Growing cross-sector design collaboration in placemaking
London National Park City (LNPC) is a grassroots movement aiming to make London greener, healthier and wilder. They support a network of locally based Rangers across the city to connect and support thousands of people leading change in their own neighbourhoods. One of the Rangers who delivered a cross-pollination workshop in Barnet, Becky Lyons, connected us with Ed Santry and Mark Cridge from LNPC, who were interested in exploring the cross-pollination approach with a wider group of their Rangers.
Thus, on Saturday 11 February 2023, the cross-pollination project team delivered a workshop with a group of 10 LNPC Rangers working across Greater London, at Phoenix Garden in Soho. Our afternoon workshop explored the cross-pollination approach, helping the Rangers consider how they could implement the ideas, methods and tools in each of their local areas.
Although many of the Rangers had worked together before through previous LNPC activities, there were some new connections in the room alongside the research team. In order to break the ice and get to know each other a little better, we started the afternoon by inviting each participant to write 10 words, to introduce themselves and their reasons for being a Ranger.
We then split the Rangers into two groups, taking them through the steps of the cross-pollination approach, which uses an asset-based perspective to highlight and value participants' existing connections and skills. By inviting the Rangers to step into the workshop as active participants, we shared the cross-pollination ideas and approach through doing. Our hope is that by allowing each Ranger to experience cross-pollination, they will then be able to develop and adapt it for their own areas and communities. This also offered an opportunity for this group of Rangers to connect their assets (projects, people and places), and discuss future project ideas. This allowed the Rangers to explore the synergies between each other's work.
The resource draws on our learning from this project, as well as previous research and knowledge exchange projects that have used cross-pollination in a variety of contexts. The A4 booklet provides a brief introduction and context to cross-pollination, examples of where and how it has been used before, and a practical guide to using the cross-pollination approach in a workshop.
After having experienced cross-pollination in action, and having had a brief exploration of the Cross-pollination Resource, we invited the Rangers to use these ideas and themes to consider how they could apply the approach in their own local areas, or with their communities of interest. We used an action planning sheet, asking them to define ‘what’ (the theme and place their workshop would explore), ‘why’ (this theme is important and why they need their communities voices) and ‘who’ (they need in the room, and how they might be able to bring in a variety of voices).
We hope that by providing Rangers with an introductory workshop, the Cross-pollination Resource and a short action planning session, the Rangers were able to leave the workshop feeling equipped and inspired to use the approach in their own localities to generate and enable cross-sector collaboration in placemaking.
Film-maker Emma Crouch joined us for the day at Phoenix Gardens, and you can watch her beautiful capture of the day here.
Blog post by Elly Mead, Design Champion, The Glass-House Community Led Design
On the 11th of February 2023 the cross-pollination project team delivered a workshop bringing a group of London National Park City rangers together to explore the cross-pollination approach, and start developing ways to adapt and use it to support collaborative work in their local areas.
The film produced by Emma Crouch captures the event and the team's and participants' thoughts about this collaboration.
An important objective of the Cross-pollination project has been to develop ways to help cascade and enable cross-pollination across locations, disciplines and sectors, in order to enable inclusive and sustainable placemaking processes and outcomes.
Drawing on what we have learned through this and previous research and knowledge exchange projects using cross-pollination in a variety of contexts, we developed a booklet which provides a brief introduction to the cross-pollination approach, examples of where and how it has been used to date, and some practical tools to help others use cross-pollination in their work or area.
We hope that the resource will be valuable to anyone interested in exploring the value and mechanisms of collaborative working and in applying them in their local project, however big or small. This includes community leaders, community engagement professionals, voluntary organisations, local authorities, businesses or members of public bodies supporting placemaking.
The booklet was designed so that it can be read online, but it also contains materials which can be printed out and used in a workshop context. More specifically:
We welcome your views about the resource, particularly if you are planning to adapt and use it.
