Local Government Association

May 2016 to Spring 2022

The challenge

Local Government has higher trust than many national institutions. But in a climate with new challenges, there was a growing need for strong, accessible guidance around engagement and consultation. This was particularly true in 2016 – at a time of falling budgets, rising expectations, cohesion issues, regeneration programmes, and increasing levels of scrutiny (from social media to Judicial Review). TCC was commissioned by the LGA to pilot innovative new engagement across four councils, bringing findings together into a ‘New Conversations’ guide for those working across local government.

What we did

Working for a sustained period with four very different councils – Hackney, Harlow, GMCA and Staffordshire – we piloted new types of engagement. This included social networks-led community engagement on policing, as well as other pilots which involved culture change, policing, place-leadership and the communication of devolution. We simultaneously carried out extensive desk research, working with The Consultation Institute. This fed into the final guide, which included seven ‘Foundations’ of good consultation, and a further eleven ‘Pillars’ for more sophisticated and long-term types of engagement.

What happened

The final 2017 product was a large, interactive guide. It was designed in such a way that people could navigate their own journey through it, depending on the particular requirements of their role. The four pilots, meanwhile – Hackney, Harlow, GMCA and Staffordshire – each produced a bespoke resource or tool following their engagement work with TCC. The project culminated in a large-scale New Conversations launch event in London, attended by 80 people working on the front line of local government engagement. A northern launch was also planned, with the aim of establishing the legacy of the project as much as possible.

Following the success of the guide, we were asked by the LGA to produce a second version in 2019. New Conversations 2.0 brought the advice up to date, including a range of new tools and topics and a renewed focus on digital. We were subsequently asked, in spring 2022, to do a third iteration, the New Conversations Refresh, reorganising the content into a slimmed down format and producing a range of new case studies. The aim of this was to make the guidance relevant in the post-Covid era, with a particular focus on issues like Zoom consultations.

The New Conversations tool remains the most comprehensive piece of guidance available for councils and community leaders, and is one which is arguably as relevant now as it has ever been.

  • You can view New Conversations 2.0 here. The library of tools and resources can be viewed here and here. And the materials produced in the original four pilots are available here.
  • You can view the New Conversations Refresh here. The latest case studies can be viewed here.