The Engagement Group
In-depth, creative and long-term engagement that all stakeholders can trust.
Involving the public in the design of place is essential to creating communities that work for different people. And yet, often against a backdrop of complexity, controversy and competing views, engagement in planning and development often feels unsatisfactory and unproductive for stakeholders on all sides.
What we do
We are developing a new approach which is less adversarial and more collaborative; less transactional and more creative; and which builds a legacy of trust, dialogue and ongoing participation between all stakeholders during development and throughout occupation / use.
The Engagement Group brings together four organisations 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 collaborate and communicate better, from the earliest vision-setting to master-planning, through to designing, building, occupation / use and beyond.
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 occupation.
- Bring a range of creative engagement approaches from other sectors, including more deliberative techniques that help stakeholders 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 so that it can be adapted to different clients and different project requirements, and is also 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: