Community driven urban renewal is a complex and challenging process which often requires close collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement acknowledges the people in the places we are concerned with, engages the community in the development of their places and facilitates a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to the design of urban environments. From our experience, this allows a great connection between place, people and experiences.
There is no one size fits all approach when referring to community and stakeholder engagement however, a research has identified a framework that is at least in part consistent across most successful engagement strategies; the framework can be constructed:
Multiple stages of peer review identified 4 key considerations within this framework that are not inherently clear initially but are in practice, are required to be clear to ensure the success of such a community engagement strategy.
Firstly to clearly define what the short, medium and long term goals are of the strategy as an individual entity but also to consider the organisation and future directions. Secondly, clearly define the negotiables and non-negotiables of the project; in short what is fixed and what can be altered throughout the engagement process. Thirdly, defining the level of influence and remaining transparent as to how the level of input of each stakeholder will be considered. Striving to achieve an engagement level of empowerment is an ideal scenario however, not realistic for every scenario. Which leads to the fourth point of being realistic in the strategy, by lowering the expectations of meeting a specific level of engagement it may be possible to achieve a result that is superior by the community standards and an overall higher standard of engagement. It is not inherently bad to engage to consult or collaborate as every application has individual constraints and requirements.
Recent projects that we have been working on in the Sunshine Coast area have been great opportunities to develop this theoretical framework into a practical process where we have been able to connect with stakeholders in a constructive and effective manner. We have made it a priority to engage with all relevant stakeholders, in particular the community and businesses at multiple stages throughout projects. Recent engagement to deliver a series of community assets in a historically and culturally rich town has shown just how invested communities are in what happens in their urban environments. Nourishing and contextualising the passion of the community through a transparent and structured process has proven to be and is continuing to be a successful approach. Particularly as we uncover the underlying themes and motifs that are constructs of the place in our place based design; after all, who knows more about the place than the community.