Meet the Engagement Group
By Steve Rowe | Tue, Feb 18, 2020
4 min read
Commonplace continues to form new collaborations across the country with other organisations that share our values, to enable meaningful dialogue with communities and provide our customers with the expertise they need to help connect people to place. One of our collaborations is through the Engagement Group, bringing our expertise in digital engagement to a framework of companies.
"In-depth, creative and long-term engagement that all stakeholders can trust"
Involving the public in the design of place is essential to creating communities that work for different people. And yet, often against a backdrop of complexity, controversy and competing views, engagement in planning and development often feels unsatisfactory and unproductive for stakeholders on all sides.
We are developing a new approach which is less adversarial and more collaborative; less transactional and more creative; and which builds a legacy of trust, dialogue and ongoing participation between all stakeholders during development and throughout occupation/use.
The Engagement Group brings together four organisations with a range of complementary skills and experience in the built environment and community engagement: - Commonplace, Real Worth, Traverse and Paul Bragman - Community & Economic regeneration consultants
We have teamed up to rethink the way community and stakeholder engagement works in this area and to develop an offer that can help councils, developers and citizens collaborate and communicate better, from the earliest vision-setting to master-planning, through to designing, building, occupation / use and beyond.
We want to explore new approaches to engaging citizens in infrastructure and built environment schemes, and as a diverse partnership we are able to:
- provide a holistic, joined-up and transparent approach to engagement which builds credibility, clarity and legitimacy amongst all stakeholders, and which remains relevant throughout the full development timeframe from briefing / inception until several years after occupation.
- bring a range of creative engagement approaches from other sectors, including more deliberative techniques that help stakeholders get beyond initial reactions and engage them more fully in thinking through the tensions and trade-offs of different local futures;
- support more intelligent commissioning which puts social value at the heart of place-making, helps commissioners to understand what this means in practice, to ask better questions of developers and contractors, and to involve a range of stakeholders including residents and local businesses in these discussions;
- reduce risk and uncertainty around the planning process, helping to build productive working relationships between residents, other local stakeholders and those planning new schemes – even in complex, controversial contexts where disagreement is high;
- improve inclusivity and diversity, helping councils and commissioning organisations to reach deep into communities and ‘future communities’ – including seldom-heard groups, vulnerable people and those with protected characteristics;
- build a ‘legacy of engagement’ in organisations and communities, supporting skills-development in engagement practice and supporting citizens to participate in place-shaping in different ways – including in the long-term future of their communities.
The approach we’re proposing is flexible so that it can be adapted to different clients and different project requirements, and is also rigorous enough to satisfy the expectations of funders, planners, local authorities and commissioners. Through this approach, we aim to provoke discussion across the sector about how a different perspective on engagement can help to address the disconnect between policy and practise.
The Engagement Group came together in late 2019 and is made up of four highly experienced and values-driven organisations:
RealWorth works to create places which enable people to realise their full potential. It helps organisations identify, maximise, measure and communicate the societal value of buildings, places and programmes. We work in four ways:
Identify - Making it easy for organisations to understand the often invisible impact their activities have, on all kinds of people. Maximise - Using knowledge to make improvements that will enhance the impact on people’s lives. Measure - Recording people’s accounts and then using them to calculate a monetary value for a variety of impacts. Then staying in touch to track the actual impacts over time. Communicate - Sharing the story of actual ongoing impacts with all stakeholders, using language everyone can understand. Recommending ideas on future improvements. For more information visit www.RealWorth.org.
Traverse helps organisations that are dealing with complex and controversial issues to understand what people affected think about their projects and proposals. We use transparent processes and evidence-based tools to engage a wide range of voices – whether personal or professional, loudly proclaimed or seldom heard. Our experts work with you to evaluate and implement your decisions, improve your plans and build capacity and support you to deliver real impact. Our clients rely on us when the issues are thorny and when they want an approach that’s creative and co-designed. From health and social care integration to creating a new local vision, we bring our expertise to help you engage, analyse and act decisively.
Commonplace: Our online platform has reached over a million people in trusted and diverse conversations about the places where they live, work and play. We will help you broaden your reach, e.g. 70% of the people who contribute are under the age of 45. We will deliver more contributions. Most of our consultations reach thousands of people, providing you with robust evidence to reduce planning, political and financial risk. We provide an engaging, intuitive and interactive platform together with up to the second reporting of the project’s progress through our project dashboard, allowing you to determine where you need to take action to deliver a comprehensive consultation. Most importantly though, our open and transparent approach inspires trust, increases usage and delivers high quality consultations.
Paul Bragman Community & Economic Regeneration Consultancy Since it was established in 2002, they has worked with over 80 housing associations, local authorities, community and voluntary organisations, and non-governmental organisations in the UK, Asia, South America and Africa. We provide community and economic development services as an effective way to tackle inequality, achieve social justice and deliver tangible change to local communities. We provide a wide range of services and areas of expertise including capacity building, community engagement, partnership development, business planning, conflict resolution, mediation, participatory evaluation and economic development. www.communityregen.net
What happens next?
Our first priority as a partnership is to understand what councils, developers and others in the sector need from this new approach to engagement; and to begin trialling our approach for real. If you have comments and ideas that you would like to share, or have a scheme in mind which you think would benefit from our proposed approach, please get in touch with a member of the team:
Anna McKeon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Bragman: email@example.com
Phil Higham: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Francis: email@example.com
Steve Rowe: firstname.lastname@example.org