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

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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


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.


Lambeth Poly – summer success

September 11, 2012

Lambeth Poly is an employment and skills food project growing in poly tunnels, with its first project on Tulse Hill Estate. See here for previous Lambeth Poly posts.

Highlights We’re really pleased to announce that over the summer we’ve sold several batches of leaves and herbs to Local Greens veg box scheme and to Brixton Village restaurant Cornercopia. We’ve taken payment by Brixton Pound Pay-by-Text. Seven residents have received full induction training, and a further seven are actively involved in the maintenance of the crops. In addition, the project has become Capital Growth Space 1817, opening funding opportunities.

Community The core team of volunteers are involved in production (sowing, watering, harvesting, weighing and bagging crops) and other residents also do daily tunnel chores (ventilating and watering).

There are also ambassadors/friends, for instance Laud (TRA Chair) and Yvonne Joseph (Lambeth Living), and Abu (youth worker living on Cherry Close) who also muck in with sowing.

Two other key people involved are Pamela Woodroffe from Cressingham Estate on Tulse Hill, who held the reins while I was away, and Carlos Mareiros from the estate, whose handy man skills are vital to continuing success, most lately installing chicken wire to stop foxes from tearing the polythene skin.

We always enjoy good chats with people passing through, and have got to know many residents and workers on the estate, such as Neville who collects litter and Dave the drains guy who fills up our watering cans if he can, Isabel who opens doors on the way to work.

There have been some good conversations around the growing table, and good meet ups between residents who didn’t know each other previously. A couple of weeks ago Abu and Laud sorted out martial arts sessions for the newly refurbished Jubilee Hall, for instance.

We’ve hosted growing sessions for children at the summer play scheme and a group from High Trees. Wider interest is developing via twitter (please follow @lambethpoly, and our Project Dirt Page) from growers both local and far away, social enterprise, food campaiging, council workers and local community groups. The project is also indebted to Ann Bodkin, co-chair of Incredible Edible Lambeth, who fired the link with Cornercopia.

As well as the training outlined above, three of the ‘team’ and I had an awayday ‘Grow to Sell’ training provided by Capital Growth at St Mungos in Clapham, where we got some top tips and ideas to develop.

As a grower/designer, the project has been a lot of fun, exploring crops that are marketable and how they grow in the model I designed, and I’ve been delighted with the response and suggestions of the trainees. Visitors and those we talk to admire the crops and the tunnel, are enthusiastic about both the social enterprise and long view resilience aspects to the project.

Next steps include:

  •     continued delivery of crops and exploration of the market
  •     delivery and recruitment of second tranche of training
  •     exploration of how formal training can be incorporated
  •     working with the Enterprise hub at High Trees to develop social enterprise model and funding opportunites to develop the model (aiming for three tunnels in 2013)
  •     open day for residents and all interested parties – Thursday 27th and Saturday 29th September 12 – 3 – visit us in your lunch hour!
  •     evaluation (resident/buyer feedback) and writing up

Rebecca from PEP came by to help one harvest morning: weighing

mixed Italian chicories and amaranth ‘Garnet Red’

bagged salads all ready to go down the hill to Local Greens where they’re doing Thursday collation

Anne at Cornercopia pays Brixton Pounds by text


Made in Lambeth – A good for Nothing event!

June 26, 2012

#madeinlambeth

@ourhealthwatch

#loveyourspace

http://ilovelambeth.com

This post is an update on the Good for Nothing event that took place on Friday and Saturday (22/23 June) last week. It was a great success, and everyone who took part was really energised and some great work was done in a short amount of time. For more on the Good for Nothing format, take a look at their website here.

The event started on the evening of the 21st where the project briefs were introduced (take a look at them here) and we everyone got to meet each other for the first time. The group was really dynamic and diverse and included council officers, designers, developers and generally talented local people.

On the Friday the work began in earnest and each group began to explore their brief in more detail, and in some cases tear up the brief and start from a different point entirely! Work began on the doing aspect and plans were drawn up. On the Saturday the tempo of the music increased and everyone frantically worked to produce something tangible. The whole event finished with presentations of what had been created, and everyone was impressed with the outcome!

Lambeth Website – A new website was designed, coded and launched in the 48 hours. The basics for a Lambeth co-op website were created and the website can be seen here http://ilovelambeth.com. It was built using Open Public Drupal distribution (yes, I had no idea what that was either, but I’ve learnt a lot in those 48 hours!) and incorporates the work we have been doing around open data. This website will run alongside our current website while the content is migrated over. Try it out – search for school meals….

Lambeth Healthwatch – The slightly more tricky of the three briefs, this group worked on setting up Healthwatch, a local consumer group for users of health and social care services. After a slow first day trying to work out what Healthwatch actually is, they had an incredibly productive second day in which a process and service design for the consumer group was developed, a design for the webpage put together and prototyped, twitter groups set up and launched, profiling of Lambeth residents including visits to doctors surgeries and a process designed for coproducing a network of community connectors, drawing on existing networks.

Lambeth Parks – The final project group looked at Lambeth’s parks and how they can increase the use of our parks and open spaces. After visiting some parks on the first day, the group found that our larger parks are already well used by the community, so they focused instead on the smaller ‘unloved’ areas in and around estates. They put together a Love your Space campaign and encouraged people to identify ‘unloved spaces’ and start to develop ideas around how they can be bought back into use http://live.lovelambeth.gotpantheon.com/site-page/loveyourspace.

The event as a whole was an experiment into a new way of the working for the council. The Good for Nothing methodology worked really well and everyone who took part got allot of out it, from a professional and social point of view. Cllr Jack Hopkins and Sophia Looney, Director of Policy, Equalities and Performance, have developed blogs regarding the weekend and they can be viewed here: http://live.lovelambeth.gotpantheon.com/site-page/loveyourspace. And as you can see, they are definite converts to the process!

We will be continuing with the work developed over the weekend and will work to ensure that we keep the momentum on these projects. Looking forward, the next Good for Nothing event will take place on the 29/30 September. Put these dates in your diary if you want to come along, and more details will follow.

Nathan Pierce,  Lambeth council