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People Shaping Place

Posted on 9 February 2024

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Guest Author

In October 2023, The Glass-House and our colleague Prof Theo Zamenopoulos from The Open University collaborated with the Holborn Community Association to help activate cross-sector collaboration in the neighbourhood. In this piece, HCA Director Paul Crozier reflects on the day. 

In October 2023 Holborn Community Association hosted our first People Shaping Place event. The day was facilitated by Sophia and Louise from The Glass-House and their colleague Theo from The Open University and brought together residents from the local community with representatives from large locally based organisations, planners, developers and different voluntary and community sector groups.

Let’s start with the positive – People Shaping Place was a really great day, enthusing and motivating people. Which is lucky – because we took a risk in starting this conversation. The idea behind this event, the reason we brought it together, was negative, soured relationships across our area, particularly between the resident community and others involved in planning, developing or construction across the area.  Our community is based in central London – it’s busy, built up, densely packed and there’s a lot of development. There’s also a large resident population (over 20,000 people). Like lots of London, there’s inequality, pockets of deprivation and …  The two groups don’t always sit well together. HCA saw the frustrations, the sense of powerlessness but also the opportunities and, crucially, the people and communities behind development as well. Cue lots of work to try and bring people back together and see what would happen from there.

On the day we had people from across the community, healthy representation from some large local organisations with a big footprint in the area, planners, developers and colleagues from other voluntary and community groups. Using the format and tools of the cross pollination box helped everyone in that room step back, understand what the place around us really meant for one another and how we might all help make things better. The space for conversation, the generation of our own agenda allowed people to explore and learn from each other. It was a powerful day. There’s been lots of follow up on different things – but consistent throughout has been feedback about how refreshing it was, how useful it was and how positive people are feeling about ways forward.  I/we confess to being a little bit amazed ourselves that people (and organisations) are so surprised by the power of talking to each other.

Lots came out of the day. Ranging from small scale, tangible help  – like  people sharing power washing tools across organisations or catering teams looking at community kitchens and telling these great community cooks/poor kitchen planners how to make spaces work better. Or new partnerships that offer new ways of working together (and getting different funding for that work). And it’s started people talking more – and bigger. We’re now looking to bring together some of those larger organisations with a view to thinking about what Good Neighbours are locally. How can we build the relationships between people, between communities, across place? How can and should large stakeholders act within that place?  Not just for now but to help shape that place, for the people in it, long term. That’s a great step for HCA and the community – helping their voices be heard in places they weren’t before.