How can we help ordinary people address some of the biggest challenges facing their communities?
Creating an open environment where people and communities can design and access better services.
Cornwall’s issues are well documented. It is the second most deprived county in the UK. Many interconnected issues such as worklessness, unaffordable homes and hidden poverty have in some cases gone unsolved for generations.
The vision for this project was to invite local citizens to tackle the issues that matter most to them, and to support them through the co-creation of solutions. We began this process by creating a series of community engagement activities for ideas sharing and collaboration.
We launched with a countywide search for challenges. We used a mix of creative techniques to gather public opinion and shape the challenge. Our vision was to explore whether ordinary people and community groups could develop their ideas with the right support and mentoring, and to see if this process might lead to the creation of new services, solutions and social enterprises.
Harnessing the power of the internet
Recognising how digital media is a hugely powerful tool for social change, we developed an online crowdsourcing platform. This allowed people from all over Cornwall to submit challenges and ideas to geographical locations or predefined themes such as health, homes or environment.
Submitted challenges were left open to ideas from other people, many of whom contributed to a challenge they felt passionate about. The platform enabled people to have a voice and show support for other ideas.
Inspiring people to think responsibly
Given that Cornwall is a rural county with a dispersed aging population, we recognised that not everyone has access to the internet and launched an awareness campaign – visiting major towns with unique street based installations.
This campaign inspired people from all over Cornwall to think about public resources and public services that might be harnessed for the maximum common good.
Making good ideas happen
Six of the most supported challenges received support from design and business mentors to develop ideas into enterprises. The challenges covered topics such as sustainable towns, generational unemployment, community spaces, local food produce and unaffordable housing.
We provided each challenge group with a “how to co-design” handbook, development funding and access to workshops to help them develop a business case and pitch for the further kick starter funds.
This experiment taught us what makes an open platform community engagement most effective – professional leadership, partnerships, sharing goals and process to name a few – and what barriers prevent citizens from engaging with public service delivery and community action.