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GLASS-HOUSE CHATS: Unlocking Cross-sector Collaboration in Placemaking II

Posted on 24 February 2021

Written by:

Deborah Ajia

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 

Key themes

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

Some green and other public spaces are hidden or feel restricted to private use, and visitors may question if they are allowed to use those spaces. Informing communities of their rights in terms of use of these spaces can clear any confusion and invoke a new sense of ownership and discovery. 

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

Useful Tools:

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