Is inclusiveness important in places?

With developers and other groups claiming land to create residential, commercial or public spaces, is there room for everyone?

Hosier lane in Melbourne’s CBD is a huge tourist attraction for its bars and world renowned street art. It’s also home to the only free medical clinic for the homeless in the CBD, The Living Room. The service uses the lane to make the homeless feel welcome. Laneway cricket, football, BBQs etc operate alongside high end boutiques, restaurants and businesses, yet they co-exist peacefully.

But like any part of the CBD it is constantly changing and there are redevelopments happening all around. Organisers are concerned that this will have an impact on their ability to provide such an inclusive space for the more disadvantaged of local residents.

Melanie Raymond, Chair of the Living Room services explains: ‘A large majority of our clients will eat only one meal a day, and many are now choosing between mobile phone credit and food. As the homeless population becomes younger, we are also seeing long term dependence on food vans and handouts, or foraging for scraps. It is easy to assume people who beg do so to buy alcohol and drugs, but the hunger on our streets is genuine. Hostel accommodation, while substandard, is also expensive. We hear many stories from clients reporting that they have been exploited by hostel accommodation management and the private rental market, preferring to live on the streets as they perceive this to be the safer option.’

She is concerned about recent talk of a law and order crackdown on begging.

‘A law and order approach to address beggars on our city streets, whereby those least equipped to change their circumstances are being asked to do so because they are a nuisance, will make little impact on the core drivers of homelessness. Charging people for begging will only add to their burden. Many already face outstanding fines that represent a barrier to moving forward with their lives.’

As we work to create strong, sustainable local places, with thriving retailers and usable public spaces where we can connect, remembering everybody in that picture is important. Strong places have diverse communities that support each other and recognise the value that each brings to the community. How inclusive is your area?

You can read more about The Living Room services here:

Here’s an article about council’s crackdown from The Age

And for those interested in how charities operate, here is an awesome and inspiring TED talk on how we need to change how we view charity to get real results.


Is this too controversial?

As you know, the local experience advocates for pulling in visitors and customers with fun, interesting and creative ‘activations’ that create an experience to remember.

Over the weekend, the Castlemaine State Festival in Victoria did just that. And some things went wrong. People got angry. Complaints were made to the organisers, and the sponsors. Art work was actually defaced.

So the question is, are some things so controversial they are not worth doing? Should we risk it?

There are a couple of points to make on this. Firstly, anything can cause controversy. The things that are offensive to some, are harmless to others. In the Castlemaine example, it was a high school student’s art work stating that ‘Christmas is a lie’ that generated the heated response. Some saw it as a reference to Santa and destroying children’s dreams, some saw it as anti-Christian. I personally saw it as the artist providing their own opinion about the commercialisation of Christmas, which I was completely fine with, and apparently that was the intention.

Art makes you think. Art creates conversations, art inspires – sometimes in positive ways, sometimes negative.

And all of this is okay.

Think about what the original intention of the public art work or activity was. Generally it is to engage your audience. Engagement means they will be thinking, discussing, debating, enjoying and even complaining. It just might happen and you need to be prepared for it. Obviously you don’t want the residents taking up pitch forks against you (or using spray cans on teenagers’ work) but debate is good and healthy.

Editorial in the Bendigo Advertiser agreed that ‘The problem with this street art exhibition paste-up is that people were always going to jump to the conclusion that it was an attack on the religious meaning of Christmas. Seems like a very good learning experience for all concerned.’

There are opportunities in controversy to get people to think differently, explain the purpose of the work and perhaps even create a new engaging experience as a result. In my experience, if your team, and your supporters understand what you are trying to achieve, and the inherent risks that may come along with that, you can manage any controversy created. Just keep talking, keep the conversation going to take the heat out and provide the context.

When you are doing anything for the public, you will never please everyone. And you don’t need to, sometimes getting them talking is enough.

As Sir Cecil Beaton put it:

‘Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.’

Well done all the organisers, performers and sponsors of the event for putting on a world class show. To the teenager that created the stir, it’s fine, don’t worry… and it could be the start of a great career!

Creating community bonds – place building at Fed Square

Federation Square Credit Marcel Aucar‘Effective place activation is connecting with the heart of community, actively contributing to building stronger communities, promoting social cohesion and allowing the place to grow its own “soul” and being part of the community.

When people stand shoulder to shoulder in Federation Square to mark a significant event, whether it’s to celebrate or to mourn, that moment of sharing creates a special bond. It brings added meaning for the individual and a sense of belonging to a community with shared values and priorities. Our sense of being part of a community is enriched through sharing moments of grief like during the aftermath of the Black Saturday Bushfires, the city came together at Federation Square to show their regional comrades they cared. Federation Square has become the natural place to gather for moments like these,  whether it be watching the live broadcast of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation on the Big Screen or to memorialise Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Jim Stynes or Peter Brock. Federation Square has also become the natural place to gather for moments of greatness, whether it be watching live broadcasts of the World Cup Soccer or welcoming home the Australian Olympic team. The lesson learned here is to continue Federation Square’s commitment to providing the community with a “backyard” – a place to meet, to come together, to share ideas and critical milestones, to be proud of and express our collective community sentiment.’

