The first of our Glass-House Chats, Unlocking Cross-Sector Collaboration in Placemaking, (20 January 2021) was a proof of concept. It brought together a small but diverse group of place practitioners from different sectors and parts of the UK, who between them and the various hats they wear could talk about community-led housing, intergenerational places, place-based research, regeneration, design and local government. There was a spirit of curiosity and generosity in our virtual room, and above all, a shared sense of purpose around unlocking cross-sector collaboration in placemaking.
Key questions raised
We began with each of us contributing key themes or questions that we would like to explore:
- What is cross-sector collaboration?
- What are the barriers to cross-sector collaboration?
- Is there one thing that would make a difference in your ability to make cross-sector collaboration happen more and better?
- Intergenerational place-making
- How do we get communities more involved in designing homes and places?
Our conversation weaved in and out of various subject areas, with a strong focus on community-led housing and intergenerational places, but the overarching themes of bringing diverse experience and expertise together, of sharing learning in clear and accessible language and formats, and of making the space for conversation and collective thinking emerged again and again.
There were familiar discussions around the need to involve communities in placemaking as early as possible and of the importance of creating safe spaces for discussion and debate and of independent enablers or mediators who can help bring cohesion to a diverse working group while recognising and addressing issues.
Clarity of purpose and language in engagement is also key. What do the various players hope to engage through the interaction, and what role can each play in driving forward change? How can we best avoid using jargon, which alienates people, and create a shared language? How can we use new digital conferencing tools effectively to engage diverse people in dialogue, while recognising they exclude some?
When exploring the role of capacity building to support engagement in placemaking, there was a shared sense that this is needed for professionals as well as communities.
The context of community-led housing offered an interesting space for exploring some of the barriers and opportunities of cross-sector collaboration.
Our group agreed that diversifying models for housing was crucial to the UK landscape, and that there are some interesting examples of community-led housing emerging. However, there is a great deal of confusion around the terminology and different models emerging, as well as a lack of understanding within local authorities of the practical steps that could be taken, of the
processes that could be embedded to facilitate community-led housing, and to better integrate it with public and private sector provision and strategic placemaking.
We talked about a few key elements that could help address these issues within the context of community-led housing, but also more broadly within placemaking:
Case study examples of different models for community-led housing, that illustrate what they have in common, but also the differences between them
Stories of community-led housing projects, with reflections from those involved on what worked well and what not so well. We need to learn from the innovation and experimentation of trailblazers, and we should be creative about how these stories can be captured and shared. Changemakers are often so busy getting on with the business at hand, and it is important to create the space, time and resource to capture their learning and to inform and inspire others with it.
Templates for policies and approaches that local authorities could take up and adapt to their contexts.
Spaces for experimentation and innovation
Sharing our experiences of action research highlighted this as a space that can bring different
sectors, disciplines and people together, create safe spaces for experimentation, and crucially, time and resources for reflection and for capturing and sharing learning.
This starts with listening as its foundation, gathering diverse voices and perspectives, learning from the stories and experiences of others and working together to formulate propositions to test.
Perhaps the most exciting idea to come out of our first Glass-House Chat, was to create the time and space to bring people together around themes and issues in the form of a sort of retreat.
Social innovation happens when people have a chance to talk, share, brainstorm. This can happen in meetings, but benefits from a combination of the formal and informal spaces over meals, on walks etc.
Should we be investing more in these spaces to bring our collective knowledge, creativity and assets together?