Co-producing quality places: Galvanising neighbourhoods

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This blog series – by A&DS Director of Place Diarmaid Lawlor – looks at lessons learned from a trip to Mannheim, Germany, in early 2017 and sets out some of the observations and learning for Scotland. This blog looks again at Mannheim in terms of what we can learn around galvanising neighbourhoods and links to the Place Standard theme of influence and sense of control.

Blog 2: Galvanising neighbourhoods

Deeper into Mannheim, neighbourhood management models are developing.

Separate to the municipal governance structures, but part-funded by the city, Neighbourhood Management seeks to build social platforms to connect citizens based on local needs. And the Manheimmer Quartermanagement approach is impressive.

It has built a series of governance spaces for conversation, engagement and action which focus on citizen first.

For example, there’s a consultation space where citizens speak first, then networks which represent groups of citizens, then the city authority. No minutes are recorded. The purpose of this space is to facilitate conversation to test ideas, to clarify issues, to enable people to build awareness and information before projects are developed.

Clarity and structure are essential 

The Neighbourhood Management model has a clear structure to facilitate these opportunities, and a clear framework to connect neighbourhood-scale conversations into city-scale conversations and action programmes.

There’s a route map for participation and citizen conversations; and a route map for the way projects are developed. All projects are framed around local outcomes, interdisciplinary and focus on bottom-up solutions.

The clarity on the route maps means that there is a purpose to continuous conversations; there is a high level of continuous, non-hierarchical citizen participation; and there are opportunities to surge interest around specific projects, at pace and scale. For instance, on the banks of the Neckar, a new park is being developed – built around specific user-group needs, the amenity of the river and test spaces to try things out. It has taken only three months from starting to look at the possibilities for along the river, to building out the first phase of the extensive landscape framework.

At neighbourhood level, planning is organised around actions with and for individuals; groups of individuals; communities bringing groups together; and the whole neighbourhood.

At every level of participation, there’s a very different scope around who can do what. For instance, at the scale of individuals, some citizens in the city are adopting the tree in their street. Some plant wee gardens around the base of the tree, keep the area around the tree tidy, garden there once a week and use that time to say hello to neighbours, new and old.

Recognition and support 

Once a year, the mayor welcomes these citizens to the city for a celebration, a chance to share experiences, be welcomed by the city. The city landscape team hold a register of the adopted trees and help with management and maintenance. There are over 240 people adopting trees, and the number is growing because they focus on things they can do.

Groups like the gardening group are supported by the Neighbourhood Management Team providing space to meet, facilitating exchanges with the city, enabling resources. At the scale of whole communities and neighbourhoods, the scope can be more political and strategic, inviting different forms of participation.

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