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David Wilcox

Event with Deputy Mayor @rydermc and #reclaimourspaces opens door to co-designing community engagement … but with whom?

4 min read

Last night’s event at London’s City Hall might just open the way to much-needed improvements in the way policies are developed and implemented with community groups and citizens - if someone can help convene on our behalf.

We heard powerful but disheartening stories from community activists about the ways that councils and developers are failing adequately to engage with residents … or going back on agreements. That’s what the Reclaim Our Spaces Manifesto aims to address.

Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC explained that his brief for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement does not make him and his team a one-stop place for improvements. They can advise and support other departments … as well as meeting many interests to gather ideas.

During discussion of ways that community networks and the Greater London Authority could work more closely together I suggested better understanding on both sides would help. What’s it like as an officer trying to cope with so many different interests? Someone suggested mapping the civil society landscape as seen by City Hall, as well as that of community networks, as we have been doing.

Eileen Conn had already explained the highly successful engagement processes used by Peckham Vision - and suggested that now was the time to work with GLA on developing wider collaborative processes.

Matthew Ryder said he was open to those ideas, and I certainly found the four members of his team that were present receptive.

The challenge now is how to move things forward. Who can help convene community groups and networks?

Today is the last day of operation of the London Voluntary Service Council.**

LVSC is the collaborative leader of London's voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector enabling a co-ordinated voice to influence policy makers. We support the 120,000 organisations who provide a range of services and support to London’s diverse communities and empower the lives of Londoners.

LVSC is being abolished to make way for new arrangements being developed by The Way Ahead initiative, supported by London funders. As I’ve written here the plan is to establish a new London Hub, based on Greater London Volunteering.

However, while valuable in many ways it currently looks like a top-down model, rather than one that would embrace a more networked approach, as suggested here.

To be fair, the team developing ideas for the hub have opened discussion with the Our Way Ahead group about representation. There's a door open there for representation, but that's not the same as engagement and co-design. It is pretty low down on the classic ladder of participation.

There are maybe 100,000 community groups in London, as well hundreds if not thousands of networks representing local and london-wide interests, now without any strategic representation - unless I have missed something.

As Nicolas Fonty and I explained last night, we have made a very modest start on mapping geographically and socially some local and London networks. We are working with Our Way Ahead to explore how to do more.

One advantage of network mapping - explained here on our Networked City wiki - is that it helps understanding of who are the key connectors and influences in any ecosystem.

The vacuum created by the abolition of LVSC, with only a top-down Hub replacement, opens the way for some fresh thinking about engagement with London citizens and community groups. Who will lead the way? If not the Deputy Mayor and his team, then who? After last night's meeting I'm hopeful that they may rise to the occasion.

** The work that I, Drew Mackie and others have done in developing Connecting Londoners, and mapping networks, would not have been possible without initial funding from LVSC, and the tremendous work by Matt Scott in supporting that and development of Our Way Way Ahead. It's going to leave a big hole.

David Wilcox

Explaining to London's Deputy Mayor @rydermc how mapping can help connect Londoners and #reclaimourspaces

3 min read

We have a couple of exciting opportunities in the next few days to take forward the idea of building networks at different levels to connect Londoners and their communities.

Tonight I’ll be joining Nicolas Fonty of JustMap at City Hall to explore further with Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC how a combination of network and geographic mapping can build connections. We first ran a workshop with Matthew in February, and were encouraged by his interest.

This time we are supporting the campaign Reclaim Our Spaces, which is building a network of grassroots groups to protect London's community spaces. As their manifesto says:

By community spaces, we include community centres, music venues, libraries, pubs, open spaces and public spaces, youth centres, land for community food growing and street markets. Many community spaces across London have been lost in recent years and others are under threat of closure through a combination of austerity, privatisation and development pressure.

RoS has three main areas of activity:

Designing grassroots activities (e.g. “learning journeys”) enabling us to reach out to the many current campaigns in London and raising their visibility through tools such as the creation of a digital platform.

Supporting each other as a network of communities and community spaces, through sharing information, joint initiatives and practical solidarity.

Influencing the London Plan, and other strategies of the Mayor of London

Nicolas been working with RoS and Justspace to run collaborative workshops where Londoners can use their local knowledge to map places under threat, and also assets in their area.

I'm reporting the work that Drew Mackie and I have been doing to show how network mapping can build connections at the level of friends and family, neighbourhoods and across London. Here's our poster

Connecting Londoners poster

We believe that using a mix of traditional and digital methods to help people connect is important both for campaigns and community building.

Next week I and others will be pitching at an RSA Ideas event. There we'll explain how we've been working with the Our Way Ahead initiative to map London networks.

Our idea is that we should run a participatory process to co-design the way in which different levels of networks can join up with the proposed London hub. Background here and more in a further post.