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The Value of Community Led Design – another success!

Posted on 14 February 2012

Written by:

Rebecca Maguire

Great news! The Glass-House and partners – the Open University and Architecture Centre Network – have been successful in gaining another grant of £40,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Counci (AHRC) to carry out a piece of action research into The Value of Community Led Design.

This piece of research will use creative and collaborative methods to collect and share the many examples of good practice, aiming to articulate the benefits of community-led design for dissemination to the wider public. The research will also explore and assess ways to measure the impact of community-led design and understand the barriers to wider acceptability of community-led design, and how these can be overcome.

As supporters of the Glass-House will know – community led design goes beyond the one-dimensional process of consultation, helping involve people in decision-making throughout the design process, from visioning to implementation. We contend that there are many benefits from this approach, from improving civic participation and ensuring more democratic outcomes, to creating a strong sense of community and strengthening people’s attachment to their place and to each other, to producing more sustainable solutions.

However, 50 years after the first community-led design initiatives (and although the practice of professionals and organisations involved has matured and spread) community-led design is still far from being mainstream in design and planning practice.

Grappling with this problem is of special relevance at this particular time, with the emerging Localism agenda and the National Planning Policy Framework, which acknowledges an increased need for early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with communities.

At the recent Building Community* Planning Camp at Eden Project in Cornwall, with a large group of neighbourhood groups from across England working on neighbourhood plans, a demand was expressed to be able to share and understand what was going on across the country and learn from one another – this piece of work should be a significant step towards achieving this request!

The project is funded under the Connected Communities strand connecting all research councils. We are thrilled to be part of this wider and holistic network of creative industries, communities and academics working alongside one another.

* Building Community is the 1-year Department of Communities and Local Government funded project that The Glass-House has been delivering on this year (with partners Eden Project, and Locality) to support communities to take a more active role in place-shaping and the development of plans at a local level to ensure they reflect local needs and aspirations.