engaging and mobilising communities

New developments and transport schemes can be controversial when they don't respond to what communities want or are introduced with minimal communication.

 

Transport schemes such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and cycle tracks are vulnerable to noisy opposition and failure unless there is evidence of stronger community backing, even if the benefits are objectively clear.

Consequently, many worthwhile schemes that have been subject to a lot of 'upfront' design work actually fail at the consultation stage, generate conflict and protest or are heavily compromised in some way. For this reason, even if the 'trial is the consultation', it is important to undertake early, pre-design engagement so that the community is able to identify local issues that matter to them

 

When scheme objectives are clear and well-communicated and capacity and knowledge building is included, the usefulness of stakeholders' inputs increases as they play a more central, co-design role in network appraisal and planning.

Online tools such as Commonplace and Placechangers have proved their worth when combined with on-street events and public engagement workshops organised by specialists and facilitated by built environment professionals. A recent online webinar hosted by Commonplace usefully outlines challenges and solutions.

 

We can design and facilitate simple small-scale qualitative engagement workshop-style events, or sub-contract specialists to provide a range of more sophisticated solutions designed to make the most of local knowledge, including mobilising communities to help design their neighbourhoods. The more sophisticated versions include statistical data analysis and mapped comments that pick up themes and common issues. We employ a number of independent engagement specialists whose skills and scope of services can be selected to 'best fit' client requirements.

Engagement helps to:

  • harvest and build local knowledge and understanding of planning and transport systems

  • build participants' understanding of the options available based on successful practice elsewhere

  • establish clear scoping parameters, including limits on what is achievable given existing guidance and legislation.

  • generate workable solutions based on what people tell us about local problems and wishes.

Beyond the service we provide, the professional contributions we draw together include:

  • experienced communications professionals to develop sound communications and media strategies.

  • engagement specialists who design and deliver exciting and immersive stakeholder involvement in planning the future of their areas. This includes robust statistical analysis of results.

  • experienced practitioner-facilitators including strategy / policy specialists (ActivePlanning), highway engineers, landscape architects and urban designers as required.

  • GIS and 3D visualisation specialists to provide mapping and graphic design support.

Examples include:

  • Team London Bridge Cycling Strategy, led by MP Smarter Travel. We arranged and conducted a business workshop, face-to-face discussions with business stakeholders and an on-street pop-up stall that gave the public an opportunity to discuss their experiences and ideas for cycling in the London Bridge area. MP Smarter Travel undertook the qualitative and quantitative analysis.

  • Buckden Parish Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure plan, led by ActivePlanning with CityInfinity and Maps4Planners. We conducted an online survey and arranged an interactive paper-based engagement event at the parish hall. This event included inputs from children at the village primary school.

engagement

we provide or commission stakeholder engagement so that time spent on developing projects is time well-spent.

Specialists we've worked with on projects or tenders include:

Bespoke, a sole trader engagement consultant who draws on his experience working for the London Borough of Waltham Forest's mini-Holland.

BrightKidz, a schools behaviour change specialist in behaviour change communications for children, based in Kettering.

Nicole Crockett, a sole trader specialising in community engagement (no website).

Mobility Lab, a tech-based transport engagement specialist, based in Milton Keynes.

MP Smarter Travel, a consultancy with a long history of finding out why people travel the way they do and what tips the balance towards different travel behaviour.

Open Accessame, a sole trader consultancy specialising in engaging Disabled people in public space design and accessibility assessment (no website).

Placechangers, an engagement platform that enables communities to input ideas to planning and property development projects.

NewPractice, a branding, PR and communications specialist consultancy that provides public engagement and involvement services, based in Glasgow and London.