Rachael is an applied urban anthropologist and has conducted extensive research on the interrelationship between home, housing and urban policy in relation to changing family patterns, modern home space, gender, sexuality and economy in England and Malta. She is currently based at the Ministry for Social Accommodation and Housing Authority as a Housing Policy and Strategy Development Consultant.
Rachael is an active member of the Committee Bureau on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). She is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Faculty for the Built Environment, University of Malta.
As an applied anthropologist, Gemma is passionate about helping businesses find ways to innovate whilst delivering social value. By starting with the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’, she researches how the real estate industry should respond to shifting consumer priorities and create new places and experiences that address urgent social, economic and environmental challenges. As Founder and Director at Human City, she leads an interdisciplinary team that deploys human insight and business intelligence to help clients craft a sustainable and inclusive value proposition, capture new market opportunities and deliver social benefits through the design and management of their property assets.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Winston Churchill Fellow, and Honorary Research Fellow at University College London.
In today's episode we are joined by Gemma John and Rachael Scicluna. As an applied anthropologist, Gemma is passionate about helping businesses find ways to innovate whilst delivering social value. By starting with the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’, she researches how the real estate industry should respond to shifting consumer priorities and create new places and experiences that address urgent social, economic, and environmental challenges. As Founder and Director at Human City, she leads an interdisciplinary team that deploys human insight and business intelligence to help clients craft a sustainable and inclusive value proposition, capture new market opportunities, and deliver social benefits through the design and management of their property assets.
She recently worked with Alterx Asset Management to redesign Vicar Lane shopping centre and improve its positive impact on the people of Chesterfield, UK. She was commissioned by Bell Phillips Architects to provide input into a new form of metropolitan habitat at Meridian Water, and explore how the social benefits of the scheme could be evaluated to inform its viability. Prior to this, she was seconded to Lambeth Borough Council to redraft its inclusive growth strategy, and create a comprehensive and robust framework for monitoring sustainable growth throughout the borough.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Winston Churchill Fellow, and Honorary Research Fellow at University College London.
Rachael is an applied urban anthropologist and has conducted extensive research on the interrelationship between home, housing, and urban policy in relation to changing family patterns, modern home space, gender, sexuality and economy in England and Malta. She is currently based at the Ministry for Social Accommodation and Housing Authority as a Housing Policy and Strategy Development Consultant.
Rachael is also an active member of the Committee Bureau on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). She is also a Visiting Lecturer in the Faculty for the Built Environment, University of Malta, Malta.
Today's call will be focused on understanding what makes the community happy in the neighbourhood so that interdisciplinary design may aim its efforts towards sustainable and resilient communities.
So welcome, thank you so much for being here.
I would like to kick off this podcast today by discussing the city and what makes a city happy, but what makes people happy to live in a city? How is it related to a state of being? And how can we make a city more accessible to people?
Gemma maybe some initial thoughts on this please.
Absolutely yes. So uh, my answer to your question around how to redesign accessible places and spaces really was about thinking more broadly about who’s voice counts in decision making process. So how do we as decision makers ensure that we're not just thinking and listening to the leading-edge consumer, but actually broadening our understanding through speaking to those who aren't always included in decision making process and hearing voices that often are silent. So, think broadening our awareness of the publics and communities that should be involved in decision making and actually ensuring that there are they are part of the process.
Yes, it's interesting that you say that, because there are these words tossing, being tossed around rather, sustainable and resilient, and they're being applied to communities. And while maybe these are very familiar terms in anthropology, perhaps Rachael, would you be able to give us a background as to what classifies a community to be sustainable and resilient?
