Introducing London Voices - helping Londoners to shape their city

People are more likely to feel they belong in a city they've helped shape and support. Dr Elisabeth Pop, Lead Officer on Democratic Participation at the Greater London Authority (GLA), introduces the London Voices project from our Citizenship & Integration Initiative looking to explore inclusive, representative civic and democratic participation in London life.

If we’ve learned anything from recent major events – from Brexit, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement – it is that the emerging social contract needs to have civic and democratic participation at its heart.

However, to participate fully in shaping their future, citizens and residents need access to relevant knowledge and opportunities, need to trust the system and feel heard. Central and local government, civil society organisations and funders play a critical role in enabling individuals to actively participate in their communities and their localities, in decisions that affect them, their families and their future.

This is particularly true for one of the greatest cities in the world – London - which has one of the lowest voter registration rates across the UK regions and nations. Even before the pandemic, voter registration rates were a key indicator of social integration, identity and belonging. With many of the most under-registered and under-represented Londoners disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, focus on access to full participation must become a prime concern.

This is why Trust for London, on behalf of the Citizenship and Integration Initiative, and the UK Democracy Fund, set up by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, have come together to support comprehensive research into the mechanisms that can facilitate equal, inclusive, representative civic and democratic participation as part of the London Voices project.

Following a competitive tender process, together with our delivery partner – the Young European Network at the 3 Million – we want to understand the state of London’s democracy and co-produce recommendations to ensure participation is embedded into all streams of medium-term and long-term recovery, particularly those focused on:

  • tackling exacerbated inequalities;
  • building and supporting resilience and a safety net;
  • bringing Londoners together; and
  • supporting the capacity and agency of London’s civil society.

Hence, we look forward to working with partners, be they civil society, local authorities, statutory bodies and academia, from across London, the UK and internationally to fill gaps in research; be led by community voices and lived experiences; map barriers and best practice in civic and democratic participation; and inspire innovation and collaboration.

In particular, I hope you can take part in the London Voices survey, due to go live at the end of June, which will look at how civil community organisations support the civic and democratic participation of various under-represented communities in London, the impact of recent events, current and upcoming legislation, what are your priorities and needs in this area, and how would you like to collaborate and coordinate on civic and democratic reform.

So, if you want to join us on the journey to full participation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at elisabeth.pop@london.gov.uk. London’s democracy won’t work until it works for everyone!

10 June 2021

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Dr. Elisabeth Pop is one of UK’s non-party political democratic engagement experts, having led some of the biggest coalitions on voter registration and contributed to research and advocacy on active citizenship and democratic reform. She is currently on secondment at the GLA, part of the Citizenship and Integration Initiative, acting as Lead Officer on Democratic Participation. Elisabeth has conceptualised and coordinated the design and delivery of London Voter Registration Week, the biggest non-party political democratic partnership between a regional authority, statutory bodies and a broad civil society coalition, and is coordinating the 'London Voices' project.

The Citizenship & Integration Initiative (CII) is a pooled fund held by Trust for London that brings together funding from independent foundations to support Londoners of all backgrounds to have meaningful opportunities to participate in the life of the city and the decisions that affect them. It works closely with the GLA to achieve these goals by funding the secondment of civil society experts into the GLA’s Social Integration team and by supporting community-led projects that further the initiative’s goals.