Case Studies: Digital Participation
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High Street Renewal Project | Streets Reimagined
East Street is a historical, and much loved high street located a few miles to the south of Bristol city-centre. Like many high streets of its kind, it has experienced challenges in recent years with the decline in physical retail.
Streets Reimagined were recently commissioned as part of a multi-disciplinary team by Bedminster Business Improvement District, Bristol City Council and developer partners to create a spatial vision for East Street.
Stage 1 of the project has been undertaken before and during the Coronavirus, lockdown using a ‘mixed-method’ approach, including observational analysis, historical research and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. We also developed a digital community engagement platform with an interactive map and user-centred surveys which have generated more than 700 interactions to date.
High Street Renewal Project (ongoing): aims to develop proposals to reimagine a historic high street (www.eaststreetvision.com). Includes an interactive geographical map.
Community-led plan | Place Studio
We have prepared an approach that seeks to enable people to engage in different ways throughout the project - to enable 'depth' and 'breadth'. We want to balance a range of digital tools to enable people to engage with the project in ways in which they feel are accessible.
We are also linking into a few physical events (bearing in mind the restrictions of the pandemic) to give people an opportunity to find out more about the project and to get out into the place to show people how to use the digital tool (i.e. place check) out and about.
Breadth: website/stakeholder email list / Place Check map/newsletter
Depth: Online focus groups (via zoom) for different stakeholder groups including schools and youth groups / Google forms / Place Check https://placecheck.info/en/ walkabouts - taking the phone or tablet out to populate the digital map whilst out on a walk
Co-PLACE | Nottingham City Council
Co-PLACE is an open resource that offers tools, techniques and examples of best practice for Place-making engagement during the design and planning stages. Training and up-skilling sessions and courses are also available for individuals and for organisations.
PlaceChangers | Digital Tool
PlaceChangers is a digital public engagement platform based on interactive maps and designed to aggregate feedback to facilitate reporting. Our short-term aims are to expand the platform toward many greater value-adds for architects, planners and developers managing a site portfolio. Our long-term aim is to build an industry-standard toolset which becomes part of the best practices of the industry.
PlaceChangers is the digital tool involved. It's been used by several firms for community engagement at various phases, and most commonly to support planning applications. These projects have ranged from needs analyses to town-sized masterplans. The overarching benefit of PlaceChangers is that it's easy to use on mobile or desktop, and easy to share online, meaning developers, architects and local authorities have been able to reach out to people who might not turn up to a public exhibition.
Shomiround | Digital Tool
Shomiround is a mobile app designed to facilitate community engagement with environmental issues.
Our project aims to increase participation in community engagement in local planning policy decisions by use of recording data on the phone. The ability to photograph, geotag and add audio and text commentary allows a wider spectrum of society to put forward their views, and to have their voices included in discussions that influence their lives.
Our project gathers community feedback on the places that matter to them, during Covid-19 and social distancing. People are looking for greater ways to connect to their built environments and each other, and digital tools facilitate that directly. Our project works with local groups, like historical societies and girl guides, using our app to share personal stories, insights and tours. These tours deepen engagement with planning issues, cultural heritage, migration and demographics and personal and oral histories of place.
We used Shomiround, a bespoke app for art and architecture tours. Users are empowered to provide their own take on the places that are meaningful to them, through a decentralized platform. Users provide their own photos, their own captions and audio recordings in a layered tour. While the app was developed before the pandemic, its structure is suited to gathering meaningful place data in a way that’s compatible with social distancing.
Woodside Making Places | RaeburnFarquharBowen
The Woodside Making Places project will transform the streets, green-spaces, play areas and courtyards of Woodside; creating an attractive, multi-functional green infrastructure network with a strong sense of place. The project will integrate walking and cycling routes, biodiverse habitats, sustainable rainwater drainage, vibrant doorstep play and edible landscapes.
The design will be informed by engagement with the local community. We are asking local people to help guide design decisions and ensure the needs of the local community are identified and met throughout the design process. This first stage of consultation has been to engage positively with the local community, introduce the project aspirations, listen to people’s thoughts on the environment around them, and then to present concept designs for them to comment upon.
These initial concept designs are at a preliminary stage, and The Woodside Making Places team are now incorporating feedback from this first stage of consultation to present the updated designs for another period of review in October.
Digital tools have been paramount in our engagement process to date, to enable dialogue and communication of information. Online, we created a bespoke consultation website for the project at www.woodsidemakingplaces.org.uk (via SquareSpace). We used Disquis integrated online discussion board forum and videos we used to help ground the proposals in the existing areas and to help the community orientate themselves on the plans.
We also made use of social media, particularly a targeted Facebook group and our own Twitter networks. We are engaging with the PlaceChangers digital platform, which we can integrate within our existing website. We are also able to include a ‘guided tour’ functionality, helping us better explain the proposals in detail.
Albion Waterside Regeneration | JTP Partnership
Albion Waterside Regeneration, Gravesend, a brownfield, an urban site that will include new homes, new commercial uses, public space, and pedestrian access to the riverside in a previously inaccessible area. Over the last three months, JTP has sought the local community’s issues, dreams, and ideas on possible uses for the Albion Waterside site and its relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood. All comments received from the community have been fed to the design team as they work up a Vision for the site.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have not been able to hold face to face meetings and exhibitions, so we have ensured easily accessible engagement with the community digitally via the Create Streets ‘Communities’ platform in tandem with physical newsletters and a Freephone number.
