Future challenges & strategic opportunities in the field of participation — onto developing the solutions!

3 min readJul 21, 2022

On Wednesday 13th and 20th of July, Newham Council collaboration with UCL Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) launched the first & second in a series of workshops aimed at policy makers, community stakeholders and interested individuals to debate, discuss and find solutions in how to better engage residents in policy making on issues that matter most to them.

The first webinar focused on who’s in and who’s out?

We heard from colleagues based at Newham leading on the challenges encountered to engage local people. The delegates on the call were then asked to reflect on their work and consider which groups of residents they’ve found most challenging to engage in policy making.

Attendees on the call highlighted young people, members of the LGBTQ+ community and older men as being among the most difficult to engage in policy making.

Rather than a narrow discussion on protected characteristics delegates soon changed the conversation to the issue of ‘intersectionality’. In other words, how protected characteristics might come together to compound the problems to effectively reach, engage, and achieve sustained participation of residents in policy making.

Our discussion then moved onto matters of ‘place and space’, where delegates have found it a significant challenge to navigate access to reach and engage residents.

They included the towering estates found in London and the sprawling estates of northern towns and cities, remote rural areas, care homes, neglected boroughs, the unmediated metaverse and in residents own homes. The challenge to negotiate and navigate these places and spaces to reach residents is often overlaid with the problem of inadequate or inappropriate participation tools/techniques. The weakest participation tool/approaches cited in the webinar were resident surveys, one-off meetings, and digital tools and more. In the next Policy Lab we come together to look at possible solutions to harness the strengths of intersectionality and how best to utilise online/offline participatory spaces in policy making.

In focus: Local challenges in involving citizens in policy making in the London borough of Newham

The list below illustrates the known context-specific challenges to inclusive policy making in Newham:

Challenge 1. Lack of trust in national politicians and political institutions

Challenge 2. Variable political literacy

Challenge 3. Weak or immobilised cultural and social capital

Challenge 4. Entrenched political apathy

Challenge 5. Mobile residents (e.g., high levels of mobile and transient residents)

Challenge 6. Invisible residents (e.g., non-documented)

Challenge 7. Old and ‘new’ Newham (e.g., gentrification and unmet Olympic legacy)

Challenge 8. Competing priorities to ease cost of living crisis and narrow the gap in health inequalities

Challenge 9. Lack of work at grassroots level and lack of investment in community capacity building

Challenge 10. Differences in language (e.g., technical, sensory impairments and when English is not, you’re your first language)

Challenge 11. Digital exclusion (e.g., digital native verses digital immigrants)

Challenge 12. Navigating tension in co-production

Challenge 13. Usual suspects

Challenge 14. Inadequate resourcing and lack of institutional support

Challenge 15. Differences in information to meaningfully get involved in policy making

The fifteen challenges are not mutually exclusive, and they can often intersect at the community, household, and individual level, compounding residents’ willingness and capability to access information on opportunities and to access appropriate and adaptable platforms to get meaningfully involved in policy making on issues that matter most to them.

To shape this work, we also heard from great presentations from Waltham Forest and Islington, working with specific communities & groups.

Join the conversation.

Please see diary placeholders and links to sign up for future workshops:

How do we develop our skills in open & participative policy making? — July 27th 10 to 11am

Developing solutions to improve our skills in involving residents in policy — August 3rd 10 to 11am

Sept 7th 10 to 11 am — TBC

Sept 21st 10 to 11am — TBC

Blog by Dr Darren Sharpe, UCL CAPE Fellow




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese