Liz Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Manchester, looks forward to a time of real collaboration between councils and citizens.
A citizen contacts the council with a bright idea for making a local service better. Their proposal to the council gets a quick and positive response: ‘how can we help you develop this further?’ Before contacting the council, the resident was able to test out their tentative proposal. This was an easy job to do online. A request to use the authority’s panel of ‘citizen scientists’ – keen, trained, lay researchers – was accepted.
The citizen scientists were mobilised to collect evidence and upload it to the central intelligence hub. An initial peer review of the idea’s feasibility by the interactive community e-forum also made some helpful suggestions for changes. Council staff discussing the bright idea reflect on the changes to how things would have happened 30 years ago. Only a few old timers remember the days of traditional ‘consultation’, which now seems quaintly clunky, but depressingly oppositional.
The new approach of co-productive dialogue with residents, co-design of services, backed up by quality real-time intelligence, is a world away from those days. And it is now hard to imagine not seeing citizens as assets, equal partners, and problem-solvers.
Local Elected Members join the conversation with citizens early on. They too are enjoying the new style of working. All the different organisations in the locality are going in the same direction – delivering Members’ strategic framework and vision. Keeping on top of all this activity and co-ordinating is hard work. But members relish this more organic way of working. Their accountability agreements with partners focus on delivery of outcomes. This helps reduce any risks, and ensures results.