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URBiNAT principles of user engagement. 6 recommendations from SLA Architects

Copenhagen-based SLA Architects are members of the H2020-funded URBiNAT Consortium which is committed to the promotion of NBS and the creation of Healthy Corridors in 7 cities across Europe (2018 - 2023)

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URBiNAT principles of user engagement. 6 recommendations from SLA Architects

  3. 3. SUPPORT AND DEVELOP LOCAL INITIATIVES 1. Rather than reinventing the wheel when initiating an urban revitalization project, planners and developers should support and link strategies to already existing initiatives – both national and municipal strategies and projects, but also local ones. When dealing with citizen-initiated projects, this approach is called social innovation. It differs from other participation methods by involving the planner in the citizens’ work, and not the other way around. The fundamental idea behind the approach is to create a development that is rooted in the local community. By supporting and developing initiatives and creating synergies with other citizen-initiated projects, planners and developers can foster a sustainable development with huge impact on the local area and its residents, both socially, physically and economically.
  4. 4. COMMUNICATION IS KEY 2. Changing the places where people live can create feelings of insecurity, skepticism and even resistance. Therefore, communication is key. From the beginning, provide residents with a clear overview of the project (goals, expected outputs, project owners, etc.) and the process (what will happen when, how long will it take, etc.). Let residents know when and where they can get more information, and when they can be heard or get involved. Make it clear from the beginning what can be influenced, and what cannot. People will more often get frustrated about broken promises and expectations than about limitations in the extent of their influence. Throughout the process, let residents know how their inputs will be/have been used in the overall project. Have feedback-meetings, where design choices and their background are presented and explained.
  5. 5. • Be clear about what can be influenced when • Consider who should be involved about what – it isn’t necessary for everyone to participate at the same time. To the contrary, some people need special attention and methods to be involved, such as children or socially marginalized people, while other people may only be interested in contributing to specific parts of the project. Map possible stakeholders, groups and people in the area and consider how the get them involved – where can you meet them, what is important to them? • Consider forming an advisory group of residents that can be consulted on a regular basis. Through continuous involvement of a smaller group, the group will build knowledge and expertise to better represent residents’ interests throughout the project. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY 3. Over the last few decades, a re-emerged focus on user/citizen involvement has resulted in a philosophy, where ‘you can never have too much involvement’. However, this approach creates a risk of involvement becoming an end in itself, thereby diminishing the focus on making user involvement matter for the overall quality of the end result. At the same time, it runs the risk of creating ‘involvement fatigue’. This is especially true of socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods, which are often subject to several different revitalization and/or renovation projects simultaneously or in close succession. People are willing to participate when it feels relevant but get frustrated when the process is bureaucratic, feels irrelevant, or if the goal and output is not clear.
  6. 6. TAKE PEOPLE SERIOUSLY - NOT LITERALLY 4. Local residents are experts when it comes to the neighborhood, it’s life, qualities and challenges. Their knowledge is of the utmost importance to create a successful project with a positive impact in the neighborhood. However, it is not the responsibility of residents to create viable design solutions. Layman’s spontaneous design choices are often an expression of a deeper-lying need or wish rather than an ironbound opinion of appropriate design solutions. When discussing design with end-users, designers should provide expertise, know-how and consultation to ensure that the final result will meet the actual needs of the community. Involvement should create formats that encourage sharing of knowledge between designer and residents/users – and it should be about content rather than form.
  7. 7. DEFINE GOALS - AND USE METHODS ACCORDINGLY 5. Be clear about what you want to achieve – and design methods accordingly. Often, the involvement process will have several different goals, such as: Creating ownership of the project among residents, creating understanding of the process and the project, prioritizing and qualifying ideas, and creating better solutions that accommodate people’s needs. Each of these goals require different methods.
  8. 8. MAKE INVOLVEMENT MATTER 6. Making involvement matter is very much a question of process. Coordinating involvement processes with other parts of the project is vital to ensuring that inputs from users/residents will be implemented in design solutions.
  9. 9. 3 CASES
  10. 10. GELLERUP CITY PARK Gellerup is a socioeconomically disadvantaged social housing neighborhood in Aarhus. As part of an overall transformation project, we have created a park for residents and visitors alike. The overall goal was to create value for residents, whose knowledge of the area and wishes for the future have been the framework for design. Understanding local life, cherished places, activities and traditions, challenges and insecurities as well as hopes for the future is crucial to creating a succesful design. Therefore, residents were involved early on to give designers a solid basis to work with. Throughout the process, resident groups provided feedback on design.
  11. 11. HANS TAVSEN’S PARK Hans Tavsen’s Park is an old park given a new design, making it able to handle large amounts of rain water during cloud burst and better at accommodating the needs of locals the rest of the year. The park has to hold a lot of different functions - two playgrounds, a sports field, two schoolyards and the equivalent of 7 olympic swimming pools for storm water, while still maintaining an identity as a local ‘backyard’ to residents. Therefore, an advisory group made up of local residents representative of the neighborhood has been formed. The group is following the project closely and participates in meetings with the design team, the municipality and other stakeholders. Getting to know each other, the project and the many considerations going in to it, the advisory group is able to reach informed compromises while still representing the interests of the community. The advisory group was established by an open sign-up process or by a carefully selection of members of the community. Before anyone else was involved in the process of transforming Hans Tavsen’s Park the local residents were given the task to bring up abstract concepts for their future park.
  12. 12. TINGBJERG Tingbjerg is a social housing neighborhood on the northern outskirts of Copenhagen. SLA is currently making a new masterplan for how to build several hundred new dwellings in a way that will positively impact the neighborhood as a whole. Being a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood, Tingbjerg has been subject to several different development strategies over recent years. As a consequence, residents are weary of participating without concrete results. The massive transformation of the neighborhood has also created insecurity about the future among residents. Communication, therefore, is key, as is connecting the tranformation project with already existing strategies and resident- initiated projects, such as the local common vegetable garden.
  13. 13. PROCESS
  15. 15. Any involvement process should be adapted to the individual project. However, the following model presents important milestones and the interdependence between elements in a basic layout. Preliminary research INSIGHTS Insights with importance for design are gathered and analyzed START UP MEETING Introductory meeting informing about the project and the process Interviews, city walks, discus- sions and workshops with locals Preliminary design prototypes based on local inputs and knowledge CO-DESIGN WORKSHOP Neighbourhood meeting to discuss design. The meeting is based on knowledge and insights gained Prepare co-design workshop MAPPING & CONTACT • Identify key stakeholders, groups and players within the area • Contact and make arrangements with locals and stakeholders who can contribute knowledge in research phase. • Set up advisory group. Continuous discussions, co-creation and feedback from possible advisory group KNOWLEDGECOLLABORATIONDESIGNCOMMUNICATIONCO-IMPL. Design Final design DIALOGUE MEETING Presentation of design and how insights and inputs from residents have been implemented. Prepare dialog meeting CO- IMPLEMENTATION Can be part of the construction phase, either on a voluntary base or through job creation FINALDESIGN INVOLVEMENT PROCESS