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!

 


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


OPM suggestions on how to build engagement into the commissioning process

October 18, 2012

OPM suggest ways to allow local people to get involved in the commissioning decisions rather than ‘fighting back’ once the deal is apparently done.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN INVOLVE USERS IN COMMISSIONING DECISIONS BY…

  1. Conducting widespread and detailed consultation and engagement at a sufficiently early stage to find out what users of the service in question think of it and how they feel it could be improved, using the findings from this to directly inform the performance criteria included in the specification against which providers are invited to bid.
  2. Treating the equalities impact assessment process – whereby likely impact on typically disenfranchised groups is systematically assessed and mitigated – as a genuine way of looking to improve the core service itself, rather than as a ‘tick box’ exercise. After all a very large proportion of service users will fall into one or more of the groups protected by equalities legislation.
  3. Including in the contract specification measures designed to get providers to spell out how they will involve service users on an ongoing basis, and meet the needs of people who are at risk of exclusion. As well as being a good thing in and of itself, this kind of approach to commissioning is likely to help authorities meet their statutory obligations under the Public Services (Social Value) Act.
  4. Involving service users directly in the bidding process. This is perfectly legal and completely practical. You might form a user steering group to act as a sounding board and source of oversight on an ongoing basis, or take the simple step of appointing a service user or someone from a user-led organization to sit on the panel that interviews shortlisted bidders.
  5. Taking a proactive approach to building the capacity of smaller providers (for example charities and SMEs) who may be closest to service users, but who may have less expertise and track record in bidding for large contracts. This might take the form of a suppliers forum with advice and guidance tailored to a range of likely providers, or one-to-one dialogue with organisations that have been identified as having the potential to really add value.

Full article is found on the OPM website at: http://www.opm.co.uk/user-voice-not-legal-challenge-how-to-build-engagement-into-the-commissioning-process/


Coproduction Action Learning set 2 – Good for Nothing

August 9, 2012

The July Coproduction Action Learning Set session heard from Tom from Good for Nothing who explained the Good for Nothing process and showed a film about the first GFN event in Lambeth which looked at healthwatch, webspace and parks / open spaces (for more info on this please click here).  The next GFN event will be held in October and members of the action learning set suggested that the Lambeth country Show in September would be an ideal place to publicise it.

Tom reflected on some of the lessons that they have learned about coproduction:

  • that coproduction works best when there are clear enough parameters for participants to see how they can add value and make a difference, and that these need to be published in advance of any coproduction events,
  • that there cannot be so many constraints that it makes it difficult to take new ideas on board
  • to increase inclusivity and ensure solutions fit the needs of a range of different kinds of people coproducers need to go out and talk to people outside the room as part of the coproduction process
  • to take things forward after an initial event requires strong ownership from a range of different people and organisations (not just the council- but the council definitely needs to be one of the owners)

Officers reflected on the Good for Nothing approach and agreed:

  • The council (both staff and elected members) need to be less risk averse, but recognised that this was a significant cultural challenge!
  • That organisational development will be needed to help give officers the skills they need

Members of the coproduction action learning set then discussed some of the ways they were embedding coproduction and the challenges they were facing (and in some cases were overcoming!). These included

  • embedding community decisions into the procurement process around youth services (a challenge overcome through joint working);
  • the ongoing development of a council-wide organisational development strategy;
  • working together with a range of neighbourhood groups to agree how additional council support for neighbourhood plans will be distributed and  
  • enabling learning disabled residents to mystery shop services.

The next coproduction action learning set session is planned for September 27th in the Town Hall and will explore how we can make sure that coproduction is inclusive and accessible to all. Please get in touch for a forward programme or for more information about the next session.


Grants for groups interested in taking over local services

July 24, 2012

From Monday 16 July 2012, community groups can apply for funding to help them use the new Community Right to Challenge in the Localism Act. The Right came into force on 27 June and will empower local community organisations to take over a local service that they can run more effectively.

Pre-feasibility grants between £5,000 and £10,000 are on offer to help organisations build internal capacity. Organisations that can demonstrate a strong potential to compete for public service delivery contracts can apply for feasibility grants of up to £100,000 to help prepare an Expression of Interest or compete in a procurement process.

The Grant Programme is part of the Community Right to Challenge Support Programme and will offer advice and funding to support organisations through the process of competing for local services and is particularly keen to help small local organisations build capacity to deliver public service contracts.

If you are interested in the grant programme you should contact the Community Rights Advice Service through their website or on 0845 345 4564 for more information.


Made in Lambeth catch up – 12th July

July 13, 2012

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!

Nathan Pierce


Thoughts on cooperative council so far

July 4, 2012

By way of background, I am a community member who took part in the Cooperative Council training led by the Design Council. I have been involved with the Lambeth Poly project that came out of that process.

Here are some thoughts and questions that have arisen during the training and commissioning.

  • What kind of projects are appropriate? E.g. only projects that meet existing aims of the council, or projects that expand the remit of the council, or only projects that innovate or cross-pollinate between departments or meet multiple existing aims
  • What kind of projects should be cooperative council projects?
  • Because coop council projects have a bit more freedom to work outside existing council processes, I think projects that span department responsibilities should be targeted. Lambeth Poly is a good example of the multiple benefits that can be gained by projects that span departments – it tackles job training, sustainability, community cohesion and healthy living.
  • Projects that leverage the knowledge of community groups or individuals should also be pursued. Traffic calming is a good example of this – working with neighbourhoods to understand speeding and rat running issues means that targeted solutions can be found, rather than blunt force solutions such as blanketing streets with bumps.
  • Where should cooperative council project ideas come from? I suppose the short answer is everywhere – council employees, community groups, residents. But the people best placed to see synergies and opportunities, where a coop council project can solve problems in innovative and efficient ways, are people like Sue Sheehan. She has a broad understanding of what’s happening in the borough and is networked to a large number of community groups.  Because I was invited to the training as a community representative, I was able to propose Lambeth Poly as a project. Like Sue I have a good understanding of what’s happening in the green champion community.
  • Money – how much money is available, and for what? What roles can be paid, what resources can be purchased? It is not sustainable to rely on volunteers for key positions.
  • Leadership  – If the project leader doesn’t work for the council, who makes the decisions and who is responsible for pushing the project forward?  With Lambeth Poly, Fiona has faced a series of barriers, particularly around getting a site for the polytunnel.  At one point it looked like a single resident was going to prevent siting the tunnel on the Tulse Hill Estate. She has also had three people in rapid succession managing the project from within the council. Without her persistence and commitment to the project, the project would have failed weeks ago.  She can speak in more detail on what barriers she faced, but they largely come from breaking new ground (sorry for the pun!) in relation to how the council operates.
  • Longevity – what timeframe is the council committed to these projects for, assuming a successful project?