We have supported the development of a new set of arrangements for collaboration on planning and growth issues between London and the wider South East. Our involvement was commissioned by the Greater London Authority working with the East of England Local Government Association and South East England Councils.

The core of the work involved designing and facilitating three summits, each of which were attended by around 100 people, in March 2015, December 2015 and December 2016. We also facilitated a series of round tables in summer 2015.

Each of the summits had a different task which had to be reflected in the design of the event and the way in which it was facilitated. In essence, the first was intended to authorise a process, the second to agree a mechanism and the third to have a substantive discussion of the topic.

It is not possible for a group of 100 people to discuss anything. But there is value in them collectively agreeing a course of action and having an opportunity to individually raise an issue or concern. In these cases discussions before the set piece event are at least as important as what happens in the room on the day. This is the approach we adopted to the first two summits.

On the other hand, it is perfectly possible for over 100 people to discuss the same topic at the same time in smaller groups. In this case pre-work is equally important, focusing on crafting the questions for participants to explore and designing a reporting mechanism which genuinely adds value to the debate. This was what we did for the third summit which also provided participants with an opportunity to work with the new deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, Jules Pipe.

The relationship between London and the wider South East on planning and growth issues is highly political and technically complex. In terms of local government alone a large number have a stake in it. These summits have put in place a political steering group to oversee the process of collaboration and a annual vehicle to consider the outcome of that work and contribute to the substantive discussions.

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