Great blog on all things coproduction….

January 28, 2013

There is a really interesting blog on coproduction from our friends at Social Spaces:

http://www.collaborate.so/

The latest publication from Finland im finding particually useful!

 

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The Work Shop – from pop up council to coop council

December 3, 2012

Lambeth has set out its stall to become a cooperative council by 2014 and to transform the way it works in order to achieve this. One of the most important distinguishing features of this vision is to establish a fundamentally different relationship between citizens and the local authority – one based on collaboration, reciprocity and cooperation.

Changing things is tough, anyone working in large organisations or in the business of social change knows this all too well….of course it’s possible, but it can be a slog. One of things that helps creative thinking is to disrupt normal patterns of behaviour or thinking – causing us to question ‘normal’ ways of working and shakes us out of our pre-conceptions about business as usual.

We started to think about how we could begin to disrupt our normal approach to engaging residents in discussions, to develop a different, more ‘cooperative’, conversation.

The result is the Work Shop.The Work Shop window

Lambeth Council has taken a short term let on a vacant shop on West Norwood High Street to set up the Work Shop. Over the next few weeks we will be trying to reach out to the people who live, work and visit the area and inviting them to join us for a cup of tea, a conversation and more as we explore the possibilities to work better together.

Three days a week – including some evenings and weekends, so as many people as possible are able to pop in – we will be running a programme of talks, hosted conversations and workshops on a wide range of topics. Some will be led by council officers, some by public sector partners and others by local voluntary and community groups. You can find out more about what’s going on here. But in addition to these more ‘formal’ elements, there will be plenty of more informal opportunities to engage.

We don’t expect everyone to want to come to a workshop, at least not at first….the Work Shop has installations of things going on in the area, inspirational examples of what can be achieved through collaboration, and space to capture people’s ideas of how things might be changed for the better. We’ll also be doing some asset mapping – gathering community perspectives on the services, buildings, people, talents, ambitions and passions that the local community has and values. This will be crucial in helping to inform what happens in the future and is part of a much wider shift in how Lambeth, as a Cooperative Council, views its citizens and communities.the work shop

A shop on the high street in one part of the borough for a few weeks is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a panacea for the myriad challenges we need to overcome in order to realise the vision of the Cooperative Council. Rather, it is an experiment in the art of the possible…an attempt to test out a new way of working with citizens, which we can learn from and apply to other parts of the organisation in the future.

We are not content to sit in the Town Hall and pump out laudable policy documents about how things will be different in the future. The Work Shop takes the conversation out into the community, changes the rules of engagement and, we hope, provides an opportunity for a more creative and meaningful conversation about what the Cooperative Council could be.

If you’re in the area, pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. If not, then we’ll be posting regular updates as we go along.


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 ssheehan@lambeth.gov.uk


What support is needed to encourage the development of community led projects?

October 24, 2012

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.


What are the risks associated with this approach?

October 23, 2012

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.

 


What is the process for evidencing outcomes when working with the community?

October 19, 2012

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.


Made in Lambeth II

October 18, 2012

#madeinlambeth

As many of you will know, a second Made in Lambeth event took place last weekend here in Brixton at the Town Hall. I think I can safely say it was a real success! Firstly thank you ever so much to all of you who came along, braving London transport when so much of the tube was down. It was really appreciated and the impressive turn out at the weekend shows us how enthusiastic people are to make a real difference to where we live.

The making and creating on all three projects was substantial and we have some brilliant work to take forward together over the coming weeks and months. Some of the outputs was as follows:

  • Neighbourhood networks – This project started life as a concept called ‘Street Friends’ and soon turned into ‘Our Street’. The idea is to create networks of neighbors working together on their streets to improve the immediate area where they live. The idea grew out of the Community Freshview project, where feedback told us one of the most positive changes this project has is getting neighbors to talk to each other, often for the first time. This leads to increased interaction and positive change.  Communtiy Freshview is resource intensive however, and ‘Our Street’ is about providing even more people with the tools and support they need to get on with projects they want to do themselves, knowing they have the full backing of the council to do so. Some of the tools created over the weekend included a website design which includes content about what can be done legally and how to do it, notice boards to gather ideas on your street and a sticker to put in your window which says that ‘im a friendly neighbor  please ask me to help out.’
  • Connectors – The next project was around identifying the people in the community with skills and connections who we should target with opportunities to volunteer and to get them involved in community projects. This was a wide ranging brief that took in skills mapping, volunteering and inclusion. A number of strands came out of this. One group looked at promotional materials to illustrate that volunteering is something that is extremely positive in many ways and created the ‘Superstar Volunteer’ idea. This included a video that set out what people personally get out of being a volunteer. Another group worked on developing a website that aggregates volunteering opportunities in the borough. And another group developed the idea of ‘The Nest’, a space provided by the council in council buildings for entrepreneurs and social enterprises to work together and with the council, bringing in people with skills from the community.
  • YLC – The Young Lambeth Cooperative had an incredible time of it and from the off it was clear they would achieve what they set out to achieve  What was really powerful was the involvement of young people themselves who left the weekend having gained a lot of experience in working with professionals on a project that would have a tangible impact on their lives. The group managed to create a strong brand for the YLC, sticking with the name ‘Young Lambeth Coop’ but using the abbreviation YLC. They came up with a logo and font and tested this out with the young people who were present. They developed a communications plan based around social media and mediums that young people wanted to use, as well as creating a website. They also explored ideas around incentives, and what would encourage young people and their parents to get involved in the YLC.

So now that we have these projects up and running, alongside the three projects still going from the first event, we want to keep momentum going and plan for another two day Made in Lambeth event sometime in the near future. Firstly we will host a catch up event for you to all come along and continue to work on your projects and to discuss any ideas you might have. At the event last weekend we suggested the 24th for a catch up, but unfortunately that is no longer possible, so instead we would like to invite you to the Town Hall in Brixton on Tuesday 30th October between 6-9pm to meet up with your old team mates and possibly go for a drink afterwards! Let me know if you are able to come along at npierce@lambeth.gov.uk

 

Finally we have some pictures and the twitter feed from the event:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/goodfornothingflickrs/sets/72157631776623535/

http://storify.com/g00dfornothing/made-in-lambeth-12-14th-october-2012

 

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the 30th October!

Nathan