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Embracing the messiness of missions

Moving from mission design to delivery is a complex and messy process. Policymakers are often expected to manage or “contain” messiness, with neat and tidy strategies or implementation plans. However a key takeaway message from a recent UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) session, that supported the transition of design to delivery of Camden’s missions, was the importance of anticipating and embracing some messiness in order to create the space to design a way forward collaboratively and build on new learning.

Inspiration and challenge

On May 10, IIPP brought together four speakers from across their network to provide inspiration and challenge to the missions being developed with Camden Renewal Commission. This session came at a critical time in the development of the missions as they start to be put into practice.

The presentations by Pooja Agrawal, co-founder and incumbent CEO of Public Practice; Dan Hill, Visiting Professor of Practice at IIPP and Director of Strategic Design at Vinnova; Gemma Bone Dodds, a Mission Lab Research Fellow at IIPP; and Francesca Froy, a Visiting Policy Fellow at IIPP, showcased some of their past work in dialogue with the four renewal missions.

The session explored several themes including:

  • How to set up and support innovative and experimental projects that are built on and responsive to community needs
  • How the public sector can steward a space for stakeholders and citizens to come together to lead mission activities
  • How to create truly inclusive spaces for communities to shape policy

All four speakers shared their reflections linked to these questions from practical local examples in their own work, including delivery of a place-based project, part of the Greater London Authority (GLA) London Regeneration Fund and taking a design-led approach to mission-oriented innovation in Sweden.

Pooja Agrawal’s presentation

Through the lens of The Granville community centre in South Kilburn, Pooja spoke of the nuance that needs to be applied to “learning through doing”, recognising that you need to let a project develop to a critical phase of maturity to properly understand its impact, even if that sometimes leads to the decision to take a different path.

Dan Hill’s presentation

Dan’s presentation resonated closely with the renewal commission missions. The project to redesign Swedish streets and neighbourhoods that also tackled food insecurity, served as a concrete case study for how to bring stakeholders together across sectors and different governance levels. 

The presentation focused on providing insights into unique methods of capturing stakeholder perspectives and lenses so that the street environment reflected what is valued by different groups. Like Pooja’s presentation, there was also a focus on allowing for organic changes and growth so that design ideas and community values could be tested and adapted through feedback.

Dr Gemma Bone Dodds’ presentation

Gemma’s presentation highlighted the importance of participation, especially the significance of active participation and leadership in determining how resources are owned, shared and distributed. 

She talked through illustrations of how to do this from real world examples, such as clear communication and explanation of decision-making process, transparently identifying where stakeholders have authority and sometimes genuine control.

 Francesca Froy’s presentation

Francesca’s presentation shared methods and tools that can be used to map out, track and evaluate network connections and interactions through the example of streets in Camden.

It’s important to use the right kinds of tools, methods, and approaches to evaluate new pilot projects in real time. These need to take into account a networked, systemic view of the impact projects create  – particularly in the context of a missions approach where you’re trying to bring together different sectors and systems.

As the Camden renewal missions are taken forward through design-led delivery, the Council and their partners will have to navigate the complex and messy nature of working towards system change. 

This IIPP Expert Workshop provided inspiration and food for thought on how to do this. 

We will endeavour to learn from others experiences and will share our own progress, mistakes made and lessons learnt.

Do you have ideas you would like to collaborate on?

 Get in touch here

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April 2021 Camden Renewal Commission Meeting Summary

The Commission met for the fourth time to reflect on opportunity areas within each of the missions and early project ideas to help the borough achieve the missions. The conversation also focused on the realities of inspiring cross-borough partnerships and sharing ideas from experience on mobilising people around the missions.

A start of the mission delivery journey

The April meeting zoomed out from previous discussions about policy ideas to take forward within the missions, to focus on how the missions can be brought to life. The Commission discussed next steps for them as a group, and proposals on how the work is being opened up to inspire cross-sectoral engagement.

A snapshot of early action and ongoing work that relates to the four Renewal Missions

The session showcased some of the early activity currently underway to bring the four Camden Renewal Missions to life including:

  • How the Council is enabling social action and what the plans are for developing ways of working with partners on the missions
  • Insights into the ongoing retrofit work as part of a larger agenda of greening Camden while providing local jobs
  • The powerful potential of public private partnerships, as showcased by the collaboration between Local Globe and Somers Town Community Association in responding to the pandemic
  • The diversification of school governor boards in Camden

Towards collective action and momentum

Following these project snapshots and examples of action, the commissioners discussed how to bring active citizen voices into the mission and ensure these voices are supported to build capability and how to build ‘neighbourliness’ between businesses, community organisations and residents living in an area.  

