Public participation makes placemaking processes more democratic, centred around the community's needs, wishes, ideas and visions. However, planning public participation processes may raise questions on how to engage people and how to ensure a diverse group of participants. Here you can find 7 recommendations for you based on the PlaceCity Oslo case learnings at H20 a local high school from Nabolagshager.
1) Create participation possibilities for different target groups such as families, kids, youth, elderly people, people with special needs, immigrants, and consider different groups' time schedules and needs. Make sure to be inclusive for people with mental and physical disabilities, parents who may need childcare, people who may struggle with the local language and create a safe space for marginalised people. Think about digital and in person participation possibilities to be truly inclusive.
2) Include low thresholds for participation so it’s easy to take part in. Having a cup of coffee during a pop-up café and chatting about one’s experience in a neighborhood is an example of participation that does not require much effort yet may be very valuable in how to develop a placemaking process.
3) Consider pay-offs for participation. While it may be feasible for engaged and dedicated people to spend a lot of time, resources, and energy investing in engaging this may not be the case for all people. Hence, creating a variety of pay-offs such as free snacks and drinks, a prize raffle, or a nice hangout spot with music are possibilities to create rewards for people’s time and engagement. Working together with students, credits for courses may be a way to engage them.
4) Financial compensation and the creation of green jobs for young people is another possibility to create a pay-off. When working in a multicultural district in Oslo with socio-economic challenges this was a way to create green jobs for youth that struggle to get integrated into the job market. Creating green and social jobs is relevant for creating a sustainable present and future and is a great way to build the capacity of new leaders. Creating financial payoffs for youth working in the project team seems fair given their time and dedication whereas lower threshold participation should rather not be financially compensated.
5) Listen, learn, exchange, facilitate, and collaborate. Creating change in a local community is challenging as diverse people with diverse ideas, needs, and wishes may contradict each other. Listening is the first important step in successfully tackling people. What would they like to engage in? Learn from them and exchange your experience, knowledge, and skills. Facilitated co-creation workshops and a broad range of participatory methods can contribute to creating change.
6) Be available and share what you learned from your local communication. Use different platforms and communicate addressing your different target groups. Would you like to hear people’s opinions? Do you want to tell the story about what happened after their collaboration? Think about different forums and ways of addressing them. You may want to communicate both on social media as well as through posters, newspaper articles, and flyers. Talking to people and inviting them to bring along friends, neighbours and family is a way to reach out to people that are illicit or do not speak the local language.
7) Make sure you have a plan for integrating public participation in your placemaking process and it will have an impact. No matter if you ask for ideas, or invite the community to get involved in creating a community garden it’s important to let them know how you will care for their work.
Remember each placemaking process is different so make sure to adopt these recommendations to your local context. Do you have more ideas on how to create great public engagement processes? Share them with the placemaking community by reaching out to Placemaking Europe.
Photo credit: Julie Hrnčířová
Funding: The project was kindly funded by JPI Urban Europe, Sparebankstiftelsen DNB, and Bomiljøtilskudd Grønland og Tøyen
Clara J. Reich
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