First of all, thank you for having me and inviting me and I would like to go back a little bit to what you started off with Jeanette, which is happiness, right? What makes and contributes to happiness? You know when it comes to any form of community, and I think it's a very politically- and culturally-loaded term which can't quite be explained, you know, in terms of the intangible. However, what I often like to do is to unpack such terms as, which, as you said, they're quite loaded. So, what does it mean to be happy, sustainable, and resilient when it comes to a community? I believe that this requires a clutch of different forces which come together. So, first and foremost, I believe that one way of going about it would be to have, for example, compassionate and proactive leadership when it comes to community and the community building. What are the needs, desires and wants of that community? So, we require that, for example, we have affordable housing policy which is both inclusive and accessible. But how do we get to that? How do we translate those needs and wants? So that to me is detrimental on the quality and type of leadership that is employed.
And another aspect which I am very much for, would be engagement. So, what does it mean? How does engagement look like or how does it feel? We tend to often look at GDP however we tend to side-line all the sentiments that come, you know, with engagement and which truly make a society or a community happy. So, the collaborative aspect needs to be an interdisciplinary and it needs to be also ethical when it comes to research, and we need to put accountability, you know, into the process itself. So, listening and planning and translation then go hand-in-hand with leadership and engagement. On the other hand, you mentioned resilience, so resilience is also dependable on other, you know, sectors, for example health, we have inclusive infrastructural design, good standards, the social value. There's a whole list that we can take, that we can incorporate. However that list needs to be then incorporated into a long-term strategic vision. So that is to me how you reach through a clutch of different forces and approaches towards what we like to refer to in anthropology perhaps as a culturally sensitive approach.
Brilliant and I don't know Gemma would you have anything that you'd like to add to these definitions of sustainable and resilient, when it comes to communities?
I think I would take it further again, which is actually ‘what do we mean by community?’. I'm sorry to be annoying, but I think anthropologists are really good at unpacking the familiar, and I think that's kind of part of this conversation really is, is what do we take as familiar concepts that actually need to be unpacked a little bit in order to ensure that what we're doing is meaningful, you know, for a broader range of broader number of people in a broader audience.
So, community is what makes a community. What holds a community together? There are communities and so how do we understand and appreciate what and how communities come together? What keeps them together? What's the stickiness that that holds them in place? And I think that really needs to be understood in the context of sustainability and resilience actually. So, you know, understanding communities and how they get formed and forged and reformed is part of the ambition to ensure there is sustainability and resilience, and then that can be achieved through understanding the makeup of communities.
And of course, now we have an online presence as well as offline, so it's not just physical communities - we’re thinking about that sleeping how people interact online and public and private dynamics across different spaces to really articulate how there are communities and subcommunities and various layers and kind of strata that exist in the context of any place.
Indeed, and these communities are within their environment. We've talked about the physical as well as the online environment. If I were to just hone in a bit more about the physical environment and how people are, you know, behaving within their homes, within their neighbourhood, within their town, maybe city. There are various stakeholders at play that you know or various people that are involved in making a community and then ensuring that the Community is a healthy one. There are when the people themselves, to start off with, without which we wouldn't have a community. There are the designers that design homes, design places where people can work and enjoy themselves. We have real estate developers who are going to be the people who are going to be investing in these projects. We've got governments. There is a lot of people involved in making a community happy and healthy, so to speak. So, if we were to focus on most of these roles, what do you think would provide better housing, better commercial spaces, better public areas? Gemma your thoughts.
I think in many respects there has to be a meeting of minds around these issues, and I think at the moment more often than not there are separate conversations taking place around some of these issues. So not to say that very quite simply take the private and public sector right, not to say that the private and public sectors disagree on what needs to happen; it's just there isn't really a common language, and we talked about Jeanette language earlier in one of our conversations, you know, there are multiple experts involved in these debates, and actually each expert has a very different kind of language that they bring to these problems. And so, quite simply across the private and public sector, you know, we could be talking about social infrastructure but mean very different things when we talk about that.
