Leicester Stories is a community-driven project that uses community media and community radio to inspire households from disenfranchised communities to engage with the census. Community radio is particularly effective at reaching audiences whose first language is not English, who may not read English well, who might mistrust government processes, and who may not engage with mainstream broadcasters or social media. Community media aims to foster trusted voices in order to make connections with people who are easily overlooked and who run the risk of being ‘lost voices’.
It’s been proven during Covid-19 pandemic that community media has succeeded in areas where Government messaging, both at national and local levels, has failed to cut through. Leicester Stories is based in Leicester, and aims to engage with a number of partners, including community radio stations and voluntary groups, to create a space where learning about inclusive and respectful community communications can take place.
Leicester poses particular challenges because of its high cultural diversity, high levels of deprivation, and history of limited community integration. Moreover, Leicester has been severely affected by Covid-19 and the disproportional impact of health inequalities affecting people from BAME communities. It is anticipated that take-up of the census may be low among some communities, which has necessitated the Office for National Statistics to devote additional resources for Leicester in order to support engagement with communities that are often overlooked.
Leicester Stories will support the census engagement process by helping people to share their own experiences and motivations for completing the census. Leicester Stories will do this through alternative forms of community engagement, focussed on community media and community radio. Furthermore, we will employ an open-learning approach so that findings and resources are rapidly disseminated to inform initiatives elsewhere in the UK.
To inspire households to engage with the census we shall use a positive narrative approach based around the DMU Community Solutions Covid-19 Project (CSP). This project is about actively engaging with communities across the city, with the support of the City Council and Mayor, to formulate and deliver a plan to ‘build back better’. CSP has been highly effective in ‘giving voice’ to people across the city. It provides an ideal example of how community voices can be heard, and can positively influence policy. We will therefore highlight the importance of the census as a matter of civic pride, with the aim of informing policy and resource planning, particularly around the challenges faced in the city such as overcrowded housing and linking with the City Council’s anti-poverty strategy.