BeLearning learning process at CityMine(d)

The context

Planning and designing public space has increasingly become a technical matter, in which safety, security, prevention and sustainability have to find a place along urban infrastructure of traffic, energy and water, preferably in an international appealing aesthetic. Accommodating the subjective experience of local residents/users in this context is difficult, to say the least. Besides that, users of public space often have a framework of reference and a logic that is strange to professionals. With terms like ‘participation’ and ‘consultation’ attempts are being made to bridge the divide, but up to now with limited results.

CityMine(d)’s BeLearning learning process is taking place in London.

Main objectives

  • Create a space where those interested from very diverse backgrounds come together to exchange knowledge and experience about urban planning.
  • From different perspectives obtain insight in interests and forces that shape form and function of urban public space.
  • Create a workshop method to 1) organise a learning environment and 2) facilitate the exchange of knowledge that after being tested twice in London, will also be used in Brussels and Barcelona, and possibly afterwards.

Learning process schedule

Open sharing phase

It’s divided into two sub-phases: 1) exploratory phase (Oct. – Dec. 2013), consisting on exploration of areas and what is at stake, and 2) preparatory phase (Dec. – Jan. 2014), preparation of workshops and partners: individual interviews and community meals putting in place of online tools.

This phase has the objective of identifying both participants for the workshops and key issues the workshop should deal with. Individual contacts for 1-hour interviews per participant might be time consuming, but the trainers decided that this is a cost-efficient way to identify needs and opportunities. The community meal (4 hours duration) lays the foundations for the workshop: it clarifies aims and objectives, manages expectations and creates a sense of community among participants, being the first opportunity to bring all participants of one workshop together.

The interaction between layers in this phase (see the BeLearning methodology) consists of building a website and putting in place online infrastructure (online layer) so as to prepare the groups for the workshop (interaction layer). About the impact layer, through the interviews the participants’ field of interest, expertise or experience is identified, and in turn they are made aware about the possibilities and potential of the workshop.

Workshop phase

There are two workshops: one in Olympic area (6/03/2014) and one in Camden Town (8/03/2014). Their objectives are: 1) creating a learning environment in which there’s an exchange of knowledge and technical, academic and lived expertise in the field of the built environment, 2) developing and testing a format of workshop to facilitate this type of exchange, and 3) the online exchange of opinions and expertise.

The workshops consist of 4-hours sessions about the treatment of local issues relating to the built environment plus 2 hous of online discussions. The participants are given an introduction to the digital tools they will use afterwards (digital layer) and they got to know each other and find out what they can learn from each other (interaction layer). The impact layer consists in learning about the built environment in their local area while indentifying which expertise is important for what, as well as on a more abstract level how the built environment takes shape and by whom. All in a learning environment in which exchange of knowlegde is facilitated.

Post-workshop phase

In this phase, starting in March 2014, a translation of workshops in format will be done to be re-used in other cities. Then, from April to June 2014, it is aimed that the workshop is re-used in Brussels and Barcelona to test the quality of format.

This will be done in a 4-hours meeting and through online discussions and online cloud. Participants will identify strengths and weaknesses of the format and propose improvements, then derive a format that can be used in other contexts, translate the workshop in steps, and finally use it in Brussels and Barcelona. There will be a use of digital tools to both derive format and follow up the re-use (digital layer), the participants will be brought together once again and  future collaborations can be proposed, they can learn about differences in other European contexts and the learning environment can be identified and tested in other contexts (interaction and impact layers).

Who are the participants?

They come from different work, learning and social environments: local residents from Camden Town and the Olympic area in London, residents and tenants associations from these areas, community organisers, decision makers (planners, local councillors) and academic researchers and research institutions.

During the learning process, the participants are divided into two groups of 15 participants each.