Coproducing a Food Strategy

November 9, 2012

We have used ‘appreciative enquiry’ to find out about how a new Lambeth sustainable and healthy food strategy is being coproduced.

Why coproduction?

  • Demand for a food strategy has come from citizens via the huge interest in food-growing. Incredible Edible Lambeth, a loose network of food growing projects, is represented in the Food Partnership
  • Coproduction allows citizens to take a leadership role
  • The Council has an ambition for the food strategy to be an exemplar of a co-produced strategy

What is different?

  • The Council is not leading the process – it is a partner (although the Council is providing some resources – funding from Invest to Save fund)
  • We are expecting the food strategy to be written over a long time, and that untraditionally, some actions may happen before the strategy is agreed
  • The first focus is to form a Partnership working group (often strategy is written first and then partnership set up to deliver the strategy)

What coproduction tools are you using?

  • Appreciative Inquiry – got people to tell stories, amazing ‘project’ food brought into event – very inspiring
  • Asset Mapping/Activity Mapping
  • Participatory Appraisal (essentially talking to people in the street)
  • World Cafe-style workshops and events
  • Social networking
  • Use of networks
  • Visits

What is working?

  • We are building a strong partnership / collaborative
  • We are building up a body of evidence
  • Events have been well attended and they have created a ‘buzz’

 What are the benefits?

  • Buy-in from the partners so far is very strong
  • We are bringing in new partners
  • We seem to have a high degree of credibility

What isn’t working so far?

  • We have had to keep the working group small to start with – this doesn’t feel very open and cooperative
  • Writing the strategy is likely to take a long time – is this a problem?
  • We don’t have a very clear ‘mission’ statement – communicating what a food strategy might do outside of the council or NHS is difficult
  • It is difficult to reach decisions because we want a lot of change and to affect a lot of different groups

What would you do differently next time?

  • Ensure that Incredible Edible Lambeth (citizen group) properly resourced. They have had to secure some external funding for capacity building to get themselves into a position to be an equal ‘partner’.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Lambeth Food Partnership please contact Sue Sheehan


Real ‘action learning’ on coproduction – now monthly

November 9, 2012

The Coproduction Action Learning Set is now the meeting place of coproduction practitioners in the Council. It takes place once a month and provides a space where officers and colleagues from outside the council can get together to share ideas and brainstorm/barrier-bust projects.

Coproduction is still new in Lambeth. Many of us have coproduced projects, with varying degrees of success. It is only by sharing what has and what has not worked that we will improve our practice, and extend it all to all areas of the borough.

At the October Coproduction Action Learning Set we broke into five groups to deal with specific projects where we could collectively come up with a coproduction approach.

The five projects we dealt with were:

  • Adult social care day centres
  • Using e-learning to develop coproduction skills
  • Office Accommodation Strategy
  • Start your own food business workshops in West Norwood
  • Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme

Most of the projects stuck to a recommended format:

  • Brainstorm WHO is affected by the project
  • Brainstorm available RESOURCES
  • Start to put together an ACTION PLAN – using PEOPLE and RESOURCES indentified
  • Identify BARRIERS

The Actions we came up with were:

  • Start communicating – use corporate comms. but also informal comms. and networks – lots of discussion about starting a conversation and sharing ideas/articles and knowledge by whatever means possible eg from social networking and on-line interactive tools to just talking over a cup of tea, or when bump into someone in the kitchen. The latter are likely to encourage ‘honest’ conversation.
  •  Use Go-to people – there are people who have networks, contact and can make things happen. Identify them and work with them.
  • Use networks intelligently. Lots of discussion about creating a network of street champions so that everyone in the borough is ‘connected’ and easily contactable
  • Idea of ‘buckets of info’. So that people are not bombarded with information, have the information available in certain places so that they can go out and get what they need whenever they need it, and can subscribe to the things they are interested.
  • Hold events but make sure the environment is welcoming so that it encourages conversation – eg use community café style, make tea, share thoughts/ideas (don’t just give information).
  • Talk about coproduction
  • Reframe existing guidance and advice. Often information is available eg business advice on website, but it needs to be combined with other more specific advice eg food safety and then it would be more rounded and complete. It would also require less council resources ultimately. We could also train more staff and contractors to give advice and mentor individuals. E.g. in the case of business advice this might help staff to become more entrepreneurial, which is in the spirit of the coop council anyway.
  • Market analysis – understand where the gaps are and what is available already.
  • Encourage time banking
  • Encourage buddying (already used by social services but could be extended significantly)
  • Maximise use of council buildings. Schools etc. are only used for certain hours of the day.
  • Share information

The Barriers we came up with were:

  • People are fearful of change, particularly families/carers etc. who are dependent on social care services
  • We may need to have safety nets in place – for example if we reduce the number of buildings we might become over-dependent on expensive-to-hire space, or lose access to good quality space.
  • There is already generally a lack of affordable space eg for start-up businesses and community groups
  • It can be hard to reach agreement/consensus – especially for big change.
  • Politics – we spoke last time about a tendency to strive for the mediocre so as not to upset too many people
  • Lack of internal resources – staff are often overstretched
  • Go-to people are often overstretched and hold on to knowledge
  • We need more support for capacity building of community groups – we know that street champions/neighbourhood groups offer a huge opportunity for cooperative working but there is some confusion and overlap.
  • Need to make sure we don’t exclude people by depending too much on existing networks and not ensuring that everyone is networked.

We asked project owners to report back in the future about whether they have been able to action any of the actions or bust any of the barriers, as a result of the workshop.


Next workshop Thursday 29th November, 10-12.30am RSVP

As usual the workshop will not have an agenda. This time we will use a completely Open Space format. You take responsibility for getting out of the event, what you need to get out of it (more explanation of how this works at the beginning of the session).

We did agree there will be a barrier-busting session focusing on ‘access to affordable space’. Please let me know if you would like to tackle a particular ‘barrier’  or issue in the next session, or just come along with your idea.

I will look for several projects to put themselves forward for a ‘treatment’ by the group. I have already identified one project. Please let me know if you have a project, or just come along with your idea


We encourage people to BRING A FRIEND as a way of expanding the group and the sharing the knowledge.