On 5th August 2016, our co-Founder and Board member, Rory Williams, presented findings from our most recent urban experiment at a debrief session in Bellville. A collaboration with the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP), the B4 Campaign was a simple concept which enabled us to collect some useful information and learn loads in order to replicate a similar exercise in the future.
This debrief session was hosted by GTP and attended by a group of representatives from local government, local businesses, civil society and academia. While the presentation acknowledged that the short length of the experiment and the spontaneous nature of its design means it may not be able to deliver sound basis for long-term developments in the area; it highlighted how the space is currently used and what sort of information would be helpful in designing a longer term experiment.
Feedback included practical suggestions such as putting all benches together, selecting a different design (e.g. without a back rest) and of different lengths to observe behaviour, as well as trying the test in a street less vibrant than Kruskal Avenue. Similarly, suggestions around the process included deeper community engagement; further exploration of why people feel unsafe/uncomfortable in the space and inviting input from other stakeholders, such as students in the design and monitoring of the exercise, and private sector in the roll out and assessment.
Overall, the exercise highlighted the power of providing people with choice and agency to move street furniture in ways that served them best. This can directly inform plans by local government for long term development and in fact it was suggested that such a method could help support existing public participation processes. One of the participants suggested incorporating a systems thinking approach to analyse the various dynamics and relationships in the space (e.g. environment, cultural norms, technology, etc.) and finding ways to monitor impact for a longer period of time.
The meeting was stimulating and left us with a sense of opportunity for more tests like the B4 Campaign. The big question is how to ensure that there is a genuine sense ownership and benefit. Do you think this type of urban experiment could benefit your community? Contact us and let's try it out together!