Click on the image below to download:
Gleadless Valley was formerly a rural area, which was developed as a large housing project of over 4,000 dwellings, between 1955-62 by Sheffield Council. Gleadless Valley has many assets, including a strong local community, its proximity to the city centre and the local green spaces and woodlands. However, it is an area that experiences high levels of poverty and associated issues in terms of health and wellbeing, education and employment and crime and ASB. The area has a fragile infrastructure in terms of the voluntary, community and faith sector. This was exacerbated by the collapse of the local hub organisation, Reach South Sheffield in late 2020. Which left a further gap in the area, both in terms of delivering services for local people (including the local library) and providing support for other small community groups and organisations.
The Gleadless Valley Partnership includes a number of groups formed to oversee a capacity building project in the area for which Sheffield Council secured a modest amount of funding. The groups involved in the partnership are Gleadless Valley TARA, Gleadless Valley foodbank, the 2 local churches, Holy Cross Church and Gleadless Valley Methodist Church, Heeley City Farm and Heeley Trust.
However, in the past 12-24 months, to a great extent due to the pandemic, the partners have not all been able to meet regularly. The Cross-pollination project was seen as an opportunity to help the organisations who make up the partnership (and broader stakeholders including the council, police, local businesses) understand more about what their own strengths, assets, aims and priorities are, and how they come together to create a shared vision for the partnership going forward. The community capacity building project provides an opportunity for the partnership to take their relationship to another level in terms of working together to build a more sustainable future for the Gleadless Valley Community.
Three members of the partnership attended a cross-pollination session delivered by The Open University and The Glass-House Community Led Design which introduced the approach, and its main principles and mechanisms. The partnership was then provided with a set of materials and seed funding to run a cross-pollination workshop at a venue in Sheffield. An independent facilitator from Voluntary Action Sheffield was commissioned to help run the workshop.
The workshop was attended by 18 participants who started the conversation by sharing their hopes for the day, all by and large centered around collaborative working and unlocking people’s strengths and potential. Next, using the cross-pollination cards provided by the Cross-pollination project team, participants discussed the projects they were already working on or would like to do.
Finally, to help facilitate thinking about their collective skills, resources, connections and places, the group first agreed their top 3 priorities to focus on. These were: the Gleadless Valley Festival; Community Hubs; and Activities for Young People & Families.
Following the workshop the partnership started planning the community festival for next summer and planting the seeds for the connecting hubs project. The community capacity building project starting at the end of 2022 - beginning of 2023 is expected to provide some additional community development capacity to support the Partnership to continue to grow and develop a community plan where the values and ethos of cross-pollination will continue to be embedded.
The following bullet point offer some reflections on the outputs and outcomes of the cross-pollination approach:
Thanks to Diane Owens, South LAC Manager for providing the information for this blog post.
In this blog post, David Henderson, Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) and Jac Reichel, Glasgow Community Food Network (GCFN) introduce themselves and their connection to the project and reflect on their experience exploring cross-sector collaboration in Glasgow's East End.
David: I work for the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) which is funded by the Scottish Government to support community groups apply their legal rights to own and make use of land and buildings in Scotland. I can’t remember how I got involved in the research other than I was invited at attend an online meeting facilitated by The Glass-House and Open University bringing together potential participants from Glasgow and London.
Jac: I work for Glasgow Community Food Network's Food & Climate Action Project. At the time of the Cross Pollination project, I was working specifically in the East End of Glasgow, trying to engage and support local organisations and community members to become more involved in the local community food movement and raise awareness of how our food system is linked to the climate crisis. I got involved in the Cross Pollination project after David invited me to take part as the work I was doing already in the area was closely aligned with the aims of the project.
The Glasgow East End group participating in the cross-pollination research project followed a circuitous route and, while the outcomes were different to what the project team initially expected, it produced a lot of learning on the way.
