Leave no-one behind: overcoming hurdles to online citizen assemblies

Craig Morbey
Scott Butterfield

Part of the Hearing every voice: lessons learned from online deliberation projects session of TICTeC Show and Tells 2021
Tuesday 20th April, 15:00 – 16:00 BST
Zoom

FutureGov was commissioned by Blackpool Council to deliver a neighbourhood assembly on climate change to 40 local residents who were representative of the local community.

An assembly puts decision-making into the hands of residents, allowing them to consider the relevant information and discuss options before making recommendations for the future of their communities. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the assembly was held online via Zoom across four 2.5 hour sessions.

FutureGov were passionate about making sure that everyone who wanted to take part was able to do so. But Blackpool’s population is in the top 10% most deprived in England, and they had to recognise that there were significant barriers to online participation. Fortunately, a range of solutions led to 100% participant attendance and retention rate.

From making sure residents had access to ICT equipment and equipping them with the necessary confidence and skills, to making sure everyone had an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to recommendations on all the topics they were passionate about, there was much more to this exercise than simply firing up Zoom and letting the debate roll out.

Unintended outcomes, as a result of residents becoming more digitally literate, were gratifying: “I’ll now be able to see my grandchildren's face for the first time in a year - thank you!”, said one participant.

Link: Blackpool Climate Assembly