At a Glance
With the desire to include more residents in their democratic and decision-making process, Newham, a borough of London, launched a Democracy and Civic Participation Commission in 2019. It was tasked with finding the best ways to involve residents, business owners, and shoppers in its urban planning.
The London Borough of Newham wanted to include more of its residents in the democratic and decision-making processes of its urban planning efforts.
As the third most populous district in London, boasting a population of 355,266 and 12,535 businesses, Newham needed extensive outreach to achieve optimal levels of community feedback and engagement. To address the district's goals, they created the Democracy and Civic Participation commission to "genuinely work alongside local people in making decisions." The commission championed co-creation between the community and decision-makers for its strength in "regeneration and planning."
The borough launched the Queen’s Market Good Growth Programme – a £4.1 million project aimed at including residents in urban planning decisions. The program sought input on shared spaces, town centers, high streets, and new council homes. The consultation was held in three phases, with the first two focused on funding bids and community priorities and the last on community engagement.
One of the main challenges the council faced was limited visibility, particularly in the face of COVID-19. Covid made offline events impossible, limiting in-person activation campaigns. With the health crisis dominating project and communication schedules, the engagement team had limited opportunity to publicize the project on standard social channels.
Newham, London used/is using CitizenLab, a community engagement platform, to address this/these challenge(s).
To ensure proper community engagement, even in a virtual era, Newham utilized CitizenLab to allow residents and businesses to weigh in on the final design briefs for the 12 priorities that had previously emerged. They also asked participants to rank other ideas for each of the four project areas. Project areas included the public realm, affordable workspaces, Queen's Market, and a creative well-being space.
As outlined in the Council’s final report, this consultation was held in phases. The first phase, in the spring of 2019, aimed to inform the Council’s fund bid to the Greater London Authority; the second, in early 2020, aimed to identify the community’s top priorities for each of the four projects. In August and September, a third round of consultation took place on a CitizenLab platform, allowing residents and businesses to share their input and ideas.
Utilizing the CitizenLab community engagement platform, residents, businesses, and shoppers could both rank previously pitched ideas in order of importance, and also propose new optimizations for each category.
In total, 274 comments were collected via the CitizenLab platform. With the platform's automated analysis features, the team was able to easily identify common themes and priority areas from the collected responses.
- A clear list of top priorities shaped by resident input on four key areas: public realm, affordable workspace, renovating Queens Market, and a creative well-being space
- 274 comments were collected via the platform, including from a diverse array of residents, business owners, and shoppers interested in the district's urban planning design.
- There was broad participation, reaching stakeholders such as local business owners who shared 47% of comments and contributions.
- The collected input and ideas were brought to the Architecture and Urban Planning teams. They will now come back to the City with concrete regeneration proposals for Queen's Market.
- To reach optimal participation goals, the commission used a combination of online and offline channels to increase platform awareness, including digital newsletters and printed posters.
Data showed that that project related to "Affordable Work Space" received the highest proportion of support from non-locals, suggesting that this project has the capacity to attract businesses and workers from outside of the local area. This presented an unexpected insight for the district!
Who Should Consider?
Small or medium-sized counties looking to gain community participation and their insights when it comes to urban planning.