LG magazine July: A placemaking Q and A
PNZ: What is placemaking?
Melissa: "Placemaking is a bottom-up approach to creating spaces for communities, helping to reframe the challenges and devising smarter, cost-effective solutions by engaging with the community. In essence, placemaking is making places for people but it is more about the process and involving people as the place is being created."
PNZ: How is placemaking different to a more traditional approach?
Melissa: "It puts the community at its core and uses specialised knowledge to create desirable outcome for both the community and the local authority. Placemaking engages communities with their built environment far better than a traditional approach."
PNZ: What are the benefits of placemaking?
Melissa: "Placemaking can be a catalyst for positive change in the community, with a greater sense of ownership and belonging, contributing to community-focused outcomes required by local councils. This can lead to enduring solutions greater than just improving the physical urban fabric by building stronger and more connected communities. The outcomes are often very cost-effective."
PNZ: What challenges come with placemaking and how do you apply it?
Melissa: "There are numerous challenges when applying a placemaking approach from a local government perspective. The first is how to initiate a bottom-up approach from a top-down organisation. Where the norm would be to find a solution and communicate it to the community, the way the problem is viewed must be reframed, rather than proposing a preconceived solution. Engaging the community is important but doesn’t forego all decision-making power. The best model for understanding this is from the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). The key to making the process meaningful and engaging is to be open and honest about what decisions the community or council are responsible for.
PNZ: What are the implications of this process for organisations?
Melissa: "Firstly, it is about understanding the opportunities and challenges of the place and community from different viewpoints. It is useful to gain perspective from an appropriate professional place-maker. Next is to gather information from inside the local authority, as there are often a lot of things going on in different parts of the organisation. Most importantly, the community should be asked the value, opportunities and challenges of the place. This requires specialist community engagement. The outcome of this combined information sharing should be an agreed picture of the future vision. This should follow a robust process so that people are taken on the journey and understand why the proposed solutions are being carried out. This doesn’t mean that everyone will agree but at least they will understand. Final prioritising should be based on a cost/benefit analysis. The community needs to be aware of what funding is available to keep expectations realistic. This part of the process is about working with the community so that there is joint ownership and understanding. "
PNZ: How do organisations get involved in placemaking?
Melissa: "Placemaking New Zealand is an organisation ‘dedicated to making sure people love the public spaces that surround them’. It was created by a group of people passionate about providing an open forum for place-makers around the country to engage and share their knowledge. There are lots of ways to get involved. Our members come from a diverse range of backgrounds, from local authorities, professionals working in the field, business organisations and community groups. We are planning to hold a forum to bring people together later this year. We are always looking for new energy and ideas for the executive and also have a ‘Friends of Placemaking New Zealand’ for companies. Anyone interested is more than welcome, so get involved and make a difference."
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