Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Commission from residents so far.
The Mayor of Newham pledged to create a Democracy and Civic Participation Commission to enable democracy and governance in the borough to become more representative and participatory and to look at alternative governance models for the council.
Local democracy in Newham needs to improve so that residents feel more a part of where they live and how decisions are made. Progress has been made through greater openness and participation in Council meetings, and the introduction of citizen assemblies, but more is needed to have a genuinely participatory democracy in the borough.
The Commission has six members who are listening to residents, academics, and others about how to improve local democracy. The Commission will deliver a report at the end of March 2020 for the council to consider.
The process of appointing the Democracy and Civic Participation Commissioner is based on existing good practice from previous Commissions. It sought to get a mix of backgrounds and experiences covering participatory, deliberative and representative democracy as well as local understanding.
The Commission brings experts together from a range of backgrounds including academia, youth research, social entrepreneurship, and digital. The Democratic Society and the Centre for Public Scrutiny are supporting the work of the Commission and will seek to maximise opportunities for community engagement. Local residents will be able to share their views through a range of events, as well as online.
The Commissioners are working together with the Democratic Society and Centre for Public Scrutiny to propose experts related to Commission themes. Experts include a mix of academics, civil society and other councils. Experts cover areas including democratic and participatory engagement, governance, digital, and co-production.
The Commission started its work on 1 November 2019. They will gather feedback from residents and experts between November 2019 and March 2020 before presenting a report with findings and recommendations at the end of March 2020. The final report will be shared on the Commission website in the spring.
We want residents to be involved in this process as much as possible. We want to hear about your experience of local decision-making and how you think it can be improved.
You can have your say online by clicking here.
You can also have your say in person at any of the upcoming community activities and events. Check out our ‘Have Your Say’ page for more information on the face-to-face events here.
In the early stages of the Commission’s work, we held a Community Stakeholder Workshop with active residents in the borough. Forty-two people attended the workshop session to learn more about the Commission’s work and help identify how to engage with the broader community, including harder-to-reach residents and groups. A range of community engagement sessions are planned in January. For details of the events please click here.
Residents are also engaged through an online platform throughout the Commission, take part here.
The Commission members were agreed based on existing good practice from previous Commissions in the UK and abroad. The membership brings experts together from a range of background including academia, youth research, social entrepreneurship, and digital.
Deliberative democracy is about giving local people not only a louder voice but giving them a proper role in decision-making itself.
A “deliberative” process might involve residents coming together to look at evidence, to talk to each other and to listen respectfully to each other’s points of view, and to try to agree about what the best way forward might be.
In other words, deliberative democracy should be shaped by people coming together to agree on a decision before its made, rather than decisions being made on their behalf by self-interest or political power.
Participatory democracy is similar – it is about citizens being empowered and actively involved, and having opportunities to make meaningful contributions to decision-making.
Participatory democracy also seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to decision-making opportunities.