Unlocking Cross-Sector Collaboration in Placemaking (12 February 2021)
Due to the popularity of our first chat, we hosted a second event on this topic, which led to quite different areas of exploration from the first. While the first event was heavily focused on community-led housing, this event saw green and public space serve as the starting point for conversation. The conversation was fast-paced, with attendees keen to share knowledge about case studies and useful resources.
Key questions raised
- Green spaces have become extremely sought after during the pandemic, but how do we unlock spaces that everyone can enjoy, that create social cohesion and opportunities for collaborative work to enliven and improve the space?
- Where do agency and permissions in relation to public space and community curation collide? Can lone volunteers do their bit without getting involved in bureaucracy?
- How can we make community engagement, placemaking and design language less intimidating and more accessible to all?
The idea of belonging in a space, ownership and accessibility popped up frequently in our discussion. All the attendees were particularly interested in exploring spaces that can belong to, be managed or enlivened by more than one sector and by diverse groups of people and/or organisations, and the approaches and processes to support them.
Access and equity
The fact that the provision of green and play spaces are not considered a mandatory part of service provision for all local authorities means that some places have more and better maintained such spaces than others. During Covid, there have been vast divisions when it comes to access to green spaces and the maintenance of these areas.
Because the maintenance of many green spaces has been handed over to friends groups and volunteers, it is a simple fact that if there are more active and confident volunteers in an area, better services arise with those willing to take responsibility for them.
It’s also important to recognise that priorities differ from area to area. For example, groups in urban areas often yearn for more green spaces, to escape city life, if only for a short time. However, in more suburban or rural communities, you might find ample green spaces, with residents yearning for different types of spaces for connection with others.
Levels of agency, ownership, and action
Understanding hierarchies and the decision-making processes can help communities play a more active role as contributors, partners or leaders in public space provision. We spoke a great deal about the importance of creating safe spaces for dialogue, and negotiation, where different voices and sectors can openly explore shared and conflicting interests and ambitions for change. These spaces should also create intergenerational conversations, and explore how to unlock understanding, empathy and collaboration. Local authorities and developers should be doing more to create these spaces and may benefit from the support of independent enablers.
Bringing in different skill sets and experiences is key to make a project more diverse, culturally rich and meaningful. Often professionals within the placemaking field inject knowledge into their local communities. Driving projects to better the places they live in is admirable, however not every area has these changemakers in place. How can we do more to enable the non-professionals to lead projects? Participants agreed that while there are some good examples and tools out there, they can be hard to find. A number of useful tools and resources were brought up in the discussion.
Please refer to the end of this blogpost for links to the resources and case studies shared in the session.
Making design engagement and language more accessible
How do we open up conversations about what places can be, when design and planning language and processes can be such a barrier? How can we build capacity across all sectors to enable collaborative design processes? Co-design is a word that can be misused by the local authorities and developers, even when the intent is to create inclusive processes. It’s encouraging that the term is now more common in the placemaking lexicon, but there is still a huge skills gap across sectors in how to enable meaningful co-design.
Terminology and language used when running co-design sessions is crucial. Terms can be murky and alienating for certain demographics. It’s essential to develop more people and organisations who can break down the methodology and essence of the built environment, and enable people of varying ages, backgrounds and experiences to engage in design and placemaking.
Traversing the language barrier between designers and community groups can act as a catalyst for establishing a better understanding, more fluid conversation across diverse communities and sectors and more collaborative design. Of course, exciting and engaging methods should be used to make the process not only full of learning but enjoyable.
Links shared during the talk:
The Glass-House Events
The Glass-House Story: Design Training at St Raphael’s Estate
The Glass-House Blog: Portobello Connects
Tallinn participatory budget
Park Power Map – Common Place
Engaged Cities Award – Winner: Bologna, Italy
Enhancing England’s Urban Green Spaces
Fields in Trust – Watch This Space
Design Council: CABE Space’s ShapeShaper
Create Streets: Healthy Streets for London
Design Council: the Value of Good Design
TFL Streetscape Guidance
Placemaking Toolkit: Designing People Places
TFL Walking Action Plan
Our March event is sold out, but you can now book on for our April and May Glass-House Chats below.
April: Glass-House Chats: Design engagement – what does it mean?
May: Digitising Design Engagement