Liverpool City Region: directly engaging with the public to increase awareness of devolution

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram has been bringing devolution to local residents through direct engagement activities to help inform priorities for the area. This case study forms part of our devolution communications toolkit.

Communications support

Challenge

Led by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority brings together six local authorities – Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral. To date, the Combined Authority has invested £ hundreds of millions into schemes to drive inclusive economic growth, creating jobs and apprenticeships, improving travel in and around the city region, renovating and improving schools and colleges, helping long-term unemployed families back into work and supporting major cultural events.

As experienced by many new authorities, the remit and responsibility of the devolved Combined Authority and the elected Mayor is not always immediately understood by stakeholders and the general public and opportunities to participate were under-developed. Communications, marketing and engagement has a key role in raising this awareness – and then active engagement – over time.

Approach

To help address this and inform policy making that reflects real local issues, the Communications, Marketing & Corporate Engagement Team of the Combined Authority worked with Policy and Investment colleagues to develop and roll-out #LCRListens: “an exercise in bringing devolution to life, to ensure that local people have the opportunity to influence genuine local decision-making".

Driven by the development of the city region’s Local Industrial Strategy, a stakeholder mapping exercise was undertaken across businesses, the education sector, the social economy, community organisations and the wider general public.

Based upon this, an integrated communications and engagement programme was developed under a newly created #LCRListens brand. Multiple methods were deployed, ranging from topic and sector-based seminars through pop-up on-street public engagement to digital engagement via social media and online surveys.

This provided the opportunity for a wide range of stakeholders to give their views on the key policy areas that mattered to them, like housing, skills, transport and the environment – and to gain an understanding of the Combined Authority and devolution itself.

Participation grew swiftly, both organically, through the online and offline groups inviting others to participate in these engagement sessions and through wider promotion online and in the media, including a media partnership with the Liverpool Echo. The #LCRListens brand was very visual and used real local people in video content articulating what they would like to see change in their communities, sending a clear message that the Combined Authority wanted to listen and that stakeholders and members of the public had an opportunity to have input into policy development.

#LCRListens gained significant momentum, tapping into a clear desire for residents and stakeholders of the City Region to have their say on the issues that are important to them.

The exercise was based on three key objectives:

  1. Ensuring that the Local Industrial Strategy is meaningful to local people and stakeholders and using the feedback from community members to inform the Strategy
  2. Raising awareness of the purpose and remit of the Combined Authority
  3. Creating an opportunity for stakeholders and public to start to play a real role in devolved decision making – and to build from this platform for a new, ongoing relationship of stakeholder and public engagement.

This activity was supported by digital – social media and driving traffic to the Combined Authority website, PR and direct engagement with stakeholder groups.

Outcomes and lessons learnt

The effectiveness of #LCRListens was measured in a number of ways, gaining positive feedback from participants. Over 7,000 people had taken part in its first phase.

A key challenge was to ensure that all the diverse communities in the city region had the opportunity to participate. This was addressed in the targeting of events, seminar and digital activity and was proactively monitored on an ongoing basis. Monitoring in digital and via surveys was crucial to shape the campaign and engagement activity on a “live” basis. So, for example, where monitoring of digital engagement showed a bias towards older male participants, promotion was targeted towards women and different age groups in terms of both the creative deployed and geodemographic targeting to redress the balance.

Overall, #LCRListens has been creative and cost effective, being delivered entirely in-house by the Communications, Marketing and Corporate Engagement team along with colleagues and stakeholder partners.

Effective as an exercise in engagement to develop the Local Industrial Strategy, the #LCRListens brand and approach has since been deployed to support all the Combined Authority’s engagement activity, for example the consultation on the city region’s Spatial Development Strategy, the establishment of a Metro Mayor Youth Advisory Forum, and underpinning engagement in the city region’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.

 

During a subsequent phase of the Combined Authority's engagement and communications work, the #LCRListens brand won a national planning award