Coming together to reshape services in Camden
In the middle of 2010, Camden Council initiated a programme looking at various policy options across the whole organisation. Officers were asked to provide options for operating in an environment where financial resources could be reduced by more than 20 to 30 per cent.
To supplement this work, the council wanted to understand what impact these different options might have on different areas within the borough, and whether there were any opportunities (or risks) that had been missed by taking a service-by-service approach, rather than place-by-place.
What we did
To gain a better understanding of the council’s savings proposals and how they will affect services, we ran ten workshops exploring how the council could shape service delivery for each area.
The process was not only about working with ward members and key stakeholders to share ideas for efficiency, but also creating practical solutions. In addition to informing the council’s savings programme, the workshops fed into the council’s work already underway on place shaping and its community investment programme.
During the first part of each workshop, participants were asked to reflect on their area’s characteristics and challenges. They then considered the potential impact of the council’s agreed and proposed savings for their area. In the final session, participants were asked to think about ways to ameliorate the negative impacts they had identified, and how to achieve the best outcomes for people.
These discussions resulted in some broad areas of common focus, particularly in relation to better use of public buildings, more effective pooling of resources and learning between council and voluntary providers, and support for volunteering.
Through the workshops, the council has been encouraged to tackle local challenges with staff, partner agencies and voluntary groups in a more collaborative way. Under this approach, the traditional focus on ‘delivering services’ is giving way to fluid conversations that bring together relevant people – council and non-council – in more of a ‘task-and-finish’ approach. These informal, facilitated exchanges are enabling deeper engagement than a formal ‘presentation-then-Q&A’ model of consultation, which can feel much more adversarial and be ultimately less productive. Informal approaches also encourage participants to think and share ideas more openly rather than taking positions to be attacked and defended.
Exemplar projects identified at the workshops are now being developed in each of the ten areas in Camden, involving council officers, elected members and a range of other people.