Colourful London residential buildings, photograph by Marine Le Priol


Civic Data Innovation Challenge Awards: Migrant Democracy Project

14 February 2024
4 min read

Migrant Democracy Project exists for migrants who want to shape a society based on social justice through community power building. Dr. Omar Hammoud Gallego tells us more about what they are trying to achieve.

Dr Omar Hammoud Gallego, Fellow in Political Science and Public Policy at The LSE’s School of Public Policy
Omar Hammoud Gallego
Fellow in Political Science and Public Policy at The LSE’s School of Public Policy

We know that being part of strong communities are one of the building blocks of a healthy life. Alongside the Greater London Authority, we began supporting the Civic Data Innovation Challenge in 2022.

The Civic Data Innovation Challenge funds and develops projects and organisations that seek to understand what community strength is and how we can build and measure it. The data and information they gather will become part of the Civic Strength Index, which consolidates existing data on what makes communities strong.

This is our second piece in a series of articles about these innovative projects and their ambitious goals to bring communities together. You can also read our first article on social connection researchers Neighbourly Labs.

Migrant Democracy Project

Migrant Democracy Project exists for migrants at home in the UK who want to shape a society based on social justice, reflecting their needs and interests, through community power building.

They work on voter registration, campaign on residence-based voting rights, conduct research on political engagement and representation, and train community organisers and local election candidates.

This data project is a collaboration between Migrant Democracy Project and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). A team of research consultants works with student Research Assistants from the LSE to administer and analyse the survey.

Dr. Omar Hammoud Gallego, Fellow in Political Science and Public Policy at The LSE’s School of Public Policy, tells us more about what they are trying to achieve:

Our aims and objectives

Our Data Challenge is the most comprehensive survey on the diversity of London Councillors. We’re asking councillors from all boroughs about their characteristics (e.g. ethnic background, gender, age), in relation to their motivations and challenges being a councillor, and building case studies of their journeys in local politics.

Local Councillors represent all residents in their ward on decisions impacting every aspect of our lives – from the (in)famous pothole repairs to making green spaces, libraries, schools, and community centres better for all residents.

However, we do not know whether those elected to represent us actually reflect the diversity of the communities they represent in terms of their interests and needs.

Our project seeks to benefit all Londoners by enabling us to identify who is under-represented in decision-making, allowing for recommendations to improve the representation in local democracy.

We will be able to explore how elected councillors’ policy interests align with the issues Londoners care about, therefore improving the links between politics and the public and contributing to increased community cohesion.

How we seek to achieve our goals

So far, research such as the Local Government Association’s UK-wide census survey on local councillors does not allow for generalisations in London specifically, as the response rates are too low.

Our London Councillors survey will be the first comprehensive London survey of elected representatives. This includes measures which have not been tested before, such as new diversity questions on migration status and socio-economic background measures. We aim for a 35% response rate as in our Data Challenge Phase 1 pilot to be able to draw conclusions London-wide.

We will be able to map the survey data to Census 2021 data as well as other London-specific data to answer the question: do London’s local representatives reflect the diversity of Londoners they represent?

The quantitative analysis of survey responses will be complemented by at least 2 case studies for each borough to illustrate the diverse political journeys of councillors.

Some of our early progress and highlights

We started the project in October 2023 as a small team of three researchers, and now work with 12 Research Assistants as part of our collaboration with the LSE. The LSE’s Prof Paul Apostolidis has also been instrumental in securing funds for this research.

After much research and testing, we launched the survey in January 2024 aiming to reach out to all 1816 London Councillors by email, call or in person in the next couple of months.

We have published a report on local councillor diversity based on the Data Challenge Phase 1 pilot project.

Find out more

For more information on the Migrant Democracy Project, visit their website

Migrant Democracy Project website