Participatory Budgeting: tough questions and real answers

May 21, 2013

tobyblume

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. I thought it would be useful to others who are interested in PB, to share the questions, and the answers that were offered in response. The answers are based primarily on Alderman Moore’s experience of using PB in his Chicago Ward over the past 4 years, the PB Project’s work in New York, Toronto and San Fransisco and other North American cities. However I have also drawn on Jez Hall’s experience of PB in the UK and…

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Steps along the same path – Participatory Budgeting and Cooperative Council

May 7, 2013

tobyblume

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. Lib Peck. 

The event provided an opportunity to hear first hand how PB is developing in the US and Canada and how it related to Lambeth’s ambitions to become a cooperative council. What I found particularly fascinating was to hear from an elected representative about their experience of ‘handing over power’ to citizens to determine how funding should be allocated to support local activity. The concept of citizens having far greater power in decision making is central to the vision of Coop Council and, like PB, is based…

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Coproduction Action Learning Set – 29th November

December 5, 2012

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!


Lambeth’s Digestible Data

October 26, 2012

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


How to start a co-op shop

August 1, 2012

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The People’s Supermarket, a newish co-op supermarket on Lamb’s Conduit St, has just published Secret Sauce, the story of how it got going, with advice for other wannabe co-op start-ups.

The guide covers areas such as:

How can you find and secure the right premises?

How do you finance yourself at start-up?

How do you attract members, stock the shop, organise an effective product offer and keep the momentum going?

Part of the aim of the People’s Supermarket was to build a membership and client base that truly reflected the make-up of the local area, that delivered commercial success with social value. The report talks about how they grew and engaged their membership, structured their business and developed their offer. It has been published by NESTA and is available online for free here.


Social Value and the Public Services (social value) Act

July 24, 2012

New legislation now requires local authorities and other public bodies to consider the social and environmental impact of contracts. This means taking account of a wider set of factors than simply price.

To do this it will be necessary to measure the potential social and environmental benefits or costs of a particular provider or approach.

Social Enterprise UK have produced a brief guide to the new legislation – the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 – to explain what the Act means and its likely implications for procurement and commissioning.

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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