Finally our time had come, the last day, the final frontier, it was presentation time! We said goodbye to the overground line to Stratford and hello to the lower ground lecture theatre of Bedford Way. After attempting to reorganise everyone’s roles in the presentation we made the controversial decision to stick to the parts that each individual had actually prepared. Despite our lack of post-it notes or any real speaking order, we sat near the front eagerly anticipating our time to shine.
We may not have had as many slides as Group 1 (IROKO) or the artistic abilities and props of Group 4 (Creative Wick) but our spirit and passion burned bright! Fortunately our project was well received. The longitudinal structure of our scheme and engagement of various companies within Here East was highly commended. We also received useful suggestions that we hadn’t considered such as integrating Here East’s current programme designed to target university students. This idea was concurrent with our overall aim to implement a longitudinal programme that reinforces attitudes and beliefs relating to equal opportunities on a consistent basis. Therefore if we were pitching this solution to the LLDC we would take time to discuss the possibility of joining with this programme.
After a quick lunch break we returned to Bedford to evaluate and reflect on the programme. In typical human-centred design fashion we grabbed post-it notes and wrote down our opinions on various reflective questions regarding the (Un)Urban strand. We found people would have preferred more time for such large projects and possibly smaller groups for more concentrated discussions. Students also seemed to contribute and take away similar aspects such as communication skills, understanding and insight. A common theme amongst questions regarding what people gained and enjoyed was an appreciation and understanding of the human centred design process and multidisciplinary teamwork. Thus overall despite being in it first year the (Un)Urban strand was a great success!
Eventually, we attended the final cross-strand event and witnessed talks and video presentations from various other strands. These ranged from drawn animations created by the outbreak strand to a homemade video from those working on Sustainable Cities. At first the idea of sitting in a lecture hall for an hour so soon after exams was far from exciting, however the presentations were well thought out, educational and entertaining. Each strand seemed to offer a wealth of opportunity for learning, growth and enjoyment. Fortunately, the organisers were smart enough to save the best till last resulting in (Un)Urban closing the presentations. Despite the time restrictions our group delivered a clear and concise insight into the progress made in those short two weeks.
After UCL’s Vice Provost (Education & Student Affairs) delivered a closing speech we all shuffled out towards the cloisters to admire the fruits of our labour and exchange as many drink tokens as we could find. Amongst the buzz of celebrating students our poster hung loud and proud, a dazzling mint green example of excellence. No but really our poster was great. The perfect Microsoft word template complimented the perfect project and we were proud to admire our innovative and engaging creation. It was safe to say we struck lucky, not only with the challenge we received and the group members whose company we shared but also with the strand overall. From the diverse discussion panels in UCL lecture theatres to enjoying Stour Space and its beautiful surroundings this programme really went above and beyond my expectations and if it were socially acceptable to redo it next year I’d be the first to apply!
Our last day in Stour Space has been one of mixed feelings. It had been a day of pride because we completed the challenge and finalised our project but it has also been a day of reflection and wishing that perhaps we had a little more time to breathe in the air of this contested but yet beautiful area of East London.
The main task of today was to bring everyone together and create two posters for the Friday exhibition. This required to digitalise the majority of the materials created during the week so it was largely a computer based job.
After the posters were completed and everyone was happy with the result we had a lunch break and enjoyed the sunny and warm weather. This was followed by the option between staying in Stour Space and attending a public speaking workshop or doing gardening at R-Urban for the rest of the evening. Half of the group stayed for the workshop which gave us great insights into the best ways to remain confident when speaking to large audiences and the other half helped out at the mobile garden city hence spending two productive hours helping the local communities.
Considering that some of us had not previously visited Hackney Wick, it is very interesting to reflect on our perception of the area before and after completion of the Global Citizenship Program. Lucia, one of our group members said that “before the program I had not really thought about the impacts of the construction of the Olympic Park and the regeneration in East London. However, (Un)urban has given me a new invaluable insight into how this urban development has affected long established local communities.”
