I recently attended a discussion hosted by Lambeth Council’s Leader, Cllr Lib Peck, when council officers and councillors met with Josh Lerner, Executive Director of the North American Participatory Budgeting Project, Alderman Joe Moore from Chicago and Jez Hall from the UK PB Network. During the discussion a number of important questions were asked that felt pretty important to address if we are to adopt PB in UK on a meaningful scale.
Lambeth recently hosted the visit of two Participatory Budgeting experts from the US, as part of a study tour organised by Church Action on Poverty, as the culmination of their People’s Budget campaign. Josh Lerner, from the North American PB Project and Alderman Joe Moore, from Chicago met with elected members and senior officers at a roundtable event hosted by Leader Cllr.
Last Thursday on the 29th November the latest Coproduction Action Learning Set was held in the Town Hall. The Action Learning Set is a workshop for officers to meet up and discuss coproduction and codesign, in relation to the projects they are currently working on.
We had a good turn out again with a range of about twenty officers from various departments keen to support each other in this relatively new way of thinking. There were six initial projects that officers needed support with and they covered issues from how you coproduce large departmental plans with a range of different customers and stakeholders to looking at more focused projects who want to add in coproduction at an already advanced stage.
From this last meeting a number of actions have arisen:
- Find a place online to record peoples little ‘do’s’ of coproduction. These are small examples of coproducing that all staff can begin to use.
- The Action Learning Set want to make better use of online networks to continue supporting each other outside of the workshop including LinkedIn and Lino–it, as well as the Cooperative Toolkit. We agreed that we will trial each of these methods for communicating and see what ones prove most popular.
- There was a call to move away from the split between Councillors officers/residents. How can we become more of a team? Make better use of officers who are also residents and invite Councillors to the Action Learning Set to share their experience of coproduction.
- Expand group invite to include anyone, regardless if they work for Lambeth Council or not.
Moving forward we are keen to develop this Action Learning Set further. There are three main aspects to the ALS; the workshop, the network and the toolkit. The workshop is well developed and we will continue to host these monthly. The network has grown out of the workshops and we are looking at ways to support and grow this network by drawing in new members and using online resources. Finally the toolkit needs more work to bring it to a place where anyone can access and understand it, and use it to start coproducing their projects.
The next event is Wednesday 23rd January in Room 8 of the Town Hall at 10 – 12am. As mentioned we are looking to widen the invite to this, so if you are interested in coming along please get in touch, and feel free to bring a friend!
On September 18th 2012 Lambeth Council Launched its open data demonstrator tool in partnership with Boiler House Media, funded from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) at its ‘Digestibale Data’ event.
Further information on the tool can be found on the Boilerhouse Blog
A write-up of the event can be seen at The Daily Information.
The tool can can be accessed at www.lambeth-in-numbers.co.uk
Yesterday afternoon the Made in Lambeth team had a great catch up at the Town Hall in Brixton. It was a chance to get an update on the three projects that were developed at the last event, as well as looking forward to the next event and what projects we could work on in October. Council staff were pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who showed up! It shows that people are keen to stay involved and to contribute to designing and creating local services. A brief round up of the main points follows.
The website project is going well, we are working out ways to build up the content in the new website using the work done on the open source website developed at Made in Lambeth. The Love Your Space project is being pushed forward by Public Realm services, who are keen to maintain this as a community led project which allows people to identify unloved spaces and then enable them to do something about them themselves. The design for coproducing Healthwatch will go to cabinet in September, and the plans for this are based on the output from the Good for Nothing event. If approved, they will want to revisit the Good for Nothing Healthwatch team to get involved in the coproduction process.
Following the updates there was some really strong and useful feedback on the first event which we can take forward to the next one. This includes:
- The council needs to be clearer about letting go and transferring power. Being clear that it wants the public to lead on projects, giving permission to take a project and run with it.
- Develop a project pack for each of the new projects selected that includes background information, data, contacts etc.
- Identify networks outside of twitter/facebook in order to encourage people with skills to come along. Think about offline networks locally to attract a more diverse range of skilled people.
- Think about some methods of incentivising people to come along – a crèche?
