“Docking in”: changing the way we act on local democracy

Posted on 11/07/2022 by Ed Hammond.

This paper has been funded by a grant from JRSST Charitable Trust, as part of a project on post pandemic governance. It forms part of work that CfGS is undertaking through 2021 and into 2022 on governance innovation, painting a positive vision for how we can think differently about the way that councils (and other public sector bodies) do business. It takes as its foundation the idea that we are at a period of profound change, that the pandemic has accelerated that change, and that our current assumptions about how local government, and local governance “works” mean that we are ill-equipped for a more complex and demanding future.

This paper is not a research study – it is intended to provoke and challenge councils to take practical action. It is, though, directly informed by the recent research of others (as well as recent CfGS research). This paper is not, in itself, a campaigning document exhorting Government to “do things” to “free up” local government. The steps that we suggest councils take in this paper are in their gift to act on right
now. The responsibility for action sits at local level. Success, or failure, will be on our own terms, and will be ours to own.

Finally, this paper does not provide a convenient menu of community engagement or participation methodologies for councils and others to try out and experiments. More information about those methods – varying models of co-design, deliberative decision-making, co-production, and other forms of engagement and empowerment – is available elsewhere. We think that the gap – and the gap that we aim to fill in this paper – is a practical understanding of how councils (and others) need to change their mindset and approach to make those different methods “stick”, and to link them to traditional governance systems. This is the essence of “docking in”.

About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfGS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.