To conclude, even though we finished the program we are all every excited to present our solution in tomorrow’s exhibition and share our ideas with the rest of the strands and organisations that took part in the Global Citizenship Program this year. Special thanks to our navigator Katharina Schöffman for facilitating our learning process throughout the past two weeks and always motivating us and praising us for our ideas.
Later yesterday, our team set up a specific persona and utilized brainstorming to list all considerable needs in variety of aspects. Our persona is called Vic, who is 10-14 years old and is now living in Hackney Wick. We considered the unique aspects of needs of Vic yesterday.
Today, we come up with further needs for Vic and practice brainstorming a lot. Considering human-centered design, we come up with new ideas that can help. Meanwhile, we make some changes based on every team member’s opinions in the process and improve our solutions. Then, we face two difference directions: individual issues and needs & connections with other groups of people. So we have a discussion on which of the two shall we focus on. We finally decide to emphasis more on individual issues and needs, which is more important.
In order to bridge the community, there are several ways to improve it. We can not only setting up activities for children and workshops for older people, but also build up the connections between the two age groups together. Afterwards, we reorganize the order of all the ideas and classify them into different themes: Aspirations-career, education, access, skills, sports, gardening, financial, counselling, entrepreneurship, mentoring, leisure, interaction with artists, working experiences and internship. We choose two most related and representative themes: working experience&aspiration-career&mentoring and art&gardening&education&leisure. Then, our team vote for the most likely to delight people, the most likely to succeed and the most likely to break through innovations. So better solutions are left.
Then, our group is divided into two small groups. One starts the consideration and discussion in the prospective of students coming to Here East while the other group starts in the viewpoint of people living in Here East going to have a connection with students. In order to motivate students to come to hackney wick, firstly, Here East can provide commute coaches for students, which makes it easier and more convenient for students to come to Here East. Secondly, A ranking of Top 5 extra-curriculum courses can be taken inside the school so that students can choose what courses they are interested in and they will definitely have a great passion to come to Here East to study. An introduction of gardening can be taught in school so that students can have a better understanding beforehand. Then, gardening workshops are held in Here East and welcome students to come. Besides, schools can award students for attendance of classes in Here East and the award ceremony can be held in Here East so that students will have a better connection with Here East. Furthermore, for students whose parents do not have a job, schools can organize an introduction in school and guide students to experience more in Here East so that students get to know how important a job is and encourage them to have passion in working.
In the afternoon, we try to perfect our design in three categories: introduction, interaction and long-term continuity and start prototyping. After 10 minutes, we decide to split into two groups. One is working on students in Year 6 in primary school and the other is working on junior high students from year 7 to year 9. In prototyping, we cover sports, science, technology innovation, art and museum. In fact, each group separates each year into 3 terms so that for each term, students can take part in different activities, make an improvement throughout the period and make a great difference at the end of their junior high study.
Finally, we are separated into 3 groups. One is working on figures describing what to do, one is working on outcomes and the other one is working on motivations. We will continue to finish our solutions tomorrow!!
I learned a lot from today’s session. It not only improves my communication and other teamwork skills, but also help me make innovations through brainstorming sessions.
1-Dr Tim Waterman’s burned-out car at the end of the road?
To kick off the second week of the (Un)Urban Global Citizenship Strand, the groups met in our case study site of Fish Island and The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Our base for the week, Stour Space is a fitting example of the creative regeneration processes engulfing this former industrial part of Hackney Wick and Tower Hamlets. Surrounded by waterways, mid-rise warehouses and parkland – the area offers a welcome juxtaposition to the more inner-city location of UCL’s main campus. Being immersed in the area will inevitably be beneficial to catalysing integration and understanding of our research site and help with putting the theoretical framework from week one into practice with our designated challenges.