Following the online meeting facilitated by The Glass-House and Open University, the Glasgow participants agreed to come together for an event at Many Studios in the East End of Glasgow, near the historic Barras.
The East End of Glasgow is a heavily industrialised part of the City which has many fine buildings reflective of Glasgow’s industrial heritage and also, sadly, some of the City’s most entrenched inequalities in terms of income and health outcomes. It is also a home to many people seeking asylum or refugee status in Scotland, often living under intolerable pressures for long periods of time while their ‘status’ is determined, and often without recourse to employment.
At the online workshop we had discussed this particular part of the city and the idea of using ‘unloved’ patches of land as a point of focus for the community to come together and collaborate. Many Studios emerged as an interesting place to try a cross-pollination activity because of its interest in a nearby scrap of ‘unloved’ land owned by Scottish Power. Architects working at the design practice based at Many Studios had taken an interest in the patch, hoping to create a small, simple ‘pocket garden’ which would allow people to sit, reflect, enjoy a cup of tea in a busy part of the city with few green space opportunities. One of the participants in the online workshop had also met a local person seeking asylum who had talked about how positive it would be to create a quiet space for people to meet. I was personally keen to see an East End project emerge because in my work with communities in Glasgow, promoting community ownership rights, the inner East End is not an area with lots of activity known to me.
Screenshots from the whiteboard used on the online workshop
18 people attended a face-to-face cross-pollination workshop, from a very wide range of backgrounds. A discussion process was facilitated by The Glass-House and Open University using a variety of visual and interactive techniques and amazing food (especially for us veggies) provided by a local social enterprise, Soul Food Sisters. It was a very positive and exciting discussion, with lots of very different approaches coming together.
One of the main ideas to emerge from that event, for me personally, was the idea of links between community venues – paths, walks, involving those in the community who felt isolated, to make connections with the great many social and community enterprises which exist in the East and Central parts of Glasgow. I think this is a simple but potentially very valuable idea combining gentle healthy activity, addressing isolation and improving access and links between community facilities. We wanted to see the Many Studios patch become part of a wider network.
Images from the first cross-pollination workshop facilitated by the cross-pollination team
Following this session, we struggled to achieve the traction needed. This was partly because we hadn’t factored in the timescales and sensitivities around Many Studios’ role but it was also because the groundwork hadn’t been laid. We didn’t have buy in from the local resident community or local community organisations with a stake in making the project work.
We did reach out through our networks and that produced some valuable connections. One of these connections was with the Glasgow Community Food Network who helped promote the collaborative principles supported by the cross-pollination project. I attended an outdoor event facilitated by GFCN in Elcho Gardens attended by 20 people, hearing their plans and actions to create a more sustainable, environmentally aware Glasgow with greater opportunities for connection, very much in the spirit of our Many Studios event. Again, food played an important role!
And while the prospect of the ‘pocket garden’ as our focus for joint action receded - to be developed hopefully by Many Studios over a longer time period - it was evident from the Elcho Gardens event, and those before it, that there were a great many talented and able people with socially minded projects struggling to find land to realise their ambitions – from animal sanctuaries, to community growing, through to wood reuse projects (unfortunately none of the projects started with a ‘Z’!).
Working with GCFN therefore, using their networks, we decided to host an event on 22nd of September 2022 at Many Studios. Attended by around 15 people, this was a lively event. Presentations were given by COSS (me!) on the community rights in relation to licences, leases and ownership, Rosie from Many Studios talked about the architects’ plans for the pocket garden and Mo Anne McCormick from the Concrete Garden, an urban community growing and play project in the heart of the City. This inspired discussion and connection and follow-up contact in all kinds of directions (I know because I’m still taking enquiries!). The evaluation highlighted the value of the event, as one participant said:
“Hearing about the asset transfer process and the journey of the Concrete Garden and the general networking was really useful.”
