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.

enthusiasm

enthusiasm

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 lambethpoly@gmail.com.

Follow @lambethpoly


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


How to start a co-op shop

August 1, 2012

Image

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.