2-Stour Space Top-Trumps
The day consisted largely of a tour of the park and the surrounding Hackney Wick area, as well as a visit to the R-Urban Mobile Garden City – situated adjacent to the former Athlete’s Village complex. As a group, having largely never visited the park previously, what became particularly apparent was the vastness of the open space surrounding the various Olympic venues. Although much of the former event-infrastructure such as concrete concourses, has been ‘re-wilded’, the park still hold an incessant bareness in certain parts of it. What we began to question is whether this seemingly unused space has come about through a lack of people living in its vicinity – or through problematic social engineering which perturbs rather than attracts local residents to it.
The changing face of the Olympic Park area bears resemblance to gentrifying processes felt elsewhere in London – however, it also presents its own complexities and tensions such as between the tidal wave of housing development and the preservation of post-industrial creative warehouses. The challenge that Group 2 in particular face, is how these newer communities can successfully integrate with both the resident creative community and the life-long residents of the area. R-Urban with their mixed-purpose community space offers a solution for creating new, vibrant and cohesive communities within the new high-rise apartment blocks, but it was difficult to see how a project such as this could be used collaboratively to engineer inclusion and assimilation between long-term and new residents. However, in itself the Mobile Garden City presented an interesting model of community engagement for us to observe, explore and learn about. The bottom-up initiative at R-Urban Wick not only displayed the hard work and enjoyment of the developing East Village community but also showed the potential of public-private partnerships when working towards local social-wellbeing projects.
4-Mobile Garden City
Later we made our way back through the park towards the artistic and more alternative community on Fish Island. Passing through the Trowbridge Estate however reified the fact that Hackney Wick is such a diverse area, home to people from all different backgrounds and with sometimes polarised lifestyles. Upon visiting the old Bath House, we were made aware of the conflict that has arisen through concerns of the estate’s residents for increasing noise levels, anti-social behaviour and visible drug use. Whilst the creative bubble appeared idealistic and desirable at first glance, it was important for us to bear in mind the mixed demographic of the area and understand how opinions towards a changing neighbourhood both visually and socially are highly contested.
All in all, our day of exploring the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and its environs proved to be engaging, diverse and particularly useful for fostering a greater portrait of the area and the communities that live there. After resting tired legs and soothing the first sunburn of the summer, we can look forward to exploring our case study site and work with the people that call this area home, to strive for sustainable strategies that promote well-being, assimilation and a vibrant sense of community in Hackney Wick – ensuring that no-one ‘loses’ out to the community’s changing face.
The end of our first week was a rather busy day. In the first session we had panel about green urban initiatives in London. It started with Joyce Veheary introducing us to Lend and Tend, a single managed online platform she started not long ago to bring together people who want to garden but do not have the space to do it and people who do have it but cannot garden. It all started from her desire to have a garden and grow vegetables being stopped by the allotment rents waiting list, which goes up to 30 years in East London! As its slogan “Gardened Gardens Knit Neighbourhoods” says, garden spaces have been proven to reduce statistics of crime, and have also shown to be an interesting way to get kids living in cities to know and value where their food comes from, as well as to help people deal with anxiety and mental health problems and, more importantly, to break the intergenerational gap. The next step for Lend and Tend is to increase the number of people lending gardens to reduce the distance people have to travel to them. More information can be found in the website http://www.lendandtend.com/
Joyce Veheary was followed by Constance Smith talking about The Mobile Garden City in London Olympics Park, a gardening, place making project to help building both the built environment and a community in this new born neighbourhood, even before the neighbourhood exists. In this 20x30m space, gardening is done in pallets, thus not digging into the ground, and different projects have been developed around it: obviously food growing, but also apprenticeships and healthy eating initiatives, among others. The most striking fact about it is that it is a temporary project, funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation which, after 18 months will be moved to another near location to help build another new neighbourhood.
We also learned about R- Urban, a initiative hosted at the Mobile Garden City space to “produce what we consume and consume what we produce, creating net positive solutions”. It is a pilot cradle to cradle model (which could be easily replicated in the UK and Europe) which hosts very interesting activities and spaces, including a community cafe to socialise and a civic university with a classroom, archives and a recording studio hosting workshops; but also a curiosity shop, a tool library, a cycle workshop and an anaerobic digester under construction.