I’ve evaluated cross-pollination projects and partnerships but never actually been part of one! What I’d say was genuinely very exciting is being part of an environment where you really have to look at things from fresh angles and then think “where can I apply my own knowledge and skills?”. We live of increasing professional complexity and within our own political echo chambers – this is a way to break down some of those barriers.
Image from the follow up workshop facilitated by the Glasgow Community Food Network
Celebrating our Gurnos
On a lovely sunny Saturday at the end of September, people on the outskirts of Merthyr got together to celebrate the place and community of Gurnos. The celebration was the outcome of several activities in partnership with the Open University in Wales as part of two different projects: the Creu Cyffro Community Renewal Funded project, led by Wellbeing Merthyr, and the AHRC funded Cross-pollination project collaboratively led by the Open University and The Glass-House Community Led DesignCelebrating our Gurnos was in part the outcome of a Cross-pollination workshop held at an earlier event in June. The workshop brought together members of the local authority and local organisations to see how they could connect, share assets and skills and develop an activity that will benefit local people while building a legacy for continued collaboration in Gurnos.
It was decided that the event should not be on one single location but for the local residents to connect in different areas around the neighbourhood and to experience the variety of green spaces Gurnos has to offer. By having one central location, at a local secondary school, with different satellite activities spread over the local area, people were encouraged to walk around the area to enjoy the different activities that were taking place, from music to graffiti workshops, from free food to outdoor craft workshops, and from bouncy castles to music events.
Due to the sun coming out after a rainy period it was a busy day, with over two hundred people exploring their neighbourhood at the different locations and moving between sites as planned. We were at the main event location inside the secondary school, where different local organisations and stakeholders had a chance to set out the stalls and engage with the community. Located in the sports / assembly hall, there were also free refreshments and tables and chairs for the people to take a break from the walking between activities. There was also the school's resident artist doing some craft workshops for the whole family to enjoy.
Creative Connector - the Sharpie
We set out our stall and pin boards to hopefully do Cross-pollination, using our prompt cards, with local residents and see if we could identify projects or activities and facilitate connections. However the day went a little different than planned. Being in the main area with the free refreshments the footfall was ‘tidy’ (good) as the Welsh would say. Even so, it proved hard to draw the adults in for conversations and to engage with the cards, especially as most adults were there with their young children.
However, creativity as we have seen before is a great one for breaking boundaries and lowering thresholds to engage. It was the children that came to our table, drawn by the colourful sharpie pens that were there and white paper. So we engaged with them to ask them what they really enjoyed about Gurnos. We got a wall full of amazing drawings from the local children sharing their joy of the area. Whilst the kids were eagerly colouring away, it gave us a great opportunity to talk to the parents and get a few to engage with our prompt cards.
Through the research we have found that the language used to communicate the Cross-pollination activities is very important. It proved that the cards were maybe not the right tool for this type of open day event. The prompt cards talk about projects, people, place and skills. Not words that immediately evoce engagement with the adults. Also most of the people in the hall were in transition, they were getting a drink or bite to eat and talking to different stakeholders, so the cards didn’t grab their attention.
Larger sized posters, A 1 size, to quickly capture responses along the corridor might have been more attractive. The posters need to have a call to action and more self referential wording, asking the people to respond to the three areas of interest in a more proactive way. ‘I am involved’, ‘I would like to see,’ and ‘I can contribute (Do or Offer)’ would have been better placed at an open day event.
Community resources and confidence
When we did speak to the local residents it was clear why the wording, ‘Projects I would like to do:’ or ‘Projects I am currently working on:’ were a barrier. The main demographic were working single parents and young families, with additional care responsibilities. Between work and care responsibilities people felt that they just did not have enough capacity or capability to contribute .
However, when prompted about the things they are good at, despite an initial lack of confidence, some participants did reveal amazing skills and practical know-how, from creative skills, management skills, sports capabilities, or knowledge of how services work. There is always hidden potential in people, and sometimes all that is needed is to just take the time to engage with them meaningfully, and to create real opportunities for them to grow and contribute their skills. The prompt cards are an artefact that can create a moment for people to take stock of what they do, and make them see it as valuable.
