Co-operative Commissioning and Co-production tools and case studies

June 17, 2013

Lambeth’s Co-operative Council is launching the first in a series of co-production and co-operative commissioning tools and case studies.

The aim is to increase awareness amongst Lambeth citizens – residents and staff – of what co-production and co-operative commissioning is, why they are are important and how they can get involved.

The case studies and tools are summaries. They have been designed to provide enough information to engage people and to sign-post them towards the relevant networks or experts, who will be able to help citizens with their particular co-production and co-operative commissioning challenges and opportunities.

The initial set of case studies and toolkits focus on defining co-production and Lambeth’s co-operative commissioning cycle.

The second issue of materials will focus on existing and historical services and projects that have been co-produced with Lambeth citizens.

The final set will provide a series of enabling tools that will help Lambeth citizens work through the co-operative commissioning cycle.

Please give us your feedback on these case studies and tools.

We would also like to hear about any projects, tools or methodologies that support co-production and co-operative commissioning, which could be developed and shared via this blog.

Participatory Budgeting: tough questions and real answers

May 21, 2013


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


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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Lambeth Poly coming out of hibernation

January 29, 2013
the brand

the brand

In December we put the project to bed. The Design Council project was over, we’d wound down the sowing regime, and in any case, it was so cold the remaining plants seemed to shrink rather than grow. Pamela, Bibi and I delivered the last batch of a mere 100g of microgreens to Cornercopia. Anne and Ian graciously paid and, as ever, with B£-by-text. They’ve always said they would take whatever we brought. Our leaves are great quality, so why not?

washing up and putting away

washing up putting away

We had a wind up meeting at the PEP office and, as I’d been sent the innovation fund guidelines, I went to pitch for a follow on to the project’s success. This would be in the form of funding to build the business plan and look at governance for Lambeth Poly, Social Enterprise. ‘Really well done. Good luck. Goodbye’ was the upshot…

I was let down and, rightly or wrongly, felt

the last crop of 2012

the last crop of 2012

patronised by talk of ‘managing expectations’. I didn’t want to say ‘Really well done. Good luck. Goodbye’ to the volunteers, residents and Lambeth Living staff involved at Tulse Hill Estate. But I had to weigh up whether I could invest my time and effort in starting a not-for-profit business on no income when I have a household to support. Lambeth Poly is about enterprise (we won a London-wide award for it), but my motivations are about developing capacity for food production in the borough – not being an Alan Sugar.



While recognising the wonderful opportunity this particular Co-op council project gave, I’ve had frank conversations about lessons here and what it’s like to be a dumped community member. I wondered whether to walk away, and a chance horoscope reading gave me permission – or did it? I dithered all Christmas, while still researching and visioning different scenarios.

However, now, at the end of January I can report some creative developments.

  1. Fairy godmother Frances Farragher met with Lesley Robinson (ALS) and I. Long story short, but it looks like an accredited award, ‘Introduction to Urban Farming’will be delivered at the tunnel  this summer to residents. This will include work experience and crop production elements. It will build on the informal training plan I gave last year and pave the way for progression routes. I’m working with Alan Clisham, Community Adult Learning Manager at High Trees, and it’s hoped some of the delivery will be at the due to be opened Jubilee Hall.
  2. Frances also fostered the notion of using Loughborough Triangle as an interim second site. We’ve now had two really productive meetings of the Loughborough Farm steering group, and a particularly inspiring trip to the Skip Garden in Kings Cross, less for the growing than for ways of integrating values quite overtly in the work. See twitter feed for more on this @lambethpoly. The linking of Tulse Hill and Loughborough Junction by Lambeth Poly is exciting and I’m looking forward to recruiting for the summer course from both areas – and other potential sites (there are a few others in the pipeline)
  3. The project gathered a lot of friends in 2012 – knowledgeable people and capable stakeholders. I’m hoping to gather a steering group with the makings of a board to see if we can set up a social enterprise. Salome Simoes is seeing if PEP can take some of their slim and valuable time to run a series of three workshops with this group. I know there’s a will and I really hope there’s a way…
  4. Capital Growth are making their 2013 focus ‘Grow to Sell’. They’ve already signed up Lambeth Poly to deliver a workshop for London’s growers – one of 5 beacon projects doing this.
  5. Through my work for Garden Organic, I’ll be working on an EU research project, ‘Food Metres’, looking at how food journeys can be shortened. The research group – headed by Garden Organic’s research partner, Coventry University, will be using London food businesses for the case studies, including Lambeth Poly. This should allow plenty of insights and support for our project. It’s already interesting comparing the London approach to other European cities, and we are wondering if we will find more in common with the ‘control’ city, Nairobi.

