Collecting community input on the design of Wick High Street
By Amy Outterside | Thu, Oct 29, 2020
3 min read
Since 2019, the Sustrans Street Design team in Scotland have been engaging with the community of Wick. Having begun their project pre-pandemic, Sustrans’ used Commonplace to help reach back out to the community in the design process, and make sure they could close the loop on the initial feedback.
Sustrans is a charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle in their local area. Their Street Design programme empowers local communities to transform their neighbourhoods and urban spaces. Their approach is truly collaborative, one that works effortlessly with the Commonplace online engagement platform, amplifying the wishes and needs of the local community.
Engaging with the Wick community
Wick is a relatively small community up in the Highlands in Scotland with population of only 7,333 people. During this engagement, Sustrans were keen to reach out to local residents, business owners and visitors in Wick to find out what they like about the town centre and to hear their ideas about the changes they'd like to see.
Sustrans were committed to use every means possible to engage with the local community to ensure that their views were represented and the new proposal would work for everyone.
In October 2019, the team visited Wick to engage with the community about the project and gather initial feedback. This in-person exercise was vital, however when combined with Commonplace’s Community Community Heatmap , the process was elevated by enabling a structured approach to gathering information from the community. The heatmap continued to support contributions over time that weren’t collected on the day of the visit.
“When using a co-design approach, we don’t simply present our ideas and designs to the community. We want to hear first-hand the communities needs and aspirations for the area. From those doing the school run, working in local businesses, socialising or simply passing through. Commonplace helped us to understand what’s happening in the neighbourhood and be inspired by local residents to produce a design that was truly collaborative and inclusive.”Kazia Koziel, Project Lead at Sustrans
When the pandemic hit in March, community engagement was suspended. The team finalised the concept designs remotely, based on all the interactions they’d had with the community since October 2019. They were then able to share the new proposed designs via the Commonplace Design Feedback tool so that community members could interact with the project from the safety of their own homes.
Responding to feedback
In August 2020, the team showcased the draft proposals for the High Street and Market Square to gather community feedback. Because of social distance restrictions, Sustrans couldn't reach out to the community in the same way as they did in the initial consultation. Instead, they decided to build a mix of traditional print techniques to complement the Commonplace digital engagement hub as part of their overall engagement strategy.
The team sent out paper surveys with free post return envelopes to encourage those who were not as comfortable using digital tools to participate. These surveys replicated the questions asked in the online consultation and were later uploaded onto Commonplace so that all the feedback could be collected in one place. Proposals were open for comments between the 24th of August and the 14th of September, receiving over 400 responses in total.
“To ensure we engaged with as much of the community and ensure the project is inclusive as possible, we promoted the proposed designs through on-street promotion, leaflets and social media. We’ve been fortunate to have extensive local coverage of the project, from local newspapers to radio and TV including one of the team members being interviewed on BBC Alba.” Kasia Koziel, Project Lead at Sustrans
The collaborative process continues to be successful, with the proposals and recommendations being positively received by 69% of the community. Most notably, the locals feel that the designs “brighten up” the area by adding artwork, greenery, and creative lighting. Naturally, concerns were also highlighted, largely surrounding access for larger vehicles and availability of spaces for blue badge holders.
At the start of October, Sustrans laid out all of the concerns and addressed each one systematically through a feedback document posted on the platform’s news function. By combining the news function with a visual feedback document, the information can be easily shared across the community, either through social media posts, or printing out and distributing.
(© Sustrans Scotland)
Sustrans provide a fantastic example of how to optimise the use of the Commonplace platform throughout their design process. The Wick Street Design project makes it abundantly clear that when collaboration is fuelled by various communication channels that produce structured responses which can be fused with real time data, the efforts of both the designers and the community are better directed.