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Case study Lambeth Public Health 

Public Health teams never have an easy time of it. They can feel caught between medical models of the world and other very different perspectives, often reflecting enduring social and economic inequalities.


Members of PublicServiceWorks have worked with Public Health teams over many years, exploring together how what often seem to be impossibly large challenges can be re-framed in ways that stimulate constructive action.


An example of this work is the support given to Lambeth Public Health in 2016-17 in establishing themselves as a new team in the London borough. The focus for the work was the huge challenge of anticipating, and preparing to meet, the needs of children and young people in the borough over the coming ten years.  


PublicServiceWorks proposed a scenario building process to help make collective sense of what was happening in the environment locally, nationally and globally. Based on the principle that the seeds of the future can be found in the present, the approach aimed to enable people in Lambeth to understand what would shape the future for today’s children and young people in the decade to 2027.


The scenario building process involved up to 100 interviews with people from all walks of life in Lambeth, discussions with children and young people and with parents. While it was hard for people to think 10 years ahead, they nonetheless came up with fascinating ideas and issues to consider. The material generated was worked on by 50+ people in small groups, developing the concepts into four different scenarios.


These four scenarios helped develop shared views of desirable strategic directions in securing the best conditions to enable Lambeth’s children and young people to flourish. The strategic directions were not glib, easy statements of intent. They were grounded in recognition of on-going major political, economic, social, technological and environmental changes and deep uncertainty about how these changes will play out.


Initially, the scenarios were used to test out current policies in order to future-proof them, as far as it is possible to do so in a context of such uncertainty. This testing process enabled the council and local NHS and other key partners to work together to recognise any potentially unintended consequences of plans at an early stage and to adjust priorities and strategies accordingly. Since the scenarios work, the council has been leading a wide-ranging process for a renewed Children’s Plan.

The Lambeth After Tomorrow Scenarios report can be accessed here >>

The project team with colleagues from Lambeth Public Health published a paper on this work in Journal of Public Health in 2020: access this here>>

New ways of thinking and doing in difficult times.

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