There were many people involved to make Celebrating our Gurnos a successful day. It was great to see many people take pride in their home place and feel so connected with their neighbours and neighbourhood.
One of the conditions for community events like these to come about is that you need connectors; community connectors and enabling connectors. The ‘Queen Bee’ pollinator and connectors for this area was Lee Davies (Wellbeing Merthyr), a local councillor who is active on the ground trying to make Gurnos the best place it can be. As a place agent he was well equipped to get other local organisations and stakeholders round the table. Another community connector was Ross Williams (Merthyr Valleys Homes), who was able to reach out and connect with the community through their established channels. Sarah Roberts and Julia David from OU Wales functioned as Enabling Connectors facilitating the events management and coordinating with all the different groups and individuals delivering activities.
If you’d like to know more, please watch our two films, which capture the day and participants’ voices.
In this guest blog post, Becky Lyon (https://www.elasticfiction.co/) shares some top tips for hosting a cross-pollination session, based on her experience of using the approach with her local network of community-based ecology initiatives in Barnet. All images courtesy of Ben Elford.
Barnet Council was among the last boroughs in the whole of London to declare a climate emergency but where local government lags… grass-roots action is flourishing! The unique borough (1/3 on the green belt) is bursting with initiatives seeking to restore local ecology; resource communities and connect people with their neighbourhoods through nature. As London National Park City’s Ranger for Barnet I saw the cross-pollination method as a fantastic opportunity for these siloed initiatives to meet; collectively identify shared needs and ambitions; and unearth opportunities for mutual collaboration by identifying what abundance and hidden gifts already exist in the neighbourhood!
My ambitions for hosting the event were rooted in simplicity - provide a platform for people to meet (it’s surprising how many like-minded people never cross paths); identify clusters of need in the borough which could be approached collectively (after 10 minutes of conversation you quickly identify four other groups looking to conduct an insect survey); shake out the skills, resources and tools already available in a time of scarcity (these conversations so often hinge on ‘what we don’t have’).
On an early September Sunday, community harvesters, friends-of groups, gardening groups, allotment caretakers, conservationists, tiny forest seeders, biodiversity initiatives, clean-up groups, mothers action networks and allotments convened around “Barnet Gathers” and the afternoon event has already generated some new connections.
Rather than walk you through a play-by-play of what happened, here are some top tips for hosting a rich and fruitful in-person cross-pollination session:
1. Open with an element of play!
People are often meeting for the first time and have different levels of introversion and extroversion. Cross-pollination is all about opening up and (a lot of talking!) so diffusing anxiety by doing something non-verbal or meditative with your hands can help calm and relax people. We asked people to respond to a question using clay and share their “sculptures” but this could also be breathing exercises, drawing or similar.
2. Prep the basics in advance
There is never enough time and you’ll find when people are in a room together - they just want to chat!
You can shave time off lengthy introductions by sending our a “delegates” list before hand (names, pronouns, boroughs, details and links to their organisations). Depending on time, you could also ask attendees to send their ‘post it notes’ in advance so the boards are pre-populated on arrival meaning there is more time for review, thinking, clustering and discussion.
3. Agree a ‘metric for success’ in advance
The challenge with cross-pollination is that often seeds will bloom way after the event! To avoid any unsatisfactory or inconclusive feelings manage expectations of what happens next - it could be as simple as setting up a WhatsApp group to ensure people can stay in touch, or creating a shared resource, in our case the development of a “Barnet Directory” to showcase projects in the borough and broadcast opportunities to get involved. It also helps to communicate that the cross-pollination (as the name suggests) really is about seeding ideas that can grow rather than trouble-shooting.
