Participants have been recruited to represent a good cross section of the local community in each place.
In Leicester, Skegness and Newtown, participants were recruited from areas at risk of flooding but who had not actually experienced flooding themselves. This was the same for the Newtown events. The Oxford and York events were attended by people from surrounding areas who have experienced flooding in their home, garden or place of work.
This was to ensure that we got a range of perspectives and experience. At each event participants completed evaluation forms at the end and feedback was very positive, including the following comments:
“I felt my contribution was of value and interest to the experts.”
“The event was informative and allowed all views to be shared.”
“I think people from different situations mixing in groups is important to widen the understanding of levels of effects on them.”
“I have learnt a lot and know what advice to give others and where to get more information myself. They are asking people how they can help everyone, which is good.”
“Oddly enjoyable day, I learnt a lot.”
“Really useful having people give their experiences.”
September 2014 – Dialogue workshops held in Newtown, Wales
Our final first-stage dialogue was held in Newtown, Powys on 16 and 20 September. The reason for selecting Newtown was its rural setting. The local area has not seen any significant flooding in recent years, but was at risk of river and surface water flooding. The dialogue joined together 21 local residents from Newtown and the surrounding villages with nine specialists (over the two events) from Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency and Powys County Council.
It was apparent that the public were very aware of their local environment; of which roads and fields are affected by heavy rain. Many attendees had seen flooding close to their properties. Some people had taken action to address this by installing pumps or knowing when to move their and neighbours’ cars in the event of heavy rain. No-one had been steered by flood risk authorities to take these actions.
We discussed the ageing populations of some villages nearby and their lack of internet access or usage. There was a request that authorities account for this in their mechanisms for delivering information.
People were unaware of the terminology around flooding, especially surface water flooding. There were strong feelings around how authorities describe risk and what could be done to make that more effective. And just like the previous dialogues, the flood plan was seen as a good way for people to understand what to do in the event of a flood event.
Our group in Skegness was smaller than at other locations but the 12 participants entered fully into all the discussions about flood risk maps, leaflets, flood and weather warnings and the best ways of communicating with people.
After the workshop the specialists who had attended from the Environment Agency and Lincolnshire County Council agreed that they had heard some really effective ideas and gained useful insight to help them in their work.
In addition two members of the group expressed an interest in becoming volunteer Flood Wardens, which the local Environment Agency staff were very pleased about!
The second set of dialogue workshops took place in Oxford on Tuesday 10 and Saturday 14 June, with 16 residents from Oxford and surrounding areas in attendance. In York 23 people met on Wednesday 25 and Saturday 28 June.
All had experience of being flooded, most had experienced flooding of their homes, others had experienced flooding in their gardens and garages, or in their workplaces.
Despite the sensitivity of discussing their experiences of flooding, people made great efforts to contribute to the conversations with each other and with the flood specialists present from the Environment Agency, Met Office, Local Government and Public Health England.
Participants’ knowledge and experience of flooding was invaluable to the discussions. We considered many dilemmas during our conversations, and covered areas such as finding ways of identifying flood risk and becoming prepared for those who have never experienced flooding. With the power of hindsight, what would have prompted people to do something to be prepared?
We talked about the type of flood risk information that is available (both before and during a flood); about how relevant it is or isn’t; and what needs to be done to make it more useful and meaningful.
During the discussions, there were many challenges to authorities about when they need to listen more; in which circumstances and in what way listening could make achieving flood resilience easier for everyone.
The first two dialogue workshops have taken place in Leicester.
There were 22 participants who each took part in both workshops, a good mix of people from different areas of the city which have been identified as high or medium flood risk. There were also three Environment Agency staff, two people from local government and one representative from the local Resilience Partnership who were there as subject ‘specialists’. The participants were keen to find out more about flooding and the issues around flood risk communication. They entered into discussions with enthusiasm and were interested to hear each other’s point of view as well as calling the experience of the specialists when needed.
After the Saturday workshop one participant said “I thought the six hours would be a drag but the day has flown by and I really enjoyed it!”
A number of specific recommendations were made by participants and there were some valuable discussions around a number of tricky issues. We won’t give away more at this stage as we don’t want to influence participants at the next sessions in Oxford, York, Skegness and Newtown.
The project team would like to thank all the participants in Leicester who were great to work with and have helped this phase of the dialogue project get off to a flying start!
We carefully planned our workshops and worked on recruitment of participants to ensure we got the right mix of people at all the sessions. for more information, visit our project diary page.