Last's night Salon about public participation at the Civic Trust went really well ... subject of course to any contrary opinions participants might wish to add below. Our engagement technique was simple and well-tested - ply people with lots of free wine* and encourage them to circulate. We added a few props ... over-sized badges, and flags.
The idea of the badges was that people added a few words about things they might wish to discuss with others. My designer friends at the Civic Trust took to the idea enthusiastically, and provided people with mini-placards which certainly did the job effectively.
The flags idea was something Drew Mackie and I have done before to help people cluster into groups ..... find a few other people with a shared interest and you get a paper flag to write your interest on and wave to attract more people.
In the event everyone was so gregarious that not much was needed to encourage circulation. We got into the appropriate frame of mind right from the start with some excellent jazz piano from Charles Condy, husband of the Trust's Heritage Days Manager Katya.
The Trust has been around for nearly 50 years, encouraging high standards of planning and architecture. It's had its up and downs over the years, but I sensed a lot of energy among its staff. The Trust's director Peter Bembridge has a technology background, unusual for an organisation in the planning and environment field - so I'm hopeful we'll see more of the Trust's activities reflected online. I know there is interest in equipping the hundreds of local civic societies, supported by the Trust, with better communication methods.
Amidst all the fun we also talked about participation, engagement, co-creation and such. Apart from one dissenting voice there was general interest in how to mix online activity with face to face workshops and other techniques, and I promised to set up a site where anyone interested could try blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools. My son Dan is grappling with Drupal modules and Flash plugins, and we should have a sort of online salon running soon. Quite what we'll do about the wine, I'm not sure.
* Thanks to sponsor David Prichard of Metropolitan Workshop
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