The Scottish SUI research team, James Henderson and Oliver Escobar, consider their learning from the third Govan Local Lab in December 2018 …
Twelve of us – six of the local practitioners, four of the cooperation partners, the two researchers –met on 11 December for the third Govan Local Lab at the Pearce Institute on Govan Road. Local Labs form one of the key strands of action learning and research within the Smart Urban Intermediaries (SUI) project: each of the four European case-sites involved holds a Local Labs and then send delegates to the Transnational Labs.
The first Govan Local Lab (March 2018) helped us build common understandings of to our shared aspirations for change and:
- how the local SUIs work to make a difference in their community;
- what is enabling and blocking them currently; and,
- the sorts of further actions that can be explored to learn about their local and wider impacts.
Govan Local Lab 2 (July 2018) then supported our local research team in: considering in more detail their skills and knowledge for urban practice; discussing commonalities and differences highlighted by the Local Lab 1 process in each of the four case-sties; and, in exploring the use of the photovoice method – in readiness for the first Transnational Lab (Sept), hosted by ourselves in Govan. This Local Lab 3 therefore aimed to build further this local action learning and research process. In particular, it sought to give us spaces to reflect on our learning from this first Transnational Lab (see further down the home-page) and to consider the SUI Research Team’s developing thinking …
Reflections from on-going practice and the Transnational Lab
Our first key activity at the Lab was a checking-in (sharing) from each of us of a recent exciting or frustrating practice experience. These were not recorded – to encourage open and creative discussions – but rather got us all back into our shared SUI space, and the opportunities, challenges and dilemmas of urban practice.
We discussed different experiences arising from the discussions at the Transnational Lab including:
- the short video film from the Lab of participant experiences – both practitioners and researchers; and
- two blog-posts – Who are the SUIs? And what do they do? and Lessons learned
Visiting participants from the three other case-sites recognised the levels of commitment that the local SUIs were bringing to their work in Govan.
Further there had been discussions at the Transnational Lab, that were continued in this Local Lab, as to the distorted view created by the need to highlight levels of poverty in Govan – ‘a poverty pageant’ – in order to sustain funding.
What, then, goes missing is the strength of this community – its people, their commitment, and the complex interweaving of social, political and economic resources (assets) that these have built. The Scottish Index of Multiple Assets and Aspirations (SIMAA) seeks to counter-balance such thinking …
The SUI Research Team’s emerging thinking …
Through the action learning and research process – Local Labs, Transnational Labs, interviews, shadowing, photovoice – the Research Team are now looking at themes that feel particular relevant to current experiences of practice across the four case-sites. We presented on these – summarised here as:
- skills and knowledge for the role of intermediary;
- the paradoxes and contradictions for urban practice;
- community-making – in complex ways; and,
- what socially ‘smart’ urban practice involves.
At this Lab we discussed two of these themes, in two smaller groups. Firstly, ‘paradoxes and contradictions’, with groups recognising and developing discussions of tensions:
- between having to continue to be innovative to sustain funding, often shorter-term, whilst seeking to remain committed to longer-term social goals for this community and their organisations
- between being committed to and passionate about their work with this community, often working flexible and long hours, whilst preserving sufficient private spaces to de-stress, avoid burn-out and keep effective at work, and enjoy social and family life.
Secondly, ‘community-making’, with the groups recognising and developing discussions of:
- the complexities of local communities – and needing to work with and across different senses of local place and identity e.g. different neighbourhoods, ages, ethnicities and so on
- finding creative ways to engage with these different communities and groups – both in the short- and long-term – and considering the question of if and when to recognise an activity had served its useful purpose at this time.
These discussions illustrated the relevance of the two themes to the practitioners, and so to the research process and the potential for further shared inquiring around them.
Next steps …
Yvonne Reilly and Kaela Scott were this Labs’ delegates to the next Transnational Lab in Lisbon (Jan 2019) and the group discussions highlighted interest in learning more through them about: the use of community assets; different approaches to outdoor and indoor community activities; and, different aspirations for community empowerment.
We highlighted, too, the next round of shadowing local SUIs in February 2019; and the next round of Local Labs in May which will include preparations for the Krakov Transnational Lab in June.
Feedback on this Local Lab continues to support this developing process, and the participants’ responses were very encouraging, with people:
- valuing the range of shared spaces – larger, smaller, more formal, more informal – for talking together and sharing experiences and understandings; and,
- highlighting the potential to consider sharing information in advance, learning more about the shadowing work, and exploring the balance between these shared spaces.
We will think further on the feedback … whilst these discussions are proving invaluable to the developing research process as we seek to understand appreciatively and look to support effectively the complexities of socially-knowledgeable and politically-astute (‘smart’) urban practice … many, many thanks to all the participants on the day for their crucial contributions!
Acknowledgements: the researchers want to thank all members of the Govan Lab for their ongoing contributions and commitment to this project. The local SUIs: Martin Avila (Kinning Park Complex); Pat Cassidy (Govan Workspaces); Moya Crowley (Plantation Production); Owen Fenn (Govan Community Project); Susan Hanlin (Central Govan Action Plan); Fiona MacTaggart and Ryan Davidson (Govan Housing Association); Jim McMillan (Sunny Govan Radio); Anne Philbrow (Urban Roots); and, Yvonne Reilly (Glasgow City Council, Community planning); The cooperation partners: David Allan (Scottish Community Development Centre); Fiona Dickson (Glasgow City Council, Community Planning); Andrew Morgan (Inspiring Scotland); Derek Rankin (SURF); and, Kaela Scott (Involve).