The Young Lambeth Cooperative – shifting real power to our communites

Cross-posted from the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network:

logofortheguardian-01_2-01-200x200Last week week I took part in the launch of the Young Lambeth Cooperative (YLC).

It was a key moment in the history of our council, launching the first model of community ownership and commissioning of youth services ever developed.

YLC has now launched as an innovative, community-led, independent body, responsible for managing, commissioning and planning youth services in the borough.

It is a separate legal entity, owned by its members – that is, by young people and the local community.

It holds its own budget – of £9m over three years – and with this budget, has sole responsibility for commissioning youth services across Lambeth.

As an independent body, it will be able to raise income from other sources not available to a local authority, and we are really excited that a time where up and down the country youth services are either being closed or reduced – in Lambeth by working with the community we have developed a model which not only aims to sustain but grow services for young people.

So how did we get here?

In May 2010 we published a white paper on our vision for a Cooperative Lambeth, envisioning a new approach to how we deliver our services.

At the core of this was a commitment to working more than ever with our biggest asset: our communities.

The Cooperative approach is about giving citizens more of a say about how the council is run, about the services they need; and it’s about citizens, elected councillors and council staff all working together to deliver them.

It’s also about designing and delivering services with a view to the real outcomes they have in the community, not just on paper.

As one of our ‘early adopters’ of the Cooperative model, from Spring 2011 the Children’s and Young People’s Service (CYPS) started engaging with services users and the community to agree new ways of running council managed services like youth centres, adventure playgrounds and one o’clock clubs.

This developed into an extensive borough-wide engagement programme – engaging diverse groups from across Lambeth – to explore how this could be taken further.

The strong message received was that the community and young people in particular, wanted greater control and ownership over services for young people.

Taking that message firmly on board, the council then looked at the options available to make this a reality, consulting with service users, residents, staff, trade unions, community groups and a range of relevant stakeholders, to mutually agree what would work best.

The option for the Young Lambeth Cooperative grew from there and since early 2012 officers and councillors have worked with over 3000 young people, community members and partners to develop the YLC.

A genuine example of the Cooperative model in action

A key point of the YLC, and for me what makes it doubly exciting, is that young people have played an absolutely central role in its development.

And, through this project, we have been able to give back and offer opportunities for them in return; including accredited qualifications, internships and key roles on the steering committee.

This is a clear example of how, as a council, we are genuinely willing – in reality and not just on paper – to hand over resources, responsibility and control to our communities.

And it makes sense for us to do so.

This community-led model of commissioning will ultimately be more efficient and more cost effective.

By giving them a real say, young people get the services they actually want and need.

We hope that other councils around the UK will take note.

At a time when our budgets are being slashed by almost 50%, and elsewhere in the country youth services are being closed down; in Lambeth, young people and their communities are being empowered to create and commission high quality services that are tailored to fit their needs.

The YLC depends on a diverse and active membership. If you live in Lambeth and are interested in getting involved, you can find out more here: http://www.younglambeth.org/opportunities-for-involvement.html

The official launch party will take place from 12-5pm this Saturday (5th July) in Windrush Square. More details on the event can be found here: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/events/young-lambeth-cooperative-community-launch-party 

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