When you look at urban regeneration and transformational projects of the last two decades, the bustling streets full of happy people shown in CGIs often don't become reality

The designers made certain assumptions about the way that everyday people would visit and interact with public spaces which didn't quite happen. I would argue that this is because the end-user wasn't involved enough in the design process, not because of the quality of design or the ability of the designer.

There are two parts to good design: understanding the brief and finding a solution. The second part is what architects, urban designers and landscape architects tend to be quite good at, but the first part has traditionally been difficult when it comes to placemaking. To create successful placemaking solutions, its important to understand what people want, what will make their lives easier, what will make them happy, how they move, how they commute, how they spend their leisure time.

Understanding those factors has traditionally been delegated to designers, politicians, community representatives, planners, other 'professionals', because traditional engagement methods haven't found a way to capture that insight effectively from 'ordinary' people. The 'placemaking' industries have tried various methods to try and capture this insight and sentiment from ordinary people, using things like design workshops, charettes, drop-in events, and make them more appealing and 'gamified' with post-it notes, toys and coloured pens.

But, ultimately, it is very difficult to persuade ordinary people to come to you and tell you what they want from a place, particularly younger, busier people and young parents who simply don't have the time and resources to get involved – often the people that are most likely to use the places and spaces created.

That's where technology, like our digital engagement platform, has the potential to transform placemaking, by making it easier to gather more meaningful insight more quickly from everyday people about what they want from places. Not just that, but tech has the potential to open up new lines of communication with people that have never felt that they've had the time or resources to get involved, particularly the people that will use and enjoy the spaces created.

Written by Paul Erskine-Fox - Founder, Participatr

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