Melburnians have embraced the concept of Federation Square, a public area to gather in the CBD. We spoke to Fed Square’s Program Manager Jane Sydenham-Clarke and received some truly awesome response that summed up what an engaging place means.

‘There are interesting trends emerging in public place-making and events, which are symptomatic of the times in which we live where people are looking for deeper and more meaningful connections. There is a sense that capitalism has failed us and we are no longer yearning for consumption, but rather asking questions about sustainability, family and well-being.  As Future Laboratory argues in its 2013 Trend Briefing, “inner happiness” is now critical.

This raises interesting challenges for public place-makers with respect to the role of place contributing to individual and collective well-being. At Federation Square there is an increasing focus being applied to creating opportunities for visitors; enhancing their well-being as part of their visit. These opportunities include creating comfortable and quiet places for visitors to rest as well as a dedicated programs encouraging well-being. Programs include Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation sessions, Salsa classes, Zumba classes and hip hop jams. Intellectual exercises are also part of this programming through conversation, discussion and debate forums; and socialisation around knitting, crochet and chess activities. The aggregated impact here is a demonstrable commitment to supporting our visitors’ comfort and well-being.’

Thanks so much to Jane and the  team at Fed Square for their awesome work. Here’s a link to their 10th Anniversary video showing some of the many community activities and milestones at Federation Square:

Health and wellbeing programs at Fed Square Credit Tai Chi AustraliaOr find out more at:

Want more inspiration for your place? We spoke to other great ‘place activators’ for our eguide – Activation Inspiration. Available for download now. (Remember to add: subscribe at the checkout for 50% off for all subscribers. You can subscribe here – it’s free!!)

Guest post: Engagement in the city

By Alvaro Maz, Creative Suburbs

With over three hundred events, Melbourne just saw the passing of the largest Sustainable Living Festival (SLF), yet. Something that started as a small group of hippies sharing their veggie garden secrets took over not only Federation Square, but the whole of Victoria.

As I found out, there are quite a few sustainable projects going on around the city and many more people who want to get involved. Long gone are the days when sustainability festivals were excluded to the remnants of the sixties generation and left-wing environmentalists.

Conversations developed at the SLF however, are in need of mechanisms to continue the conversation and determine how we want our city to evolve.

To provide the opportunity for neighbours and organisations to be creative and share their ideas on how our cities can be enhanced and evolve, we need to provide an opportunity to build upon the existing community consultation and facilitate conversations, connect with supporters and share our creative, perhaps even crazy ideas. The point is to create spaces where everyone has a say on how our cities can be enhanced, to identify what we love about them and to communicate this to the relevant organisation(s).

The lack of inclusion requires for government, developers and even planners to relinquish control. As scary as it may sound, I would love to see what people come up with when they’re given the opportunity to design their suburb. There have been few approaches that take consultation a step further towards what I call the four keys to sustainability: that everyone benefits, everyone is involved in decision-making, outcomes improve wellbeing and the environmental, social and financial sustainability.

Events like SLF are a great platform for groups to present ideas, network and innovate. More local events and citizen organisation will support the solution to engage citizens in urbanisation. These however, need to be complemented with setting a vision for how we want our city to be and build upon the work councils, Departments of Planning and other organisations working in planning are doing.

Quality consultation and engagement are the building blocks to make sustainable living easy and affordable for all and making better decisions that ‘stick’.



Alvaro is passionate about liveability and culture. He takes a special interest in urban design, community engagement and sustainability. He has begun a community consultation platform called Creative Suburbs. The platform allows people and organisations to share ideas on how suburbs can be enhanced and identify the things and places we love about them. Creative Suburbs aims to offer more ways to connect with neighbours, organisations and individuals interested in making a better place to live.

Simple solutions are often the best

Inspired is the word of the day. I’ve been researching what others are up to in the world of ‘place activation’ and it’s awesome.

What is place activation? The often simple activities being used to draw crowds into places. Like ‘pop ups’ or games. Our post last year on play in public spaces was so popular, we decided to look into it more.

So we have put together a guide for everyone who wants to get some place activation activities happening in their area. The background research has been done for you – profiles of different projects from around the world, interviews with those already doing it and what they have learnt from the experience and some tips to get you started. Really helpful if you have a look of convincing of others to do.

Even if you don’t have any plans to activate your area, but you just love cities, urban planning, events and great ideas, you’ll get something out of it.

All our subscribers receive 50% off the price of the guide (normally $10) with the discount code ‘subscribe’.

You can download a short 9 page version of our full 38 page ebook for starters here: Activation_Inspiration_sample.

To purchase a full version of Activation Inspiration click here to go to our online store.

This is the first in our plans to make a few information guides available for you. We welcome your feedback and would love to hear what else you need to get the job done. We’d be happy to do some that background work for you!