Good community engagement allows local residents and stakeholders to get involved in the decision-making affecting the future of their places, their centres and their neighbourhoods. It enables good governance and informed decision-making on part of local government while sharing the responsibility and stewardship of a place with the local community.
At Studio GL we have found that enabling and encouraging ‘local experts’ to be involved right from the beginning, allows the design and planning team to get a rapid understanding of key issues and areas of concern, as well as a good initial understanding of the vision, scope and opportunities of the place.
We have also found that developing a process that allows ongoing engagement allows for concepts and ideas to be tested by the local community, making the design and feedback process a truly iterative one. While the community doesn’t always have the perfect solution to their issues the team’s technical expertise provides an opportunity to take the ideas and aspirations of the local community and shape, strengthen, translate and transform them into meaningful public spaces and places.
We start by listening to our client and then frame our engagement approach based on what will be most effective. We will engage on weekends, over breakfast or well into the evening and we often “take the project” to where the local people can be found be it a park, a market or outside a supermarket. We recognise that people are different and want to engage in the process in different ways. Our process may use workshops, presentations or posters, images, diagrams or cartoons, surveys, interactive activities and online tools. We want to involve everyone and promote an environment of trust, participation and a sense of stewardship so that the local community can play a significant role in shaping their place.