Democracy Seekers task results: What do councillors do?

Democracy Seekers task results: What do councillors do?

Participants talking at a Democracy Seekers session

About this task

Our Democracy Seekers task for October 2019 was all about councillors, with a focus on how we can make it easier for citizens to find out what our councillors do. We hosted an informal Democracy Seekers gathering on Wednesday 2nd October 2019 at The Media Centre in Huddersfield. We also created a Democracy Seekers online task about what councillors do.

We asked:

  • What do you want and expect from your councillor?
  • How do you find out what your councillors do?
  • And how could councillors make better use of digital tools to connect with us?

What our participants said

Here’s some information about who participated, what participants said during our discussion session, and all the comments from our online task:

What do councillors do? What our participants said (PDF)

What happens next

We’re using this learning to inform two areas of our work:

1. Local democracy in a networked society

We’re working with councillors and citizens to make better use of digital technologies to strengthen our local democracy. We shared some of the learning from our discussion session with councillors at our Democracy Commission Working Group meeting on 10th October 2019. Here’s the report we shared with the Working Group, which also includes an overview of the project and the results of our Networked Councillors survey.

Networked councillors – digital skills, confidence and content for civic good (PDF)

Next we’ll be trying out some practical tools and activities to help citizens and councillors connect and work together for civic good. Make sure you Join our email list or follow @kirkdemocracy for ways to get involved.

2. Councillors

We’re working with councillors, council staff and citizens to create a new role profile for councillors in Kirklees. The role profile describes what a councillor should do, and we’re updating ours based on our learning, as we know that expectations of councillors are changing. Some of our learning from this task is helping to inform the new role profile, which we’ll share an update about as the work progresses.

Update: We shared a draft version of the new councillor role profile with our Democracy Working Group on 17th December 2019. We welcome your comments and ideas about this document.

New Councillor Role Profile DRAFT (PDF)

Some key things we heard from citizens about using digital tools to help councillors and citizens connect

  • People want to know the basics:
    “How do you know what your councillor does if you don’t even know who they are?”
    “Be visible in local communities”.

  • Timely information matters:
    “It can’t be called democracy if you only find out when it’s too late to do anything.”
    “How quickly do councillors find out about things?”

  • The profile of councillors in their wards matters
    Participants related “what does your councillor do?” to “what is happening in your local area?”
    “Councillors to have their own area on for their neighbourhood”.

  • Relationships are key:
    “Build relationships with the community to share solutions”
    “Bring people together, using their resources and assets”
    “Every community has pro-active people who are close to councillors – they are near the middle of the concentric circles. They are conduits who can help boost the signal.”

  • It’s important to choose the right tools:
    “Digital makes it easier to share”
    “WhatsApp is too personal”
    “Citizens, councillors and council officers to collaborate – use project management tools”

  • Online tools & methods that participants mentioned:
    email, facebook, twitter, blogs, forums, apps, webcasts, website, information feeds, online portal to promote ways of contacting councillors, Google, news sources, weekly email bulletin (local), Write To Them, Neighbourhood web pages, ward apps, Trello, Asana, Monday, Ayoa, online polls, issue tracking systems, WhatsApp, local party websites, issue feedback.

  • Offline methods that participants mentioned:
    phone, text, face to face, word of mouth, councillor surgeries, “town hall” style meetings in wards, community newspaper, zine, meetings and info board at local libraries, dialogue and contact with community, personal networks, council meetings, party or councillor newsletters, community meetings, local press, door knocking by councillors.

Useful information for citizens

Here are some links that you might find useful, to help you connect with your councillors and learn more about our work:

Looking for something else? Please contact us at if there’s something else you’d like to know.

Democracy Seekers

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