Civic Design CPD

Civic Design Summer School in North Kensington

Students discuss analysis and proposals with community members in Acklam Village.

July 2018

Coordinator of the course: Pablo Sendra

Developed in collaboration with the campaigns: Save Wornington College, Friends of North Kensington Library and Westway23

Coordination of the campaigns: Toby Laurent Belson

Collaborators in the course: CivicWise

Students: André Alves Goncalves, Kay Thi Kyin and Wang Hui Liu, Yihan Shi, Kyra Chen Ying, Suming Miao, Shang-Fang Yu, Xingchan Wang, Lingjie Jiao, Zhangpan Hu

Collaboration between communities and universities

Pablo Sendra (UCL) met Toby Laurent Belson (Westway23) during a walk along the Westway organised by Marco Picardi and Civicwise, a network that works on civic engagement. From the walk came out the short film “Westway: Four decades of community activism”. From this initial encounter, Pablo and Toby decided to start collaborating.

The UCL Summer School was a good framework for this collaboration. Students from all around the world would come to take an intensive 3-week course at University College London. Civicwise had previously run ‘Civic Design’ online courses, so they were also involved in the planning and teaching of this summer school. The aim of this course is to provide students with skills for working in collaboration with community groups. Given the importance of genuinely involving communities in decision-making process, this skill is now key for urban planning professionals. During the course, students work in a brief that has been previously agreed with the community. From this collaboration, students learn to respond to the community needs and the community groups receive a useful document for their campaigns.

Visit to the Westway guided by community members.

Planning the course together

When planning the format of the collaboration, Toby proposed working with three local campaigns: Westway23, Friends of North Kensington Library and Save Wornington College. These three campaigns are dealing with local struggles, opposing the privatisation of community assets, the management of educational facilities, and the commercialisation of a community space.

Collaboratively, universities and community developed the brief. During the first half of the course, students be first researching how decisions are currently being made about these three places (Westway, North Kensington Library, Wornington College), who are making these decisions, and to what extent these decisions take into account the needs and demands of the community. Once the students have done these analyses, during the second part of the course, students proposed how decisions could be made in a way that the community is at the centre of the decision-making process, and how these three different places could work alternatively.

Teaching with communities

During the delivery of the course, students were in contact with community groups since week 1. On the first week, guided by community activists, they visited North Kensington, including the college, the library and different spaces under the Westway. At the end of the tour, students and communities had a discussion session at the Maxilla Hall Social Club.

On week two, after the students had done the analysis work, students and communities met at Acklam Village to discuss the work already done and share ideas for the proposals.

At the end of the course, on week three, students presented their work to the community in Acklam Village. This was a great opportunity to generate a discussion on the collaboration between universities and community groups. Pablo and Toby also presented this collaboration at the Tate Exchange at the Tate Modern. Once the course was finished, the students gave their reports to the community groups.

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