So, there are particular moments when communities and sorry experts have to get come together to explore and explain what local need looks like, but that's in very specific ways, for very specific parts of the decision-making process, so in context of planning, for example and planning decisions. But I think that conversation could be happening earlier on and more regularly so that there's more of a road map, certainly on the part of the public sector to kind of to illuminate what they mean by social infrastructure, what they mean by local need because local government tends to hold huge amounts of data and have very great clarity on what local need is and how to meet it. Uhm, that's quite often that data is not available in a translatable format for the private sector to kind of work with that. So I think there needs to be a way of coming together and much more seamlessly and regularly to explore and expand on what we mean by some of these things we've been exploring, such as sustainable communities and resilient communities, and so forth.
This brought to mind some of our conversations that I had with Rachael that depending on what we mean by interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary design and how we can get different people from different walks of life, different professionals come together at an early stage. Rachael from your experience locally, where are we at with this? Are we still in infancy stage? Are we already understanding the benefits of having such an open conversation right from the beginning of a project?
This is a very very good question, and locally I think we're starting to recognize the beauty that there is in, you know, taking a more of a holistic approach and an interdisciplinary approach. I think what we require locally because we are a young nation, right? We're shifting from a very informal type of society towards a more policy-based, human rights-based, type of society and that requires some training at, you know, the collective level so what does it mean to have you know these rights? And how you implement them. But it's also needs to come from above, so the below and the top you know approaches need to come together and you often require a cultural what I like to call mediator in order to address these similarities and differences between different types of governance because ultimately, we are dealing with an issue of good governance and how does it look like, but how it can be then implemented.
So, in the local context, I believe that it's the implementation phase that we need to really, really push forward and find ways of doing it alongside not only alongside, but hand in hand with our diverse communities. We have always been diverse locally, but nowadays you know the we haven't as yet somehow come to terms with the fact that we have a different kind of ethnic minorities now so how do we deal with that at a governance level in order to keep harmony with you know, between different communities. And that requires an implementation which to me finds - it should find - its roots in for example uhm, a regulated housing system, right? Because if you don't have maybe a light touch, you know, regulated system. If you don't have good standards, if you don't have, you know, and I don't know good amenities and then you're going to have a failure you know when it comes in the housing industry, because it all depends on accessing on accessibility of the rights to housing and how that would look like.
So in my opinion, and this is what Malta right now and requires – it’s this exchange between different disciplines but not to assimilate, you know, so not to collapse and lose sight of where you're coming from as a discipline, but to have that exchange and respect the differences in methodologies as well, because ultimately it is about trying to find a methodology that works for our current situation.
Indeed, and you've touched on well, you both touched on something, which is, I think is very important. This matter of language: language, meaning communication is not just speaking English without speaking within the same frequency, the same thought processes and how these can come together. And I've seen that certain areas of our cities are being transformed in ways that perhaps are not really tailor-made for we are calling sustainable and resilient communities, and one of the buzzwords that is going around as well is another buzzword, gentrification, when the low income households are forced out of their communities and you know we get these boutique places and everything that is quite shiny and new. And I have to say that I was very worried and I'm a bit dismayed at a comment by a local entrepreneur when I mean local - Maltese entrepreneur - talking about a real estate development and he said ‘you can only make money with people that have the money’. And this really worried me from a personal point of view, from a designer point of view that you know, I would like to do something for my community and pushing them out as something that I wouldn't want to do, but from an anthropological point of view, if I may ask this - should cities become boutique and inaccessible for people? Because in my opinion I think we should you know, try and consider everyone and design for everyone and pull these people out of their low-income background perhaps, but what would the result of that be? Are we going to break up communities? What are your thoughts Gemma on this?
Yeah, it's always a catch 22, isn't it? Because it doesn't matter what your starting point is that if there is success, it's bound to attract wealth, right? And so therefore you know, your the consequences of success is that quite often you've got rising prices and you know kind of consequences are that people end up if you started living in place or working in the place can't live there anymore.
