Sunbeam Area: working with people

SUNBEAM 1: Leverage the opportunities offered by neighbourhoods to make mobility sustainable

Neighbourhoods are the natural environment for co-creation: acknowledge and build on the social capital they provide and start from there to build a more sustainable mobility also at different geographical levels. The neighbourhood is the immediate extension of the home: residents know it, and care for it and often for other residents. Interactions and communication are made easier by existing networks and the availability of unofficial channels.

Build on the sense of ownership to stimulate participation, make use of the local knowledge, create mechanisms to collect the feedback the residents can provide because of their daily exposure to the changes generated by the co-creation process. Children learn how to move around in their neighbourhood, and in the neighbourhood destinations are often close enough to be reached on foot or by bike.

Make easier for children – and adults! – to be more sustainable when they travel in the neighbourhood, explain to them why that is important. Their mindset will change, and you will have citizens that use and promote sustainability in other places and in other contexts.

SUNBEAM 3: Do not hurry with co-creation

Co-creation needs time, flexibility and dedication, often more than expected. Working with many actors with different agendas “on the ground” requires flexibility. Processes that are carried out too hastily or must follow very rigid plans can have serious negative consequences for the entire project, cause lasting problems of trust and losses of motivation. This poses a particular challenge for the scheduling of projects, especially for funded projects with strictly pre-defined deadlines. Be generous in the estimate of the project duration, discuss the need for flexibility with funders, make people aware of the risks of running late, consider everybody’s time availability.

SUNBEAM 8: Communicate and build on human relationships to foster engagement

A major challenge of co-creative processes is to permanently involve citizens and motivate them to participate. This is partly due to the complexity, the duration of co-creation processes and potential “participation fatigue”. A communication approach successful in keeping actors engaged involves a good branding, continuous communication, an easy way for people to contact the persons responsible for the process, a consistent momentum of meetings and events, awareness raising campaigns, the diffusion of small-scale success stories linked to what emerged in the early phases of the process even before the actual implementation stage.

But it is not only about communication techniques. Citizens are human beings: be friendly, offer people the opportunity to build new connections, recognise and enhance their desire to do something good. Competitions and awards, building on people’s goodwill, can keep them engaged, triggering and strengthening a positive attitude towards the measures put in place.

SUNBEAM 10: Be where the people are, do what people like

In the process of co-identification, the goal is to collect as many and as diverse feedback form an area as possible. The easiest way to connect with the locals is to be where they are. People are not willing go into a place that they do not know for a co-planning workshop, but they usually happily share their ideas at locations with which they are familiar and where they feel safe. Familiar places can be for example a playground, a nursery, a bus stop, or a park. But people can feel at home also in digital places like WhatsApp groups, forums, Facebook pages.

And do not forget to make giving feedback easy and enjoyable. People like playing with online and offline maps, where they can add stickers corresponding to good or bad experiences. Interactive maps are particularly useful in the first steps of a participatory planning process. Gamification in general makes co-creation entertaining and effective.