As the world starts to think about what our lives will look like post the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no better time to start to rethink how our public places work. In the face of strains on placemaking funding due to health priorities, we looked to create a toolkit that can support local government authorities to continue engaging with their communities and keep that positive narrative going, but for no cost.
With travel restrictions and orders to stay local, people across the world have had a chance to reconnect with where they live over the last year or so. From walking local streets during lockdown, to a new appreciation of our hyperlocal green spaces, we believe it would be a lost opportunity if local authorities do not capitalise on this feeling. We believe tactical urbanism could be the perfect ideas incubator to influence future place related activities.
Why tactical urbanism? Tactical urbanism consists of low-cost, temporary changes to a built environment, usually in cities and towns, intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places. Perhaps most important is that it can be done cheaply (or at no cost!), by almost anyone.
To go hand in hand with the ideology of tactical urbanism we wanted to create a resource that is 100% activism-led, free to access and open source, which brings in ideas, advice and practical examples from tactical urbanism movers and shakers from across the globe.
As the pandemic progressed, there were increased conversations around how the training needs of third sector and government staff could be met in order for tactical urbanism projects to be successfully implemented. Originally started out as a training project with mental health activist and volunteer, James Firkins, ‘Rethink Re:Place’ very quickly grew into something much bigger.
In 2021, we made the decision to accelerate the conversation about using tactical urbanism to reconnect with our communities, not only to gather ideas on placemaking but also to gauge citizen feedback on what they would like to see, alongside offering training on what local NGOs can do off their own backs. Through this our hope is to increase conversations around the use of tactical urbanism, and to eventually influence future government urban planning policy.
Verity Parkin and Alex Robinson joined New Union to design and facilitate Rethink Re:Place Festival 2021: a campaign to showcase the power of tactical urbanism, particularly aimed at governments and NGOs. The festival included blogs on how tactical urbanism can be used in various scenarios, vlogs with tactical urbanism activists, and a series of workshops with councils in different areas of the world, alongside a public policy hackathon to conclude the festival week.
Verity and Alex interviewed some of the leading professionals in the area, including author of ‘Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change’ and Principal of New York City based organisation Street Plans Mike Lydon, Specialist Urban Design at Auckland Council in New Zealand and project lead for Tactical Auckland Claire Davis, Vice-Chair at Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA Florida) & senior planner of the highly influential Biscayne Green project Fabian De La Espriella, Co-Executive Director at the City Repair Project Ridhi D’Cruz, and many more.
The team also created a special interactive lesson for children to teach them about tactical urbanism and placemaking in their local town. The interactive video lesson gives the young person the opportunity to become the mayor of a fictional town and choose which area they would like to implement their own tactical urbanism projects, all supported by downloadable worksheets. At the time of release, most of the world was in a strict lockdown, and with online education being so important we wanted to design something complimentary to support parents homeschooling their children. The resource is still available, and you can download that here.
The festival week started with a series of policy-minded virtual workshops looking at how to implement community-focused tactical urbanism, attended by placemaking leads from councils in the UK and Canada. At the end of the week the team facilitated a ticketed virtual hackathon just for activists and NGOs. In the hackathon we talked about what tactical urbanism is, how it can be specifically used for community fronted projects, how tactical urbanism has been implemented during the pandemic, and what we can learn from it. Participants took part in a series of activities, creating a post-Covid-19 tactical urbanism roadmap, and a declaration to engage letter which activists can use to hold their local decision makers accountable. You can download all the materials from the festival, including the report and community made resources from the hackathon, here.
Download your very own Rethink Re:Place workshop
After the festival we wanted to combine all the successful elements of the original toolkit, the local government workshops, and the hackathon to create a downloadable workshop that professionals could run in their own area.
This workshop will tell you everything you need to know about tactical urbanism, how you can implement it in your community, real examples from industry leaders we spoke to during the festival, alongside providing three interactive activities that will give your participants hands-on experience of tactical urbanism.
When you download the toolkit you’ll find everything you need to run a successful event, including an in depth guide, workshop presentation, a workshop manuscript that will guide you through each slide meaning a staff member from any knowledge level can facilitate the workshop. Tools to help you to promote your workshop are also included in the kit, including branding, an eventbrite text and header, a printable poster you can edit and add your logo to, and even a range of graphics you can share on social media – all you need to do is book a room!
You can download the workshop by clicking here. It will download as a zip file to your computer and all you’ll need to do is unzip it. Then you are ready to go!