Taking a collaborative, community-based approach to real estate development is about to become a requirement - and not just a nicety - of city planning and placemaking in the UK.
The UK Government has published legislation that it describes as a new era of people power, a Localism Bill that will change the way that development is permitted in towns, cities and neighbourhoods and create new opportunities for communities to exercise their rights - and there's a useful cheat-sheet by Colin Buchanan here.
Once the broader programme of reform of the new Administration takes effect, it will become clear whether this is a part of a redistribution of power or a form of devolution of dependency.
In the meantime, the new legislation is a call to creativity and innovation to address certain questions and there are two in particular that we're working with a client to get ahead of just now:
How best to reach people?
And how to sweeten the deal and make them an offer that they can't refuse?
As ever, part of the answer rests in incentive and reward: and there are two ways in which we're proposing to engage with this in a programme of community participation that we've just designed.
First, by using online social media.
There are hundreds of tools available just now that seek to foster online involvement in offline civic or local affairs - and there are some resources and precedents in an earlier post, presentation and the work of an outstanding UK initiative called Social by Social.
Yes, you can reach people through exhibitions, leaflets, surveys and public events but to ignore online media - and online social media in particular - is a bit hoop and stick when 82% of people in the UK use the Internet and almost a quarter of their time is spent exchanging knowledge and experience in online communities, social networks and blogging sites - a virtual real estate brilliantly captured here by Brian Solis of Future Works:
A key challenge is to create a service that both invites curiosity and facilitates altrusim.
And it seems common sense also to root that service in some basic human motives that we have learned from successful community organizing but that Beth Kanter and other inspirational experts point up consistently as a key reason why millions of people across the world use services like Facebook and Twitter - and as a routine, not just as a product:
- Making new friends
- Keeping up friendships
- Succumbling to social pressure from existing friends
- 'Paying it forward'
A second strategy that we've also just recommended is the introduction of a system of rewards.
Considering that the last thing that people tend to like on their doorstep is new urban development, are there new ways in which we can enable YIMBY ("Yes in my backyard") movements - like People Plan Toronto, Great City in Seattle or Liveable Places in Los Angeles?
Also as much as we might like to think that people rise up spontaneously in support of a local cause, is there a way in which participation can be rewarded and that reward match the interests, schedules and lives of people, rather than simply call upon the scare resource of goodwill?
The rewards system that we have just designed seeks to address the fact that people want recognition, achievement, personal benefit and early evidence of outcomes in return for getting involved in local affairs - and there is no reason why you couldn't launch a local 'rewards card' for community participation.
Places to start on this...
Dr Peter North's book Local Money. The ideas of dunhmumby, creators of the Tesco Clubcard. And some of the incentives at work in Ruby's Bequest, an alternate reality game developed by the Institute For The Future in California.