The images shows Arnstein's ladder of participation

Mobilising Strategic Action through Storytelling

We recently joined a Citizens Assembly hosted by Citizens UK. Community organisers reported on single-issue campaigns including jobs for youth; policing and race; digital inclusion and fair energy.  

We heard from members of the community who have been affected by these issues and benefited from the respective campaigns, in the presence of external representatives, such as Cllr Carole Williams, an Amazon community engagement officer and a member of the Metropolitan Police taskforce. Their moving stories exemplified how community organising can use personal storytelling instrumentally as a form of participation and to mobilise policy change. Amongst other forms of activism, many of the campaign successes were in part realised through the act of members sharing their stories with stakeholders and power brokers, putting into action storytelling as a mode of participation and method of producing social change.  

With the dawn of 2021, there was a sense of optimism. In his report on the assembly, Citizens UK Community Organiser and Counter-Framing Design advisor Froi Legaspi quoted Amanda Gorman’s poem she performed at the recent US presidential inauguration: 

We know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright. 

As Citizens UK moves into the new year of campaigning, we look forward to engaging with activities such as the Settle Our Status campaign, looking at intersecting issues and frames of new economy, climate and migration. This campaign arose out of the precarious position many undocumented migrants found themselves in upon the first UK lockdown. Prohibited from participating in the economy and public life, they were unable to support themselves and their families, to contribute to their communities or to seek medical and other necessary social services. A 2020 NEON report, showed the decline in climate mobilisation at the outset of the crisis and the corresponding rise in mobilisation around migration and housing, surfacing the challenges in developing ‘cross-cutting movements’.* 

 Our fieldwork will engage with the campaign through co-design and participatory methods, including a policy workshop, which together will allow us to map the field of issues and debates on new economy, climate and migration and develop preliminary design interventions to support navigating competing frames and counter-frames, and facilitate and sustain more integrated ways of organising.  

*NEON. Covid-19 Social Movements Report. (2020). Available at:  

Image Credit: Sherry R. Arnstein, ‘A Ladder of Citizen Participation’, JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224. Licensed under CC BY 3.0