Sunbeam Area: Creativity

SUNBEAM 2: Don’t put co-creation in a box

Processes with multiple stakeholders are inherently complex, especially if these stakeholders are trying to tackle multifaceted challenges.  Co-creation lends itself well to deal with and navigate within social complexity – but only if you apply its methods together with a complexity conscious mindset, open to changes in aims, methods, and outcomes of the process.

If you invite people to co-create every step of the innovation chain, plans and even the problem definitions are likely to evolve along the way, so the remit of the project must be very wide or open to be redefined. This requires a highly flexible planning framework. If the municipality is not available to accept changes in the scope of the project, involving residents and local stakeholders only in some  of the stages of the co-creation process may lead to better results.

Common practices are appropriate to tackle structured problems. Co-creation often faces complex or chaotic challenges (the so-called wicked problems) which instead call for innovative and unconventional approaches.

SUNBEAM 5: Anticipate the development of a new normal

The process of creating solutions with the public can push forward controversial decisions and is indeed necessary for that to happen. Public discourses and political debates often are framed in the terms of old, restricted paradigms – such as parking availability vs not being free to use a car.

Bringing the discussion in the context of the bigger picture – more mobility vs more accessibility – by letting the residents realise and express the values they care for, can be the turning point for introducing new paradigms, a new normality. Allowing for the community in general, but above all for the most vulnerable and voiceless subjects to express their discontent with the status quo can make their stance and their vision evident to the decision makers and to other groups of stakeholders, in this way to make their vision the new status quo.

Do not be afraid of criticisms and conflicts when the cause is right. As the example of the introduction of “no smoking” restrictions show, it does not take long for a disruptive change to be regarded as normal.

SUNBEAM 6: Go beyond cars and infrastructure

In the collective imaginary, improving mobility is often associated to large infrastructure projects to make the movement of people faster. This way of thinking is a survival of an outdated idea of mobility and, in any case, is not consistent with the neighbourhood level. Suburban, mostly car-dependent neighbourhoods can draw significant benefits in terms of quality of life and sustainability also from small interventions in support of public transport, like smart bus stops and bus shelters.

Often there is no need at all for changing the neighbourhood built environment but it is sufficient to use the existing infrastructure in a better way. Soft measures, requiring low-medium financial investments, can lead to a shift in mentality that further stimulates the adoption of new solutions. It is not only the movements of people that must be improved, but deliveries also increasingly require attention. Get residents and stakeholders to think about how to deal with them and integrate logistics in mobility plans.

SUNBEAM 9: Tailor the co-creation process to your neighbourhood

Each city, each neighbourhood is diverse. The principles of co-creation (e.g., the need for a clear and constant communication with the actors) are cross-cultural, no co-creation process works in every neighbourhood. Knowledge about the neighbourhood gives access to local multiplicators, networks and politicians who are key to successful co-creation.

Only processes adapted to the social and physical characteristics of your neighbourhood and to the existing governance structure ensure suitable solutions and acceptance of changes. To work with different target groups, it is necessary to apply a mix of methods. This requires a good knowledge of the groups and a mix of methods and tools – both online and offline – to reach them. Be ready for a trial-and-error process.

If certain target groups are not reached, adjustments are necessary. In particular, pay attention to the typically under-represented groups and develop specific formats for their involvement.

SUNBEAM 14: Work with ‘co-creation’ minded experts

Experts are crucial in a co-creation process. They raise the awareness of people about problems, inspire their decisions regarding solutions, offer the know-how to put ideas in practice. To finalise the co-creation process and so to improve public spaces choose designers, planners and consultants who understand and share the aims and the methods of co-creation.

They must be creative and pragmatic and bring into the process ideas that have been implemented in other places, because people need to see or somehow experience what they are called to decide on. Experts must be willing to invest time and energy to understand what locals want and to accommodate people’s disparate and changing demands. They must be ready and know how to work with limited public funds, which often requires a certain amount of idealism.