Frequently asked questions

A comprehensive report is available that documents this research in detail - which readers can download here

Below are some notes on the most frequently asked questions since the report was published.

1/ What is different about this type of participation?

The idea of developing an approach based on participatory culture started with the observation that some innovative local projects were achieving inclusive participation. New participation culture projects involved activities which were intrinsically appealing to more people, often with what we began to view as ‘common denominator’ activities such as cooking, learning, making - experiences of co-producing something tangible as a group of equal peers.

One of the key differentiators of this model compared to other models was that these projects were creating mutually beneficial experiences. They also offered opportunities for individuals to live more sustainably by creating collective experiences such as repairing and sharing resources that could become part of everyday life.

2/ What do we mean by a ‘platform approach’?

The Open Works was set up as an experimental platform to combine the features of innovation platforms and the necessary incubation structures for growing new local participation projects.

The platform allowed a re-design of existing participation infrastructures by making it easy for a single resident to come through the shop door (the platform HQ), get inspired by the project ideas we introduced, and start a project the same day. The platform’s role was to inspire and co-design participatory projects with local residents; incorporate the design principles; connect people and ideas; source functional spaces; and take responsibility for necessary concerns such as insurance and safety at a network level.

The platform structure meant that residents didn’t have to form constituted groups, open bank accounts, apply for grants or make heavy long term organisational commitments. It enabled people to design and test an idea rapidly and easily.

3/ What are ‘Compound outcomes’

The research surfaced 3 types of outcomes what could be achieved through mass participation, all of which require frequency and scale. Frequent micro participation generates micro outcomes that need to accumulate and combine. In this way they will build over time to achieve long-term change, both for individuals and neighbourhoods. We have used the term ‘compound outcome’ to describe long range outcomes that require multiple people, actions or experiences to achieve:

  • Direct effects – to individuals and their families e.g. health, saving money, access to networks
  • Collective effects – of many micro activities e.g. recycling, peer learning networks
  • Networked effects – of people knowing one another e.g. growing new ideas, rising to community challenges together

The next stage will see the development of ways of measuring and analyzing these compound outcomes, particularly how they will work with new blended co-production models – ideally to create dashboards of indicators which will keep everyone enthusiastic about the social, economic and environmental health of the neighbourhood, and continue to participate on a daily basis.

4/ How do we create a collective investment framework when outcomes are derived through such a distributed method?

Funding small charitable organisations directly has achieved outcomes for people with high levels of need for a long time. Community Foundations have become distributors for these types of funding.  But the effects of this type of funding process have become clearer over time - rather than encouraging collaboration organisations have become highly competitive for both funding and volunteers in places.

A collective investment framework needs to be developed in order that multiple players, who might have segmented goals e.g. health outcomes or for young people, can come together to invest in a place through the platform. Importantly it needs to allow for residents to also invest in their neighbourhood, as well foundations, companies or government. We have seen inspiring discussions in the Netherlands where people have described how they would like to invest into the sorts of neighbourhoods they would like to grow old in, as well as in financial pension funds.