As highlighted in April's Spurtle, there is widespread public disillusion with how some Council officials and elected representatives seek and respond to public opinion.
We were therefore intrigued to learn about the Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood project, which encourages us to reimagine community consultation.
We invited the project team to explain more, and Irina Tavera, the project's Community Partnership Manager, has contributed the following article.
From controversies over new city-centre hotels, to debates on how we share our roads and pavements, Edinburgh’s conversation with itself has been fraught in recent years.
We may not all agree on what should change or how, but we do care deeply about what shapes our neighbourhoods and are proud to call Edinburgh home.
Considering these varying opinions on what our neighbourhoods should look like, we need to begin with improving how we speak to each other about our changing city.
Community consultations have been the recognised process to include the local community in key decision making. This input is often put forward as a reason for, or as a block against, proposals going forwards. That feels only right.
As residents, workers, commuters, and community members, we all have a stake in our city. We should not accept change without the input of those who will be most affected by it.
What can be done?
But what is real community consultation, and how can it be improved? How can we move from passive consultation to active engagement?
These are the questions to be answered by a new project – Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood – which is being hosted by the University of Edinburgh, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh's Voluntary Organisational Council (EVOC), and the Scottish Government.
This project is all about finding out what is important to people in Edinburgh, and getting your views. We want you to tell us what makes your neighbourhood special, what makes it strong and sustainable, what about it adds to your quality of life and wellness, and yes – what needs to change.
The approach we are taking is to look through the lens of 20-minute neighbourhoods. This is the development model that puts sustainability, accessibility, and your quality of life as its priority. It aims to create neighbourhoods where your daily services can be accessible within a 20-minute walk, cycle, or bus ride.
We want to hear from you about the local assets (i.e. your local GP, grocery stores, community centres, anything that contributes to your quality of life) that make these goals possible for you and your family.
To capture residents’ views of their city we will have a digital mapping tool created by Commonplace. You will be able to use this to pinpoint the places you love and value in your own neighbourhood and the city centre.
By collecting this data, we can create a bird’s eye view of the city in neighbourhoods, as well as evaluating this method of collecting information for the future.
Visit our Commonplace mapping tool, tell us what you love and take our participation survey - https://ouredinburghneighbourhood.commonplace.is/
Councillor Leader Cammy Day addressing Our Edinburgh Partners during its launch event on Thursday 14 June. [Image: Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood.]
How to get involved and have your say
We are hosting a pop-up ‘urban room’ in Waverley Market on Princes St, right beside the Linton Co Café. This will explore how we use spaces and help us see what residents think of their neighbourhood and specifically the city centre.
The urban room is part exhibition, part event space. We are also featuring a calendar of events hosted by local community organisations in Edinburgh.
We invite Edinburgh residents and their respective community leaders to join in our effort to reform the community-consultation process.
See what’s on in the Waverley Market Urban Room on our website here: https://ouredinburghneighbourhood.org/calendar
Without genuine input from residents, we cannot properly shape our city for the future.
We want to move away from the tick-box approach many developers sometimes use that puts a minimum effort into real understanding. This has, with good reason, led to consultation fatigue for many communities throughout Edinburgh.
For those most exercised about local issues, the lack of connection between a consultation and the final proposals has led to deep cynicism.
In that context, we want to explore how consultation can be done in a way that sets the framework for meaningful and inclusive input, democratising development decision making. We will provide high-quality research grounded in our city’s experience.
That research will help shape consultations, and thus the city, for a long time to come.
Who we are and how to learn more
Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood is part of a larger 4-nations project called Community Consultation for Quality of Life, spearheaded by the Quality-of-Life foundation and the University of Reading.
The research will be conducted in Reading, Cardiff, and Belfast as well as Edinburgh. Together we hope to combine our research to create the blueprint necessary to fundamentally change how we approach community engagement and consultations about city planning.
Like you, we want to see our city thrive, and the only way to get there is to ensure we all have a meaningful say in what it looks like.
We need your input. If you wish to get involved in this effort, follow us on Twitter @edinburgh_our or Instagram @ouredinburghneighbourhood for updates. To learn more about the project and get in touch, visit our website: https://ouredinburghneighbourhood.org/
Have your say – Visit our Commonplace mapping tool, tell us what you love and take our participation survey - https://ouredinburghneighbourhood.commonplace.is/
Visit the Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood urban room in Waverley Market. We are open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00 am–5.00 pm until 8 July.
Complete the participation survey in our space for a free Linton Co coffee!