On Friday something remarkable and significant happened at Accrington Academy.
Local contractors and construction related specialists came to present to Roots (a school student company comprising of 12-14 yr olds) expressing their interest in becoming involved with the Roots EcoClassroom, as part of a fresh approach to collaborative procurement devised by Martin and Alison at Classofyourown.
Roots themselves will be blogging themselves about the day over at www.rootscoyo.posterous.com. The day was also captured on twitter with the hashtag #rootseoi with a transcript here.
It was remarkable that it happened at all (through the innovative and forward thinking at Accrington Academy and those involved with Classofyourown) and remarkable for the enthusiasm and commitment shown by those presenting.
Significant in that it can, no it should, or will, start to move end user engagement into a new arena, from an upfront tick box exercise to one of driving the procurement process.
If secondary school students can drive procurement and select contractors, design and project teams for their new school build, so could office staff, hospital workers, retail workers, could procure for their new build or new facility. Procurement would then be based on real end-user needs and requirements. A significant shift in the way we procure buildings.
Derek Deighton from Blackburn College who sat in for the morning sessions later summed the day as:
One of the dangers of promoting children and students as clients, as drivers of the design, procure and build process is that it can look twee, even gimmicky. The EOI presentations proved that this is definitely not the case as far as Roots are concerned. Roots
children asked intelligent mature questions and got considered answers.
On reflection, a significant moment was when one of the presenters was really taken aback and surprised that the children did not really know about CDM. Lets stop and think about this – why would a 13yr old know about CDM – but more importantly the questioner obviously thought that they should know. This proves that the children are being taken very seriously indeed, as any client should. (It so happened the Roots students who wrote their health and safety construction commitments were not at that particular interview, otherwise the response would have been very different!)
Overall the messages of the presentations were not dumbed down, the language used not simplified and there were many instances through the day that proved this was serious business: such as the handover of Annual Accounts, of legal proceedings for sustainable construction, of articles on collaborative working, and more.
The contractors and others that presented had obviously worked hard to fine tune their excellent presentations, it showed that they had really focused on and addressed the requirements of Roots, and I know from comments have benefited and learnt much in doing so that can be translated to other projects.
It Just Worked
But the big question in my mind was – Why hasn't this done before?
The next blog piece on this subject will discuss the process of this unique student (end-user) led procurement approach.