We randomly selected fifty people from a representative pool of residents to join the Citizens’ Assembly to discuss and recommend ways the Council should help make Newham a better, happier and healthier place to live. The theme itself reflects the importance of parks and green space to residents, particularly following the challenges to mental and physical health since the start of the pandemic. This Citizens’ Assembly is examining how we can make the borough’s green spaces more attractive and enjoyable for people.
The first day focused on making sure everyone is familiar with the assembly topic ‘Greening the Borough’ and why the assembly is being held.
Our facilitators also made sure there was time to get to know each other and to make sure residents all understood how the Assembly works and comes to a conclusion.
Over the day, they heard from a range of speakers from the Mayor of Newham on the strategic priorities of the borough and the importance of democratic & civic participation, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways & Sustainable Transport on the priorities in terms of green spaces and the Head of Development & Placemaking in Royal Docks on a perspective from a strategic partner and had opportunities to ask them questions.
We got the residents to
- Develop together guidelines on how we work & communicate together: These conversation guidelines are a social contract that everyone on the assembly follows throughout this assembly to make sure it is a good experience for everyone.
- Share their hopes & fears about the issue: Getting people to introduce themselves, where they are from and one thing they are hoping for about the Assembly and one thing they are worried about or are fearing
- Map the green spaces across the borough: As residents of Newham, people will no doubt have their favourite parks and green spaces. This could be for several reasons — near, facilities, space. And there may well be parks and spaces you don’t go to, or actively avoid — again for several reasons. This map isn’t just a map of places, but a map through the eyes of your experiences — the reality of this Assembly.
- Develop ideas: Getting people to start developing ideas and having an open discussion on the ideas that have been suggested.
On the next day, we started to focus on evidence, ideas and perspectives about the topic of green spaces. This commenced by hearing from different people who work on issues that are related to our assembly question of what could be done to make our parks and green spaces even better for residents and visitors, and ensure that everyone has access to quality green spaces. The residents then explored:
- What are the challenges that need to be overcome
- Potential opportunities or solutions
- Insights they found particularly interesting or important
In the afternoon, we heard from community gardens, community safety, residents associations, climate emergency groups, young people and poets!
We then gave people the opportunity to think about any ideas that they think are critical based on what they have heard today.
They were also able to discover:
- Infographic of the key facts and figures on the borough
- Visualisations of our population here
- Maps of the borough showing public spaces in different ways
- Different scenarios of how London could change in the future
- Inspiration from other cities across the world
You can see more on our citizens' assembly site.