Building the Foundations for London-wide Collaboration on Resident Participation

If you want to join LOTI’s online collaboration space for local government resident participation and engagement, please complete our registration form. 

London boroughs from all political persuasions, from inner and outer London, all with their own local contexts, challenges and ambitions, are recognising the importance of finding new ways to capture resident perspectives, and importantly, to make better use of these insights in how we make decisions, design services, and create policy. 

Despite this shared ambition, LOTI realised when starting our programme of work on Innovative Resident Participation that sustained and deep collaboration has been one the missing pieces of the puzzle for improving this practice across London. Accordingly – and in line with some of my own learnings from earlier research on the Future of Work – we wanted to bring together practitioners for an inspiring day, whose main purpose was setting the foundation for collaboration in this area. As such, the LOTI Innovation Day on Resident Participation in Local Government was born, and took place on February 7, 2023.

An image of the main room for the LOTI Innovation Day, filled with over 120 participants listening to a presentation on the stage.

Over 120 participants listen in to a presentation from Scotland on the main stage.

Reflections on the day

First, we were delighted with the turnout from officers from 25 London Boroughs as well as the Greater London Authority (GLA) and London Councils. Altogether we had over 120 participants in the day, largely officers of a variety of levels, working mostly in resident participation or engagement teams, plus strategy, policy, equalities and communications colleagues. It was the perfect group to sow the seeds for starting a community of practice. 

The day itself kicked off with introductions from myself and Eddie Copeland, but we were keen to quickly get colleagues speaking with each other as soon as possible. Accordingly, Peter Bæck from Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design ran an icebreaker session, in which participants discussed different methods and examples of a range of participation methods found on Nesta’s Prompt Cards, a resource part of their Collective Intelligence Design Playbook – a resource which we recommend for boroughs.

Sam Nutt of LOTI addresses the main room from the lectern on the stage.

Sam Nutt sets the stage for the day, addressing the main room.

Peter was one of our facilitators for a morning round of break-out workshops, where participants were allowed to lead conversations around whatever issues they wanted within a larger topic – a format which was repeated in the afternoon. Although feedback indicated that these could have been slightly more focused for participants, we were happy that they achieved the purpose of drawing out key topics for future exploration, and let people have conversations with colleagues from other boroughs that they might not have met. 

Some of the highlights of discussion from these workshops included:

  • The barriers which have emerged, where residents feel cynicism towards council engagement because they don’t see how their input is being used, and so don’t want to come to the table.
  • The importance of communicating the right way with residents, using the right language that resonates with people, providing timely feedback to people, and being honest and open about your own constraints and timings.
  • Engaging residents on their own terms: inconvenience yourself if you have to, to find a convenient space or time to speak with them.
  • Given most councils are facing the same issues as each other, how can engagement and participation teams from across boroughs be better connected to share knowledge and best practice?
  • How can councils break down internal working silos to embed participation and engagement design methods and standards across their organisation?
Delegates participate in a breakout workshop, looking towards the front of the room where the facilitator has a microphone in-hand.

Delegates participate in one of six breakout workshops during the day, this one led by Kelly McBride of TPX Impact

Throughout the day, we also had four presentations from organisations who are at the vanguard of different strands of participatory innovation, which attendee feedback said was a real highlight. You can find access to all of the presentations online, but below are my summaries of what we heard:

  • In Scotland, where their 33 local authorities use a single online engagement platform, created and managed by a central team in COSLA, which they are then able to use themselves at cheaper cost and to do more innovative things like participatory budgeting. 
  • International experts from Democracy Next, described the ‘deliberative wave’ around citizen assemblies, and how the next step for these things is governments properly institutionalising them into how they work, with examples from other cities in Paris and Belgium given. 
  • Camden Council shared their work on their data charter, which was created through a resident panel (i.e. a small citizen assembly of 20 people). It highlighted how even technical domains like data can and should be informed by residents (and you can read more about that in my recent blog!).  
  • Lastly, colleagues from the Collective Intelligence team in the Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab showed how they help partners use, an online platform which collects and maps participants into groups using AI according to sentiment that they express on on a topic. To show how it works, we had a demo running throughout the day, asking participants “What would improved resident participation in your borough and across London mean by 2030, and how do we achieve it?” – with results that you can see
Delegates are using their phones to participate in a demo on the 'polis' platform.

Policylab’s ‘’ demo required participants to join in an online conversation through their phones

On top of these varied presentations and demos, it was also fantastic to hear from two political leaders from London: Phil Glanville, Mayor of Hackney and sponsor of LOTI as London Councils Digital Lead, and Councillor Georgia Gould, the Leader of Camden Council as well as Chair of London Councils. The knowledge they could share and their passion for the topic highlighted how lucky we are in London to have leaders who are genuinely interested – and experts – in developing innovative ways to work with residents. One of the key questions for LOTI will be how we can foster this excitement, passion and knowledge across the community of senior leaders in London after this. 

Phil Glanville, Mayor of Hackney and political sponsor of LOTI, and Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden and Chair of London Councils, participate in a fireside chat led by Piali Das Gupta.

Mayor Phil Glanville and Cllr Georgia Gould participate in a fireside chat, led by London Council’s Piali Das Gupta

Next Steps for LOTI

After this inspiring day, LOTI are taking stock of where we can be most help to boroughs individually as a community of borough across London. We identified four possible opportunities for collaboration, which we will explore in the coming months with boroughs. They look like:

  1. Foster consistent and sustainable sharing of practice and ideas across London. We’ve started this by creating an online collaboration and community space on our Basecamp platform, which already has over 90 officers from across London. To join, please complete our form and we will shortly add you to the space.
  2. Develop consistent standards and shared resources to harmonise participation. As an example, we are creating a guide to running participatory data workshops for local government, so we can consistently speak with residents about data in line with our responsibilities to them.
  3. Explore collaborative procurement, development, or support of digital engagement tools. Through our basecamp space, and through existing networks, LOTI will convene an initial exploratory workshop with boroughs to explore opportunities.
  4. Test and develop methods for running multi-borough or pan-London participation projects. LOTI will be having conversations with stakeholders from different policy and service areas – in particular, environment and climate, social care, and digital exclusion – to understand where this might be useful. If any reader has any thoughts or ideas for projects, then please reach out to me (!

Exhibitors and Speakers

Over the day, we had a number of exhibitors, facilitators, presenters and speakers from different organisations, all curated by LOTI to showcase different avenues for innovation within this discipline. Below is a list of these organisations present on the day, and links to their work.


Moral Imaginations (working with Camden)

New Local

Nesta Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Hello Lampost

GLA Talk London

Camden’s resident-created Data Charter

Democracy Next

SCOLA’s and Scotland’s collaboratively created engagement platform

Sam Nutt
28 February 2023 ·
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