4. Encourage people to use their imaginations!
The beauty of cross-pollination is that it helps people identify opportunities they wouldn’t have considered before. The simple act of placing one post-it next to another can spark a novel idea or solve a problem. Participants can often feel that laying their skills out on the table obligates them to volunteer work they just can’t fulfil! To diffuse this we had a ‘musical chairs’ segment where people walked around the room; stopped in front of the first person; spent 1 minute explaining something they wanted to do whilst the other person responded with a way they could collaborate in a mutually beneficial way and vice versa. People really enjoyed exploring unlikely / low-pressure connections.
5. Acknowledge different learning types
A group most often comprises participants with varying levels of shyness / dominance, grasp of the English language, energy levels and so on. As well as asking people in advance if they have any access requirements you can help address this by mixing up the levels of social interaction - talking as a full group in a circle; intimate one-to-one chats, small group discussions and solo work. This allows everyone, at some point during the session to flourish on their own terms and contribute / get the most out of the event.
We are pleased that our open call for expressions of interest to deliver cross-pollination events in local places had a very good response from networks across the country. We decided to distribute funds to support three fledgling networks in Machynlleth, London (Barnet) and Sheffield, to come together and start a discussion about the future of their working together and their collective visions for their place.
Each local partner will convene a cross-pollination event (or series of events) by using and adapting the cross-pollination approach to their local context and objectives. We look forward to learn from their creative adaptations and their experiences about what works well and what works less well for the process and for the place. We are already excited Watch this space!
As part of our project we are able to offer support to 2 community-focussed groups or organisations to deliver a “Cross-pollination” event in their neighbourhood as a way to help activate their local networks. The call for expressions of interest is open to any type of organisation across the UK, who is interested to broaden connections and instigate more collaborative work to benefit their place and their communities.
Our Cross-pollination research team can provide:
Successful applicants would have to run the cross-pollination event over the summer and then bring participants back together six weeks later to explore whether and how the network is working differently.
At the end of the initiative, we will also bring together representatives from participating places to share their experiences.
The deadline is extended to the 15th of July.
See more details in the original call: https://bit.ly/3mBsK2M
Apply by filling in this form: https://bit.ly/3NHWbMv
Design Day in Merthyr
On the 17th of June we spent our day in Gurnos, facilitating a creative conversation and forward planning for an Open Day event aiming to catalyse communication and collaboration between local organisations and members of the community.
The day was organised in collaboration with colleagues from the Open University’s partnership team in Wales as part of two projects: the Creu Cyffro Community Renewal Funded project, led by Wellbeing Merthyr, and the AHRC funded Cross-pollination project collaboratively led by the Open University and The Glass-House Community Led Design.
As you can read in our previous post this Design Day came about from an explorative process with different organisations and individuals in Merthyr who discussed challenges, assets and opportunities of the local community, and generated ideas for action that would help improve the place and local people’s relationship to this place and the organisations that support them. The group had decided to focus on Gurnos, one of the most deprived housing areas in Merthyr according to The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.
We started the day with a walk around Gurnos, to familiarise ourselves with the area. We were blessed with a bright blue sky and a light breeze so we took our time to get a feel for the place, the older and newer parts of the estate, and to explore the facilities and possible locations for the open day event.
I was personally struck by the greenery and the large amount of open spaces available, but was also surprised by what seemed to be a lack of engagement with these spaces. Some participants in our group talked about litter or antisocial behaviour, but what I felt was a key challenge here was the lack of a sense of ‘public space’, not in the legal sense, but in a more visceral and affective sense. While uncertainties as to who is responsible for the upkeep of different patches of grass play a role, my observation was more to do with the feeling of ownership and the function of public space as ‘commons’, as a resource which people can use to gather, develop their cultural and social relationships and act as a collective.