So take an example here and where I'm based currently in South Africa and there's an example in Johannesburg of a developer bringing forward a retail development and providing space for local communities, particularly core creatives and entrepreneurs, to really develop their business skills and create new businesses in the context of this retail space that ultimately then would become occupiers. So you know, thinking about your I guess your grass roots businesses that then ultimately then become occupiers in a kind of now a commercial retail outlet. And that's been very successful, because of course it's been a way of, you know, providing opportunity to those who maybe furthest from the job market in a specific local context and also it's been a win-win for both the developer and the community, because the developer still gets longer term, you know good, you gets great tenants who are connected to the community and actually, you know, over the long term, get some you know pretty decent return and predictable return because you know the offering is very much, all the assets very much embedded in local community need.
And so that's kind of success story of how development can be a way of supporting economic growth in a specific local area and the challenges that, of course, is attracted, this specific development has attracted other developers to come forward, and they're being adjacent buildings now attracting, increase footfall and prices start going up of not only of price of rent, but housing prices and so forth end up going up because the area is overall becoming a better place to be, and a better and nicer place to to live in.
And so, what are the consequences of that? Well, the existing tenants potentially have to move on because they can't afford the rent anymore and you know, you can see the scenario kind of spiralling. So, I think it's trying to contain regeneration so that it benefits those that need to be benefitted. It doesn't mean that others are penalized I think it's a really difficult thing to do, but I think it can be done if you ensure that rents are capped and that there is some kind of agreement around what areas and where there is possibility for increase and I guess how to ensure that there's still affordability and these spaces are still affordable for those who most need them to be affordable, whilst where there is growth, that the growth happens and that developers can benefit from that. But I think that has to be very, there has to be clear on the part of the developer what they are prepared to do and might require some kind of public sector intervention to ensure that rents are capped for those that are most needy of affordable opportunities. So, I think it's a really, really difficult one, but I think it has to be a mix of policy and a mix of private sector. I guess impacts and business models.
Rachael, what are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, I mean gentrification often has you know a negative connotation to it. However, I believe I go back to what I said earlier, you know, it's how things are done, how things are implemented. If gentrification had to take seriously both the social and physical side of infrastructure then I believe it could reach a harmonized, a relationship between the different stakeholders of the public, the private and the non-governmental stakeholders as well, including the government. Because to me ultimately infrastructure… What is infrastructure right? What we're dealing with this aspect, as I mentioned earlier, it's both social and physical, however, we must, and I think this is my call, in general, that we must see infrastructure as part of a complex web of relations, you know of why their society, whether it's you know, coming from different cultural backgrounds, different diverse communities as we mentioned earlier, so it can really be the glue of society. To me infrastructure is the enabler of social cohesion, but it requires a well-regulated system, and it also requires compassionate governance. I move away from the term of participatory governance because like resilience and sustainability, become a buzzword, to me it must be compassionate and meaningful, so it must be true and accountable to the needs of society, because ultimately, we're dealing with issues that are related to the government and of course, the state the government is there to serve the people.
So, in my opinion, and we need to again bring these aspects together where we start it off from the beginning of having this cross-sectoral, and interdisciplinary approach, in order to have more community engagement, which ultimately would lead to human flourishing. So, infrastructure could be a connector, like it could promote this type of community engagement, it would promote human flourishing and it could also connect green infrastructure, our ecosystem, because we tend to side-line the fact that infrastructure needs to be part of the ecology, of the ecosystem.
So, we were talking about the gentrification - how part of the community sections of the community, the low income, the high income, how we can design for both, and as Gemma was saying, it is a very difficult thing to do because you're trying to reconcile almost two different parts of the society together. But if we were to add into the mix cultural diversity, social inclusion, cohesion within the city. It's very difficult to understand how this is going to come about. And I was wondering whether you could perhaps shed some light to as designers as to what we should be taking into consideration when designing spaces to cater for social inclusion and cultural diversity.