Throughout the conversation people highlighted the potential that could come from creating new collaborations between people who live in Camden, and the stakeholders, assets and globally leading creatives and innovators in education and business that live here too.

At the end of the session, the commissioners discussed next steps and their involvement going forward, including through:

  • 1:1 relationships on specific areas of work
  • A couple of thematic deep dive sessions focused on sharing knowledge around specific themes or projects, such as active citizenship in neighbourhoods or sustainable forms of finance.
  • Reconvening of the Commission in October to report on progress

Do you have ideas you would like to collaborate on? Get in touch here

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February 2021 Camden Renewal Commission Meeting Summary

Our third whole Commission meeting, held over Zoom on the 11th of Feb 2021, took a different approach to previous sessions. Aiming to dig deeper into the Commissioners’ expertise and knowledge, most of the meeting was spent in small breakout groups, each focused on one of the four missions.  

The aim was to generate insights that will be used to develop mission roadmaps that begin to specify the sectors, actors, and projects that could contribute to achieving each mission. 

We asked Commissioners to share inspiring and relevant work happening in their organisations or sectors and encouraged them to reflect on the practical steps that could turn each mission into reality. This blog recaps some highlights from the discussions in each of the breakout groups. 

By 2030, everyone eats well every day with nutritious, affordable, sustainable food.  

The participants in this group spoke passionately about the importance of empowering local communities and organisations to lead change in this space, with a focus on entrepreneurship and the potential for young people to lead some of this change. The group talked about the promise of youth-led initiatives, such as a Click and Collect App for a food bank being developed by a group of young people in Camden. This was just one example mentioned regarding the value in handing over power to young people to put their energy and ideas related to food poverty into practice. 

The group also shared examples of existing work to tackle food poverty in the borough such as the Food Poverty Alliance, a network of organisations who come together regularly to share ideas, expertise, and work through challenges together. Another example is work led by Camden Council in collaboration with Time to Spare to set up digital infrastructure to enable people to find local food provision easily and link bottom-up activities to respond to food poverty. 

Image: Find Food Support in Camden website, developed by the Council in collaboration with Time to Spare 

The discussion also spoke about the importance of deep systemic change: our collective ambition to prevent food insecurity for everyone in the borough and build resilient food supply systems with minimal waste. 

By 2025, every young person has access to economic opportunity that enables them to be safe and secure.  

A key theme in this discussion was the importance of having young people in Camden deeply involved in shaping and delivering this mission (alongside their important inputs into the set of missions more broadly). Various participants spoke about the need to really listen to our youth, even when what they have to say might be challenging or uncomfortable to hear. 

Another big area of discussion was around equalising access to social capital and the opportunities that exist in the borough. Participants spoke about the ambition to support our young people to be fearless through more equal access to skills and opportunities. An important part of this is sharing information about opportunities more broadly and fairly. For example, there are many vacancies with tech companies in Camden, but many young people and their parents don’t know about these opportunities or how to access them. 

Relatedly, the group talked about using social media networks more creatively and effectively to unlock opportunities for Camden’s young people. 

By 2030, Camden’s estates and streets are creative and sustainable.  

A key focus for this group was what it looks like to create neighbourhoods and living spaces that people love to live in. Participants mentioned the importance of air quality, beautiful and accessible community spaces, opportunities for intergenerational interaction, and using existing space like car parks in new and creative ways.  

A central aspiration under this mission was to bring services to places where people already live, for example creating health care hubs on estates or bringing employment support into neighbourhoods, like through Camden’s Job Hubs. In this vein, the concept of a 15-minute neighbourhood, where amenities, jobs, entertainment are all available within walking distance was repeatedly mentioned.  

The group also discussed the importance of environmental sustainability in this mission, talking for example about Camden’s ambition to retrofit many of its estate and street properties, a massive investment which will generate jobs and long-term savings. 

By 2030, those holding positions of power in Camden are as diverse as our community – and the next generation is ready to follow.  

In this breakout group, the participants spoke a lot about redesigning positions of power – on school boards, in businesses etc – so they are more accessible and inclusive to people from a wide range of backgrounds. Could we, for example, prototype modern and inclusive leadership spaces, removing traditional barriers to entry? Providing optional bursaries or stipends for serving in a leadership role in a volunteer capacity was mentioned as one promising mechanism to support diversity in positions of power. 

The group also talked about the importance of embedding young people into leadership spaces directly rather than creating parallel spaces such as youth boards. Similarly, there was wide agreement that supporting our communities to design their own solutions to achieve this mission is key for devolving decision-making power right from the start.  

There was also wide agreement that defining clear and ambitious targets for this mission is key to its success, although it was acknowledged that landing on the most appropriate metrics would be complex and challenging. 

