Why should we value the input of children in placemaking and how can we engage them?
The Covid-19 Pandemic has had a huge impact on us all. Being stuck at home and isolated from our loved ones has taken a significant toll on people’s health and wellbeing. Children have certainly been among the worst affected.
With school closures, they have been deprived of their normal learning environment, as well as the routine, learning resources and social interaction that come with this. This will inevitably have an impact on their education, development and mental health.
This has also meant that parents and guardians have had to take on the role of teacher, whilst juggling home-working and looking after themselves. So, many parents have been left frantically searching for activities to help their kids learn and to keep them occupied throughout the day.
We must also recognise the importance that places in our neighbourhoods have had in maintaining our wellbeing. It’s fair to say that a walk around our local park has been a godsend for us all during lockdown. It’s time to reconnect with the places around us and to think about how we can make them even better going forward.
With that in mind, we decided to help out by creating an online learning resource that parents can download or stream, which is designed to help engage kids in thinking about how they can improve the places around them.
The lesson and its purpose
In the lesson, the child is the Mayor of the City of Lolatropolis, and is asked by their placemaking team to propose some new ways of improving the city’s rundown central park. Specifically, they are asked to draw their own design for some new benches, a new bus stop and a new playground, and to tell us their favourite thing about their designs. It also includes a brief introduction to the ideas behind placemaking and real life examples of people’s designs from around the world to provide inspiration.
The intention is for kids to have a bit of fun, whilst imagining how places and facilities can be improved. In doing that, we hope this could facilitate discussion between kids and their parents/guardians about how they would like to see places in their own area improved. For those working in placemaking and local government, it could provide an insight into what children really want out of places, and teach them a bit about your work.
If you know a child who would like to take part, you can access the lesson with everything you need to know, here.
The importance of engaging communities in placemaking
Those who will ultimately be using a place should have a say in its function and design. So, it is essential that local governments create effective channels of engagement to discuss placemaking with their residents.
But children should not be excluded from this conversation. They have as much of a stake in how a place is developed as anyone else. And we have to ask ourselves, are we considering children sufficiently in the design of our public places?
Of course opening up channels of engagement with children can be difficult. But our lesson could encourage children to think about placemaking and facilitate discussions that could prompt their parents to do the same, including those who have never done so.
Our tactical urbanism festival
We want to inspire communities to reconnect with their places and come together to improve them in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, we are running an online tactical urbanism festival, between 22nd-28th February, to celebrate tactical urbanism and to do just that.
We do not want to see placemaking stop because of a lack of funding. So we have created a free Community-focused Tactical Urbanism Toolkit and have invited local governments to use this to run a workshop with their staff and residents during our festival. The workshop is designed to facilitate discussion about place. It should help local governments gather ideas for policy and projects, improve the capacity of their local community organisations and engage their residents in improving community places.
There are plenty of ways that you can get involved in the festival. If you work for a local authority, you could host your own custom version of our workshop with your staff, or your local residents, during the festival week. Depending on capacity, one of our volunteers may even be able to facilitate the workshop for you. We are also running a tactical urbanism policy hackathon on Friday 26th February, and we’d love to have you involved!
Or, if you don’t want to take part in a workshop, and just want to learn a bit more about tactical urbanism, we will be releasing interviews and other exciting content throughout the week. Just follow the hashtag #RethinkRePlace on twitter for more information. And if you have any further questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.