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.

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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.


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.


Be part of running Children’s Services

March 7, 2012

Over the last year the council has been working with a wide range of residents, service users and partners to develop a cooperative approach to running services in the following areas of children’s services:

  • Youth centres
  • Adventure playgrounds
  • Stay and Play One O’clock clubs, and
  • Young and Safe (a project for young people who are at risk of serious youth offending).

The next step is to set up a Young Lambeth cooperative that will oversee some services for children including play and youth. We want young people, parents, local residents, groups and organisations to help us do this.

If you are interested in being involved in the Young Lambeth cooperative and helping to run better services for children in Lambeth, please register your interest.

For more information, visit the Lambeth Council website.


Brixton Energy launch share offer

February 22, 2012

The UK’s first inner city, community-owned solar project ‘Brixton Energy Solar 1’ has now launched its share offer. 

Brixton Energy plan to put several hundred square metres of solar panels on the top of buildings on the Loughborough Estate, working with Lambeth Council, Brixton Low Carbon Zone, United Residents Housing and the Loughborough Estate Management Board. This will help generate clean green energy, reduce the estate’s carbon emissions, generate a Community Energy Efficiency Fund for use in the community and provide a green investment opportunity. Brixton Energy is the first project of Repowering South London and will provide an exemplar model to be rolled to other parts of Lambeth and South London.

The share offer will help raise the capital cost of £75,000 needed for the solar PV installation on the roof of Elmore House on the Loughborough Estate. The share offer closes on 10th March and they are hoping that the funds will be raised before the deadline.

Attached is a press release from Brixton Energy. Please do pass on to your links and networks as a community led project Brixton Energy needs all the support it can get.

For more information on Brixton Energy and the share offer you can visit their website.

 


January round-up

January 27, 2012

As the first month in 2012 draws to a close, there are a few things from the last month that might be of interest.

Firstly David Cameron made a speech on 19 January announcing that the Government will introduce a Cooperatives Bill to Parliament before the next election. Currently more than a dozen statutes govern cooperatives and mutuals, with many being outdated. The Government’s plan is to consolidate these into one statute to make it easier for people to set up and run a cooperative. Currently there are no further details on the content of the new Bill, other than the press release from 10 Downing Street, but as soon as there are they will be published on the toolkit.

The London Community Foundation (formerly Capital Community Foundation) have updated the list of grants they administer that are available to organisations in Lambeth. These include:

  • Lambeth Festivals and Outdoor Events Fund;
  • Lambeth Community Fund; and
  • Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards.

For more information on these funds and others, visit London Community Foundation’s website – you might want to consider signing up to the e-bulletin to receive news about the latest funding opportunities.

Moves continue at a national and European level to ensure public procurement rules can support local jobs and businesses. Chris White MP’s Private Member’s Bill has gone through its third reading in the House of Commons will receive its second reading in the House of Lords before the end of the month. The Public Services (Social Value) Bill aims to strengthen the social enterprise business sector and make the concept of ‘social value’ more relevant and important in the placement and provision of public services. If passed it will require local authorities, when entering into public procurement contracts, to give greater consideration to economic, social or environmental wellbeing during the pre-procurement stage.  More information can be found in an interview he gave to Third Sector News.

Just before the end of December, the European Commission published revised public procurement directives, following a consultation through 2011. The proposed changes include:

  • Greater flexibility to negotiate
  • Simpler rules on dynamic purchasing systems
  • The ability for procurers to evaluate suppliers’ past performance
  • Enablement of electronic marketplaces
  • More flexible and less burdensome rules on supplier selection
  • Faster procurement through shortened time limits

Further information on these proposed changes can be found on the Cabinet Office website.

The council has continued to look at procurement processes and a recent seminar for council officers explained how to include community benefits in new contracts and tender processes. The slides from the seminar are available here, and will be useful to both commissioners within the council and people from organisations interested in bidding for work with the council.

In December the Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons published a report into the Government’s Big Society initiative. The Committee’s findings included a warning that the Government’s plans lack clarity and need an implementation plan, and that the Government should consider creating a ‘Big Society Minister’. The report also calls for greater clarity on the roles of charitable, private and public providers of public services and urges ministers to outline how issues of accountability in terms of quality and regulatory powers will be managed in the Big Society project, and in particular accountability for public expenditure.  The full report is available on the House of Commons website. Of particular interest to the cooperative agenda are the sections on Social Impact Bonds and Public Service Mutuals.