PLACED Team go to UKREiiF 2024

UKREiiF was an experience. From arriving in Leeds on the Tuesday with a bag of fresh business cards and booklets, we felt the buzz from the event instantly. Jo and Sam had attended UKREiiF in 2023 but this year we were pleased that Matt and Kim were also able to attend.

A new focus on engagement

For us, a key takeaway was that our area of work is finally on the agenda in the property world, and the potential value of engagement is beginning to be understood. The importance of listening to local people was a reoccurring topic within the talks and panels we attended. It was wonderful to hear the recognition of the critical need to listen to local voices to enable successful, sustainable development – a big shift since we started this conversation in 2011.

Across the three days, we frequently heard people sharing their experiences and perspectives on engagement with communities and the inclusion of local voices. We loved being immersed into conversations with a variety of groups and organisations and found were able to bring real insight to discussions. It’s brilliant to see this topic of conversation reaching further now than it has been the past decade, and that we’re able to share our significant experience.

Youth voice was another rising topic. This is something we champion with our award-winning PLACED Academy, alongside advocating for youth voice to be more consistently included within engagement programmes. Many of our own projects seen youth engagement built in, recognising the incredible insight that this group can bring.

The third sector were present

Another positive for us was that amongst the blue suits of the developers, local authorities and design practices, there appeared to be a noticeable increase in community groups, CICs and SMEs. Having these individuals and organisations be part of the discussion is incredibly important when considering place. In our experience, they are often the missing voice at this more strategic level, with the focus typically resting squarely with potential of public-private partnerships.

A great range of events

Across the three days, the team attended a broad mix of events. Jo attended events including the Layer.studio Regeneration Hackathon (with Sam too), Opportunity Liverpool, Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement and She Leads – Celebrating Women in Leadership. Sam joined the Bottom Up Community Led Regeneration case study panel while Matt joined the Engaging Young People in the Democratic Workings of Regeneration workshop and Empowering Diversity in Architecture – Closing the Gender Pay Gap while Kim attended a roundtable on Heritage at the Heart of Regeneration.

The sheer number of events presented a few challenges, with a programme the size of a small phonebook (for those old enough to remember such things!) And in fact, one of the most successful aspects of UKREiiF is the unplanned, off-programme conversations, whether that be at a stand, through bumping into people you know and collaborate with, or finding the space to meet new contacts.

Credit – Layer.studio for the photo of Sam!

Our contribution to the programme

On the final day, we took our PLACED approach to UKREiiF, as we hosted our interactive workshop “The Value of Engagement in Design.” With over 40 professionals in the room, we heard a variety of insightful conversations and debates about the process and challenges of engagement within developments.

The activity we delivered drew heavily on the different real-life scenarios we encounter as engagement practitioners, and sought to highlight the balance between the different, often contradictory, demands on developers, clients and design teams. We’re thankful to the UKREiiF team for giving us the platform and space to be able to talk about this important issue through an interactive workshop. You can find a write up here.

Hearing from Kim

With it being her first experience of UKREiiF we invited Kim to share her reflections. Kim shared that she had learnt so much about the regeneration/property world – and knew more than she realised too. She also commented that there were so many different opportunities to offer your view, and that she enjoyed having a mix of talks and interactive sessions.

Kim’s highlight was joining the Heritage at the Heart of Regeneration panel with Historic England, She was the only young, northern woman on the panel representing the Northwest. A sea of London/South based organisations and she is there talking about Liverpool City Region and St. Helens and the role of communities within regeneration strategy and delivery. She spoke about the need to simply ask the community what they want, what’s important to them and about the importance of doing this before you start to build if you want it to be accepted. The PLACED team are very proud of her!

Credit to UKREiiF for the below photos.

Our three key wishes

  1. We found many of the events we attended that took a more community-first approach felt a little removed from the bigger platforms and headline moments. A hope for next year is that third sector voices make it onto the big panels, where their input and insight was needed.
  2. More interactivity! We had wonderful feedback about our event. The hand-on, inclusive approach enabled deeper discussions, connections and sharing of best practice. We’d love to see more of this.
  3. We would love to be able to contribute more in 2025 and become part of the bigger conversation to share our expertise and experience of engagement, whether this is through another workshop, chairing a panel or partnering with another organisation.

You can read the overview report of the workshop here.

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