Yeah, it's a great question, and we're increasingly necessary to ask ourselves that question as part that you know, aspects of cities are becoming increasingly diverse, but also desperate at the same time. So, I'm thinking of a project I'm working on in London at the moment and a part of London that is undergoing change because it's attracting a lot of wealth to the area, but of course it's also creating this disconnection between those that are wealthy and those that maybe our existing residents and haven't really benefited from wealth creation. And so, at the same time you've got increased diversity where you've got parts of cities now becoming increasingly mixed not only in terms of age, but also in terms of ethnic background and heritage, and they're not being spaces necessarily for people to spend time together in kind of very much mixed and inclusive ways. And many of the developments being brought forward are quite often more mostly commercially-led, which means there's an emphasis on there being a retail and leisure and recreation opportunities or facility amenities such as cinemas and and you know, so forth.
So, the emphasis being on, you know, acquiring a higher cost of living to use some of these places being brought forward, and that are very much supposed to be about, uh, providing leisure and cultural opportunities and cohesion. So, I think there needs to be a consideration of what really brings people together. How do you ensure that there are places that people can use that are encouraging and supportive with mixed use and inclusive development and diversity?
And some of these don't require much design, you know there are literally about just providing space for people to spend time together. If you look at the data and I think the data here is really useful. If you look at the data and I'm just talking about some of the data routinely collected in the UK and it will be also collected in elsewhere. If you look at the data in terms of how people spend leisure time, actually a lot of most people, certainly under the age of 35 spend their leisure time hanging out with friends, right? You know they don't spend the time going to the cinema or you know, shopping. They actually just hang out with friends and family. So how do we provide what kind of spaces do we need to provide so that people can spend time with family and friends. In the context of cities where there's decreased amount of free public space and homes are getting smaller, right? So what does that kind of communal space look like? That maybe there is an in between space, neither not in your home nor really kind of in the public realm, but it's something in between that enables people to spend time together across age groups and across ethnic backgrounds and to really support that diversity that's emerging in cities.
Speaking about social and sociable spaces, these areas that we're talking about having people from different walks of life, the different backgrounds to be able to use these areas, which are neither in the public realm and neither private. But all of this is complementary to retail and commercial spaces, which are now revitalizing town centres and I wonder Rachael if you can give us some insight on how we can make social spaces more affordable, maybe even looking into affordable and accessible housing? And what does the data say people need? Do they need informal spaces, domestic spaces? How can spaces be equitable? There are many questions that come out of this, but maybe some initial thoughts.
Yeah, sure, it's a very very important question, especially as you know communities or the population demographics of cities is going to increase, so migration is shifting more towards urban zones, so we definitely need to ensure that these spaces are speaking to the people that are dwelling in such spaces in the 21st century. So, one way of going about it, and which is often which has proven to be successful, goes back again to what type of methodology one is using in order to understand these diverse needs. So, for example let's take into consideration teenagers. What do teenagers need in a society, especially one like Malta and many other European cities, is quite car-centric? Or children as well - where do they find space to create their own sense of belonging, identity, and community? And one way is to actually hang out or immerse yourself with these different sub communities and listen carefully to what they require.
For example, a recent study has shown that young teenage girls would love to have swings and playing fields. So, how can you create a space that is accessible and safe so that young teenage girls are feeling, do feel comfortable to hang out in a city which is often quite androcentric, and male dominated. So how can we move away from you know the obvious, or that we take for granted, and this goes back to how we started off to question the familiar. And I think one way is to actually design smaller, small-scale, spaces that are interconnected so they create a sense of inquisitiveness. They create a sense of belonging and safety. Because let’s face it, if you have a football match going on an open space, you're obviously side-lining people who are, for example, visually impaired, older people, perhaps families with children. So how can we ensure that these spaces are supportive and embracing and nurturing of our diverse communities?
And I think the mistake that we have made in the 20th century is that we thought that social mix is the way forward. Indeed, it is, but it should not erase the needs of specific communities and so to me it's about integration and not assimilation. So, having say an open space, which is perhaps too, I don't know, broad and open might not solve the issue, but I believe that we need to have spaces where each group could feel familiar, could recognize a little bit of themselves. And that is where equity comes in, because you're taking into consideration accessibility, needs, so you often put what I like to refer to as the periphery as your yardstick. So, your periphery should be your measuring stick and not for example, the able-bodied or the white privileged person at the centre of your vision or of places. So you know this is one way of, in my opinion, of how we can bring communities together, but at the same time remain true to their desires and aspirations.