If you know yourself to be a friend of Lambeth Poly I aim to be in touch as soon as the PEP workshops get the go ahead or I find an alternative. Or if you feel you have something to offer as an individual or group, please mail

Follow @lambethpoly

Great blog on all things coproduction….

January 28, 2013

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

The latest publication from Finland im finding particually useful!


Connected Communities: Approaches for Networked Neighbourhoods

January 18, 2013

On the 9th January Steve Broome, Directer of Research Actions and Research Centre, RSA gave a seminar on Connected Communities in Lambeth, slides form the event can be found below.

Connected Communities for Lambeth Council 9 January 2013

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!

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.

Lambeth Poly wins Enterprise Award

November 26, 2012

Lambeth Poly is delighted to have been awarded the prestigious Capital Growth Enterprise Award*.

This seals the interim success of this prototype project supported by Veolia (tunnel and materials) and the Innovation Fund under the Design Council Community Projects initiative.

Lambeth Poly trains residents to grow and sell salad leaves and herbs. It has run since July 2012 as a 16 x 18 ft (5 x 5.5m) polytunnel sited on Tulse Hill Estate, Brixton, on a green in the middle of public housing. The prototype phase ended November 2012.

The project is now looking to find a corporate structure and funding to grow the size and number of polytunnels. Another aim is to fund, write and have accredited a qualification specifically for urban polytunnel farmers. The long term goal is to grow capacity in the borough for a local food economy.

Rationale: The demand for locally grown food is rising. Food ‘miles’ push up prices and are bad for the environment.  Crops grow more quickly and for longer in the year in the protected environment of a polytunnel, increasing productivity. Polytunnels can be sited on land waiting to be developed, or other ‘residual’ land and does not require soil cleaning. In addition, re-skilling the community in growing is desirable and provides much social return on investment

Summary of achievement to date

Since the tunnel construction on July 7:

  • seven local volunteers have been trained and inducted in growing in the tunnel
  • three other ‘ambassadors’ from the estate are active
  • over £215 of baby leaves and 9cm herb pots have been sold to local restaurants (using £B), local veg box scheme Local Greens and, to a small extent, residents
  • 5 outreach/workshop events have been held (3 on the estate, 2 at Lambeth Country Show)
  • Two rounds of a cycle of three mini trainings have been held
  • Volunteers on the project have had three wider learning opportunities
  • Residents have been employed (to make a stop motion film of tunnel construction, to make benches and multi-dibbers)
  • project has generated much interest and countless ’friends’ on the estate and in wider Brixton and Lambeth
  • The project won Capital Growth’s Enterprise award in its Olympic year Grow for Gold competition


The polytunnel project was proposed by local horticulturist, trainer and garden designer Fiona Law, and matched to Lambeth Council’s Co-op by Design initiative. It was accepted it as one of a raft of community/council co-produced projects in the Tulse Hill area. Fiona will be taking the project forward.

To find out more or offer advice or funding contact 07914 843619 or

Links here evidence the work and community engagement on the project:!/journal

*To commemorate the Olympic year, Capital Growth launched in February 2012 the Grow for Gold competition. Capital Growth is a partnership initiative between London Food Link, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund. It is championed by the Chair of the London Food Board Rosie Boycott and aims to create 2012 new community food growing spaces across London by the end of 2012.

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