Cultivating the Common; Inspiring our Vision and Operating Model

Cultivating the Common; lets get serious about coproduction

Inspiring our Vision and Operating Model

You may not have realised it at the time, but local government probably featured in your earliest experiences. Perhaps the municipal park comes to mind, with carefully laid out and tended flowerbeds and an occasional caution to “Keep off the Grass”. Thoughtfully designed, professionally maintained but rather paternalistic, the park could serve as a metaphor for traditional “top down” services. But funding cuts and spiralling demand have compelled us to face up to long standing limitations of this approach.

Simon Parker of the New Local Government Network (NLGN) uses the idea of landscape to describe how decisions taken now will affect local places and communities in the long term. Some may become wastelands, with services slashed below an acceptable minimum. Others may resemble wild flower meadows, with slimmed down councils handing over responsibility for service delivery to organisations of all shapes and sizes. Others still may become Commons, where everybody plays an active part in maintaining a healthy environment and a good quality of life for themselves, their families and communities. Ultimately he argues, the Common is the environment most likely to survive and to offer a positive future for all.

The inspiring idea of the Common is the basis of our vision document “Better Together”. This suggests that our role should be to help people, families and communities build on their own strengths and support one another. The aim is a Devon that is resilient, prosperous, healthy, connected and safe. We are already enabling people to take an active role in their future, ranging from personalisation of care services to community libraries and Snow and Road Warden schemes. But we are only just beginning to scratch the surface. Cultivating this landscape will need very hard work and an ongoing effort. Tools such as community budgets could be shared more readily if we can loosen our grip a little. Many more seeds could be sown in order to encourage social innovation and enterprise to really flourish. Everything we do could be geared towards stimulating personal and social action. Letting go of our traditional role involves looking at people and places in a new and positive way and acting boldly and confidently. Far from diminishing our ability to intervene positively where necessary, this opens up new ways to influence and act.

We must also manage what goes on in the “shed” ever more efficiently and effectively. Our new Operating Model introduces some principles to guide how we work in the future, including how we devolve resources, commission outcomes, make use of technology, fund our organisation and adopt a sharper commercial focus.

How do you think the landscape of Devon should develop? Join this blog and watch Insider and The Source for news about many ways in which you can get involved and have your say about the future of your organisation.

One thought on “Cultivating the Common; Inspiring our Vision and Operating Model

  1. steven edwards

    Enjoyed reading your article Dave. Of course, some feel coproduction can be like herding cats. I think that is a somewhat traditional ‘top down’ view and aspiration in itself…And may have more to do with tight financial pressures and deadlines rushing coproduction in order to relieve that pressure. Coproduction can’t be rushed as building good relations and trust is key. it need not be like herding cats either.

    Cats choose their hosts (not owners) based on what is on offer in terms of resources – food, water, shelter, care and affection,….which then makes them decide that they are indeed better off together – cat living alongside host. A cat can quite quickly find a new host if the offer is better elsewhere. Communities are no different…they will choose and decide if we are indeed better together, not us, and they will do so on the offer (e.g. what is in it for them)..

    So herding communities, like cats, just does not work. We need to continue develop a clear and appealing DCC offer, or a range of suitable offers, to entice communities. And I do believe we are moving in the right direction on that front, perhaps not as fast as some would like, but we are moving!.


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