Developing practical tools for co-production

Lots of people of all ages work on an urban garden project with a large housing block in the background.
Co-production at an estate gardening day in South Thamesmead (Photo courtesy of Peabody/Richard Heald)

Following our co-production report last year, Future of London is partnering with the Open University to develop practical engagement tools that will rebuild public trust.

Given the public’s lack of trust in regeneration, co-production offers a way to address this head on through power sharing and inclusive approaches.

In a first for Future of London, we are partnering with the Open University to launch a new research programme called Putting Co-production into Practice. The programme will build practical tools and evidence to drive this emerging approach to community engagement.

Co-production refers to the joint design and delivery of projects between community representatives and sector professionals, where community members are given real decision-making power.

Advocates believe co-produced projects are more likely to meet community needs and achieve long-term sustainability.

Please help us develop practical tools for co-production by sharing your views on community engagement in our short survey by 31 January 2024.

However the evidence base is slim. To launch the programme, we will be asking members of our network to do a short survey to understand the barriers to putting co-production into practice.

Developing practical tools for co-production

Last year Future of London published a report called Making the Case for Co-production, which identified some key principles including power-sharing and inclusivity.

We are now working with the sector and community groups to develop resources that will help us to increase the practice of co-production. Possible outputs from the project include:

  • A measuring tool to provide evidence of the benefits that co-production brings to an area
  • A knowledge-sharing forum for built environment practitioners and community-based organisations
  • Training that brings practitioners and community members together to learn co-production skills

Research into social and economic impact co-production

As part of the programme, Future of London is partnering with the Open University on an academic research project to understand the social and economic impact of co-production.

Azul Castañeda will carry out the research as a PhD candidate. She will be working with Theo Zamenopoulos, professor of citizen-led design, and Dr Katerina Alexiou from the Open University.

“We are excited to have recruited Azul to work on multi-stakeholder collaboration in the built environment so we can articulate its value and the barriers preventing wider use,” says Katerina.

“While participation and co-production are gaining popularity in the built environment sector, they are far from mainstream in practice. This is due to factors such as lack of awareness of the benefits, lack of investment, or simply put, a lack of collaborative culture.

“We hope Azul’s work will support innovative thinking and produce practical, actionable knowledge and tools to benefit professionals, decision makers and community groups involved in placemaking.”

New partnership with Open University to develop evidence

For the next three years, Azul will research the impact of co-production practices within placemaking. She will look at the reasons for the lack of broader use and influence of such strategies in the UK, particularly in London.

Her research aims to understand how co-production processes can be more impactful at encouraging more just places to shape our cities. This study will combine practice and theory, with a focus on successful case studies in London to understand the experience of the different stakeholders.

This research will produce tangible evidence of the benefits and provide evidence that makes a better case for co-production practice.

Community engagement expert leads the project

Azul Castañeda is an urban designer and architect from Mexico with over eight years of experience of urban research, university lecturing and managing design projects in Mexico City, Quito and London. In the UK, she has worked for Future of London members Inner Circle Consulting and LB Barnet.

She has experience working with participatory design and research, mapping, housing policies, community engagement and socio-spatial inequalities.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Peabody housing association joined forces with the Mayor of London for a series of landscaping and placemaking projects in Thamesmead.

Kate Batchelor, Head of Landscape & Placemaking at Peabody, says:

“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. One by one, our four co-production projects delivered in partnership with the Mayor of London have taken community engagement to a new level.

“We’re really encouraged by what we’ve achieved so far. We’re keen to continue and evolve this new way of working and we look forward to sharing our learning – and to learning from others – as we go.”

Thanks to our programme sponsors Arup and Pollard Thomas Edwards