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.


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