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1. Local Knowledge – what is your context?

For every creative project you carry out, your first task is to know all about the context (blueprint) of your area. What are the relevant problems here and what are the problems behind the problems? Who are your stakeholders and what are their needs and wishes?
Then the challenge is to make sure you involve your stakeholders all the way through the research and design process so they can give you feedback. This is what we call a human-centered approach to research. It stops you making the common blunder of creating concepts that you like……but the stakeholders don’t.

Follow the basic principle of ‘Not about me, without me’ So, do your homework!

A. Old news:

You have already learned plenty of desk research methods, so start collecting your facts & figures. Make sure that you know basic things such as demographics, number of residents, their socio-cultural backgrounds, the history and future plans for your neighbourhood. Is there a process of gentrification? Are some locals dependent on a food bank? Are there relevant neighbourhood networks? What are the environmental concerns? Etc. Refer to DESTEP and have a look at this useful site for statistics on Amsterdam.

B. New news

Do some deep hanging out!
Getting a realistic impression of your research area means being there; you can’t do this online. This means spending plenty of informal time drinking coffee, observing, chatting to passers-by & visitors and meanwhile observing and mapping. Doing this also means you can build relationships and trust with your stakeholders and really understand their needs and wishes.

C. Create an observation form based on your research assignment. (See the link to Gehl Public Life Toolbox for inspiration)

For example:
Who do you see?
Who is not here although they are also locals?
How diverse is it (gender, age, social class, ethnicity, lifestyle groups etc.)?

D. Take the challenge!

If you are not personally familiar with the experience of exclusion in public places then go somewhere out of your comfort zone and see how it feels. What aspects make you feel uncomfortable? How do people look at you? What (stress) reactions do you feel both physically and emotionally? What does all this teach you as an experience designer?

E. Re-read the Inclusive Design Toolbox Introduction;

how can your concept help create a new sense of ‘WE’ in society?

2. Now define:

  • What are the big issues in your area?
  • Who are your local contacts?
  • Who are your main stakeholders?
  • How are you going to reach them?
    Remember not everybody uses social media or email!
  • How are you going to make sure you understand their needs?
  • What listening skills & languages do you need to do this job?
  • How will you make sure you hear your stakeholder’s needs throughout your research?
  • Make a timeline of your project and decide when to invite your stakeholders.
  • Ask yourself when, how and what’s in it for them?
Next to Design

Click on the pictures below to find more tools:

Inspiration! Student-powered neighbourhood projects (NL).


Everything you ever wanted to know about placemaking; Project for Public Places.


Placemaking in the Netherlands: STIPO



Looking for placemaking tools? Look no further! The Gehl Institute.


How to match Smart Cities with the needs of local communities? The Bristol Approach to Citizen Sensing.


So you want to be a change agent?

Try out this arts-based toolkit for sustainable placemaking by SUSPLACE: Sustainable Place-shaping.


How to create an inclusive cultural sector? Start by watching this animation by STUDIO i.


The Urban Commons: Shared public spaces in Amsterdam & Berlin.


Europe in a changing world. How to create an inclusive and innovative society? Horizon 2020.


The G word: Gentrification.


Remember the environment is a stakeholder too!


Humans of Amsterdam; a rich source of individual stories.


Beyond Europe: A Public Space toolkit by UN Habitat


Infographics on film production and diversity (NL).


The EU prize for inclusive public space; inspirational ideas from Spain.


Urban Foxes; inspiration from a feral placemaking collective in Brussels.