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Policy Fellowship with Newham Council: Improving Participative Policy Making


Through the Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement (CAPE) project, we are pleased to announce a new Policy Fellowship opportunity with CAPE and the London Borough of Newham.

Giving people the chance to have their say forms part of a radical overhaul of democracy in the borough, designed to involve residents in decisions and build trust in the Council and make it a happier and healthier place to live. Newham Council has pledged to make the borough a beacon of participatory democracy.

Since 2018, the Council has pioneered ways to put residents at the heart of everything it does, launching a Democracy Commission, developing the largest community engagement programme in the country through its Community Assemblies, participatory budgeting in each of our neighbourhoods, a national leader in health & youth participation, as well as the UK’s first permanent Citizen’s Assembly.

The pandemic has made even more visible the opportunity to mobilise residents to develop activities together to help each other and improve their neighbourhoods, and the Council has worked with its partners to support local communities to do that, notably through Help Newham and our Social Welfare Alliance.

1. Embedding democratic participation in policy making

These participatory mechanisms develop new civic skills, behaviours and relationships for residents, public services, universities and its partners. They open up spaces for democratic participation and policy making that weren’t expected or possible before. If we need to improve how universities & public services work together throughout the policy making process, it’s critical that we can make use of our mutual strengths to embed participation in that.

What infrastructure is needed to enable universities to better use evidence from participative policy making and to create or inform new participatory mechanisms themselves and the skills to adopt them – given the dual roles of universities as researchers, thought leaders and educators? What infrastructure is needed to ensure the outcomes from citizen assemblies & participative policy making can make a difference to the ways a council operates, and the way citizens can become active participants in the policy space? If citizens assemblies show that citizens can be policy makers, what other roles can they play?

A local focus in Newham can provide a strong platform and test bed – given the strong commitment and work in participatory policy making and public engagement by Newham Council, UCL and other local stakeholders. However, there is an opportunity to influence the capabilities of open and participative policy making across universities & public services nationally, and CAPE is a strong platform to do that.

As such, they show the need and opportunity for other functions to become participative, such as how we design, commission and run our services, the way we use data and insight, how we fund and support our partners and how we develop our workforce.

Newham Council wants to explore even better ways to involve citizens in policy design and delivery in order to embed open policy making in the ways the organisation work. It wants to work with its anchor institutions, who also play a major role in people’s lives, on how it embeds participative democracy across the borough.

2. Influencing the development of capabilities of open & participative policy making across the public service & academic sector

Newham isn’t the only council that has invested in citizens assemblies or similar mechanisms that enable residents to be policy makers on big challenges. Universities are major anchor institutions in local areas and have a major role in the policy making process in shaping and developing evidence, developing people on new capabilities and educating new generations on the skills needed for the future – and participative policy making and design. Partnership between public services and universities is therefore essential to developing these capabilities.

There is an opportunity for this fellowship to convene and influence a community of practice of practitioners working in this field, to learn from other areas and explore the development of infrastructure that can be used beyond the borders of the borough.

About Newham

Newham Council is the third most populated borough in London and one of the most diverse, young and entrepreneurial. It is London’s fastest growing Metropolitan Centre and only Enterprise Zone.

Its Community Wealth Building approach is a pioneering and bold inclusive economic approach that aims to address poverty in the borough as well ensure that investment coming into Newham benefits all residents.

Its strategy, Towards a Better Newham represents a fundamental shift placing the health and wellbeing of residents and race equality central to the Council’s aspirations of inclusive growth, quality jobs and fairness in Newham.

About CAPE

The £10 million, 4-year Research England-funded CAPE project is a partnership between UCL and the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria and Nottingham, in collaboration with the Government Office for Science, the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and the Transforming Evidence Hub, funded by Research England. 

CAPE has been created to support effective and sustained engagement between academics and policy professionals across the higher education sector. CAPE comprises four broad workstreams under which activities related to the academic-policy interventions will be co-designed with policy partners: training; knowledge exchange events; seed funding; and policy fellowships. Evaluation is embedded across the project and integrated in the delivery of activities in order to ‘learn as we go’ and share emerging knowledge with university and public policy stakeholders. 

Role Description

This role will require the successful candidate to work closely with Newham Council, and the CAPE consortium, as well as anchor institutions and communities in Newham, and local public service or policy making networks in London. The main responsibilities will be to:

Help people develop their skills in open & participative policy making

· Develop tools and training that improve the ability of practitioners to develop & run participative policy making themselves in collaborative projects

· Design & organise knowledge exchange events and other activities on participative policy making co-identified with Newham Council, CAPE and other stakeholders.

