Dogs vs Dragons! And other important placemaking questions
One webinar, three countries, 80 participants: 60-minutes of placemaking content and inspiration!
Written by Eliza Charley & Harriet McKindlay
We receive calls and emails almost daily. Help! What is placemaking? Should we be doing it? and How do we even begin to approach it?
This month we responded with our first Intro to Community-Led Placemaking Webinar; and let’s just say we received a bigger response than we originally expected! We will be running it again on Thursday 8th August at 10AM AEST (for free!)
We shared information and also asked many important questions, including what sort of animal-person are you (57% Dog-people vs 24% Dragon-people FYI, the remainder preferring cats, rabbits, and birds).
We included a chance for you to ask your burning placemaking questions directly from our CEO Valli Morphett to tap into that experience and insight, and empower you in your workplace, project team, or community.
Your top 4 placemaking questions
Here are your top four questions about community-led placemaking, as asked by participants from local government, consulting, community groups, academia and the property sector.
Lots of councils are making ‘place plans’ for their public spaces. In your view, what’s the difference between place planning and placemaking? Are they the same thing?
Terms like these, in the field of placemaking, are still finding their strict definitions. From our work with councils across Australia, and having delivered projects within multiple industry sectors, here is how we currently choose to define these terms.
A Place Plan is a strategic roadmap for how a place will be managed, activated, and possibly altered over a fixed time period. Typically it’s up to 3-years of short- and medium-term actions with the aim of delivering place outcomes, which could include various methods and approaches, including placemaking as one approach. Most often, a place plan is created by council in response to a catalyst, which could include pressures due to change, or disruption in a community such as major infrastructure change.
Placemaking, on the other hand, is a philosophy turned movement, turned methodology for the delivery of on-the-ground action to improve a place.
Implementation, could be led by any community of interest, including local communities, councils, traders, infrastructure groups, environmental groups, and more!
In this way, a Place Plan may include a placemaking strategy, or placemaking projects, in order to achieve its goals of place management, activation, and change.
Do community project leaders tend to be all from one demographic? (i.e. retired, older)
A key learning from The Neighbourhood Project (TNP) was that community-led placemaking projects could be effectively and efficiently delivered across a broad spectrum of leader demographics. This included:
- Age: Youth-led or experience-led
- Incorporation: informal groups, or existing incorporated groups
What was more important than their demographics on the page, was their values, motivation and passion to lead change in their neighbourhoods. Various leaders with various project scopes, consistently delivered the same types of benefits to their places, as measured on CoDesign Studio’s pillars of People, Process, and Place.
The challenge is unlocking latent social capital and finding motivated community members who are not necessarily your ‘usual suspects’. In fact, diversity is often key! This involves the use of creative methods for attracting interest from varying ages, cultural backgrounds and interests. It is also about matching energy with energy. In many instances it requires time and resources to identify great leaders and unlock their underlying community energy, but the energy of that search is totally worth it.
You mentioned that “events are temporary for engagement”- What’s the key to a long lasting engagement?
The Neighbourhood Project demonstrated that traditional events do little to build social cohesion, especially in a long-term sustainable way. What this comes down to is project ownership.
In this instance, a traditional event could mean a temporary activation or community event that does not involve the local community in the design process nor implementation process of that project.
The result is minimal community ownership over the project. On the flip side, when community members are mobilised and empowered to not just participate but actually lead an activation or event, their ownership is high.
We have observed that community-led activations have a more significant effect with regards to ongoing use, care and improvement of a space. Not to mention, the important “people” benefits unlocked such as increased local capacity, increased social cohesion, and improved neighbourhood pride.
“The greatest benchmark for placemaking success: local people can see their fingerprints all over it” – Valli Morphett
This is not to say that council-led or developer-led events are not important; they very much are. The key here is to ensure ownership within the community from inception to implementation. This process is key to building a lasting legacy.
What advice would you give to how council and community can work with developers to get placemaking outcomes (for both new communities and existing)?
This is a valuable question, and one that deserves its own article in response! For now, here are three pieces of implementable advice.
Firstly, take a long-term lens when approaching the concept of place activation. Residents moving into new developments are often overwhelmed with welcoming activities and events. In many instances these are short-term occurrences that tend to die down after residents have actually moved in. Creating a vision for ongoing events and engagement is a great place to start, such as online community groups, regular meet-ups or skill-sharing sessions. Better yet, make pathways for community ownership of these events because this can lead to longer-term outcomes (see question 3 above!).
Secondly, new developments have traditionally overlooked the fact that there is already an existing community in an area; yes, even in most greenfield developments, there are existing communities. A great way for councils, communities and property developers to collaborate, is to connect existing residents with those new to the area. Indeed, it may even be that existing communities take on the role of welcoming new communities themselves to allow for better integration between the two groups.
Finally, and this may not surprise you, but communication is key. Create strong, clear, and consistent lines of communication between the community, the developer, and the council. It is through open and honest communication that collaborative citymaking is achieved.
Plan for the long term, not just the now by inviting the community into positions of placemaking ownership, connecting with existing communities in the area, and communicating clearly throughout the process. This way, you will be well on your way to seeing new developments that are primed and empowered for long-term maturation.