Today marks our 10th birthday. It is incredibly exciting to still be here, doing what I love and feel incredibly passionate about. It’s certainly not something that ten years ago, sitting at a table, expecting my first child and without a job, I would have thought I would still be doing.
Ten years ago, I had a fundamental belief that we need to do better in how we design and create places. Like many others around me at the time, I knew involving more representational voices at every level — whether in policy, design teams or by working together with communities — would help us to create places that meet the needs of our diverse multi-layered communities. It seemed obvious that local people are best placed to identify the issues and opportunities on the ground, rather than those parachuting in with no understanding of the local area.
In the early days, we constantly heard “Why do we want to ask people? They don’t know what they need! We’re the experts.” Today, things are changing and — despite Covid — we’re busier than ever. We’re starting to see more emphasis on the need for community engagement — although, as we’ll talk more about another time, it’s still not enough, too easy to avoid and often too vague to really ensure people do genuinely shape decisions.
Our belief in the need to bring professionals together with local people in a collaborative, supportive way has always been at the heart of our work. It’s about us all taking time to listen and to be part of a meaningful conversation. We believe that everyone is an expert on the built environment — we just have different knowledge to bring.
We’re incredibly lucky to have been far from alone on this journey. We have worked with so many fantastic people, from wonderful, talented colleagues to the many hundreds of volunteer Ambassadors. As well as organisations such as the School for Entrepreneurs, who helped us to understand what it means to run a social business and of course, friends who have been constant advisers and a patient listening ear.
We’re also incredibly grateful to clients who have trusted us to deliver meaningful engagement or to run worthy education programmes, and to funders who have invested in us. As a social enterprise, we are alway thankful to the public, who have put their faith in us who have put their faith in us to share their views, and young people who gave us the opportunity to work with them and hear their wonderful, inspiring insights into how we can create better places.
Over our 10th year, we’ll be taking the opportunity here to celebrate some of the wonderful people who have been part of our journey, without whom we wouldn’t be where we are today. We’ll also be sharing some of our learning, from our work over the years, in the context of looking forward to the next ten years, as well as inviting others to share their own thoughts about what the future of the built environment holds.
The last ten years really have been a roller-coaster of a journey, and an incredible learning experience. Whilst we were sometimes tempted to get off, we’re still going and growing. And still proudly shouting our mantra — we can only create better places together!
Thanks for being with us.
PLACED Director and Founder