From New York to Tehran, Australian not-for-profit group CoDesign Studio have started a movement for citizens to build community resilience in their local neighbourhoods - from a distance.

[MEDIA RELEASE] Melbourne-based not-for-profit group CoDesign Studio has rallied together no less than 25 local and global placemaking leaders and urban planning organisations in a coordinated effort to empower local community members to connect with neighbours during the pandemic and beyond. The impact spans Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

The new collaboration is called Porch Placemaking Week (30 May - 5 June 2020); a global week-long event to reach, inspire and equip local citizens to ‘activate’ underutilised residential spaces - such as balconies, driveways, sidewalks and front porches.

Citizens across the globe can participate in Porch Placemaking Week by visiting porchplacemaking.com for resources, the social wall, and interactive map. Plus join the Facebook Page for updates and connection.

At a time when many public places for interaction remain empty due to necessary social distancing restrictions, citizens are connecting in new-found ways online. Porch Placemaking Week has been designed as a vehicle for promoting social connection, building neighbour relationships, and helping communities to bring their new-found digital connection into the physical world, while remaining at a safe distance.

“In light of Covid-19 restrictions, our space for interaction has shrunk dramatically as people are confined to the borders of their properties. But, whilst we are physically distant, we can remain socially connected,” shares urban planning expert Lucinda Hartley, Board Chair and Founder of CoDesign Studio and instigator of the Porch Placemaking Week event.

Twenty-five partner networks have spread the word to their regions (#PorchPlacemaking), provided free resources for citizens, and formed a collaborative working group.

Need inspiration? Check out the Social Wall of #PorchPlacemaking projects and remember to share your projects from across the globe too!

Anyone in the world is welcome to create a project. Participants plot local projects on an interactive world map and connect via a Facebook page. Within 48 hours of launching on 8 May 2020, the map revealed 15 projects registered in 7 different countries (see tweet).

Today, there are 115 projects in 16 countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, India, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“The Covid19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local neighbourhoods and public spaces more than ever. Placemaking is something everyone can be a part of, so the idea behind Porch Placemaking Week was to show how easy it can be to make a difference, even during this challenging time,” says Lucinda Hartley, who is also urban tech co-founder of Australian data analytics firm, Neighbourlytics.

The Interactive Map shows 155 Projects in 16 different countries in every continent (except for Antarctica) as of 26th May 2020.

Across the globe, local citizens have gained new-found connection to each other online, and in their local communities due to lockdowns and movement restrictions. This has created a social asset that could be lost as restrictions ease if it is not guided towards longevity.

Thankfully, there are dozens of active organisations and placemaking researchers that have worked in this space for over a decade, developing resources and tools to equip everyday local citizens to have an impact on their local places.

Research by CoDesign Studio has shown that when local people are actively involved in the design, programming, and activation of their own local places, this contributes to the social, cultural, environmental and economic value of a place.

There are a number of ways to join the movement. Become a champion by getting your street or apartment building involved,” says urban planner Harriet McKindlay, Operations Lead at CoDesign Studio, who is also coordinating the global placemaking partners for this event. “Then put your porch on the placemaking map and inspire others by sharing your project in our Facebook Group and on our interactive map.”

Get inspired! Examples of an ‘activation’ for Porch Placemaking include:

  • Beautification (clean-up, paint, decorate, add lighting)
  • Greening (add plants, grow food, gardening)
  • Programming (add an event, performance, driveway drinks)
  • Interaction for passers by (add element for them to engage with such as pegging notes to the fence)
  • Resource sharing for locals (such as street libraries and street pantries).

While we’ve seen many examples of new online connections being forged between locals during the pandemic, it is the pairing of this with real-world physical spaces that can create a bridge to ensuring this connection can become self-sustaining into the future.

Media release prepared by Eliza Charley 26 May 2020. For full copy of the text, including global contacts for press enquiries - contact [eliza @ codesignstudio.com.au].

Cover Image: CoDesign Studio, Play Streets Australia program 2015.