Micro - community engagement in London’s outer suburbs: Examining a practice - led approach to engaging with micro - communities in Redbridge
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This paper focuses on how a practice-led approach to engaging with especially micro-communities, and in a regeneration context, might be able to ameliorate what have been described universally as ineffective community consultations. Practice-led approaches are understood here as ‘research in which the professional and/or creative practices of art, design or architecture play an instrumental part in an inquiry’ (Rust et al. 2007). Whilst community consultations serve a purpose for local authorities and have progressively evolved since the early 2000s, the ways in which they are conducted is still often criticised for being at times tokenistic and sometimes ‘after the fact’. A socially engaged practice methodology that is conducted before community consultation processes might be a way to consolidate and ensure effective community engagement in a regeneration context. The London Borough of Redbridge, with its mixed demographics and being earmarked for significant regeneration developments from 2015 - 2030, is used as the case study site. Redbridge represents one of the outer suburbs of London and includes what Ash Amin (2002) calls ‘multiple publics’, or the notion that heterogeneous, multi-ethnic and mixed-use suburbs have become the new normal as opposed to traditional notions of suburban life. In order to think through delivering more effective engagement in these areas this paper examines how designer Hefin Jones’ methodology might have the potential to deliver a deeper understanding of micro-communities in a regeneration context. These methodologies therefore have the potential to provide an effective foundation for other types of community consultation. Jones’s deep and exploratory engagement with three micro-communities in Redbridge acts as a case in point for opening up complimentary ways of engaging with micro-communities in London’s socio-culturally complex outer suburbs.