A qualitative evaluation of the Mayor of London’s Citizen-Led Engagement Programme
London is home to a vast array of dynamic and ever changing communities. Its diversity is one of its greatest assets. If properly harnessed, this diversity of insight and experience has the potential to improve the quality of policy making in London, and help to set priorities that reflect the lived experience of Londoners across the capital. Addressing inequalities in voice and power in the capital is one of the Mayor’s priorities, as is reaching out to London’s huge variety of communities, including those newly arrived in the city. Staying connected to Londoners will ensure that they can fully participate in every aspect of life in the capital, especially civic and political life.
Between September 2017 and May 2018 the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Community Engagement Team (CE Team) launched and managed a pilot peer research project designed to enhance engagement with communities whose voice and influence over public policy had previously been underrepresented.
In particular six target communities were identified: young black men; older members of the BAME community (65+); homeless people & rough sleepers; Gypsy Roma & travelling groups; the Somali community; and Eastern European communities (especially Romanian and Bulgarian).
The project was delivered between September 2017 and May 2018 in close partnership with six very diverse community organisations from across London. You can read more about each of these organisations and the communities they work with on page 38.
Each organisation received grants of up to £10,000 to carry out their own community engagement and peer research projects, recruiting community based researchers to explore issues around social integration. The project resulted in 84 trained peer researchers, who together carried out 833 individual interviews. Each organisation was given significant freedom to design their own engagement activity, recruitment process (for both peer researchers and interviewees), interview questions, interview formats and in how they collated and shared their conclusions. This included a showcase event at City Hall on 4 May 2018.
The Greater London Authority provided training in peer research and qualitative data analysis and specific support to help refine interview questions. Project leads from each of the community organisations were also in regular contact with the CE Team to provide updates and seek specific advice or guidance.
As well as direct support to selected partner community organisations, the CE Team also delivered three capacity building workshops to fifteen community organisations from the six target groups before applications were received. These workshops focused on improving the skills of community leaders in preparation for their project applications and included raising awareness of the Mayor of London’s vision for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, as well as practical skills training on how to bid for public funds.
The pilot project had three core aims:
- To strengthen connections and engagement with communities whose voice and influence on public policy is under-represented
- To identify and develop community leaders in those communities
- To generate insights that others within the Greater London Authority can learn from and act on.
It was intended that in focusing on these aims the pilot project could make a significant contribution to the Mayor of London’s agenda for social integration as well as wider policy and practice across the GLA. Outside of the GLA the project also intended to help lay foundations for ongoing civic engagement in all aspects of public policy and debate across London.
Scope of this evaluation
This evaluation was led by Bob Thust of the Social Change Agency and seeks to understand how well this pilot project met its three core aims, as well as provide recommendations for its future development. Specifically, these recommendations will feed into a second stage of the pilot project to be launched in late 2018.
The evaluation was qualitative in nature, based on a review of submissions from partner community organisations, one to one interviews and workshops. It does not include academic references, nor an analysis or summary of the peer research findings themselves, though we have sought to identify how well the findings have been collated and shared so far and provide some recommendations on next steps.
In keeping with the spirit of the pilot project, the process of evaluation has been highly collaborative:
- Review of all key project information, including presentations, videos and photos collated and shared across all six partner community organisations;
- Interviews with the project leads from each of the partner community organisations;
- Interviews with three of the pilot project leaders from within the Community Engagement Team at the GLA;
- A workshop to test and refine emerging findings with four of the project leads, two members of the Community Engagement Team and 8 trained peer researchers;
- A workshop to share learnings and explore potential next steps with 6 staff from across the Community Engagement, Social Integration and Culture Teams at the Greater London Authority; and
- Additional opportunities for input and feedback on the draft report from all those that had participated in any of these interviews or workshops.
Despite this highly collaborative approach, we have been given full editorial control of the final report. We hope that as a result this evaluation identifies the key areas of strength and doesn’t hold back on the areas for development, yet also provides an insightful, practical and realistic set of recommendations to take this work forward.
Mayor of London: From ‘what will the Mayor do about it?’ to ‘what can we do about it together’