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It's engagement but not as we know it

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Even if I say it myself, at times, policy making for local councils can be a pretty dull job.

Often wading through stacks of material, taking months and months, working alone or at best in small groups of (mostly) bureaucrats who work in the same or other, similar, big public sector organisations. Not the most inspiring. Can make the ‘so what do you do?’ question abit tedious to answer and at worst, becomes impossible to explain what I really do to anyone other than another policy officer.

Well in the last 48 hours that might have changed.

My time last weekend was spent at #madeinlambeth - a 48 hour council collaboration with ‘Good for Nothing’. Council officers set out challenges; a community of 50 plus designers, developers, all-rounders drawn from the ‘Good for Nothing’ network - with over 90% living or working (or both) in Lambeth – gave their time (and skills) for free and worked with those officers to respond to the challenges.

Its engagement, but not as we know it. It is all about doing; designing; making and turning the challenge on its head. Its turning the challenges into what citizens want - a focus on parks became a campaign for collaborative action on unloved spaces; designing healthwatch is now about community connectors; rebuilding the website - well that’s complete. To achieve the outcome, we’ve shamelessly exploited the assets that the community already has, and mixed it up with a healthy dose of our council officer’s experience. With all this placed right at the heart of the work, we set to see what’s possible. In 48 hours, an awful lot was.

No more 18 month strategy development for me. This is the future of public policy development, happening here and now.

Sophia Looney, director, policy, equalities and performance, Lambeth LBC

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