Brain Sciences


Looking back: leaders of UCL and Camden Council come together to formalise their joint partnership

12 February 2021

Written by Professor Alan Thompson, Dean, Faculty of Brain Sciences and Pro Vice Provost (London), UCL.

Alan Thompson

In this issue we look back over the past few months and celebrate the successes which we have achieved, in particular the signing of the joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UCL and Camden Council at the virtual event which took place on 15 December 2020, which formalised our partnership which has spanned over many years. 

I hosted the event in my role as UCL’s Pro-Vice-Provost for London amongst an array of brilliant speakers including Professor Michael Arthur (former and then President & Provost, UCL), Cllr Georgia Gould (Leader of Camden Council), Professor Marianna Mazzucato (UCL), Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL), Jon Rowney (Camden), Professor Muki Haklay (UCL), Harold Garner (Camden), Dr Dominic Galliano (UCL), Sharon Gunn (Camden) and Meklit Olive (Young Citizen Social Scientist).

This major step in UCL and Camden’s strategic relationship is part of both organisations’ vision as leaders of change within the borough. The partnership builds on experiences developed over decades and provides a framework for both organisations to work even more closely together, to shared goals and priorities.

The event was attended by over 75 colleagues from UCL and Camden, with testimonies and inspiring conversations paving the way for exciting new collaborations. 

As leaders of place, both UCL and Camden have common goals in the way we shape the environment as investors, landowners, procurers, employers, equality leaders, policy makers as well as leaders in our sectors. Through the partnership, the organisations will consider how we collaborate more strategically and make commitments in these roles.  

Speaking at the event, I outlined "The value of a formal agreement is that we can take a more strategic approach, focusing that enthusiasm to work together in a way that will reap maximum good for the health, wealth and wellbeing of the community we both serve. This event is a celebration of our collaborations so far and a look ahead to how it will grow and develop in years to come”.

Moving forward both of our organisations seek to work together to tackle the challenges that Londoners are facing, in particular those exacerbated due to COVID-19. Not only will we continue working on current initiatives but we hope that new innovative solutions to these challenges will also emerge. We will put residents at the heart of decision making through Citizen Assemblies, and build coalitions to tackle grand challenges through the Camden Renewal Commission. A series of Camden Conversations will launch in spring with counterparts from UCL and Camden coming together strategically for the first time to influence real change in the borough.

Jon Rowney, Executive Director of Corporate Services at Camden Council said “As organisations we are significant in size, whether that is as a local employer, a large landowner in the borough, or procurer of hundreds of millions of supplies, services and goods. I'm keen to explore how we can make use of that together, to maximise social value and social purpose.”

Examples of UCL-Camden partnerships and ways of working were shared at the event, to bring the value of the collaborations to life. The following case studies outline some of the joint areas of work currently underway between UCL and Camden:

Rapid Evaluation Advice and Learning Service (REAL)The REAL Service was set up in response to a request from Camden to assist in evaluating resident-facing services that needed to be re-engineered during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. The service pairs Camden officers who have evaluation needs with experienced UCL staff who provide pro-bono evaluation advice and guidance. REAL is an excellent example of how UCL can mobilise across faculties and professional services to make a positive and much needed contribution to its local community.

UCL Institute for Global Prosperity: The London Prosperity Index is the UK’s first set of citizen-led prosperity metrics. It reports on factors that local people say support prosperity and quality of life and has been developed to give citizens a voice and change the way decision makers think and act for shared prosperity. The Prosperity Index methodology was developed in East London and is being adopted in other areas of London, around the UK and internationally. Good Life Euston sees the work adopted by Camden Council and Lendlease in order to develop a new prosperity and wellbeing index for Euston and across the Borough.

UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose: Camden Council and the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) recently launched the Camden Renewal Commission, which will take a mission-oriented innovation approach to  develop ambitious policy and practical solutions to level-up long-standing inequalities in Camden that were thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 crisis. The Renewal Commission, co-chaired by Council Leader Councillor Georgia Gould and IIPP Director Professor Mariana Mazzucato, will develop and test policy for Camden Council, its partners and the community to address the borough’s grand challenges of reducing inequality, and of supporting a just transition to a low carbon economy.

We now look forward to working together with Camden to progress the relationship and over the next few weeks we will share details with you on how you can get involved. Many of the areas of activity will bring UCL and Camden expertise together to support improvement in the borough – such as research and evaluation support, our impact as anchor institutions and placements within both organisations – and we will work together with our partners to test solutions to practical challenges, mutually benefitting both organisations.

To share any London impact stories or to get in touch, please contact Amy Lightstone.