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Managing the Risks

Risk management is a major issue with doing “Renew” projects. The risks in the world and the laws that apply to them do not change simply because a project is temporary. However, it can help to think about how to deal with them a little differently than might normally be the case in permanent projects.

The biggest risk management issue is safety.

Safety outcomes when doing any project involving the public, or the use of space or anything else where there is a danger of people getting hurt are non-negotiable. However it does help to remember that in projects where budgets are tight, spaces are impermanent and time is of the essence that some safety outcomes can be achieved in a variety of ways. For example, you may not need to occupy the entirety of every space you use – if there are floors or parts of a building that aren’t up to scratch it can make a lot more sense to section them off than to spend the money required to fix them up. Spaces that are open to the public will have different rules and standards than those that are only open to people who work there so it may be possible to think about how to use spaces and not simply what needs to be done to them.

Choosing how to allocate spaces and what you use them for is a great way of allocating and managing risks. The aim should be to find ways to use places and spaces in a safe way rather than trying to spend money and time that you may not have to use them in particular way. The support of a local council and the advice of skilled professionals can be crucial in making these judgements but it is best to seek out people with a “can do” approach rather than simply a rule book.

Other kinds of risks can also be handled a little laterally. It does help to recognise the unique qualities of temporary projects. Most other non safety related risks are proportional to the scale and impact of what you are doing. The fact that projects aren’t permanent and can be ended with 30 days notice means that it makes sense to embrace the idea of experimentation much more than would be the norm for permanent projects. In many ways these kinds of projects are about experimenting with ideas that may not work – so expecting and managing how they might fail is part of the process.

When dealing with property owners, councils, and other stakeholders it is also extremely important to remember that utilising spaces temporarily does not simply create new risks but it reduces existing risk. It is always important to remind the people you are talking to measure the risk of doing something against the reality of doing nothing. In many cases the status quo includes vandalism, destruction, decay, crime, falling social cohesion (and underperforming property values) in our cities, towns and suburbs.