· Strengthen collaboration between policy makers, academic and residents to better learn & apply participative policy making

Outputs: A community of practice at a local & regional level on participative policy making, tools & training sessions that academics & policy makers can use and a maturity model

Amplify the opportunities & impact of participative policy making to universities and anchor institutions

· Develop a strategic approach for councils & universities to work together to embed participative policy making across local areas

· Develop the business models that enable the development of infrastructure that connects different participative mechanisms

· Create platforms for Newham & CAPE to use their strengths in participative policy making to influence decision makers & funders to invest in innovations in this area

Outputs: Facilitated sessions with anchor institutions and associated opportunities identified for experimentation and business models / cases on infrastructure

Run a demonstrator project that can test opportunities to better embed participation

· Work with Newham, CAPE and local universities to identify priorities where there is the greatest opportunity for participative policy making to make a difference

· Design & coordinate a jointly led council-university demonstrator project that experiments with ways of working with services, communities & anchor institutions on one of the three challenges above to develop their skills in this area to test improved approaches and org-wide capability

· Adjust to what is being learnt and tested, embed collaboration with services & partners and use networks to amplify the impact

Outputs: Demonstrator project on a specific opportunity identified that can improve & embed participative policy making and associated evaluation & recommendations

Anticipate future challenges & strategic opportunities

· Assess future trends in participation to enable policy makers & academics to create or adapt policy mechanisms that best anticipate or respond to these

· Assess the levers that public services & universities have where participative democracy/policy making could be used to improve outcomes with residents

· Develop a strategic framework for participation that encourages & supports practitioners across policy makers & academics to co-design strategy with residents

Outputs: A strategic framework, trends & scenario analysis and opportunity assessment

About you: Essential

Knowledge & expertise in:

· Researching & applying civic & democratic participation, policy design and open policy making in their work

· Designing and leading activities that have strengthened collaboration across sectors in order to improve shared understanding and joint working to a common goal

· Designing & running experiments in a research, policy or design environment that involve diverse stakeholders, including citizens

· Expertise and experience in using research as a means of informing and contributing towards policy development.

· Using research to turn a set of experiments into compelling business cases or models that persuade organisations to embed the change

· Influencing stakeholders at all levels to shape new strategic agendas and to apply the learning to their work

· Working proactively, managing and prioritising your own workload, while managing contingencies between multiple project stakeholders

About you: Desirable

· Commissioning, designing or running activities that increase the influence of citizens and communities

· Leading multidisciplinary teams that can blend strategic thinking & experimentation in an agile way

· Designing strategic frameworks that can help one or more sectors improve their capability in a specific discipline/field

· Setting up new ventures or social infrastructure that have improved collaboration between organisations & citizens

· Facilitating communities of practice or networks that bring people together to share knowledge on a theme and activates them to test out methods in their organisations

About Policy Fellowships

This fellowship is open to eligible academic and research staff at CAPE partner universities. It is offered on a full- or part-time basis for 12 months in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal. The fellowship award may be up to £60,000, depending on salary level, experience, and time commitment, funded through CAPE.

The fellowship will start as soon as possible. The successful candidate will be embedded within the Newham Council Policy & Research Team. It is expected that the successful candidate will be based remotely to begin with due to current Covid-19 working restrictions. For this role, we are open to discussing the possibility of flexible working.

Newham Council will provide opportunities for the outputs for this work to be discussed & reviewed by a variety of internal and external audiences at different levels – including its Senior Leadership Forum, Corporate Management Team and Cabinet and other strategic forums within the council and the borough, as well as the London Policy and Strategy Network and the GLA. It will also create the spaces for the fellow to engage with frontline staff, partners and residents, including its Citizens Assembly of 50 representative residents.

The Council aims for the framework for participation to influence the improvement of existing participation mechanisms, such as Citizens Assemblies, Community Assemblies and Newham CoCreate amongst others – and the development of new participation approaches in the Council, and the development of new infrastructure to better support a more strategic approach to participation with its anchor institutions, including the Advisory Group of the Citizens Assembly made up of these partners.

Newham Council will also provide development opportunities for the Fellow to improve their expertise in participative policy making and on specialist areas associated with the fellowship that the Fellow wants to improve, including business development, data and digital, research, policy, scrutiny, service design, performance and intelligence and participation.

Applications will close at 23:59 on Monday 6th December 2021. Recognising that some staff in our partner institutions may be choosing to take part in the UCU industrial action we have extended this deadline to 9 December 23:59.

Top ranked candidates will be invited to an informal interview.

For an informal discussion or for any queries, please contact us at [email protected]

How to apply

To apply please send: · A short CV (max 2 pp)

· Covering letter outlining your suitability for the role

· A writing sample produced for a non-academic audience (if available)

To [email protected] by the closing date of 9th December 23:59 (please note the extended deadline due to the industrial action)