and communities
  3. What are the key ingredients missing in the second?

14:15     Writing an engagement strategy for – and with – your community

  • Relationship between elected members and officers
  • What resources are available to you
  • Who do you need to work with?
  • Multi organisational approach
  • Council as community leader

14:45     What could good community engagement look like in your local authority


Thinking of an issue or potential project in your local authority, how would you engage the community and relevant stakeholders and partner organisations into a joined – up approach to achieving a stronger community, better service or required outcome.

15:15     Final comments

15:30     Close

Who should attend?

This seminar is designed for councillors, whether new to public office or with years of experience behind them, to enable a good understanding of the community leadership role that comes with their election into the Council, and how to work with the community, other stakeholders, partner organisations and council officers to build a strong culture of cooperation of trust.

Council officers and those working in community engagement teams in social housing organisations and the voluntary and community sector will also find the seminar of relevance.


Julie Simmons

Julie is an independent management consultant, specialising in community development and stakeholder engagement.  With twenty years’ experience leading teams, services and projects in local authorities, the third sector, Government initiatives and professional bodies.  Julie has worked at a senior level to deliver corporate policy, strategy, improved services and outcomes across all sections of the community and organisations.

A passionate believer in the power of the volunteer to bring in expertise, skills and resources to enhance the offer of any organisation or business, one of Julie’s particular strengths is to engage, manage and develop volunteers, elected members, boards and committees.

Julie is the founder and director of Community Knowhow Management Solutions, a new consultancy whose mission is to help other organisations achieve theirs.  By connecting wider and often dispersed communities to the very heart of an organisation, it will become stronger, streamlined and better able to deliver its key mission, vision and objectives, no matter what the sector or subject matter.

Julie is a chartered member of the Chartered Management Institute