The initial leaflet had a detachable Freepost postcard for people to send in their comments instead of using the online platform. The combined approach of digital, hard copy printed material delivered door to door and Freephone will ensure nobody from the community is excluded from the process by lack of access to technical hardware or skills. Combining digital and printed will ensure the process remains open, transparent and interactive.
Making Together | Automated Architecture
Our project 'Making Together' with Knowle West Media Centre and funded by South West Creative Technology Network and Transforming Construction Network Plus aims to bring advanced technologies to the hands of everyday people by creating accessible design software using Augmented Reality and gaming platforms, as well as new modular housing systems, to design and build homes and community spaces.
The project broadly aimed to address the fact that construction remains one of the least digitised industries worldwide, heavily reliant on manual labour practices. As automation slowly becomes more widely embraced in construction, due to a significant labour shortage, a primary focus of construction automation R&D has been increasing productivity, which has remained stagnant since the post-war period. This is predominantly done by replacing human labour with robotic labour, requiring significant capital investment. Yet the benefit in short term labour cost savings makes a little notable impact on existing inefficient, production chains.
We developed a browser-based design application in Unity that enabled people without any knowledge of design to access a modular housing system, making design processes that are usually held in the hands of designers and architects available to people without expertise in design or housing. We also created an Augmented Reality application that allowed people to fabricate and assemble the modular housing system in real-life and real-time. We used Mozilla Hubs as a virtual platform for discussing and sharing work, providing those without access to physical exhibition spaces during lockdown to experience the work created in our project.
Hush City | Antonella Radicchi
Hush City is a free, citizen science mobile app, which empowers people to identify and assess quiet areas in cities as to create an open-access, web-based map of quiet areas, with the potential of orientating plans and policies for healthier living, in response to issues framed by European environmental policies (e.g. the EC END 49/2002).
Our cities are becoming noisier by the hour. Only in Europe, over 125 million people are affected by noise pollution from traffic every year (EEA 2014), and apparently, quietness is becoming a luxury available only to a few of us. By using this free mobile app, you will contribute to making quietness available to all those who appreciate it, and you will generate open data, which can be exploited by policymakers and planners to monitor and protect the quiet areas crowdsourced.
Hush City app will help you to identify, access and evaluate everyday quiet areas in your neighbourhoods. You can find places such as small, quiet spots where you can go to escape the city’s chaos, relax, read a book, play with your kids, and have a pleasant conversation.
Ideascape: Porth Teigr | Calvium
Porth Teigr was part of the world’s busiest port in the nineteenth century, Cardiff Docks. Today, driven by sustainable developers igloo, the area is undergoing significant regeneration.
In order to identify how digital technologies can positively impact upon the success and sustainability of Porth Teigr, now and in the future, Calvium was commissioned through the Porth Teigr Community Fund to undertake an in-depth six-month research project. Entitled ‘Ideascape: Digital Placemaking for Porth Teigr’ the project identified ways in which digital placemaking can contribute to the social, cultural and economic prosperity of Porth Teigr; thereby enhancing the quality of life of its stakeholder communities.
Using diverse creative methods, and drawing upon their local knowledge of the area, stakeholders were invited to imagine novel ways in which digital technologies could be harnessed, using the seven core themes of the Porth Teigr Community Fund as their guide.
The Ideascape showcase was an open, friendly and accessible event that provoked attendees to imagine how location-specific digital products, services and experiences could provide new ways for people to experience the public spaces of Porth Teigr.
The majority of projects were interactive prototypes that ranged from augmented reality binoculars and a booking service for public space to a geolocated audio tour telling the history of the on-site lock keepers cottage. A few projects were presented as posters or as topics for discussion.
Community Engagement in Times of Covid-19 |Hester Street
The COVID crisis has made many tried-and-tested ways to engage communities difficult, if not impossible to deploy. At the same time, the devastating fallout of the pandemic makes centring the voices of those most impacted more critical than ever. With the shift to quarantine living, we must resist a rush to all online engagement. As before COVID, digital tactics alone will never sufficiently engage vulnerable populations.
To be effective, we must be creative and proactive at the same time we are being safe. This guide was created for community organizations, government agencies and other practitioners and contains a range of methods to conduct inclusive and equitable community engagement in challenging circumstances
Tips and methods on:
Principles & Approach
Tools & Tactics
Inclusive Facilitation Tips & Practices
Future of the High Street |Edinburgh Living Lab
This project combines citizen engagement and co-design with urban data and research - to better understand and pilot two 'tweaks' that aim to help support the high street to become a more successful and liveable place as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. A toolkit of 6 possible ideas to tackle common high street challenges has been developed through digital co-design workshops with local businesses and other stakeholders from Gorgie/Dalry high street and Dalkeith town centre. Two ideas have been selected to be rapidly prototyped, piloted and evaluated on-site in June 2021.
These 'high street tweaks' aim to produce some immediate benefit for local high street businesses and the high street more holistically as a place, whilst exploring the potential for longer-term adaptation, resilience or improvements. The project is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and delivered by the Edinburgh Futures Institute and Edinburgh Living Lab in collaboration with the Data-Driven Innovation programme and New Practice architects.