What will the COVID-19 recovery look like?

There is an opportunity for something extraordinary to emerge from the Covid-19 recovery. And it’s so much more than digitising what was previously happening.

Whilst the scale of the unfolding crisis upends anything we have collectively experienced, there will be a time when we start to emerge. It is difficult to start the conversation about recovery when the country is responding to such serious challenges. But it is very important because the nature of this conversation will have a huge and lasting effect.

Public and political interest in civic and community life before this crisis was huge. As people come together to care for their shielded neighbours, or organise mutual aid groups to look after each other, new community identities are emerging.

It reflects a truth we have increasingly come to appreciate. People want to learn more about their neighbours, make connections and relationships with people nearby. This is a moment when everything could change.

The built environment world has been charged and is grappling with how to keep the show on the road. Planning applications are now already being processed virtually. But the required community involvement in applications is far greater in complexity. An enforced and very rapid transition to the digital world is in progress.

In many ways this is welcome; there are compelling reasons for every planning discussion to include an open, inclusive online conversation. But the opportunity is so much greater than just digitally replacing what has gone before. The opportunity is not to recover to a previous norm. It is about creating something new, vibrant and extraordinary that builds on the green shoots of community that are sprouting everywhere.

To do this, the built environment world of councils, developers, architects and engineers in partnership with every community, must grasp three nettles:

  • Committing to developing a genuinely shared understanding of the needs of every community about its place
  • Embracing the open and democratic nature of digital conversations, and figuring out how to nurture these rather than shut them down
  • Using digital tools to help empower successful, collaborative communities that can extend the spirit of Covid-19 into a new norm of co-living.

This is our vision: Connect people to their place and community in a way that accelerates positive change for everyone.

It’s what the recovery has to be about achieving.


Mike Saunders

Mike Saunders

Mike is the CEO and Co-Founder of Commonplace, an online community engagement tool that promotes trust between residents, property developers and local government.