What is the project?

Digital Civics is the application of digital technologies to involve individuals and communities in the design, development and delivery of public services. The project will apply these principles to the field of public health nutrition to explore various methods to empower communities to deliver structural changes to their food environment.

Who are the partners?

  • Gateshead Council
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Newcastle University
  • Northumbria University

Why was this project chosen?

The project builds on existing research by Newcastle University in public health nutrition and the application of digital technologies to real-world problems. Combined with two local councils that are active in exploring ways of tackling obesity through the promotion of healthier environments.

Why Newcastle?

Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council are partners in the large-scale long-term digital civics research and research training initiative led by Open Lab, Newcastle University. The initiative is primarily resourced through the ESPRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics and the EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC). DERC will theorise, design, develop, and evaluate new digitally mediated models of citizen participation that engage communities, the third sector, local government and (crucially) the commercial digital economy in developing the future of local service provision and local democracy. The main research themes of DERC address the development of models of digitally enabled citizen participation in local democracy (planning), public health, social care and education, and the nature of new civic media to support these.

Why did Newcastle choose the Leading Places programme?

Newcastle University in partnership with the Leadership Foundation undertook the original scoping study for a Higher Education and Civic Leadership Development Programme. The Leading Places initiative provided an opportunity to test many of the principles set out in that study. More importantly Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Newcastle and Gateshead Councils were partners in a city futures programme linked to the Government Chief Scientist's City Futures initiative. The success of the Newcastle City Futures initiative has been recognised by the award of a UKRC Urban Living Partnerships grant to take the work forward. This group decided to participate in Leading Places and selected a pilot project in Digital Civics in anticipation that lessons from it could be applied to other projects in its programme of future orientated activities.

What are the benefits of the project?

It will allow the universities and local councils to strengthen working relationships through their digital civics work. It will also give all the partners an opportunity to reflect on their established ways of working and develop a deeper understanding of each other's priorities and challenges in relation to the local area.