In the morning we had three truly wonderful speakers: Judy Ling Wong CBE OBE, Dr Nikolay Mintchev and Dr Tim Waterman.
Ling Wong told us about the nine protected characteristics of the equality and human rights commission which include: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity (a new addition), race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation. She also gave us several inspirational quotes such as “change comes through the coming together of thinking, feeling and action.
She then told us about the importance of staying active both physically and mentally as one approaches old age (which, she informed us, is more politically correct than elderly). Clearly, she is doing a very good job at this. She then briefly talked about the so called “demographic time bomb” of the expected worsening of dependency ratios.
She then considered how to encourage local deprived groups to utilize beautiful parks which the government has provided them which but where they do not feel welcome. She suspected that excessive rules and regulations about the use of the park particularly discourage deprived groups. For example, when parks do not allow barbeques, Afro-Caribbean’s do not feel welcome.
She then talked about Greater London National Park city, http://www.nationalparkcity.london, an organization which seeks to apply national park principals to London. She gave examples so called “green walls”, forest wall paper, and letting residents improve the space around social housing. All of these excellent ideas have been proven to reduce stress and increase recovery times in hospitals.
We then herd from Mintchev, he gave an excellent talk centring around how diversity affects wellbeing. He is currently undertaking cutting edge research on this topic at the institute for global prosperity. He started by saying that although race, which is genetic, affects ethnicity, ethnicity is largely a social construct. He gave an example of Bulgarian “Turks” which have lived in Bulgaria for hundreds of years and are seen as outsiders in Turkey as they they speak Turkish and practice Islam in a different way to Turkish people. Socially constructed ethnicity can also me a matter of life and death in many African tribes; Israelis and Palestinians are genetically very similar.
When measuring diversity, he uses ethnicity rather than genetics. Many studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between trust and diversity. However, London, which has low levels of trust overall, has higher levels of trust in more diverse areas. His hypothesis for this is that in less diverse areas of London, people of non-majority ethnicities do not feel welcome, while this is not possible in extremely diverse neighbourhoods. However, people are often still not friends with people of other ethnicities even in extremely diverse neighbourhoods.
Diversity, it has been argued, brings other benefits such as increased idea transfers and creativity; although this only happens if different ethnicities actually interact. Therefore, positive interaction is key to bring back trust and bring the in the benefits of diversity after diversity increases. He also said that high inequality may limit interaction.
Our final speaker Dr Tim Waterman, a senior lecturer in landscape architecture at the University of Greenwich. His talk was called publicity, propriety and civil society. He emphasised the importance of civil society rather than community, as communities are exclusive by nature. This is not through an ill-nature of communities, rather it is due to the fact that inclusion and exclusion are two sides of the same coin. Civil society on the other hand can be seen as fundamental respect for our fellow humans.
He started by showing us how we can see the great changes landscape architects have made to London since 2008 on Google street view. Oxford circus, for example, has removed barricades which can squash people in crowds to allow people to overflow onto the road. It has also introduced a divide in the road to ease crossing the road outside of designated crossings. Introducing colourings on the crossings also help partially sighted people cross the road. While increasing the number of crossings helps to ease congestion on the pavement. He also pointed out the very small curb on crossings which allows blind people to notice the pavement without inferring with walking or cycling.
He then used Goodge street as a lens for gentrification in general. He seemed generally critical of gentrification, a viewpoint which not all would agree. He used the frequently stated argument that it increases the rents for existing residents, and deprived them of less high class establishments that they used to enjoy such as pubs. However, he also used more novel arguments, for example, the new entitled middle class residents are less considerate on the pavement and therefore increase congestion. He argued that vandalism, while immoral, is one of the few methods local residents have to prevent the process of gentrification in their neighbourhood. He talked about a project he had to encourage Bangladeshi immigrants to use Regent’s Park, which the immigrants felt unwelcome in due to it’s country manor like landscaping.
He said that when renovating a neighbourhood, it was important to do it slowly so that local residents have time to voice their opinions on what they would like to see happen. In the questions, he talked about how he was critical of neo-liberalism, he saw it as an economic system which can only survive by keeping low status people in a precarious position so that they lack a voice. However, one could argue that no economic system can survive without low status people, as if there were no low status people, there would be no fear of losing one’s employment, and therefore there would be little incentive to work. So he suggested trying to lower wealth inequality, which is difficult to disagree with.
We then gave some creative ideas to help IROKO, an east London African theatre company, and the London legacy development corporation work together using Queen Elizabeth Park to enhance the wellbeing of local older residents. Group 2 suggested making a circuit of activities including dancing, painting and drumming in the park where the older residents could choose freely which activity to try. Other groups suggested, tree planting, building an amphitheatre, and having a group with both old and young people to share love stories.
In the afternoon, we go back to the breakout room and continue doing things with the human-centered Design. We follow the design cycle that has been introduced yesterday, which is the prototyping step. First of all, we choose one particular theme of ideas from the brainstorming we did yesterday and start to think about how to improve the commute for our personas with respect to this specific theme. In order to achieve that, we start a new brainstorming and get more idea of solution about this theme and then choose one of them to start writing our story about the persona.
Then it comes to the most interesting part, we use sticky note to present every step of his commute only by drawing and after that, we use paper box, tape and other material to actually build and present our new story in front of our group member. Some people choose to become their persona by acting a little drama show and some people choose to act as a television interview show to talk about the changes when the new idea of commute is applied and compare to the old commute. Some people use the paper box to build their new idea of public transportation, which is not only a benefit to this persona, but also people that have the similar situation with him. By doing these interesting and meaningful team works with our team member, we understand the design cycle and human-centered Design more, and more importantly, we get closer with each other!