Building a neighbourhood assembly

Building a neighbourhood assembly

A citizen-led approach to health and wellbeing

Client:
Camden Council
Category:
Change
Length:
9 months

Challenge

In 2019, Camden’s Health and Wellbeing Board began a journey to develop a citizen-led approach to health and wellbeing, engaging the community, local organisations and partners to examine the local issues around health and wellbeing, then co-design and develop placed-based solutions between the council and local partners.

Rooted in the context of both Camden 2025 and the NHS Long Term Plan, the neighbourhood-based pilot was delivered by residents with support from Camden Council and FutureGov to create a bespoke model of resident engagement that could demonstrate the council’s commitment to their resident-led objectives. Collaboratively, we designed the Health and Wellbeing Assembly to create innovative partnerships and identify local challenges.

Approach

Camden Council wanted to engage the community, local organisations and partners to think more deeply about opportunities and barriers to health and wellbeing in a more localised way. By working with the community, they aimed to:

And ultimately, provide insight to how the council and health partners can work in closer partnership with communities as we move towards a more integrated system of health and care.

Working with neighbourhoods in the west of the borough, the pilot centred on the ‘Neighbourhood Assembly’ - a small group of local residents, broadly representative of the diversity of the area. Looking at local population data, we identified characteristics to seek diversity across participators including gender, age, ethnicity, family type, housing tenure, disabilities, language and employment status. Membership of the assembly was left open, allowing residents to join or leave throughout the process which permitted us to continue to engage underrepresented groups.

The assembly was comprised of 12 to 15 residents per session, meeting bi-weekly for 2-3 hours when various practitioners and members from the voluntary sector would give evidence and share insight on issues around health and wellbeing in the community. Issues including population health and lived experience were shared during workshops, where deliberation and co-design took place.

In between these evening sessions, assembly members conducted independent research in their peer networks and collected feedback on ideas. The project team supplemented the resident-led research with additional engagement of local groups typically regarded as harder to reach.

It was clear just how much enthusiasm there is amongst residents for a different kind of relationship with the Council. We built real relationships and trust grew as it became clear the participants were in the driving seat.

– Henry Langford, Principal Projects Officer, Strategy and Change, Camden Council

The process was designed to be iterative, with assembly members encouraged to reflect on learnings and adapt their thinking accordingly. This unique citizen-led approach allowed ideas to emerge from residents rather than the typical route where ideas would originate from the Council and health partners for consultation.

Impact

12

assemblies

3

ideas taken forward

175

engaged residents

Over nine months, the assembly explored local health and wellbeing challenges by engaging residents and community stakeholders. Working collaboratively, 194 ideas were broadly articulated before shortlisting to 18 ideas. The Assembly prioritized three ideas to develop, creating roadmaps to summarise the ideas, the goals and necessary steps to take them forward. The three ideas taken to the Health and Wellbeing Board for further development into live pilots included:

The project team also developed an engagement toolkit, designed to help teams plan and execute participatory processes, including the main considerations when creating the engagement approach, lessons we learned to make the process easier and useful templates to help work through activities with residents

Camden Council has shared outputs from the Health and Wellbeing Board Neighbourhood Assembly on their website including:

Changing hearts and minds
At the conclusion of the Neighbourhood Assembly, 90% of assembly members indicated they had more positive feelings towards the council. In particular, assembly members appreciated being involved in the decision-making process and gaining a better understanding of ongoing initiatives on health and wellbeing.

This amazing Assembly is doing things for people, by people in Camden.

– Anya, assembly member

90% of residents reported feeling able to influence the decision-making process from setting priorities to selecting their preferred ideas.

The assembly also improved citizen relationships by expanding personal networks and reducing social isolation. Every assembly member reported meeting new members of their community and forming meaningful connections, with many citizens expressing a desire to meet independently.

For me, the Council is at its best when acting as an enabler of change - facilitating resident-led initiatives, removing barriers and joining the dots between local partners. I think we all have a responsibility to work in much closer partnership with residents.

– Henry Langford, Principal Projects Officer, Strategy and Change, Camden Council

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