Autumn 2017

The challenge

The Camden Assembly was a new mechanism to bring residents closer than ever before to decision-making in Camden, in preparation for the development of the authority’s 2025 strategy. It had never been tried by the borough. They wanted a genuinely blank canvass for residents to identify the main challenges for the future, to help co-produce solutions to tackle the challenges identified.

The assembly had to be delivered within a very short timescale – in just over three months. This involved scoping the project, recruiting resident assembly members, designing the three meetings, and capturing the outcomes of discussions to feed into the Council’s Camden 2025 plan.

How we approached it

We recruited 70 assembly members. Special emphasis was made to make sure hard-to-reach groups – such as young people, private sector tenants, carers, and people with physical disabilities – were engaged and recruited. Quotas were used to make sure membership was representative of the borough as a whole.

Three meetings were held over the period of October to December 2017. At each meeting, residents shared their experiences of living in Camden, and give their views about how to make Camden a better place to live.

As part of the journey of collaboratively designing a vision for future, Citizens’ Assembly members

  • heard from the Leader of the Council about the role of the Assembly, and why developing a shared vision for the borough is so important;
  • met other local people who live in the borough and share their experiences about Camden;
  • developed a shared Citizens’ Assembly vision for what the borough should look like in 2025;
  • and explored how the vision can be achieved, how challenges can be overcome and what should be the biggest priorities for the borough

What happened

The three events were structured using an appreciative inquiry approach, helping the residents who attended to move from broad, top-line aspirations, through to engaging with some of the tough decisions about choices and priorities. This gave them a genuine stake in strategic decision-making, and feedback from attendees was extremely positive.

The assembly outcomes and summary of deliberations were given directly to Camden Council’s Cabinet Member councillors, who are using the assembly’s vision to set the council’s direction and focus for the next seven years.