Blackpool Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019, recognising the need for urgent impact and change. As a tourist location, the town receives up to 10 million visitors each year and has set an ambitious objective to reach NetZero Carbon Emissions by 2030.
As a way to include their citizens in shaping the future of their place, Blackpool wanted to hold their first citizen’s assembly. We supported them through the process, running four sessions, created a list of principles to guide the work, a set of eight priority issues and recommendations to help achieve their climate goals.
To make sure the assembly had a diverse group of residents that were representative of all parts of the community, we sent letters to 8,000 people living in Blackpool. Of those who responded, the group was consolidated into 40 residents, representative of different ages, genders, races and socioeconomic status.
Before the assembly
Due to constrictions from COVID-19 and a UK national lockdown, the entire assembly needed to be facilitated online. This presented a new set of challenges to make sure we were effectively and inclusively engaging all the residents taking part.
As Blackpool is the most deprived local authority area in the country, we knew potential barriers would be around digital literacy levels and access to technology. To make sure everyone could take part effectively, prior to the assembly we planned ongoing support and engagement alongside access to technology tools and guidance. We made sure any materials we shared were written in plain English and hosted one-to-one workshops on how to use video software.
Due to some potential caring responsibilities of those taking part, we also made sure to have access to childcare vouchers. Local libraries were brought into the process, allowing residents to safely use their resources if they needed a quiet space that wasn’t available at home.
Designing and running the assembly
Working closely with the client, we hosted workshops that decided how the sessions would run, their focus, the speakers and what we wanted the learnings to be. Co-creating a curriculum this way helped strike a balance between education and discussion. Prior to the first assembly, we also equipped the facilitators to have informed discussions through prepared materials, templates and one-to-one sessions.
Coming together, the community representatives discussed and aimed to come up with solutions to the question:
What can the council, local organisations and the residents do to counter the climate emergency?
The Assembly took place over four virtual sessions in January and February. These sessions involved a mix of education and deliberation, with the first and second sessions focused on providing context around the climate emergency for Assembly members. And sessions three and four contained discussion in small groups led by a team of facilitators. Sessions were chaired by a moderator who introduced concepts, guest speakers and hosted discussions.