By working with the University of Westminster on its approach to citizen and community empowerment, Queen’s Park Community Council has come into being as London's first local parish council in 50 years with a commitment to address wide-ranging community needs in this disadvantaged neighbourhood in inner London.

The challenge

The Queen’s Park community in north Westminster working with and through the Paddington Development Trust (PDT) had:

  • some 10 years of community development under its belt
  • an embryonic democratically elected local forum
  • plenty of experience in community consultations with the City Council
  • produced local community plans for its area

But it had no direct control and only limited influence over local public services and their delivery. For local service initiatives it largely depended on the largesse of the City Council or on the other major providers such as the NHS. Most importantly, its economic and social circumstances, including acute child poverty, remained stubbornly stuck.

Working with PDT the community secured funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to join the national pilot programme of neighbourhood community budgets for citizen co-designed services.

But it is a big step to move from consultation to holding professionals to account, co-designing services and establishing a new statutory level of local democratic government. The University was asked to propose how that might be done – how individual citizens and the community might be empowered for such future roles.

How did we help?

Mary Webb, a University of Westminster academic who specialises in leadership development, managing change, training, coaching and mentoring, devised and delivered a workshop series for a resident cohort. The workshop addressed individual, group and community empowerment in the specific context of the planned resident and community roles for co-designing and reconfiguring very local services, and within the general context of the local campaign to establish London's first parish council.

Mary also led on the evaluation of the collaborative processes underpinning the evolving whole-systems approach to the local children's centre services redesign with resident accountability.

What our client says

The partnership with the University has provided a deeper understanding and learning of individual and group empowerment at a critical time in the community’s push to establish London’s first parish council. We have been able to rely on the University for guidance and support, and were delighted to be able to commission this work from their leadership development academics in the Business School. I would wholeheartedly recommend their services.

Neil Johnston - CEO, Paddington Development Trust

The result

The resident cohort successfully completed the workshop series to form a key constituency of individual citizens participating in the Queen’s Park democratic processes and elections for the new community council.

The community council's new councillors were elected in May 2014. The council formally came into being at that time with a community needs mandate and an independent community budget drawn as a precept on the council tax.

Now the local community has a formal democratic mandate to lend its considerable influence and energy to tackle the community’s local economic and social circumstances. The new parish council will be able to hold service providers to account for very local services. The ambition to involve citizens in the co-design of local children services has become a reality.It is hard to exaggerate the potential beneficial cultural, educational, community and social impacts. This opportunity is a result mostly of an extraordinary resilience and determination among the residents of Queen’s Park. We are proud to have played a small part in this journey.

Who was involved

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