Today Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council launched its strategy to achieve the status of the cooperative council a process I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of as one of their Commissioners. In the last four months the Commission have met some of the leaders in the field of community engagement, mutualism and public sector reform. People like Ed Mayo ceo at Cooperatives UK and Ben Page the MD at Ipsos MORI who gave a memorable presentation that statistically proved the hopelessness of basing any strategy on volunteers. Thankfully Lambeth's plans do not rest on the hope that people will do something for nothing, but that if there is something in it for them, like free access to council services or safer streets. I have to say although finding the time to be a commissioner was always tricky, I have really enjoyed being part of it. In some ways it was, inevitably, a talking shop, but in others it was a unique opportunity to examine and test what is meant by 'handing back power to the community' the overarching aim of becoming 'the cooperative council'.
Tessa Jowell, now shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and 2012, since the reshuffle, was our keynote. She was enthusiastic about the program telling us that "reciprocity is at the forefront of labour thinking." She went on to say that "Big Society is anti government but the cooperative council concept was about sharing risks, decisions and responsibility with government." Before she spoke Tessa introduced Maurice Glassman, a new Lord whose involvement in London Citizens has broken new ground in successful interaction between the state and formerly excluded citizens. Maurice gave a haltering impromptu address that none the less, conveyed his conviction that community counts, he seemed like a really nice man who asked me later if his speech 'was all right?'
Fellow commissioners Sir Stephen Bubb ceo of acevo was also there as was, Lord Victor Abedowale from Turning Point who was really spot on when he talked about bureaucractic Government engaged in "undue diligence' and the need to move from risk adverse to risk aware.
It was, as I told the audience later, far from a cynical process but one that really has the potential to address the perennial question, how can we make government work for us?