At the end of November, we released MATTER, our magazine and platform for bold thinking which seeks to question the big ideas that shape society. This issue explored the theme of community, asking what it means today, why it matters and who is affected when it breaks down.
Alongside the launch of the magazine, we’ve been using social media to find out what community means to our followers, both in and outside of our industry. The results have shown the complex meanings and associations hidden behind the term, allowing us to reflect further on what it means for us as a developer.
As our Deputy CEO Richard Upton comments in MATTER, developers do not always think about community enough, often paying lip service to local engagement to get their schemes approved. Social media users agreed that it was refreshing for a developer to be tackling this topic, taking time to consider the human element of the built environment and what it means for development. David Barrie’s piece on the social and technological trends shaping our cities also stimulated discussion online about what the future holds as cities grow ever larger.
Perhaps most telling of all, we asked Twitter users what community means to them. The clear majority (53%) told us that they think community is not about shared interests or beliefs, nor digital networks, but instead about their neighbourhood.
This is something that we need to take seriously as a developer. If neighbourhoods are the centre of a community, then regeneration is a highly personal matter. We need to listen to and understand the unique priorities of every community we are working in if we are to create truly successful developments. This year, we’ve been operating in 26 local authorities, working in and listening to communities with the aim of creating places that are better than they were before.
Thriving communities need great places, and as a developer we need to put thought into action to create environments where inhabitants – be they residents or businesses – can connect meaningfully with one another. This is something we’re already seeking to do in sites like Mayfield, 8 Albert Embankment and Deptford Market Yard, and something we look forward to doing in even more places in 2018. It’s an ambitious aim, but an important one – and our conversations resulting from MATTER have only served to reinforce this importance.