18 Jan 2023

Discussing co-design at our recent roundtable

This week we hosted a roundtable to discuss co-design: its opportunities, challenges, best practice and how it might evolve, enjoying a lively discussion on this wide-ranging and very topical subject.

Chaired by Helen Barrett, FT journalist, our session kicked-off with a summary of the community co-design process we went through for the reimagined Queen's Gardens at Queen's Quarter in Croydon - our MD Damien Sharkey pointed out how important it is to earn the trust of communities, which co-design can help with, and how honesty is key. As Paul Monaghan of AHMM said, communities are essentially an extension of the client team - involvement in the design process can help with long-term buy in and creating the 'spirit' of a place.

While co-design as an approach doesn't work for all projects, at HUB we make a conscious effort to actively reach out to communities, beyond those members of the community that choose to get involved in consultations, to ensure we hear from a wide range of voices. We acknowledged that getting involved in public consultation or co-design is a big ask of a local community - Holly Lewis of We Made That shared that it can be important to incentivise involvement to ensure a larger and more diverse cohort.

We also discussed that often people don't know that they have a right to be consulted, so we need more guidelines around community consultation, and how co-design can play a part. Kevin Logan of Maccreanor Lavington was able to share some of the approaches employed across Europe, for example in the Netherlands, Denmark and France, where engaging citizens is a long-term collaborative process.

A common theme of the discussion, championed by Sadie Morgan from the Quality of Life Foundation, was how to ensure ongoing community participation - from very early days, even before development happens, to long after a new place is delivered, evaluating how it's used and maintained, and ensuring a sense of community stewardship.

In many ways, co-design is an extension of the planning process, which already incorporates review panels, community review panels and pre-application meetings. With local authorities under-resourced and under-funded, it is an area that needs attention, and is addressed in the Government's consultation on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

We talked about all of this, and lots more besides, and we were very lucky to be joined by an excellent group of guests. Thanks to ING Media for kindly hosting the session, Helen for chairing, and to our guests for braving a cold January morning!