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Creative Citizens: New media and community-led design

This project asks how we can use digital media to creatively engage people in community-led design.

Community-led design is where people come together to redesign spaces and services in their neighbour-hood, such as creating a community garden, setting up a new club, or opening an old building to make a community hub. These projects need as many participants as possible so that they have the time, energy and ideas to keep things going.

One opportunity is to use digital media such as online social networks and web platforms that enable new forms of civic engagement, participation and expression. For example, can new media help reach an audience that is more representative of the community as a whole?

This is the focus of the research being carried out by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and the Open University as part of Creative Citizens, a major research project funded by two UK Research Councils. Two professional partners, T he Glass-House Community-led Design and Nesta, are collaborating on this phase of our work. The overall Creative Citizens project is managed by Cardiff University.

Two London projects
This year we have been working closely with two London community-led design projects to design and test digital media interventions that local people can use to help their projects to grow. These ideas are being co-designed with the projects and will use their strengths and assets rather than outside help and funding, so that the outcomes are more sustainable and could be more easily adopted by other projects.

The first of these projects is The Mill in Walthamstow. The Mill opened in 2011 after locals convinced the council to let them take over an ex-library and create a community centre. The Mill helps local people to develop new services, clubs or social groups, which use the spaces in The Mill's building.

The Mill would like its online visitors to experience the same spirit of creativity and collaboration that can be found in the building everyday. So the research team is exploring how people at The Mill can capture stories from the building and share them online, to open up communication between the real world and the online space.

The second project is Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum, a group of residents who are creating their own Neighbourhood Plan for the area. They want to share their draft plan with Kentish Town residents so that it is representative of the community before it goes to referendum.

So the research team is working with the Forum to see how they could increase awareness, for example, by looking at how small actions by their current membership to spread their message through social networks can collectively have a much larger effect.

See Creative Citizen Student Challenge here


AHRC and EPSRC logos
AHRC and EPSRC logos

Research Associates 2013: Alan Outten and Gail Ramster

Senior Associate: Catherine Greene

RCA Department: Design Interactions and Innovation Design Engineering

Research Funders: Connected Communities (AHRC and EPSRC, UK)

Project period: 2012 - 2014