Putting Co-production into Practice

How to involve communities in built environment projects

Lots of people of all ages work on an urban garden project with a large housing block in the background. Two young people fill a watering can from a hand pump in the foreground
Putting co-production into practice at an estate gardening day in South Thamesmead (Photo courtesy of Peabody/Richard Heald)

Last year we made the case for involving communities in urban development projects. Now we are working with the Open University to develop the tools to put co-production into practice.

Future of London has launched a new practical research project with the Open University called Putting Co-production into Practice. We are developing practical tools and the evidence base needed to drive this emerging approach to community engagement.

Co-production refers to the joint delivery of projects and services between community representatives and sector professionals, where community members are given real decision-making power. In our previous report, Making the case for co-production, we introduced Future of London’s co-production principles for working in the built environment.

Our research showed that there was significant interest within the sector to get better at co-production, but limited consensus about what that would mean. We brought sector professionals and community representatives together in a safe space to set the standard for co-production.

The resulting principles were co-produced and recommend that good co-production involves sharing power, sharing knowledge and being inclusive.

Community representatives and decision makers alike can draw on the principles during projects to assess whether genuine co-production practice is being followed. We hope they will help safeguard against ‘co-washing’, and ensure that the term is only used to describe projects where there is shift in the usual power relations and greater control ceded to communities.

Venn diagram with three circles labelled "being inclusive", "sharing knowledge" and "sharing power". The overlapping section in the centre says "trust".
Future of London’s principles of co-production

The report also identified a need to develop easily accessible resources for communities and practitioners. These requirements will be defined during the first year of the follow-up project and could include:

  • A measuring tool would help create evidence of good co-production practice and its benefits for a local area.
  • A regular forum for stakeholders to share knowledge and have frank conversations about co-production.
  • Hands-on training for practitioners and community members to explore co-production scenarios and learn skills from good practice.

Now we have launched a short survey to identify what kinds of resources can help embed co-production practices in the built environment sector. Findings from the survey and a follow-up series of interviews will be shared in an in-person event in spring 2024.

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts, even if you have little personal experience of co-production.

Emerging practice: examples of co-production in the built environment

A group of young people in fluorescent jackets working together to install wooden fencing posts beside a pavement
Young people working in Hackney (Pic: Build Up)

Creating public space with young people in Hackney

In 2019, Build Up worked with a team of local young people to design and build a prominent public space at Flanders Way in Hackney. The project aimed to give young people a genuine say over how their local area is changing. The scheme was designed by 26 young people through a series of workshops involving local designers and architects, which culminated with presentations of their ideas to members of Hackney Council and the local community. The young people then spent two months over the summer building the scheme.

Transforming a print works into gardens at Canada Water

Over the last few years, Global Generation has worked with over 3000 people to co-create the Paper Garden on the site of the old Daily Mail print works in Canada Water. This example shows how local primary school children, families, young people, businesses and private partners can work together to transform a former paper warehouse into a green space and a community classroom.

Landscaping and placemaking with the Thamesmead community

Peabody wanted to move away from traditional methods of consulting and informing towards a more democratic approach to decision-making and delivery of landscaping projects in Thamesmead. They believe that co-production projects delivered in partnership with the Mayor of London have taken community engagement to a new level. “We’re keen to continue this new way of working and we look forward to sharing our learning as we go,” says Kate Batchelor, Head of Landscape & Placemaking at Peabody.

The front cover of the Rethinking Community Engagement report shows a group of people hugging in a communal space next to some housing. The title is Making the case for co-production
Download the full report
Download the summary

News release

Download our listening project update

Find out more about the joint research with the Open University here.

Join our mailing list

Subscribe here to receive information about co-production events and news, and other Future of London activities.

Co-production event write-ups

Read the write-up of our Rethinking Community Engagement launch event in June 2022 and watch the video.

Find the key insights from our co-production workshops held in August and October 2022.

Read the write-up of our event called “What is co-production – and how can it change the built environment?”

Get in touch


Thanks to our programme sponsors Arup and Pollard Thomas Edwards

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