Using theatre techniques to hear more voices in consultation

A participatory consultation exercise has just been completed in Frodsham Cheshire. The research based process was created to engage the public in the community development of the disused Railway Goods Shed in the town centre.

In February 2014, nine focus groups were each engaged for an hour and half in a wide range of exercises designed to ensure that many voices were heard and the loudest did not necessarily prevail.

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The data collected from the focus groups was analysed and this evocative report was presented at Frodsham Foundation’s AGM in March 2014:

http://youtu.be/QTCjLFUowww

There was an overwhelming desire for the building to be brought back to life and have a positive community use. People wanted to see a business and social centre; essentially an indoor public space. It was also felt important that it should be built and managed by its users.

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The project was led by Professor Allan Owens FRSA of the University of Chester and Dr Anne Passila FRSA of the Lahti School of Innovation in Finland and was jointly funded by the University of Chester, the NW RSA Venture Fund and Frodsham Foundation.

Allan and Anne designed the project in response to Frodsham Foundation’s desire to get people involved in the process of deciding what could and should be done in the town. Too often consultation is a process where people are just asked what they think about powerful people’s ideas. Consultation is done to people rather than a participatory exercise. This was a chance to try a different approach.

As a result of the process, Frodsham Foundation will now take the ideas forward, prepare business models and apply for grant and other funding.

The partnership between the Foundation and the University of Chester has blossomed and the two organisations are part of a seven way partnership bid for an EU grant to progress the process developed in Frodsham so that a toolkit can be developed to allow a wider dissemination of the techniques used. Other partners include universities and businesses in Finland and Denmark and involve a number of Fellows demonstrating the emerging international nature of the RSA.

Rod Hyde FRSA

Chair Frodsham

Foundation Frodsham Foundation (www.frodshamfoundation.net) is a social enterprise which supports and promotes innovation and enterprise for the benefit of those living and working in Frodsham. Frodsham Foundation brings together the knowledge, expertise and resources of a wide array of backgrounds and professions to further the Foundation’s charitable objective of community capacity building.

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