First and foremost we are not asking you to be an expert in housing and employment issues, or to read reams of reports, facts and figures.
No prior knowledge of these issues is needed. Instead you will first listen to expert presentations and learn about these issues before forming a judgement.
We are still contacting potential speakers and sorting out the time frame and what we set out below is a rough agenda which is subject to change .
There will be five sessions in all
The time frame is one evening a week on a Thursday evening over five weeks, between 7-9pm.
The theme is insecure housing and homelessness in Penzance. This isn’t just about street homeless. The focus is much wider and covers ‘hidden homeless’, for example people having to ‘sofa surf’ because they have nowhere to live. It also covers those on low wages who struggle to with rent arrears and face possible eviction.
Each session will be a two hour session with a tea break.
In addition to the tea break, people are free to take short breather sessions. We want people to enjoy the experience and feel a sense of ownership so it is down to the citizens panel to work at a pace they feel comfortable with. We will look at this more in the first session and we can always change and adjust the pace and flow in later sessions.
The first session
Introductions and briefing: This will be a getting-to-know-each-other session. Panel members will introduce themselves and we may split into small groups to make this easier. You will also meet the project team – Gavin Barker, Paul Green and Revd Andrew Yates.
We will allow plenty of time for this so that people can ask questions or raise any concerns. We will also go through the agenda for the next four sessions to check that everyone is comfortable with this.
Agree conversation guidelines. This is important because we want people to feel free to ask any question or express any opinion without feeling undermined or pressured to take a certain line. How we handle disagreement is important and we will all have to help each other to ensure that every panel member feels valued and able to contribute.
The conversation guidelines are also important for speakers; we want them to feel free to speak with confidence and know that they will be heard respectfully, even if panel members disagree with what they hear or have a different understanding to that of the speaker.
The First speaker
We will introduce the first speaker in the second half of the session. We may only have time for one speaker once we have got the introductions and briefing out the way. Future sessions will have three speakers. The speaker will give a short 10-15 minute presentation, followed by a question and answer session to help panel members better understand the issues under discussion.
At the end of the first session there will be a short ten minute wrap up to review the evening and address any teething problems.
The second and following sessions
3 x 10-minute talks by expert presenters. The talks could be by a housing officer or someone who has experienced homelessness themselves. It could also be an advice worker who works with people struggling on low wages and zero hours contracts.
However we are aiming for a diverse range of perspectives, and want to include a talk by a local landlord and businessman. Elected representatives will also be invited to give a talk.
In all cases we will encourage presenters to come up with a key recommendation that they would like to see adopted. It could be a policy recommendation that they want their local councillor or MP to consider, or another related body. These recommendations will be considered by the citizens panel in Session 5, the last session (see below), and either endorsed or rejected
20 minute Q and A and discussion. The presentations would be followed by a Q and A session and discussion. At the end of this, the presenters would leave.
10 minute Tea break
Remaining 45 minutes is given over to discussion and deliberation by panel members about what they have heard. They will split up into groups of three or four with a flip chart, pen and paper to capture key points.
We may not need the full 45 minutes for this but we feel it is really important that panel members have as much time and space as they need. They will also have a copy of the speakers presentations that they can refer to afterwards. The presentations will also be shared on the website.
Final 15 minute wrap up: this is for any final feedback or questions that panel members have, particularly with regard to any personal unmet needs or unforeseen teething issues.
Session five: deliberation and decision-making stage
There are no more speaker presentations.
This last session will focus on the key policy recommendations put forward by the speakers. Panel members don’t have to endorse them and may come up with their own recommendations, giving their reasons why.
While citizens assemblies and panels normally aim for a consensual understanding of an issue, this is not always possible. One way round this is to prioritise and vote on a set of recommendations. This is something we will look at once the panel sessions are underway.
Be aware that there may be changes to the agenda outlined above. How this process evolves is very much down to panel members and not something that can be imposed from above