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“People have a lot of assets that they don’t realise they have”

Posted on 3 December 2012

Written by:

Melissa Lacide

“People have a lot of assets that they don’t realise they have.”

– Sophia de Sousa

Last week we took part in the Open University’s Valuing Community Led Design workshop, a research project in which The Glass-House is a partner. The participants were a mix of community group representatives, professionals and academics all interested in, learning about and involved in Community Led Design (CLD).

The first part of the day explored how CLD is captured and looked at each individuals invaluable CLD projects, how they value CLD and how they have been involved in CLD.  One question that arose was: “What is Community Led Design?”

The shared experiences, knowledge, skills and efforts of everyone, particularly the community group representatives, answered this question: it is an approach to design that puts people at the heart of placemaking.  The conversations touched upon social spaces, belonging and a sense of place alongside meaning, understanding (local) values and interpretation.

As three groups participants were then asked to create a poster that described community led design and the results were very different!

“What can we make?”
One group adopted an angle that focused on COMMUNITY AND PEOPLE, which included sharing stories, community involvement, bringing people assets together and a sense of belonging.

“Bring people together to unlock potential for things to happen”
Another group adopted an angle that focused on PEOPLE AND STORIES, which included stories, bringing people together, shaping spaces and people, and the changes that take place in people throughout the process.

“Value is in the process toward sustainable development”
The third group adopted an angle that focused on PROCESS, which included the reality of conflict and compromise, the process towards sustainable outcomes, and the need for different expertise (community, professionals and facilitators).

The second part of the day explored different methods for asset mapping, which is part of the Creative Citizens research project in which The Glass-House is also a partner.  In the context of community led design, participants were encouraged to think of this in terms of a network of communities, a community group and an individual.

Following this, participants explored the different processes, assets and tools that they use, know of or have experienced.  One group focused on STORIES (for processes), CONNECTIONS (for assets) and PERSPECTIVE (for tools).

Many interesting ideas, perspectives and experiences were shared throughout the day.  One thing that came to light at the end of the workshop was that each project is unique and there is not one tool, process or asset.

“Everyone appreciated other people’s assets.”

– Participant Vera Hale (talking about asset funding for communities in Manchester where groups voted for each other’s projects instead of their own).


Community Design Exchange is a new bespoke social network and research tool, created by Open University with The Glass-House as a space for people to share and celebrate their experiences of community led design.