Groundswell Innovation was commissioned to undertake community engagement for a £20m Towns Fund bid for Crewe, which was successfully completed in January 2021.
Lockdown restrictions and a newly formed Town Board made ‘authentic public engagement’ and positive consultation a huge challenge for Crewe’s Towns Fund bid.
Extensive consultation using quantitative methods had already taken place, but it was clear a more qualitative approach would be beneficial.
Doug Kinsman, chair of the Crewe Town Board acknowledged that “Community engagement is challenging in these projects at any time. But under the pandemic situation that we’ve had, that was going to make it even tougher. How do we genuinely go out and engage with the community? We were going to need strong engagement that was going to require an organisation that can go out and make those connections, make those calls, have meaningful conversations.”
In order to demonstrate public engagement, Groundswell:
Used a blended approach to consultation and engagement by using the flexibility of technology.
- Carried out a series of 1-2-1 interviews, community focus groups and a quantitative survey.
- Worked with a subset of the board on a stakeholder engagement/ management process to facilitate a much wider distribution of the survey.
- Incorporated the Groundswell concept of moving the right people into being positive ambassadors for the Crewe bid; we were building a groundswell of support.
- Secured 1900 responses from a quantitative survey in a global pandemic during the run up to Christmas.
- Collected a cross-section of opinion across different age groups.
- Translated a simplified survey into six different languages: to show the entire population of Crewe that we were interested in their opinions.
- Made sure we listened to a broad range of voices. This included speaking to people living in poverty within Crewe, from immigrant communities, families living with disabilities and young people with distinct learning needs.
We also published a report of the consultation as part of the Town Investment Plan, where we incorporated everybody’s views, to ensure that individuals could see where their opinions fit as part of the broader landscape.
“One of the things that we were really keen and passionate about is that this wasn’t to be a tick box exercise, that we would have genuine conversations, particularly with those hard-to-reach groups within the local community… and there was a real genuine desire by the Groundswell team to ensure that authentic conversations happened.”Reverend David Edwards, Member of the Crewe Town Board
The process of developing the Towns Fund bid has built on the successful place brand project undertaken by HemingwayDesign. Together with the Towns Board we worked towards making this community-led vision a reality.
As a result of a successful bid to the government’s Towns Fund in January 2021, overseen by Crewe Town Board, Crewe has been allocated up to £22.9m of funding to support the town’s long-term economic growth.