This group of projects has been funded by the council where it has been required. The aim was to prototype different approaches and review whether each project had the potential to be sustained as a community led venture. For the council to financially sustain community led projects in the long term is neither appropriate or viable. Aside from the financial support, there has also been the time invested from volunteers who have brought with them their expertise and personal commitment. The support required from the council and other organisations for example High Trees Community Trust and Lambeth Living has ranged from a sympathetic ear to practical support. Some projects have required more support than others to explain processes, navigate communication channels and clear blockages. Where another organisation has been the lead such as High Trees Community Trust, they have taken on this responsibility. Further consideration is required to review the available mechanisms and resources to support community led projects at start up through to developing into a sustainable enterprise.
At the beginning of the project planning when ideas were being developed, more consideration could have been given to the risks associated with the each of the projects. Once the projects began to evolve, there was a better understanding of the importance of risk management processes. The standard issues such as health and safety, first aid and minimum staffing levels began to be raised and addressed. In addition specific projects had additional checks that were needed. For example the BBQ bike needed to be issued with a food safety certification and site visit and public liability insurance was required for the manager of poly tunnel which was placed on Lambeth Living land. The latter example raises real questions about assumed liability between parties should any issues have arisen (e.g. Lambeth Living, Lambeth Council or High Trees Community Trust who were awarded the funding to deliver the project).
There are also accountability issues and the need for transparency in respect of payment processes, especially as the protocol for was for the council to manage at arms length. It was more expedient for High Trees to assume responsibility of the budgets for the majority of the projects for a small administration fee. As a consequence this made High Trees Community Trust responsible for ensuring that project budgets were spent with probity and the planned outcomes delivered rather than the individual project manager. Some of the projects have been delivered by project leads who are working alone, without the support of constituted groups or organisations. It is important for future projects to consider well in advance the range of processes which need to be put in place to manage risk.
The principle objective of this series of projects was to learn about co-delivery of projects between council and community groups. As a result, there was no requirement for the project to demonstrate achievement of outcomes or to evidence sustainability in themselves.
To reduce bureaucratic burden, it was decided that project leads did not need to identify outputs and project deliverables at the outset, in favour of a more evolved organic approach to project delivery. The only requirement tied to the funding provided was that progress and learning was recorded on the coop toolkit blog. Unfortunately, few project leads have been able to identify their learning about working with the council on the blog.
There is evidence of activity and success from these projects. For example, Metropolitan Housing has agreed to fund youth activity at the St Martin’s community centre for a year, the poly tunnel has been sited on the Cherry Close on the Tulse Hill estate and is producing crop for local salad providers, and the BBQ bike has engaged approximately 120 people and identified a number of skills shortage which will inform the development of future projects to address these skills-gaps. However, it may prove difficult to evaluate the outcomes or social value gained from these projects given that the absence of any criteria against which these successes and achievements can be measured. This demonstrates that, while working with the community requires us to adapt our processes, this should not be to detriment of core values such as robustness, accountability and the need to evidence outcomes of projects.