I was again delighted to return to my old stomping ground at the UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment to present to final year town planning students on the importance of community engagement. Under Kevin Alkers’ guidance, the students are currently preparing Master Plans for the Alexandra Canal as part of the ‘Environment, Community and Design: Creating the Plan and a Sense of Place’ course.
The key messages I wanted the students to walk away with:
- Be proactive with your consultation. Start early and bring the community along the design journey with you – it will deliver a more responsive outcome and give the community ownership of the final plan.
- Celebrate development. Designing new spaces and places that can be enjoyed by all is a wonderful opportunity that should be embraced by the community at large.
- Don’t pander to minority groups. Be broad thinking in your identification of stakeholders and don’t forget the younger members of the community. When large developments have lead times of 5-10 years to completion it is important that we involve young people in our consultation events, after all they will be the ones enjoying the developments into the future. Always remember – The Future Is Behind Us.
- Don’t assume that a community understands the principles or rationale of your design. You need to educate the community so that they understand the parameters that you need to address in your masker plan or development. Community education takes time but it is essential. Once all parties understand the design challenge ahead they can take their seat at the drawing board and contribute ideas and identify concerns in a meaningful way.
Students received a copy of my “Communique 1 Stakeholder Engagement – Getting Started“. This document provides a useful overview of the process of developing and implementing a Communication Plan, and is a great reference tool. Please follow the link to download a copy of Communique 1 Stakeholder Engagement – Getting Started.
I look forward to returning to UNSW in October to help judge the final master plans. It is always great to see the student’s creativity!