Spice is a social enterprise that develops agency timebanking systems for communities and public services that engage and empower the many rather than the few.
Community decline and civic disengagement is not confined to the old mining towns in the South Wales valleys, it's a national trend. Spice has developed agency time credit applications to engage people in the design and delivery of their public and community services and to support people to take a more active role in their communities. Whether that is with pupils in schools, tenants in housing associations or local people working with their community anchor organisation, these time agency tools increase active engagement, reduce dependency and build community and individual esteem.
Transferable Principles for Citizen Engagement
1. Know your Assets
Citizen engagement makes sense. When citizens participate and have greater ownership, public and community services become more in tune with their communities and achieve better results. But, how exactly does a public service go about engaging with people who are not easily accessible or who don't appear to want to be involved in the first place? How does a public service engage with the many, rather than with the few?
Spice argue that public services wishing to engage citizens in a meaningful way must firstly view citizens, not only as service users, but also as people who have something of value which they can contribute. Spice advise that before developing new engagement strategies and initiatives that public services should form a clear picture of the assets which exist within the community, of how they might be engaged and how well they are currently being engaged.
In the area of citizen engagement there is very little knowledge about - how much, how often and by whom? One of the tools developed by Spice is a citizen time audit, used to measure the existing levels of citizen engagement within a single agency or across multi-agencies in a community. The audit enables services to gain a clear picture of citizen engagement with their organisation. The tool enables services to go through a process of consultation with citizens to determine where they would like to be in a year, two years and three years' time. The audits also collect information on the diverse skills and interests that citizens have, to provide valuable guidance for the public service in targeting resources and improving engagement
2. 'Create a two way street'
One of the challenges facing public and community services is that it is generally 'the usual suspects' that attend meetings, consultations, sit on all the steering groups and represent the agency externally. How do you broaden that base?
Citizen engagement is about moving beyond the 'usual suspects' and enabling a broader range of people to participate. The reciprocity of agency time credits enable people to feel valued and thanked. By simply thanking people for their time in a meaningful way, local services will start to engage with many more.