There are real issues affecting people’s perception and behaviour in public spaces, such as unemployment, poor health, lack of adequate housing, all contributing to a general lack of aspiration. Yet, all the people who were around me that day showed they deeply care and strive to make things better for the area and its local residents. Homes are gradually being made more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, plans for a new school are in motion, trees are planted, allotment spaces are designated etc. The question is how can local people become more engaged in the decisions that affect them and become empowered to develop ownership of their public space?
Once we returned to our meeting room, in the 3G’s Creative Clinic, we were joined by a couple more individuals who represented initiatives and organisations around Gurnos to help develop more tangible ideas about the Open Day. First, we viewed the Prototyping Utopias film. The film presents the activities and outcomes of a past project which was developed in collaboration with Bow Church, Bow Arts, Bromley by Bow Centre and Poplar HARCA and shared at Utopia Fair at Somerset House in central London, in the summer of 2016. The film provided some inspiration to show how with a few resources, like arts and crafts materials and a lending ear, and unexpected places like a church, can become catalysts for serendipitous encounters, potentially leading to the generation of community visions and actions.
We then broke out in two groups to work things out in more detail. Each group had to come up with a vision statement for the open day and use this in order to explore the shape (structure) of the event and explore a series of questions to help identify the activities, audiences and mechanisms of engagement to be used.
The first group framed the vision of the event as follows: “a space to encourage connection between our diverse community and to champion pride over ‘Your Gurnos’”. The group were keen to ensure that the open day provided a space to champion Gurnos and that an essential part would be showcasing and inviting dialogue around what is good about Gurnos. They talked about how the open day could be used as an opportunity to activate various open spaces and to motivate local people to take ownership and protect them as assets for the community. The creative arts were thought by all to be a useful vehicle for activating the community. The conversation also highlighted the positive effects the creative arts can have in boosting wellbeing, and it was thought that wellbeing should also be a clear focus within the planning of the open day event. Logistically it was felt that the open day should operate at multiple locations; a central location with a series of fringe events which would rotate around the area to allow for an inclusive and accessible way for all communities, individuals and groups to participate.
The second group framed the event as “an opportunity to listen to community voices, capture their diverse, authentic, experiences, and motivate them to engage in co-creation”. The group considered the idea of a series of activities happening in different places over a period of time that produce the content and main attraction for a final event. The group talked about different ways to capture the voices of local people, coming up with the idea for a game that can act as the main attraction, for example using a moveable ‘tree’ that people can ‘speak to’, and record their dreams and aspirations. This metaphor spoke to the fact that streets in Gurnos are named after trees and flowers. They also discussed ideas for involving different groups, schools, local clubs, etc to host and help produce the ‘tree’ itself (e.g. using recycled materials) as well as the content. The group also explored ideas for various activities surrounding the main attraction, offering opportunities for families to get involved. It was considered important that the final event incorporates some form of call to action, inviting local residents to provide input and engage ‘in the next stage’ of moving future initiatives forward.
Reflecting on the ideas of both groups, there seemed to be agreement about the overall shape and principles of the event as something that is both the end of a period of engagement with local people and at the same time the beginning of a new cycle of more meaningful engagement: the seed for more collaboration growing locally.
We ended the day with a quick round of ‘cross-pollination’ using a set of prompts (cross-pollination cards) to record assets and see how they can be connected to further assure the legacy of this initial workshop and of the open day event.
Finally, participants shared their impressions about their day. Some felt excited about the possibilities, hopeful and positive, others felt slightly worried about the timescales, but all highlighted the importance of learning from one another and really listening to what the community has to say. They also banded around the importance of boosting local pride and of creating a new narrative for the community, by overcoming the negatives and celebrating the positives.
The details of the open event are to be decided over the coming months, and perhaps of the many ideas put on the table only a few will be able to be realised between now and the autumn. But it felt like the group made a really good start indeed.
Blog post by Katerina Alexiou, Open University, with Jake Stephenson-Bartley, The Glass-House Community Led Design. Thanks to Nicole Lotz for some of the images.