Yes, and in fact this ties in with the conversation we had on the intersectional approach. I remember we talked about this space, which is influenced by, you know, different relations of power, so to speak. Gemma following on what Rachael just says. Do you have any further thoughts?
Yeah, I mean this is some relationship of power is a really, it's a really interesting one and it's being explored increasingly in cities. So, decision making is taken quite seriously and I'm talking about the London mayor because I'm familiar with the UK context. Taking quite seriously what power looks, what power dynamics look like, particularly between decision makers, you know, developers or other decision makers and communities.
And actually who - and get back to what we were saying at the beginning - which is who’s voice counts and who really gets to be part of that decision making process and so, ensuring that power dynamics are understood and transparent. So, where there is power that, that there is that dynamic is made transparent, but also there is some increased autonomy are possible if at all possible. But through increased participation, through increased transparency, through increased accountability that actually come that there are processes and structures in place for development to happen in much more of a public forum, in the much as part of a public discussion. And that in the context of the UK has been taking place through discussions like statement of community participation or community involvement, which are clear statements being proposed that the lobby, that are being lobbied for, that the mayor has and stands by and then is used as a kind of best practice tool of best practice in the context development and there are others beginning to campaign on this basis to certainly get certain kinds of voices into the room. So particularly youth and young people who've been being perceived to be most marginalized by COVID and the impact on the economy will affect them probably the greatest, uhm, arguably, and so actually, how do you ensure that when developments are being brought forward, the voices of young people are very much part of that conversation around, you know what's in their interests and what would be beneficial to them not just now, but moving into the future.
So, I think we were talking about intersectionality I think in an earlier call, so it's not just young people, it's obviously LGBTIQ people, it's about, it's going back to their different diversity and inclusion question of ‘what are the intersections between different groups’ and ‘how do we cater for those people at the intersection’ as well as obviously for very specific categories that in a sense are in many respects, uhm, false categories. They're convenient truths. They're not actually reality, so I think Rachael could probably talk to that intersectionality a little bit more.
Yes, I was reading a case study in Glasgow where they're using the Place Principal – a principal, uhm, in which everybody works with the assets and managers, communities and spaces and they work together rather than in the isolation and the community needed to get used to these certain principles so that they can really benefit from it. May be Gemma, from a UK point of view, it's something that even the UK will be trying to implement.
I think so yeah, you have to forgive me. I haven't. I would have to look up the Place Principle. I think I've come across it many years ago many months ago, but I think it's a framework, isn't it? For participation, yeah. So, I've seen that and actually I've used that as a model for advocating how decision making happens in the context of architectural design, so actually, how do you ensure? Or how does one support as practitioners and Rachael and I are practitioners in this space? How do we support others, other experts?
I guess, kind of build in certain considerations into their decision making, so in the context of architecture and planning, it's actually how do you help architects and planners appraise options according to locals and and/or social need. As well as according to other considerations like technical and financial needs. So, I think the Place Principle really helps with that, because it really identifies what human need looks like in a generic sense and then you know provides practices with the tool for consideration or certainly for discussion around how to incorporate or address some of those needs in a very much a practical way as part of design development and options appraisal.
I mean, I work near a social value and it's similar in that respect which is you want creates that social value framework that also helps create enable decision making at an early stages of design development to ensure that social value is considered as part of and during the exploration process and phase and as part of the evaluation of various options as well as financial considerations and other much more technical considerations. So you know these frameworks and policies really help with supporting a discussion that is not a science it's very much an art. Is about balancing of multiple interests, and I think particular when it comes to social value or community need because they are going back to what we're saying about communities there are multiple and sometimes conflicting interests in the context of the same sites, so actually whose interests do you prioritize? You know which group and whose interests hold more value than others? And I think that's a really difficult dynamic. But I think these frameworks that are being brought forward help architects and developers, planners to tread that line more carefully.
