Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN) are making history today (Friday 9th December), as they have been given the award for Best Practice in Citizen Participation at the Institute of Participatory Democracy (IOPD) for their work on Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre.
This is the first time that the UK have won this international award. The IOPD Best Practice Award for Citizen Participation recognises successful experiences of local and regional governments in the field of participatory democracy, citizen deliberation, community empowerment, open government, democratic innovations and public participation.
Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre is a community-led process that is the result of a collaborative effort by the GMHAN and funded and co-designed by the GMCA’s homelessness team. The process was designed and led by a cohort of facilitators-in-training, who bring wide-ranging experience with the arts, organising and leadership, who have also been directly impacted by homelessness and housing insecurity.
Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre was started in July 2020, residents from all 10 boroughs who have experienced homelessness, as well as council staff and service providers, came together to create original plays based on their experiences. These plays focused on multiple disadvantages and multiple complex needs; funding and commissioning, housing infrastructure and racial inequalities. Legislative Theatre brings the challenges communities face to life, inviting audience members from the impacted community (“spect-actors”) to act out solutions and collaborate with decision-makers to turn them into new laws and policies.
Participant of Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre Fatou Jinadu says:
“It is the best way to express the injustices happening in the world.”
Another participant Georgina Olu adds:
“It is all about the ability to bring my lived experience as a contribution to systems and policy change.”
Katy Rubin who helped community members create proposals for the homelessness prevention strategy of Greater Manchester says:
“Legislative Theatre is an innovative and creative participatory democracy tool which is being increasingly employed by local authorities and governing bodies around the UK.
“The GMCA helped lead this wave of innovation as an early adopter in 2020-2021, to ensure that the process of co-creating the Homelessness Prevention Strategy was equitable and inclusive, and that the policies within centred lived-experience expertise.
“I was very glad to collaborate with the GMCA, GMHAN, and scores of Greater Manchester residents on this effort. It's wonderful that our work has been recognised by the IOPD's international Best Practice in Citizen Participation award.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham says:
“Congratulations to everyone who has helped this project come to life. Winning this award is a fantastic achievement.
“Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre has helped to improve people’s lives, so who better to lead this work, than the people affected by homelessness themselves. It is a unique creative tool, to hear people’s stories, engage officials and decision makers, and set the right tone for the Greater Manchester Homelessness Prevention Strategy.”
Paul Dennett, GMCA Lead on Homelessness adds:
"In order to prevent homelessness, we must centre on the experiences of people who have been affected by homelessness themselves. The Greater Manchester Legislative Theatre has been an amazing tool to help ensure that we do that. It’s a completely new approach to communicating the challenges communities face, it is collaborative, integrated and embeds lived experiences.”
The Legislative Theatre is part of the GMHAN’s refreshed Greater Manchester strategy that sets out a commitment to achieving equity and tackling inequality. Through a distributed leadership model whereby decisions and issues are taken and addressed as close to communities as possible – ensuring that people are at the centre of decision-making. It is one of many tools and methods that the GMCA are using to support one of the key recommendations of the Greater Manchester Independent Inequality Commission (The Next Level - Good Lives for All in Greater Manchester) around pivoting towards ‘people power’.
The Legislative Theatre is just one part of the work that is being carried out by the GMCA (in collaboration with many partners), some of the other on-going work includes:
- GROW (Getting Real Opportunities of Work) Traineeship schemes for people experiencing multiple disadvantage and inequalities.
- Storytelling, community reporting and peer research
- Lived experience panels to influence policy and systems change
- Participatory budgeting approaches with communities facing inequalities
- GMCA staff roles focused on developing and growing the co-production and participatory approaches with communities and people who are facing multiple disadvantages and inequalities across Greater Manchester.
Molly Bishop, Strategic Lead for Homelessness GMCA said:
“We cannot build solutions without people who are impacted by the system. It’s about being brave and doing things differently; learning along the way and using different tools and methods that work for people who are impacted.
“It’s all about relationships and trust, sharing power and acknowledging that change takes time, but we can do it together.”
Co-production with people with lived experience of disadvantage remains a core pillar of the work of GMHAN. People with lived experience who are unwaged can now receive participation expenses for their contribution towards the network’s activities. This removes a common barrier to participation whilst recognising that the insight that people with lived experience bring to the table is well worth paying for.
In the coming months, GMHAN is looking to disseminate this good practice through projects with homelessness partnerships in specific Greater Manchester localities. There will be a celebration event at the next full Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network Event in early 2023, where they will celebrate their award, and look ahead to how they ensure lived experiences insight and co-production is central to the ongoing delivery of the prevention strategies. Look out for updates so you can come and join the celebration in the new year!
Article Published: 09/12/2022 17:21 PM