- Ownership of projects continues to be important, need someone there who is clear they have the resource to take the work forward beyond the event. Also they could share this ownership with a service user / recipient?
- The group didn’t feel that much more structure to the events was needed, but did feel that the goals of the event should be more strongly defined at the outset. Especially around doing not talking, voting with your feet and divide and conquer.
- There was enthusiasm for having regular evening meet ups, but people wanted the format to be different and to learn from our own mantra – less talking more doing! A date for the next one is the 1st August and will take place later on in the evening so that Good for Nothingers can get there after work. Need to think about how we create a space for doing, and can use this space to select future projects.
Following this conversation we started to talk about projects for the next event. Some specific projects were discussed, and from this some clear themes started to emerge:
- Asset mapping – this came up again and again. There is a need for communities to start to identify the skills in their borough and learn how to engage and enthuse with people who have the skills needed for particular projects. There is a need to learn how to recognise skills – for example someone may be great at project planning, but they wouldn’t necessarily call their skills ‘project planning’. A pool of resources needs to be created which could be utilised by a range of projects.
- Adding value to existing networks –there is a diverse range of communities and different groups and networks in Lambeth, an excellent resource that would largely welcome being utilised. Yet bringing them together to work presents its own challenges, how can we do so in a way that adds value, not undermines organic structures. A problem which Made in Lambeth could happily tackle!
- Incentivisation – Why should people get involved in the cooperative council, what’s in it for them? In order to engage people you need some form of reciprocity, Made in Lambeth could explore this and come up with ways of engaging the unengagable!
We can explore these themes in more detail at our next get together. As mentioned above the next meeting will be on the 1st august at 6pm, and we hope to create a more relaxed set up with no set agenda. If you want to come along do so between 6-8pm, with the aim of making things as much as possible. If you have any ideas for this, please let me know.
Another date for the diary is the 13/14 October 2012 – the second Made in Lambeth event.
See you then!
Over the past year Lambeth Council has run a Coproduction Action Learning Set – an informal network where Lambeth staff share learning and ideas about coproduction. Coproduction is a simple idea, and one that has been explored on this toolkit in some detail. Each meeting allocates about half the time to exploring a theme related to coproduction; and the rest of the time to sharing challenges and successes enabling staff to support each other as they grow their skills in coproduction.
The May meeting focused on the role of procurement in coproducing services. The Action Learning Set heard a presentation from Eugene McLaughlin, Interim Head of Procurement at Lambeth and discussed ways the council needs to take a different attitude to risk in order to really deliver Cooperative Council values. The group also explored how residents might be more involved in the procurement process, ways in which procurement can be involved earlier in the process of commissioning a service and they also looked at what national and EU regulation could act as barriers to coproduction.
Future Coproduction Action Learning Set sessions will focus on:
- July – Feedback from the Good for Nothing event. At this session we will have feedback regarding the Good for Nothing event from the three project leads (parks, council communications and health and social care services), highlighting the innovative methods of coproduction that were developed and looking at the problems or issues that arose.
- September – Ensuring coproduction is inclusive/accessible to all. In this event we will explore how to identify what groups/individuals could be involved in coproduction, and how you then reach out and get them involved. We will also get detailed feedback from cultural services regarding the coproduction of Lambeth’s libraries.
- November – Sustaining participation throughout the process. One of the key challenges in the sustainability of coproduction, is not just getting people involved for a one-off event, but sustaining an open dialogue over the longer term. This session will start to explore the theme of incentives and how you might use them to enable sustained coproduction
- January – Managing conflicts/ facilitating between what stakeholders and senior managers/members identify as priorities. This session will describe Lambeth’s decision making process and explore how this may sometimes be a barrier to coproduction. It will explore how far the council is prepared to open up and accept the results of coproduction, and what changes need to be made to procedure/culture in order to improve.
- March – Coproducing the ‘strategic’ rather than service. This session will consider the challenges associated with coproducing a high level strategy, rather than coproducing more practical front line services.
So far the Action Learning Set has been run as an internal group for the council. However, we are open to shared learning across a range of partners and organisations. So if you are interested in attending a future session then please contact me, Nathan Pierce, at email@example.com.