Yes, and one of the most important aspects is that I believe is that the society in which we'll be applying this in needs to be open-minded enough to be able to participate. Rachael, perhaps, could you shed light on this aspect of how willing would the Maltese community be to partake in such an initiative?
Yeah, this is a very valuable and important question and I think we need to again differentiate between the type of societies that we are referring to. For example, we referring to the United Kingdom or other Nordic countries. They are imperial societies, so they have, you know, had a different kind of expertise even of participation-wise. In Malta we're at a very different stage, remember our past history for the past 5000 years has been that we have been colonised. So only now we're finding our feet that were actually leading, so we've become leaders as well of our own nation, and that needs to be taken very much, taken into consideration and appreciated that we are still finding to some extent our feet. So how does participation look like? You know, in a country in a nation state that is, you know, a young nation as opposed to a nation which has been there before. So in in my opinion it's like from whose perspective are we implementing this Place Principle and participation.
So that is why in the beginning I go back to what I said earlier and what we require is how to implement because this is something that as a country, we still need more experience of. We need more training even at, you know at the higher, the state level. So, my call would be to have more social scientists, you know who have the right kind of expertise to implement such methodologies, and again to have this as you said earlier Jeanette, you know to be open to this form of debate instead of, you know, taking it perhaps from a different perspective of negative criticism. So, in my opinion, we need to move towards more of a balanced, harmonious and form of governance but what I think is important across, I think across the globe, and I think this is we're starting to move away from this linear and masculinist form of leadership. And I think we need to shift more towards the politics of nurturance in order to sustain and enhance diverse communities but also ultimately, uh, I believe that it's all about human flourishing, so we must take that into consideration in our framework.
Yes, so I would ask the very difficult question now. I was wondering whether you know of a single great idea, so to speak, a silver bullet, that would make our cities better, and if so, how would we go about implementing it?
Goodness, that's a massive question. Uhm, I think I think, Uhm, I hate this phrase, but I can't think of another one the moment which is ‘joined-up thinking’. We have to think. I think what Rachael and I've been saying all along, is that there's a tendency to simplify, and decompartmentalize in order to resolve problems, and I think actually, you know there is value in the messiness, there's value in and seeing that there are connections where we don't want to see connections, and there's value in seeing issues as being entangled and in a way that can't be separated, and then the question is how do we address that entanglement?
So, I think this goes back to and another phrase I don't like, but it kind of it resonates a lot at the moment with the industry, which is ‘systems thinking’ or ‘systemic approach to problem-solving’ which is seeing not categories of person or even kind of sectors in the context of the built environment not seeing separation but actually connection where we need to see connection to resolve problems. And that goes back to, which also thinking about the experts that need to be in the room and I think there's a real value in having social scientists in the room and seeing that there is expertise attached to the social that requires some scientists in the conversation around change and change making in the built environment.
Rachael, if I may ask you the same question, your silver bullet.
It is not an easy question to answer, so I would take it: First of all that it should be always contextual. This question should actually be asked every so often as we progress in our history, and I think what, how I would go about it is by the phrase of ‘small is beautiful’ and what do I mean by that? I believe that perhaps what we, what the world requires is going to have to move away from grand, you know, shiny projects and instead it should move away, it should move towards smaller projects that are tangible and that they put the person at the centre of its framework. So again, I would say and repeat myself that needs, desires, and wants should be at the core of such projects, but I would go for long-term and cross-sectoral projects that are holistic and that they are achievable and doable and that they could have, you know, a meaning both for this state but also for the people that are involved that they can see themselves in that project. It also becomes their own projects, and instead of, you know, waiting, you know for the state to do it for them. So I think this is how I would go about it. Small is beautiful.
Joining us today was Gemma Jones and Rachael Scicluna, and you were listening to ‘The Human Agenda’. Thank you so much for joining us in this episode.