With not for

As I have conversations with people about the digital framework and the principles I’ve started to think about more and more examples of where the principles would be used in real life.

This post will focus on the principle of “design with not for communities”

In my personal life this principle could be played out in many different scenarios but I’m going to just focus on a couple of areas.

The first and most obvious is my immediate local community, the second and maybe not quite so obvious is my work environment – the most common places where I spend my time.

My local community is not designed around the needs of the community and I know that because no one has ever asked my family what our needs for our local community look like, nor my neighbours based on conversations with them….more likely it has been driven by random opportunities and passionate people who are pursuing individual projects to fulfil some niche pocket of need.

Also it isn’t good enough to simply advertise a community meeting in the local shop with a few days to do at times when working families with young kids would struggle to attend…nor is it good enough to not have any mechanism to connect with the conversation of those meetings in a format which is relevant and more appropriate to the needs of families.

The issue for me is that my local community isn’t designed to facilitate a greater level of connections between the people who live there…there isn’t a common space where people from all across the community come together – the school is close but its excludes many of the older and vulnerable people in the community. If we could create an enabling environment which in increased and fostered the social interaction within my community we would be better able to identify common needs and issues and collaborate and co-design solutions which we felt as a community were more appropriate and agile.

In terms of my workplace, we have just recently moved office which has been a positive step as we are now in a space where we are less likely to that we are interrupting colleagues and more likely to have more meaningful and creative conversations.

Now not all offices need to look the same and it isn’t an easy situation to be in when we are in a very overt climate of hotdesking and flexible working in which all offices are now designed around flexibility of movement and easy of access to equipment. But this fails to recognise those teams who don’t and can’t work in that way and as research suggests open plan offices are actually counter productive

As a school governor we are constantly reminded and focused on improving standards and exploring ways in which all aspects of the school environment can support this. Now I’m only talking from a primary school context but I’m convinced this applies anywhere although as I type I’m not aware of research or evidence as I’ve not looked.
Anyway one of the key things teachers are now doing is using the physical space to increase opportunities for learning and improve the overall environment to support the objectives which is to help the children engage with learning.

If you think about applying that to a work space then each physical location should be designed to support different types of working pattern and where people are lucky enough to have offices then these should support those people to do their jobs better.

But in order to understand how these need to be developed and created you need to involve people, understand their needs and their outcomes and then work with them to create spaces which enable them to work or learn more effectively.


4 thoughts on “With not for

  1. Hi Carl. Interesting stuff again.

    One of the big problems anyone working with the concept of “local communities” always comes up against is that it is extremely limiting to see communities as defined by an area on a two dimensional map. Sure, what get called “communities of place” are the common image that appears in one’s mind when the work “community” is used, but those working in any notional geographic community will quickly tell you that it is really made up of many smaller communities. And I don’t mean smaller geographic entities alone. Communities of interest (however defined) can be, and often are, far stronger. They will also very often transcend the geographic community too. “Place” usually provides a two dimensional view. “Interest” adds the third dimension, and can also help add to the mix those more intangible concepts, such as “strength of belonging”.

    Advertising your local meeting in the local shop might work occasionally, but it immediately places a filter on who is likely to attend – those who saw the advert, or heard about it, and felt sufficiently motivated by the issues on offer. Up to a point, “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”, as the saying goes. What you will also get, however, is those people who don’t necessarily feel that strongly about the issues under discussion, but who just feel that public meetings are places that they ought to be seen, and usually heard. In community engagement terms, these are often called “the usual suspects”. What they add to the debate is not often representative, but is often forcefully delivered.

    The art is getting behind the voices and presence of those who shout loudest, and to reach those whose input will be most effective, accepting that some of those who might be your best movers and shakers may belong to a community of interest represented in an area, but not belong to the community of place itself. These thoughts can greatly influence your working definition of both “with” and “for”.

    Happy days.


  2. Carl
    Your blog’s strap-line this week about “with not for” made me think of “co-production” or co-pro as Wales taught Scotland at an event last year. If people are involved in things, then there may well be more trust in their thinking together, and ideas that they come up with.
    Look forward to hearing about when, what, how and who you decide to work with…..

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