LEAP CoCreate Awards for innovative community-led projects

Davina Belcher, Community Engagement Officer, explains how LEAP’s CoCreate Awards showcased eight community-led initiatives which are making a positive change to the lives of young children in Lambeth.

At LEAP’s 2022 CoCreate Awards evening, local MPs, community groups, families and funders were able to come together to celebrate eight innovative ‘CoCreate’ initiatives.

We are passionate about the dramatic changes that investment in community-led initiatives for early years children can have. Our CoCreate Fund supports organisations and groups to work collaboratively with the local community to develop and test initiatives designed to make a positive, lasting change to the lives of young children in Lambeth.

The event was a key moment in the timeline of the funding programme. It recognised the success of the projects, provided an opportunity for networking with a view to sustaining the work, and raised the profile of the value of co-creative early years innovation.

MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Helen Hayes, and Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau (NCB), were among those presenting awards to the committed, hard-working local people who brought these projects to life. Brixton Wings’ young musicians kicked off the evening with an awesome live performance.

Photos: Blossom Carrasco

The eight organisations had been awarded between £2,000 and £10,000 and given support by LEAP to create child-focused and community-led activities. All of them delivered initiatives to support children under four or benefitted children by enabling their families and communities to thrive. They all focused on impact, sustainability, and a contribution to learning in the early years sector.

Intergenerational dance tailored SEND provision, cultural cooking and community-led arts projects were applauded for their innovative approaches to working with young families. Groups working with young parents, volunteers, and local venues to improve healthy food access, services and relationships were commended for putting service users - children or adults - in the driving seat.

Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, presented Julie Norburn of Art4Space with the Unique Innovation Award for empowering parents to take the lead. Helen said, “Prioritising and cherishing the early years and trusting families to shape services has huge benefits for the community”.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, presented Caroline Burghard of Whippersnappers with her Unique Innovation Award saying, “These groups are to be congratulated for their willingness to listen, learn and adapt, ultimately providing services that really reflect what the community needs.”

We are so proud of the eight CoCreate initiatives who won awards:

Tiny Titans

Young Titans’ ‘Tiny Titans’ created a space for dads to bond with their children and take-home ideas they could enjoy.

The Whippersnappers ‘Choose What We Do Club’ worked with children and parents to shape appropriate SEND activities.

Watusi, ‘Everyone Can Dance’ introduced youngest and oldest residents and encouraged them to enjoy and benefit from each other’s energy and experience.

BiG’s ‘Dream BiG Young Parents’ Hub’ offers young parents support and guidance in physical and mental well-being and building confidence.

Art4Space run a creative arts and well-being course where parents learn how to engage with their little ones through different creative mediums.

Healthy Home Cooking

Brixton Wings’ ‘Wind Beneath Wings’ provides space for parents and young children to experience music and movement.

Healthy Living Platform’s ‘Healthy home cooking course’ encouraged families to learn healthier ways to enjoy food. Their new local pantries provide healthy, low-cost food.

Eight community members who were key to the cocreation and success of the initiatives were celebrated through our community hero awards. One of the ‘heroes’ said, “I’m so touched. I am so happy that my contribution is valued.” Another commented on her role being recognised, “Myself and other young parents are the best for doing this work because we have live-in experience and can relate to each other.”

Local news and social media publicised the awards which gave a platform for others to hear about the power of this community-led working.

The evening provided the funded organisations an opportunity to connect with those that may offer avenues to sustain their work. Since the event, half of the CoCreate partners have now secured funding to sustain their initiatives. Two have created links with other local organisations to continue their initiatives.

All those that attended were keen to find more out about the initiatives and were reminded of the impact that investing in the early years has on the whole community.

Medg Sullivan, Volunteer Programme Manager at Brixton Wings summed up some of the wider benefits of these initiatives, “It looks like it’s just music lessons but it’s actually a wrap-around service for families who might not have resources like school, housing and immigration support.”

Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall said, “Focusing on the youngest in Lambeth and providing a support network for families is crucial for knitting our community together from the very start.”

Many of our new CoCreate fund recipients found out about us through partners who attended the Awards event. We have now funded eight more organisations who will reach new people in local communities.

Our CoCreate Awards evening was a great success and the value of the evening has gone beyond the good time that was had by all. The event was a platform for us to promote amazing work happening locally in the early years and a springboard for ensuring that work continues into the future.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.