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Brilliant industry reaction to the Engagement Overlay

The Engagement Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work was launched in January 2024, distributed widely and has definitely captured the imaginations of built environment professionals from across the UK. Link here

"This feels like a seismic moment in co-designing with communities and a long overdue one!!! Hurrah! Congratulations and a huge Thank You to All that made it happen." Angela Koch, Founding Director @ImaginePlaces
"Congratulations on synthesising so much complexity to such a clear overlay. I will look forward to discussing with Igloo Regeneration colleagues around our Footprint methodology!" Alexandra Notay, PfP Capital

What is the RIBA Plan of Work?

The RIBA Plan of Work organises the process of briefing, designing, constructing and operating building projects into eight stages and explains the stage outcomes, core tasks and information exchanges required at each stage.

What is the Engagement Overlay?

The Engagement Overlay demystifies the engagement process. It's main objective is to provide a standardised approach and baseline for architects and other built environment professionals to enhance the quality of engagement with all stakeholders and to create capacity for public participation beyond traditional methods of solely informing and consulting. It provides the mechanisms and structure for facilitating early, effective and proportionate engagement throughout all work stages, while adhering to the existing RIBA Plan of Work framework.

The Association of Collaborative Design's goal is for the industry adoption of the Overlay to raise standards, ensuring the collaborative engagement process becomes an integral and effective component of the entire built environment lifecycle and creative process.

Why is there excitement about the Engagement Overlay?

To begin with, the Overlay is a truly collaborative piece of work, with contributions from over 30 different organisations. As such, it is firmly rooted in practice and speaks the language of built environment professionals.

"I want to congratulate the team for this work, it is such an achievement, so necessary, I can’t tell you how useful this will be. Thank you so much!" Laura Alvarez, Nottingham City Council
"This looks brilliant! This is a major piece of work and addresses a big gap". Robert Delius, Stride Treglown

During the two years of research that led up to the writing and publication of the Engagement Overlay, there has been a noticeable shift in the willingness and desire of built environment professionals to adopt more meaningful engagement. There are a range of reasons for this including an appreciation that:

  • poor quality engagement can lock in inequality 

  • meaningful engagement increases the likelihood of schemes being taken forward due to community buy-in, thereby de-risking projects

  • embracing local knowledge helps create designs that are rooted in the community's identity and reflective of its history and culture.

In addition to these points, national policies and guidance are increasingly noting the value of community engagement at the earliest stage, and many projects have social value embedded in the brief - a clear requirement for engagement.

“Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.” National Planning Policy Framework 2023

The Engagement Overlay has only been published for a month and we are delighted by its reception so far. The ACD team is storming ahead with our promotion of the Overlay in 2024 and we shall be monitoring its adoption and impact over the months and years ahead!

Please contact the ACD if you wish to adopt the Engagement Overlay in your own work:


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