Building community support

An easy mistake to make is not engaging with the whole community. A project like this will not work if is just about a local council, or arts or business trying to push an agenda through. While it mustn’t be trying to please all the people all the time it must have the respect and engagement of all stakeholders and a clear reason and mechanism for them all to be involved.

“Renew” projects work best if they involve more than just the creative community or those who want to use empty spaces. The level and ease of success will likely be defined by how wide a group of people are actively supporting, representing and advocating the idea.

Talk to everyone…

A good place to begin is by talking to local businesspeople, councils, artists, community groups, political leaders and others to gauge the level of interest. It is not necessary to have all these individuals and groups actively involved but it is important that a wide range of people know about and support the idea. While some may not be particularly interested in the idea those that are can provide vital contacts, networks and support.

… but remember you don’t need everyone

Unless you are targeting one particular site or building you will not be dependent on a particular public or private sector partner to succeed. There are many potential allies and strategies that may be effective. Don’t waste your energy convincing those that aren’t interested but invest in building up networks of those who are. Each part of a community may have a different reason to be involved in such a scheme and it is important that each understands what they can and cannot benefit from. It is possible for business, the arts and the wider community to all benefit — that’s actually the point.

In Newcastle, the project that became Renew Newcastle had the support of everyone from the regional Chamber of Commerce, to key people at the University, people within the local media, the body that represents inner city business groups and of course the local arts community even before the Renew Newcastle company itself was formally founded. When the company was created several of these people were invited to hold positions on the board.

People will have legitimate concerns

  • responsibility for property
  • involvement in selection
  • competiting projects