The value of partnership working: LEAP and Stockwell Partnership

Marta Sordyl

Family engagement worker, Marta Sordyl, explains how six years of working together enabled the Lambeth Early Action Partnership and Stockwell Partnership to understand local needs and help families with young children thrive.

From 2017 to the summer of 2023, the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) and Stockwell Partnership worked together to support families with very young children in the highly diverse Stockwell community.

In that time, an incredible 580 events were delivered, reaching a total of 2,694 participants, with 11,000 attendances.

How Stockwell Partnership and LEAP worked together

Stockwell Partnership is a community organisation that supports people, including expectant parents and families with young children, to flourish. A wide range of partnership projects, services, and events are delivered to improve the quality of life for local people.

Stockwell Partnership is a charity managed by a board of residents. It has been operating since 1999 delivering services and projects to support the following:

  • Individuals – through bilingual advice, advocacy, employment training, and signposting.
  • Community action – supporting people to build their skills, connect with others, and act on issues that matter to them.
  • Improvement of the local environment and increasing environmental sustainability.

Stockwell Partnership and LEAP began working closely together in 2017 to further strengthen the support provided to families with early years children. We understand local needs, identify the gaps in provision, and work in partnership to deliver projects, services, and activities.

Services and activities on offer for families

Together, LEAP and Stockwell Partnership have run a wide variety of regular activities for families, as well as special events to mark important cultural celebrations. Many activities are designed for communities of different faiths, or for people with different native languages.

Annual events to celebrate Eid, Diwali, Christmas, International Women’s Day, Refugee week and Black History Month are popular. There are regular opportunities for people from Italian, Portuguese, Latin American, and Polish communities to come together. Community picnics and family fun days are organised, as well as regular storytelling events for very young children.

For families there are regular weekly activities such as ‘Little Wanderers,’ a child-led outdoor play and exploration for under 3’s and ’Nurturing Mamas’ where new mums can bring their babies and participate in wellbeing activities together. Drop-in breastfeeding support and parenting courses are also provided.

What we have learned about involving families and working together

Our approach to community engagement is based on mapping and working with community assets, including local spaces, buildings, businesses, community groups, and service providers. Our aim is to connect as many local partners as possible to co-deliver meaningful and sustainable engagement to serve the needs of expectant parents and families with children aged 0-3. Understanding the local social infrastructure and building relationships with Early Years voluntary and statutory services, as well as local groups, is at the core of our activities.

The value of community engagement

Stockwell Partnership has focused on delivering projects from local community venues. This is partly because our organization does not have its own space to run family activities, and partly because we have learned over the years that sharing local spaces and assets is more creative, productive, and sustainable for the whole community.

We know that engagement with your community is one of the biggest indicators of long- term health and well-being, and it is at the core of what we do. However, many Portuguese speakers and East African communities in Stockwell face both language and cultural barriers that prevent them accessing local support and resources. Strengths, needs, and barriers can often differ from one community to another, so we work to understand the importance of addressing them with cultural sensitivity.

In our work, families are involved from the start in decisions about our events and services. This has made our events more successful and has helped us reach more people for a longer time.

We established a regular parents forum supported by parent representatives to advocate for the needs of local families. Working with local partners, we deliver both one off and regular events that are designed for families, by families.

We have also developed a strong network and partnership with Morley College, our local Adult Learning centre. This involves Early Years services, schools, Residents Associations, and community groups. Gaining the trust of the community and our partners has helped us thrive, and we are now a go-to organisation for the community.

We get great feedback from all our events, and below are some parent’s and carer’s thoughts on the Stockwell Partnership:

“Meeting and working with others has really challenged and inspired me to want to achieve and progress further creatively. I speak more confidently with people in my community about activities they can be involved in."
"I have a better understanding and greater interest. This course has given me more confidence and a sense of community. I learned new skills that are transferable."

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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.