The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has impacted individuals and communities and how they engage with the places around them. As we begin to move forward, communities and organisations are left with the challenge of how to engage with each other in the shifting landscape of the new ‘normal’.
We can all learn from each other and use this knowledge to shape future engagements, design of places and connections with our communities. To help create a place for this exchange of ideas, we hosted a session with practitioners to learn how they had responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and discuss the challenges, share ideas and promote good practice.
What this page includes
During the first, in what we hope will be a series of online chats, we connected with:
- Kirsty Macari from Dundee University on how to connect students through virtual reality
- Nick Wright to learn about the engagement work for Ardrishaig in Argyll and Bute for a public realm project
- Mairi Stewart and Ailsa Anderson from Aberdeenshire Council on a virtual drop-in room
- Neil Young, a community representative, who was involved in the first pop-up temporary bike lane for a deprived area in north Glasgow
On this page you'll find videos and presentation summaries. To navigate to the selected section, click on the links above.
Urban planning and environmental sustainability students at Dundee University applied a community focused lens to their education, embarking on new ways to continue engagement with a local community as part of their studies. With lockdown in place, students transformed traditional methods into a digital engagement platform.
Students added in new ways to expand their knowledge and understanding of community issues creating digitally local personas, mapped ideas and solutions and testing these as various scenarios.
- opportunity to engage more with the community digitally
- encouraged the students to think outside the academic comfort zone
- learned about the relationships between communities and professionals involved in shaping our cities, towns and neighbourhoods
- rethink and reframe delivering elements of Planning Education by enabling the aspect of learning in community to be regarded as a new marker
- enabling the students to obtain “on the job/real time ” experience that can be used for future job opportunities
Suggestions for good digital engagement using the example of ongoing engagement on Ardrishaig public realm scheme for Argyll and Bute Council and Sustrans (led by ERZ Studio and Icecream Architecture), recent Scottish Land Commission research with developers on early engagement, and other digital engagement experience.
Digital platforms need to be well thought out and designed to ensure they facilitate meaningful engagement – done well, they are good at getting information out to wide demography (and responses back).
- Digital platforms need to have clear information about the project and the purpose of the engagement – plain English, honest and transparent.
- They need attractive and engaging interactive graphics, content and opportunities to influence proposals, for example placing pins or comments directly onto visualisations and plans.
- They need to work on both mobiles and desktop computers.
- Consider using an existing local platform if available – if not, set up a new dedicated platform but make sure you link to other local websites and social media.
- Good publicity is essential – you will only get that good demographic reach if people know the website is there! Linking with existing local websites, social media and community networks is a good starting point.
- The ability to host video events if necessary, by embedding webinars, conferencing or presentation tech (e.g. Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube, Webex etc – different platforms are good for different situations).
- Remember not everyone is online. Make sure you publicise other ways for people to find out information and to comment, like on-site posters with a phone number for a named contact person.
Aberdeenshire Council was due to publish its Proposed Local Development Plan in April 2020, with face-to-face engagement planned through a series of drop-in events across Aberdeenshire. However, due to restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Aberdeenshire Council sought to progress their consultation by utilising more innovative ways of engaging with communities and stakeholders during these unprecedented times.
On 25 May 2020, the proposed Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan was published online and consulted upon utilising primarily digital means of engagement, including the use of a virtual drop-in instead of face-to-face events. Continuing with the consultation ensured the Plan-making process did not stall and should ensure that Aberdeenshire Council will continue to have an up-to-date local development plan come 2022.
Working with AECOM Aberdeenshire Council created a virtual exhibition ‘room’, where visitors could engage with the proposed plan, download information, ask questions on the virtual chat board and view the information through a dedicated website.
- Keep the information you are sharing as accessible as possible
- Support the digital content by having a chat function that allows the public to ask the team direct questions
- The environmental impact of not having to print so many plans allows us to redirect financial savings into other ways of engagement such as the virtual room
- You can reach so many more people digitally, as people can connect at a time that suits them.
- The engagement online has increased by 250% than the previous face-to-face consultations.
- This is a valuable approach that could be incorporated into future community consultations to supplement and support more traditional face-to-face means of engagement.
The community started a steering group for creating safe cycle routes when a survey in a local school indicated that 85% of pupils own a bike but only 5% cycle to school due to a lack of safe routes.
As Provanmill wasn’t part of Glasgow’s new plans for cycle lanes. The community decided to create a temporary bike lane to showcase their needs.
- Testing ideas yourself can help you showcase your community's needs.
- Work close with the community, this not only gives you support but also minimises vandalism towards any project work.
- Involve and work closely with your local council and Councillors, as this helps gain political trust and understanding.
- Use social media to capture and promote what you are doing as this reaches a wider audience and helps support your project's needs.
- Things can happen very quickly when the people involved that want to see them happen.
Continue with the community steering group and help link up the area.
Header image credit: Gary Butterfield on Unsplash