The ecologist Gary Grant closed this panel with an ecosystems approach to the provision of urban green infrastructures. As we all know, 21st century cities are facing many problems, and replacing grey infrastructures with green ones helps alleviating the problem (and can also save money). To do this, he suggested thinking on the idea of networks in ecology and the ecosystem services nature provides us with (such as global and local climate regulation) and apply them to cities. Also, by making cities more permeable to wildlife, we also make them better for people. He presented us with some exciting projects, as Singapore’s Old Rail Corridor, which turned a disused railway into a path for cyclists and helped wild birds, or London Underground Central Line Depot, which uses water in a green space while prevents problems in the Underground. Also, he showed us the benefits of sustainable Garden Walls and depaving (putting gardens into pavements). The most interesting point was the idea that we have to mimic nature, and change our point of view to start seeing water in constructions as an ally rather than an enemy.
After this stimulating panel, we had to come up with solutions to a challenge proposed by R-Urban: which strategies, techniques and data they can collect and use to better understand local community needs. Some possible solutions groups came up with included the use of demographic information, questionnaires and focus groups, hosting events to ask people and giving freebies to engage them. Among the feedback we received I found particularly interesting the idea of talking to park managers and cleaners, since they have extensive knowledge about the area and how people use it, and they are easier to interview than a large number of local people.
After a short lunch break we moved to Chandler House to work on research methods on the social sciences, and we were given the list of challenges we could choose to work on next week. First, groups 1 and 2 came up with a collaborative definition of social science research methods: they are procedures to gain qualitative and quantitative, first and second-hand data about groups, institutions or patterns of behaviour at a macro and micro level across time and space. Then, our navigators introduced us to quantitative (very structured, e.g.: experiment), qualitative (less structured, more complex, attitudes, e.g.: ethnography) and in-between methods.
We spent some time talking about interviews. First we explored the different types there are (structured, semi-structured and un-structured) and then we worked on types of questions that can be asked: introducing, follow-up, probing, specifying, indirect, structuring and interpreting questions, as well as silence. Our navigators also introduced us to research ethics and how participants have to know about them through consent forms, and taught us how to plan our research. To wrap up all the new concepts and ideas of that afternoon, we had to come up with questions for a potential interviewee and write a brief discussion guide for our interview. To finish, each group had time to decide the top 3 preferred challenges for next week.
Friday was a busy but inspiring day about urban green spaces and research methods, and both the panellists and our navigators gave us a lot of information and new ideas to develop our own ones in the challenges we will have to work on next week.
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!
The morning of the second day of (Un)Urban was centred around the theme of Urban Wellbeing and Public Health. This panel discussion featured two presentations, one by Oliver Dawkins (a PhD researcher from CASA) on the changing nature and use of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park since the end of its hosting, and one by Neil McElduff (from the London Office of Clinical Commissioning Groups) concerning public health, the development and greater purpose of the Ludwig Guttman Centre, and the greater impact of community schemes in areas such as the four ‘growth boroughs’ highlighted by the London Legacy Development Corporation. This led us neatly into our morning challenge: How can a creative agency best utilise community networks in order to perform at its best? The agency in question was Creative Wick, a “creative regeneration agency” active since 2013. Group 2’s answer to the challenge started with some necessary cynicism about Creative Wick’s online presence, but this led to more informed observations about how a creative agency ought to use technology, such as Twitter and online bookings, to improve its presence and impact in the local area. Additionally, more positive topics were discussed, including the possibility of Creative Wick working more closely with local artists and helping to make their warehouses into more open spaces for public exhibitions. Generally, it was a helpful session that will no doubt provide a springboard for the following week. Whether Creative Wick can break 200 Twitter followers, however, remains to be seen.
