Neighbourhoods, governance and games

I'm looking forward to the conference on neighbourhood governance and community engagement organised for CDF by Kevin Harris next month. If that sounds bit challenging, but be assured that Drew Mackie and I will aim to liven things up with our Neighbourhood Governance Game. As Kevin reported previously, we had a lot of fun with a dry run last November, when groups invented semi-fictitious neighbourhoods and then planned improvements together .... or not very together.

As a simulation it was uncannily realistic. The policy people struggled with the slight vagueness of their brief and worked away at trying to clarify it without going to talk to the service reps or the residents’ groups. In one locality, the service and community groups began by swearing undying mutual support but before long had drifted apart. The community group in this case struggled very realistically to agree on things. At the other locality, the reverse happened: they began deciding independently what they were going to do, but in due course came together harmoniously and creatively. And on one side we had this exquisite example as participants worked on the timeline: in one locality in the fictional year two, the residents came up with a stack of initiatives (orange post-its - click on the image to enlarge) while the agencies' sole initiative was ‘Progress report and evaluation.’

Drew and I have since produced a brief report, which you can download as a zipped pdf here, including my favourite observation:

One participant honestly reported at the end: “we found it so difficult managing internal stakeholders we never got round to talking to external ones; we started consulting people at the end of the process as a way to generate consensus, not the beginning as a way to frame the task. Personally I was appalled by own behaviour - I started off accusing my colleagues of slipping into policybabble rather than plain english, and yet happily charged through to the end of the process without once asking anyone in the other room what they thought”.

The conference takes place at the Resource Centre, Holloway Road, London, 14 March 2006. As Kevin says:

The event will be chaired by Carol Hayden, Associate Director, Shared Intelligence. Speakers include Mark Hitchen, ODPM Neighbourhoods Team, providing an update on the government proposals; the Young Foundation's Paul Hilder giving an update on the Transforming Neighbourhoods programme; and Susie Hay, regeneration and participation consultant, discussing the importance of informal networking at local level.

On that form, the rest of the conference will be both lively and enlightening. Bookings and enquiries: Cheryl.Roberts(at)cdf.org.uk, 020 7833 1772. There's a leaflet here.