Next steps 

We’re synthesising these rich discussions now, and next we will: 

  • Translate these conversations into a high-level roadmap for each mission that describes how we might achieve the mission 
  • Begin to mobilise people around the projects to deliver then 

Get in touch 

Do you have an idea you would like to collaborate on? Get in touch with us here. 

By Yelena Bide, Inclusive Economy Project Officer at London Borough of Camden

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November 2020 Camden Renewal Commission Meeting Summary

The Camden Renewal Commission is an initiative to rebuild our post-COVID economy in a way that is fairer, more inclusive, and more sustainable. Led by Camden Council and UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), and supported by community leaders, local organisations and residents, the Commission was launched in September 2020. 

On the 19th November 2020, we held our second whole Commission meeting over Zoom. This was a 1.5-hour session filled with rich conversation amongst our commissioners, co-chairs, and community participants. The formal meeting followed weeks of iterative work in small groups of commissioners to further develop our missions. 

We heard about Think & Do, a community space in Kentish Town dedicated to local climate activism, and their latest work and how they have adapted to the pandemic. 

We also heard from young citizen scientists involved in the Euston Prosperity and Wellbeing Index, a project examining what prosperity and inclusive regeneration mean to people living in Euston, on how to involve young people in developing the borough’s vision. 

The main aims of the session were to discuss the Commission’s ways of working, our developing missions, and next steps in the programme.

Working with our community 

As a Commission, we aim to support our residents to lead inspiring initiatives across the borough. We want to provide opportunities for all residents and workers in the area to participate and shape a renewed economy in Camden.  

We heard about the work of Think & Do in the borough, and talked about the power of popups for encouraging and facilitating resident participation. Prior to the pandemic, the Kentish Town pop-up led around 80 in-person sessions on climate activism and supported residents in setting up their own projects.  

Since coronavirus restrictions came into place, Think & Do has run more than 40 inspiring webinars with over 800 participants. They are also running outdoor events, including a popup at Kentish Town City Farm and organised free tree giveaways over the Christmas period. The success of these virtual and in-person sessions shows the passion that local people have for making change.  

Image: Think and Do pop-up space

We also heard from two young citizen scientists working on the Euston Prosperity and Wellbeing Index. They spoke about how for young people, finding opportunities was often the result of existing networks – if you had been involved in one project, you would be invited to another, but without this connection you could be left out. When asked how to encourage participation from young people, their advice was clear: young people want their time and opinions to be valued as much as adults’, and financial incentives can make a huge difference.   

The role of Commissioners 

We talked about what it means to work as a 21st century Commission where different expertise from people and organisations across Camden, Commissioners and Council officers can come together to develop ideas and work together in an iterative and inclusive way. 

Looking ahead, we will facilitate this way of working through workshops, pop ups and community meetings where local people can share their ideas for renewal and workshop ideas together. 

The draft missions 

The Camden Renewal Commission’s work is built around missions: clear goals that if achieved would help build a more inclusive, sustainable borough. They are evidence-based and have been developed with Commissioners and the community. 

Our draft missions are: 

  • By 2030, those holding positions of power in Camden are as diverse as our community – and the next generation is ready to follow. 
  • By 2025, every young person has access to economic opportunity that enables them to be safe and secure. 
  • By 2030, everyone eats well every day with nutritious, affordable, sustainable food. 
  • By 2030, Camden’s estates and streets are creative and sustainable. 

These missions are work in progress and will develop further through conversations with the community, and further work by commissioners and officers. We will also begin to develop mission ‘roadmaps’ – projects and policies by people and organisations from across the borough that can help to achieve these missions. 

These missions are aiming for systemic change, but we also know that people want to see progress soon, so we need to break these missions down into near- and medium-term goals that work towards the bigger picture. 

These missions are also intended to inspire action and collaboration from across the borough – they can’t be achieved by one person or organisation alone.  

Next steps 

One key theme of discussion was how we can ensure that in working towards the missions, the experience and perspectives of Camden’s diverse community is at the centre, and how the community and organisations in the borough are critical in bringing these missions to life. 

Camden Council’s participation team has been developing conversations with community members around the missions and coproducing ways to unleash imaginations and creatively capture long-term visions. This includes collecting stories, art and experiences of the pandemic – some of which we showcased in COVID Stories: Resident Experiences of the Pandemic –  and hosting community conversations about what the missions might look like in practice. Expect to hear more on this soon. 

Image credit: Secret Artist NW5

If you are interested to learn more about the Renewal Commission, our About and Approach pages are a great place to start. For a deeper dive into the Commission’s research and methods, you can find our Call to ActionLeveraging Our Potential and Understanding the Evidence reports under Our Work.

By Tor Marie, Apprentice Project Support Officer at London Borough of Camden