“Pursuing a better future”: Why we joined New Local’s network

June 28, 2021   By Nick Kimber, London Borough of Camden

Last month, Camden Council became the 54th member of New Local’s network of councils. Director Nick Kimber explores how community power is helping to build a better borough, and why learning and sharing with peers is more vital than ever.  

Like every area, Camden has innumerable stories of Covid-19, which will shape how we remember this time and influence the choices we make as we emerge from the crisis.

Camden’s are stories about change, disruption, loss, grief, and an extraordinary mobilisation of community action. Camden’s citizens have risen to the challenge of supporting each other with characteristic passion and energy.

Now is the time to look to the future, think about what we want to achieve, and plan for how we want to work alongside our communities to make our ambitions a reality. The pandemic has proven beyond any doubt that our local communities have the knowledge and skills to find the right way forward. They must be at the heart of how we renew and recover.

Fuelled by Community Power

Camden is an incredibly forward-thinking place and we have already achieved a lot by challenging our own assumptions about what we do and letting go of established ways of working.

We have been putting relationships at the heart of our services. Good Work Camden, which supports residents into employment, and the Camden Model of Social Work are both based ​on the guiding principles that the relationship between the practitioner and the citizen is the key asset.

The Camden Good Work Model

This is a bold and important step that shifts the dynamic between public services and citizens towards one that prioritises citizens’ agency and relationships as the locus of change.

We still have a lot to learn, and there’s a lot of work for us to do before we can honestly say that we have put the community’s assets at the centre of our thinking and our practice. New Local’s Community Paradigm articulates how we want to work alongside our residents to recalibrate relationships, power, and resources and build a better borough.

That’s why we’re excited to join New Local. Our membership will be an incredibly valuable catalyst for the work we need to do. Community Power has the potential to revolutionise how local government works and improve citizens’ lives. To harness that potential, we want to learn from our peers and share what we’re doing to bring its principles into our work.

Learning and Sharing

I have personally been really struck by the amazing work across our sector, from East Ayrshire and Pembrokeshire’s work to transform relationships with their communities to Kirklees’ approach to homelessness. I see in these examples an opportunity for Camden to learn from our peers. We want to learn what has worked for you in bringing communities closer into policy-making, service design, and delivery.

While this kind of peer learning and collaboration might normally sit in a silo with a policy or strategy team, we want everyone in Camden, especially our frontline staff, to have the opportunity to engage with the New Local network and learn from other local authorities. Empowering our frontline teams to take ownership of innovation in their services is key to us working more effectively with citizens.  We also prioritise developing our young staff, so I’m particularly excited about the opportunity that the Next Generation Academy offers for our colleagues who are starting out in their careers in local government.

We also want to share what we do here in Camden. Our Citizens’ Assembly on the Climate Crisis was a success in its radical inclusion of residents in developing solutions for their local area. We have made huge strides in the last on food poverty, and this year we’re planning major pieces of work on economic recovery and youth employment. We want to share our work that exemplifies the principles of Community Power where it can provide a roadmap for others, and where it can support the evidence base for community power. We’ll look forward to taking part in research projects and events, bringing our experience to empower our sector as a whole.  

We have the capacity and the determination to be radical in our pursuit of a better future for Camden. Our membership of New Local opens the door to the tools and the relationships we’ll need to achieve that. We’re thrilled to join you, and we’d like to extend an open invitation to all New Local members to work together.

Nick Kimber is Director of Strategy and Policy Design at London Borough of Camden.

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