A multi-sector collaboration of organisations in Nottingham including the Nottinghamshire Community Foundation (NCF), Positively Empowering Kids (PEK), Nottingham Council, Moments of Mass Mindfulness (MOMM), Integral Cities, The Nottingham Collective and other partners, have launched the first Participatory City initiative in the UK.

As community leaders, community funders, community supporters, residents and members who care about our people and place, it is only right and righteous that Nottinghamshire Community Foundation (NCF) lead the Community Voice for the Participatory City and County initiative.

The timing is perfect for us to use our vast network to talk to residents and groups across age ranges and districts to hear their voices, galvanise collective action and support new initiatives. We at NCF are in the business of building more sustainable foundations for the future of our communities and we see VocalEyes as the perfect platform to kick start a pioneering new collaboration.

Nina Dauban CEO of NCF

This Participatory City model, based around the VocalEyes Community Organising platform, toolkit and services, has been in the planning for many years, predominantly with Swansea County Council who have been piloting the process over the past few years (read more). A partnership of organisations in Swansea are very close to launching, which would make them the first to do so in Wales.

In practice, the Participatory City model is made up of multiple work strands where each partner organisation takes on objective that aligns with their own mission and goals. Partners are then supported to develop their action plan for delivery and source appropriate funding streams to resource the activities.

One of these work strands is to establish Youth Voice across the city and this has been taken on by the social enterprise Positively Empowering Kids CIC.

We are incredibly excited to be part of the Youth Voice in Action project, we deeply value collaboration, and see the immense benefits of collaborative working. Our social enterprise already has an established collaborative model, and this project is of great interest to us, due to our mission to empower children worldwide, which the blueprint we create collectively has the potential to reach through our growing network.

Children are our future leaders, so empowering them to have their voice heard and have the opportunity to take positive action, leading from their hearts with compassion, kindness and care for self and others, will have a huge impact on societies worldwide now and in the future, through a global network of heart centred way showers and changemakers.

Jackie & Claire, co-founders of Positively Empowered Kids CIC

What is a Participatory City?

Our Participatory City model starts with establishing a “Voice” in all communities and schools in the area. Although this may sound simple, it’s still a significant challenge considering communities do not have the required infrastructure, even for this most fundamental expression of collective need.

The local democracy tools developed by VocalEyes are used to establish “Community Voice” and and “Student Voice” which enable people to discover, suggest, rate and debate ideas to form clear priorities. This priority list then becomes the basis for all further action.

Each idea has a different set of requirements to bring them to fruition, some needing a small group of volunteers to start a new yoga class or walking group, others need a feasibility study for a roof top solar panel project or planning permission for a new building.

Participatory Budgeting

As well as identifying priorities and pledging into working groups, the Participatory City model enables participatory budgeting for all communities, schools and any organisation. Budgets, such as those held by local councillors for community improvement, can be made public and the expenditure aligned with the needs expressed by the community.

Coordinated Collective Action

Establishing this framework for local democracy, participatory budgeting and community organising opens up a whole range of exciting new opportunities for collective action. As well as suggesting their own ideas, people can discover and share ideas from the VocalEyes Ideas Bank that showcases many inspiring solutions and case studies to mitigate against some of the most pressing social, environmental and financial issues we face in society today.

Working groups that have pledged to progress and carry forward these inspiring solutions are connected on regular Zoom calls for peer-to-peer learning and support through the training, feasibility, action planning, implementation and evaluation stages.

This process enables inspiring case studies, often only seen in silo, to be scaled up, adapted and replicated in waves of coordinated collective action. Impact can be measured collectively, massively increasing moral and motivation, as people not only get a sense that they are enacting positive change locally, but together globally.

“Nottinghamshire’s NG project seems to be a naturally attractive place for Integral City to take root in. The group that has gathered around Sue Cooper’s MOMM (Moments of Mass Mindfulness) has all the qualities that I look for as a natural “habitat” to grow Integral City capacities. It is generating energy around the values based project “Positively Empowered Kids” (PEK).

That project has 2 very committed and enthusiastic leaders (Jackie and Claire) and they in turn are attracting leaders from the 4 Voices of an Integral City: Citizens, Civic Managers (like Leah), Business/Innovators (Weleda), and the Third Sector (Nina and Nottingham Community Foundation).

We know there is another larger project with more than 80 members who will focus on youth capacity building. Moreover, NG has attracted a team of “global” advisors who are able to guide the overall NG project with practices from technology (VocalEyes); ethical business (Ole) and Integral City capacity building.

This global team, along with the NG steering committee can support multiple local projects (like PEK). This trio of relationships suggests that NG and Nottinghamshire are emerging a structure and culture that will reflect the care-focused ethos of Integral City: Care for Self, so that you can Care for Others, so together we can Care for our Place and altogether we can Care for the Planet. This augurs well for a resilient city/shire with broad-based support on every scale.”

Marilyn Hamilton, Founder/AQtivator Integral City Meshworks www.integralcity.com

Could your city be the next Participatory City?

If you’d like to discuss how your city could benefit from and initiate this Participatory City mode, please contact us to arrange a webinar.

Nottingham Partnership Kickstart Participatory City & County Initiative.