We recently finished some research for the Golden Lane Estate Residents Association. They have funding to improve bike parking on the estate. They want to involve the community in deciding what parking to provide where. It’s a public consultation with a few differences.
A co-creative and participatory consultation
We designed the consultation to listen to people’s ideas about how things could work better for them. And we explored possible outcomes they’d like to see with other residents. We involved people in the design process in a very tangible way with maps and moveable pieces to help them say what they wanted. We were also very transparent to them about the limitations and possible different and equally valid views from other residents.
Learning about residents and what they need
This way of testing out how things could be is also a way of learning about what’s needed. It’s designed to find out what is most important to people without speaking to everyone. The process invites lots of different views, but works to find points of convergence.
We ran consultations on three separate days. Starting with a blank map for people to add to. As more people contributed we added the findings we were confident about to the map. On the third consultation day there was quite a lot of detail already on the map. This helped us settle on our most important findings in a transparent way and see what was missing. As on other consultations we began to reach a point where we can be confident our findings are strong enough to draw conclusions about what people need from bicycle parking on the Estate.
Enjoyment in physically interacting with the map
People who approached the tables were immediately curious about the map. And they very naturally worked their way around the table. On the table they found printed cards to represent each of the different possible parking options. We made lots of these, so everyone could put theirs on the map. This made the decisions more tangible and helped to focus the conversation so everyone knew what was being discussed. We also used gold coins for people to vote on the type and location of parking they’d most like to see. We handed three gold coins to everyone who came over and they thought really carefully about where to put them. All these physical prompts made the consultation more playful and open to the direction residents wanted to take it in.
Residents were pragmatic when given decision-making power
This was a space for residents to voice and share their individual needs. But in sharing the table with other residents they also very naturally became engaged in thinking about things from the perspective of other residents. The design of the consultation invites residents to be pragmatic. They want to work smartly with the budget and don’t want to create eyesores or obstruct non-cyclists.
Participating in decision making like this gives residents a shared feeling of excitement in changing things in a collaborative way. It’s the opposite of a tick box exercise. The knowledge we now have can focus decision making. Plus residents are aware of the possibilities, but also limitations upfront.
Building on the street labs method
STBY has done similar consultations before the pandemic. In Amsterdam we pioneered a method of consultation called Street Labs in 2017. This consultation in London borrowed lots from what was established and learnt there, as well as past work with Cornwall County Council among other projects.