Choosing the right tool for the job is important. This post explains why we need a new Placemaking Participation Spectrum to further explore the roles of governments and the community in placemaking, and why this is different to tools like the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum.
I learnt about community engagement on the job as an urban planner in a local government. My Masters of Urban Regional Planning had emphasised that stakeholder engagement was important, but didn’t actually cover how to do it properly.
The IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum really helped. It broke down community engagement into 5 categories – Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate and Empower and advised on how to effectively engage stakeholders. Luckily, I also had a few people working with me that really understood the spectrum and how to properly engage with people.
IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum is designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public’s role in any community engagement program. The Spectrum shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate depending on the goals, time frames, resources and levels of concern in the decision to be made. However, and most importantly, the Spectrum sets out the promise being made to the public at each participation level. The Spectrum is widely used and is quoted in most community engagement manuals.https://www.iap2.org.au/resources/spectrum/
The IAP2 Spectrum is rightly seen as effective way to assess the public’s influence on decisions made by governments.
But, as Max Hardy says here, even the term ‘empower’ in the IAP2 context is about delegated decision making; it does not align with the community development concept of empowerment, nor that of most placemakers. It’s not about action or self-empowerment.
Dr Crispin Butteriss elegantly dissects ‘community engagement’ in this post and its limitations.
In short, we haven’t had a tool relevant for Placemaking and in particular, outlining who is ‘doing’ and ‘making it happen’. Placemaking is about action, not just talk (hopefully).
Placemaking Participation Spectrum
Town Team Movement created this new Placemaking Participation Spectrum to help explore and explain placemaking roles and participation.
Given the success of the IAP2 Spectrum, we decided it was a pretty good format to start to explore placemaking roles and participation. We also broke the spectrum into 5 stages, which are further explained below.
Governments in the Regulate stage are focused on their statutory and regulatory roles – things like managing roads, rubbish removal, building control, caring for parks, managing recreation centres, libraries, environmental health, managing community assets and lots more. Local governments are tasked by State and Federal Governments and their communities with so many things, it is no wonder why they find it difficult to emerge from the Regulate stage.
Placemaking in this stage is sporadic at best, and often not existent. Local residents and businesses are often trapped in their ‘Ratepayer’ mindset in this stage. They aren’t challenged or encouraged to help create better places. “Isn’t that the governments job?”. Nope – it’s everyone’s responsibility.
The Regulate stage provides a utilitarian, minimum standard of place and community building. The cynics might term it as a ‘standardised mediocrity’, although we are far more polite than that.
Governments in the Deliver Stage begin to realise that places are important. Placemaking becomes another service offered to their community. They might upgrade the hardware of places, manage events or start to explore the Place-led Approach.
Because the local government is involved in placemaking, residents and businesses are generally still passive. They might attend an event, a business might start asking about parklets or extended street trading and some new ideas might emerge, inspired by things happening elsewhere. On the whole, businesses and residents are consumers of place rather than active contributors.
Letting go of some control and allowing things to happen is difficult for some, but it starts to open up fantastic placemaking opportunities. Andy Sharp states it beautifully when he talks about Managing Places to Life, instead of (over)managing them to death. Some examples of this approach are:
- As of right alfresco dining and street trading permits for local businesses that meet certain requirements
- Verge gardens are encouraged on nature strips
- Local government make small-scale events super easy, including cover pesky things like insurance
- A 7 Day Makeover
Businesses and residents are implicitly and explicitly challenged in this stage to be positive placemaking contributors. The Midcoast Council in New South Wales is providing an example of this with its Vibrant Spaces program. Nice work!
Things start to get interesting in the Collaborate stage. Governments to work with positive partners to improve places. We think that Town Teams could be such partners (although trust needs to be earned), but it could be a business association, community group or even a community enterprise. Like all good relationships, the partners can start to identify who can do what do improve the place in the short, medium and long-term. Think of it like a ‘Place Tag Team’!
OK, so we haven’t actually seen the Empower stage happen in Australia as yet. It might be happening, but we don’t know about it (please tell us if it is!). We’re using some vivid powers of imagination to envisage what it could be like.
The closest example and a living inspiration for our movement is Coin Street Community Builders on London’s South Bank. Thirty years ago the Coin Street area of London was bleak, unattractive, with few shops and restaurants. The residential community was dwindling and the local economy was weak. Today it is thriving mixed-use neighbourhood. A destination for millions of Londoners and visitors from overseas, with a thriving residential and business community benefiting from community facilities and services.
This change was led and championed by the local community. Coin Street’s activities are wide and far reaching. From giving families and children the best start in life through its childcare and family support, to creating and maintaining high quality live, work and play spaces on land which it owns.
Coin Street promotes enterprise, creativity and lifelong learning. Whether that’s through providing employment, volunteering opportunities, nurturing enterprise or delivering programmes and activities. It also provides housing that supports our community, champion co-operative housing and influence local and national housing policy.
Amazing and truly inspiring!
A small step in this direction might be a local government ‘insourcing’ the care of a park to a local community group or social enterprise. It could provide some money for them to maintain and improve the park.
The Empower stage would be delivered through the Enabling Mindset.
We think a new tool is needed to explore the roles and responsibilities involved in placemaking. This is a version 1 and we’re putting it out there. What do you think? Could this be improved? Let us know!