Data informed strategies for inclusive placemaking
May 16, 2024

Data informed strategies for inclusive placemaking

Ever wondered about the pivotal role of inclusion in placemaking? Our CEO and Founding Director, Jessica Christiansen-Franks, shares her insights on thinking about inclusion with data.

These days it’s widely known that great placemaking is not about designing beautiful things. It is (or should be) about ensuring the community love and feel connected to the places they inhabit. At a small scale this may mean a pocket park that feels welcoming, but at a large scale it is making sure all civic infrastructure – essentially our whole urban society – creates the conditions needed to support the lives and wellbeing of the people that live there. And that’s a big ask.

I was recently invited to speak at the Australian Placemaking Summit on the topic of inclusion in placemaking. I was stumped at first. How could I speak about inclusion IN placemaking, when Placemaking is inherently entirely about inclusion?

Any placemaker will tell you, it’s actually not possible to create a great placemaking outcome without harassing the insight and inputs from the community at every step of the way.

Which led me to the question:How much do Australian placemakers realise placemaking is an inclusion exercise? And how often are we getting it right?

With my background in landscape architecture, urban design, then placemaking, and now tech (aka digital place measurement) I’ve had a front row seat to how Australian placemakers think about inclusion in their practice, and there certainly are some gaps.

Who you’re missing?

Although community engagement was a ‘nice to have’ step when I did my Bachelor of Built Environment circa 2003, our industry has come a long way. But when soliciting feedback/inputs (ie meetings, surveys, feedback forms etc) we’re still too-often missing the following key community segments:

1. Visitors

It’s exceedingly difficult to get participation from the people that don’t live in a community. And often the main time that placemakers try is when the location relies on tourism. But there is a whole spectrum of visitation, and tourists are only the very tip. Neighbouring residents, workers, day-trippers, or people coming 5 times a week for spin classes. These “visitors” can often be disregarded as less important than residents, but will often make up the majority of people (and spend!) in a local main street.

Hornsby data show from our Visitor Movement tool. Take a look

Hornsby workers primarily come from 4 surrounding suburbs (showing the visitation difference between one-off visitors vs workers)
Wyndham LGA 'loses' ~10% of Point Cook visitors more than 20km to the CBD (shows the movement data for April 2024)
2. Residents that leave

Hybrid work practice has made us feel like we spend more time in our local neighbourhoods, and to a certain extent that is true. But we have forgotten that it used to be extremely common for whole suburbs to become virtually vacant during the day, as people left to travel elsewhere for work. And those people that leave, are missed opportunities. In retail analysis it’s called “leakage”, the visits/spending that could have stayed local, but instead those people chose to go elsewhere.

Point Cook data shown is using our “Resident” tool in Discover. Take a look

3. Renters

It is surprisingly common for renters to not even KNOW which local government they are in, let alone to participate in their events. Think about it, other than garbage collection or (maybe) parking permits, many renters would see Council as a service provider, and not a place to go to participate in community projects.

Greater Sydney data shown in the Housing section in Discover. Take a look

Sydney is a city of renters (Suburbs shown in aqua, have ~ 50% renters)​
42% of people in New Farm are under 30 (Shows the age breakdown of New Farm's walking and driving catchments)
4. Young people

While it’s a well-worn trope that young people are opinionated and entitled, this does not translate into their participation in civic decisions. This could be because they don’t know about it, aren’t invited, or just assume it’s not a place for them (especially given the demographics of most local officials).

New Farm data shown is utilising the “Catchment analysis” tool. Take a look

To conclude…

It’s easier than ever before to better understand the local community in its broadest sense – lack of data is no longer the problem.

Tools like Neighbourlytics make it fast and easy to find the most recent insights into local life.

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