Space: the final frontier in creative community projects?

October 17th, 2013 by Jerome Turner in Hyperlocal | no comments

Make:Shift logoI’ve just returned from a meeting of Make:Shift, an initiative by Wolverhampton City Council to engage with citizens and help them define, expand and realise community projects. This was in fact a small meeting, pre-emptive of the unconference a couple of weeks later. Last year’s unconference event was run by FutureGov; this year the council are organising it themselves.

Tonight’s meeting gave citizens and organisations alike the opportunity to discuss their ideas in small groups before airing them at the later unconference. The idea was to get a sense of potential community interest and linking up any knowledge or relationships within the group that might help.  The council’s role is to put on the meetings and unconference, and offer assistance as much as possible to make the projects a reality. The emphasis is on action, rather than discussion, and last year’s community garden project going live over the summer is hopefully testament to that, with all credit to Our Own Future, a citizen-led initiative.

Proposed projects at the meeting included ideas around sustainability, zero-carbon, arts, literacy, community relations, but they all seemed to have one thing in common, the need for a ‘place’. In some cases this might be an ongoing community hub space, or a plot of land that could be developed to fill a community’s social or cultural need. Other projects required adhoc installation for a shorter period of time, for example using a disused shop unit. There was a clear sense that accessible (in the broader sense of the word) places within communities are important. These might be high street cafes, or green land that is passed on a regular basis by commuters. Last year it was revealed that Wolverhampton and Walsall have some of the highest rates of unused shop spaces in the country (and anecdotally, I also see a lot of derelict / unused land in the area), so it seems timely for projects such as MakeShift to help connect the dots here.

UPDATE: For more details of the projects pitched at the MakeShift unconference, see their blog. My own project pitched there is gaining some traction, has received interest, and the first book swapping location has been set up. 

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