The Engagement Group
In-depth, creative and long-term engagement that all stakeholders can trust.
Involving the public in the design of public infrastructure and built environment is essential to creating communities that work for different people. And yet, often set against a backdrop of complexity, controversy and competing views, engagement in planning and development frequently feels unsatisfactory and unproductive for stakeholders on all sides.
What we do
We are developing a new approach to community involvement in planning and development – an approach which aims to be:
- Less adversarial and more collaborative
- Less transactional and more creative
- An approach which builds a legacy of trust, dialogue and ongoing participation between all stakeholders during development and throughout subsequent occupation/use.
The Engagement Group brings together four organisations (details below) with a range of complementary skills and experience in the built environment and community engagement. We have teamed up to rethink the way community and stakeholder engagement works in this area and to develop an offer that can help councils, developers and citizens to collaborate and communicate better, from the earliest vision-setting to master-planning, through to designing, building, occupation/use and beyond. This is a nationwide offer and the four organisations involved in the Engagement Group have experience of working on projects across the UK.
We want to explore new approaches to engaging citizens in infrastructure and built environment schemes, and as a diverse partnership we are able to:
- Provide a holistic, joined-up and transparent approach to engagement which builds credibility, clarity and legitimacy amongst all stakeholders, and which remains relevant throughout the full development timeframe from briefing/inception until several years after initial occupation.
- Bring a range of creative engagement approaches from other sectors, including more deliberative techniques that help stakeholders to get beyond initial reactions and engage them more fully in thinking through the tensions and trade-offs of different local futures.
- Support more intelligent commissioning which puts social value at the heart of place-making, helps commissioners to understand what this means in practice, to ask better questions of developers and contractors, and to involve a range of stakeholders (including residents and local businesses) in these discussions.
- Reduce risk and uncertainty around the planning process, helping to build productive working relationships between residents, other local stakeholders and those planning new schemes – even in complex, controversial contexts where disagreement is high.
- Improve inclusivity and diversity, helping councils and commissioning organisations to reach deep into communities and ‘future communities’, including seldom-heard groups, vulnerable people and those with protected characteristics.
- Build a ‘legacy of engagement’ in organisations and communities, supporting skills-development in engagement practice and supporting citizens to participate in place-shaping in different ways, including in the long-term future of their communities.
The approach we’re proposing is flexible, and can be adapted to different clients and different project requirements while being rigorous enough to satisfy the expectations of funders, planners, local authorities and commissioners. Through this approach, we aim to provoke discussion across the sector about how a different perspective on engagement can help to address the disconnect between policy and practise.
The Engagement Group came together in late 2019 and is made up of four highly experienced and values-driven organisations: