City Hall hailed as potential champion for London grassroots action during consultation on #GLAcivilsocietystrategy. Now – how?

Yesterday the Greater London Authority and its consultants asked a wide range of grassroots organisations at an event in Hackney how they would like to engage better with City Hall – and how the GLA might help in their work.

I think the GLA team, and their consultants TSIP and Collaborate should be pleased with the reception they got, and the ideas generated. They reinforced some of those aired at the event last week with the Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC, organised by Reclaim our Spaces.

People yesterday felt that that the GLA could be an ally in championing their work, convening interests from different sectors, acting as a broker and problem-solver when difficulties arose with other agencies, including borough councils.

However, people also felt that there was a lack of communication and transparency in current engagement processes, and it was difficult to see where opportunities lie.

What was needed was a continuing process of conversation and engagement, using a range of different methods. That process should not just be offered by City Hall on the basis of consultants’ reports and officer recommendations – it should be co-produced with grassroots organisations.

Those ideas, that I picked up from the discussion groups, broadly reflected the presentation of findings at the start from consultant Marion Brossard of TSIP. Here’s photos of the flip charts from discussion groups, and Marion’s slide deck.

The group that I was in, and helped facilitate, also felt it was important that the GLA helped develop systems by which groups in an area and London as a whole could find out who’s who, collaborate better, develop a strong voice, and engage collectively with other interests and agencies. That certainly relates strongly to mapping and network building that we’ve advocated through Connecting Londoners.

Here’s where the main challenge arises for the GLA, as I reflected after last week’s event: how to engage and co-design with maybe 100,000 grassroots organisations across London when the umbrella body that has represented them – LVSC – has just been abolished.

In some cases the intermediary could be the local Council for Voluntary Service … and people spoke highly of our host for the event, Hackney CVS. Some other CVSs may not have the capacity or inclination to take on that role. I didn’t hear many words of praise for borough councils, who have their own problems facing big cuts.

It may be that the new Hub organisation, planned by The Way Ahead initiative, based on Greater London Volunteering, will have a role. TWA have just set up a working group to develop details, probably based in part on this report from Steve Wyler.

We have a more immediate modest first step towards a solution. I’m developing ideas with Drew Mackie, Matt Scott and others involved in the grassroots network Our Way Ahead for a co-design event at London Metropolitan University on November 16.

There we will play through what might be involved in mapping, network building and communications at different levels of civil society to address some of the challenges raised in this consultation, and with The Way Ahead. More later on this blog. If you are interested, please drop a comment or contact us here. We aim to do some co-designing ourselves.


Consultants TSIP have circulated a summary of notes from the event for comment by participants

  1. Grassroots organisations to be taken seriously and acknowledged – particularly by businesses
  2. GLA to share their recommendations across strategies and stakeholders
  3. GLA to encourage transparent decision making to motivate engagement
  4. GLA to take input via trained listeners/champions/teams
  5. GLA to empower CVS’s (although some find engaging with them a struggle)
  6. GLA to be sensitive to the language used by less privileged groups
  7. GLA to be engaged with locals from the beginning of the process, and help to pay for it
  8. GLA to hold neighborhood meetings
  9. GLA to recognize and address inequality wherever possible
  10. GLA to learn lessons from the past (with particular reference to the GLC)
  11. GLA to address concerns that the Civil Society strategy is not a ‘hollow gesture’
  12. Where the GLA is providing funding/support they should have continuing face-to-face engagement
  13. GLA should co-produce best practice and knowledge sharing with grassroots organisations – supported with crowdfunding
  14. Assisting grassroots organisations to network and support each other
  15. GLA to create a way to co-produce solutions to grassroots organisation’s challenges – involving councils and CVS
  16. GLA to create a roadshow to help create awareness of grassroots work
  17. GLA to aim to be as transparent as possible, and create easy access to shared data
  18. GLA to work more effectively with corporates to close funding gaps/increase resources


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