Rethinking community engagement

Great community engagement can transform the built environment. It gives local people the chance to shape the future of their area and can build support for development projects. By empowering citizens, it strengthens community cohesion and resilience. And there’s evidence to suggest that community engagement can boost people’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.

But Future of London’s Building Recovery project found that three quarters of built environment practitioners don’t think we do community engagement well enough.

As a sector, we need to take responsibility for the barriers that prevent people from taking part in engagement processes. Engagement practitioners need to be skilled in inclusive practices so that citizens with, for example, limited time or a lack of confidence, are not excluded from community engagement. We must avoid tokenistic and superficial engagement, which is an industry-wide issue that raises suspicion, mistrust, anger and opposition – and can lead to costly delays. And with the use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria growing exponentially, defining the ‘S’ will help build the stable, resilient and cohesive communities that investors are looking for.

Now is the time to rethink community engagement and bring the community perspective to the debate. To redress the balance, Future of London will invite community representatives to sit on panels alongside practitioners, to share what good engagement looks like from the perspective of those who have lived through it, and offer advice on how to earn the trust and support of local people. Drawing on best practice from London, the UK and overseas, our final report will set out practical recommendations to provide a valuable resource for all those involved in placemaking.

This project will be challenging and provocative, supporting the built environment sector to critique their existing community engagement practices, be honest about failings and listen to voices from the community.

The cost of poor consultation

2%  of the public trust developers [1]
7% of the public trust local authorities in relation to planning for large-scale developments [2]
72% of built environment professionals agree the sector needs to be better skilled at, and have better approaches to, community engagement [3]

Past events

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

Get involved

To be the first to hear about upcoming events, subscribe to our mailing list. For more information on this project, or to take part in our research, please contact Sophie Nellis.

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