Many neighbourhoods in Exeter and across the UK experience traffic and congestion problems. This collaborative project sought to bring together community members to take a data-driven approach to tackle these issues, making their local neighbourhood an even better place to live.
The Community Partnership is a unique collaboration between the University of Exeter, Exeter City Council, and Global City Futures. One of the aims of the project was to engage with local Exeter communities to consider their challenges around congestion and energy, and through Exeter City Futures Innovation Approach, support communities to identify the challenges, research and evidence the problems and build partnerships to co-create possible solutions.
The Community Partnership was invited by Exeter City Councillor and Portfolio Holder for the City Transformation, Energy and Transport Rosie Denham, to work within the ward of Heavitree.
The Community Partnership refined and validated the delivery of Exeter City Futures Innovation Approach, which aims to build capacity within communities and provide them with the skills to undertake their own research and design creative solutions to reduce congestion.
Kerry Deacon from Global City Futures along with colleagues Lindsey Anderson from the University of Exeter and Dawn Rivers from Exeter City Council, engaged with more than 250 residents , through six weeks of listening activities, recording and understand what residents loved about living in Heavitree and being part of the community, as well as hearing and capturing the views on congestion and energy issues within their area. Alongside listening activities, we hosted an energy and traffic survey recording 216 responses to questions on behaviour and concerns.
Through a series of facilitated feedback and prioritisation workshops, Heavitree residents participated in defining statements and themes from all the initial six week engagement and analysis from the survey which lead to four themes focusing on congestion and traffic related problems being identified through a dot-voting process.
A Challenge Definition workshop took participants through a process of describing the problem, defining the challenge and refining the Challenge Question that the community would like to focus on. This workshop resulted in two Challenge Questions:
How can we motivate and incentivise parents and staff who currently drive to school to use alternative modes of travel?
How can we enable and encourage the use of sustainable and attractive alternative modes of transport to reduce the number of cars driving through Heavitree?
The process has enabled residents to come together and form working groups, where they have researched their respective challenge questions, collected evidence to understand the challenge through data collection, and through a process of analysis start to co-design practical solutions in partnership with city and regional organisations that the Community Partnership has brokered.
The project has introduced the notion that change is possible. The most common phrase we heard before was ‘you’ll never do anything about that’. Now people are asking ‘I wonder what we can do about that?’ It’s a really important change because it creates a space where things can grow.
– Jo Spinks, Heavitree (Exeter) resident, and Founder, Interwoven Productions CIC
The groups are working with the support of academic experts and undergraduate students from the University of Exeter, providing an opportunity for undergraduates with an interest in sustainability to work on a local societal problem. They are also partnering with local schools, sustainable transport organisation Sustrans, and local place-based, community practitioners Interwoven Production CIC in this truly collaborative project.