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Managing Timing and Aspirations within an Engagement Process

For our 18th Conversation Lab, we were delighted to host a captivating session focused on the vibrant topic of Engagement in Co-design. It proved to be an enlightening and invigorating online discussion, exploring various facets of engagement dynamics throughout project timelines, all while weaving in insights from our recent publication on the RIBA Engagement Overlay.


We were grateful to our guest Sebastian Weise, founding director of PlaceChangers, for sharing invaluable experiences in co-design projects. He emphasised the significance of early involvement of external voices in the design process, employing innovative tools such as BIM, collaborative mapping, and digital resources to ensure seamless communication and transparency. Community-based design processes underscored the importance of teamwork, advocating for dedicated engagement leads to steer the path towards fostering healthier engagement patterns.



The dialogue was rich with critical insights, ranging from the importance of early-stage engagement to the necessity of a dedicated engagement team independent of the design team. Balancing community aspirations with client interests emerged as a key theme, highlighting the need for a mutual learning process. Demonstrating project impact and processes to all involved parties, as well as registering risks early on, were identified as crucial steps to avoid potential setbacks.


Discussions also delved into the challenges of local planning phases, advocating for diverse voices and increased involvement of local authorities to ensure effective community engagement. The significance of transparency, coupled with the utilisation of master plan reports and qualitative data, was stressed for successful project development. Towards the end of the discussion, there were even explorations around utilising AI during early stages of design to get a steer on the potential feedback a particular community may give, in order to direct design more consciously. 


Amidst these stimulating discussions, positive feedback was echoed regarding the utility of the RIBA Overlay, with participants acknowledging its potential to facilitate effective project briefs. Additionally, participants were introduced to BirkenEd’s Place, an exemplary initiative fostering community solidarity and engagement in regenerating Birkenhead.


Overall, the session was a dynamic exchange of ideas, fostering a conducive environment for learning and collaboration. We were joined by a group of participants who cared deeply about meaningful engagement. For those who missed it, we invite you to explore the RIBA Overlay and join us for future conversations. Tickets for our next lab, focusing on Stakeholder Mapping, are now available.


We look forward to continuing this journey of exploration together!


Link to RIBA Overlay


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