Guest post

by Jennifer Milligan, Consultation and Engagement Officer, Lancaster City Council

A lot has happened since I initially met with Leon and other officers about the Leapfrog project, in fact back in November 2013 it was called ‘Connected Communities’.

As the council’s consultation and engagement officer, you can imagine I was very keen to be involved in this project. Co-​designing innovative and creative practical tools to help the council to actively engage with our community but also build capacity within communities to carry out their own engagement.

I invited Leon and Gemma to come along to a Lancaster District Community Engagement Group meeting. This group are enthusiastic about consultation, as well as learning and sharing new ways of doing this. At the meeting, the anticipation built as we sat in a circle waiting to find out what exciting tools the University had been developing and more about their future plans. It wasn’t long before we were all having fun with the foam commenters and coming up with ideas of how we could use them in our consultations.

Everyone was keen to support the project bid, especially in our climate of ever reducing resources, and some wrote letters of support. I also put Leon and Gemma into touch with some Lancaster City councillors, who I knew were particularly passionate about community engagement.

In July 2014, I was lucky enough to attend one of the ‘working together with groups’ workshops, this was really useful and provided a taster of what the Leapfrog project could build on.

It was great news to hear that the Leapfrog bid had been successful, last autumn.

Since then, I have been involved in helping to scope the non-​written consultation short project (one week) and next month I am looking forward to helping to scope the first large project (approx. 8 months), which will focus on consulting with young people. Engaging young people is particularly challenging for the council, especially as this can often require a lot of time to build relationships and trust, and expertise that is required to design and use creative techniques.

I’m really looking forward to working on the Leapfrog projects, which will help the council to engage with a range of hard to reach groups in more innovative, creative and interesting ways.