After what Hannah Sender famously declared to be “the longest lunch break you’re ever going to have”, we returned to our breakout room for an introduction to Human-Centred Design. This workshop covered the aforementioned topic in great detail, and it started with what seems like an otherwise obvious assumption: when designing anything, the idea cannot just be viable for the business and feasible with its resources; it has to be desirable for people too. This concept was introduced, unsurprisingly, with spaghetti and marshmallows. With varying amounts of success, spaghetti towers were constructed with only the help of some masking tape and string all across the room. Most of them fell over, but the lesson remained. The towers were designed with the marshmallow in mind, because the marshmallow had a need to be held by the tower. The marshmallow was the ‘person’ for which our towers were designed, regardless of whether we let it down with our tower, or, even worse, ate the marshmallow.
The following exercise was a greater introduction to the idea of needs, and how, even if we do not recognise it, we all have them – even about something as mundane as our daily commute. We were tasked with interviewing each other about some kind of commute we’ve taken and why we made the choices we had. These choices, for example, taking a coach above a train, were made based on aspects of ourselves that yielded needs on our journey.
Finally, we were asked to consider this system of aspects and needs for one particular, unique commuter, ranging from a fortysomething professional from Cardiff named John who really hopes they extend the Central line to Wales, to Bernie Sanders. These unique personas were designed to create people with unique needs, needs that we then attempted to provide solutions for. The brief we were given for our solutioneering was to think outside the box, defer judgement, and embrace ambiguity, leading to ramshackle ideas (‘buy a train’) but also more concrete, developed ideas, created through a process of diverging then converging – such as the implementation of more clear signage for a disabled commuter. Every person, then, has needs that must be met when coming up with an idea – and that is the theory behind Human-Centred Design.
In summary, the day offered a fitting introduction to Human-Centred Design and the theme of Urban Wellbeing on the whole.
After a welcome to both the Global Citizenship Programme and the IGP (Un)Urban Programme, we broke into our working group for the 9 days – Group 2. We then met each other and discussed why we each chose the course.
Our first task was an (Un)Urban journeys activity, which involved a study of a green space with close proximity to UCL. Group 2 all chose to use Gordon Square (the closest green space to the East of campus), as our subject for analysis, with the question: Do you see any obvious connection between how people use green space and their wellbeing? as the primary focus for our study.We split into three smaller groups to work with together whilst in Gordon Square and surveyed the area for approximately 45 minutes. Whilst walking around the green space, we were told to make drawings, take photographs/videos/sound recordings, and get a sense of the urban environment and how people moved and utilised the space.
One of our first observations was how wild the park seemed, in terms of the variation of plants/trees, and the amount of wildlife that resided in the area: the noticeboard said that the most common species were foxes, house mice, brown rats and grey squirrels. (pigeons aside!) The amount of wild flowers, in particular bluebells, and variety of grass and tree sizes helped to create this sense of wilderness or oasis, within such an urban environment. The amount of foliage and trees on the outskirts of the park was greater, especially on each of the corners of the square, which helps contribute to the sense of privacy and unfrequented nature of the square, blocking out the visual and noise pollution from the adjacent roads. There are also small mounds and patches of dense grass, which provides relief from the flat and repetitive environment of London’s streets.
The square has around 15 benches, a café, open grass in the middle and two statues. Most people in the park were either eating lunch, chatting to a friend, or utilising the park as a peaceful diversion on their route to work/home. We met a woman who comes to the square everyday without fail (even in the winter months), some commuters and a tourist walking her baby around. To all these people the green space was evidently contributing to their daily wellbeing. We also discussed how people might be more inclined to meet or have a serious chat in a park, due to the sense of peacefulness and privacy. Then, we spoke to the café manager, who considered the majority of the users of the park to be those who study/work nearby, along with those who use it as a transitionary route. However, one problem that arose was the recent closure of the north gate, which has disrupted people’s routes and accessibility to the park; but it does arguably increase the privacy and sense of the seclusion that the square offers.