CVA Updates

Creating the future we want: the placemaking approach

What’s your favourite place? What is it about that place that you enjoy? How does it make you feel?

Imagine if the places where we lived and worked were green, walkable, affordable and regenerative.  Imagine if they made it easy for us to gather, shop, have fun, eat together, and be around people different from us. 

With this mindset, we could fundamentally change our communities, and collectively have a positive impact on the health of our planet.

The major challenges of our time — climate change and resilience, physical and mental health, equity and inclusion — are global in scale. But the most effective and catalytic solutions can often be found at the local level – in our public spaces, on our streets and within our neighbourhoods.

Given the shared commitment by Town Team Movement and Conservation Volunteers Australia to creating thriving local communities and environments, we’ve collaborated on this article to explore how a placemaking approach can help create a better future for all.

What is placemaking?

Placemaking’ is an iterative and collaborative process that brings people together to create positive changes in a place or area. 

This also includes improving existing spaces to make them more comfortable, accessible, active and attractive. 

It is a growing global movement that aims to improve not only the physical elements of a space, but also the way people think and feel about the world around them. 

Placemaking seeks to inspire people to be active citizens and co-create the future we want while drawing on a range of disciplines.

Why is placemaking needed?

For many decades, city-building professions have generally overlooked the role of public space as the fulcrum of great cities. 

Instead, they’ve trained their focus narrowly on buildings, businesses, roadways, infrastructure, and regulatory frameworks. 

From traffic engineers to economic development specialists, these professions have retreated into ‘silos’ that separate them from each other and can blind them to the overall needs of cities, their citizens and the natural world. 

Each profession pursues narrow, disconnected goals that add up to far less than the sum of their parts. They also ignore the complexity of places, which are intricate and interconnected systems, just like diverse rainforests.

Placemaking is a response to the car-dominated, unattractive and unsafe environments found in many urban areas, but it also has deep roots reaching back to the way communities used to be created pre-World War 2. 

Modern cities are often not suitable habitats for nurturing healthy and thriving humans, let alone nature and native species. 

We can do so much better!

Organisations across Australia that are involved in placemaking and community connectedness

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Nature Blocks programme and CVA’s Charter for Change are great examples of how people and communities can get involved in placemaking and enhancing local biodiversity, with so many other positive social and environmental impacts. 

Town Team Movement inspires and empowers people across Australia, New Zealand and the UK to take part in positive change through local Town Teams. 

In addition, organisations like WA Loves Nature, West Perth Local and Relationships Australia are working to create and inspire positive action at local level.

Relationships Australia is a nonprofit that helps inspire and enable everyone to get involved in creating a sense of belonging and building resilient and connected communities. As the custodian of Neighbour Day, Relationships Australia developed the Neighbours Every Day campaign as a year-round celebration of social connection across Australia.

Some examples of placemaking

Placemaking promotes small, community-led actions right through to larger design or development ideas. There are so many examples, but here are some that blend human and social benefits with an environmental focus and outcomes. 

Perth-based WA Loves Nature is not-for-profit organisation that promotes, and encourages the community to support Western Australia’s unique and world-renowned biodiversity. They partnered with local Town Team, West Perth Local, to create the West Perth Bee Scene Trail.

The trail takes visitors around the central village of West Perth and aims to educate visitors about the importance of native bees. It is full of sculptures, art murals, bee hotels and wildflower gardens in an urban setting.

Native Bee Mural and Sculpture, West Perth

The beautiful mural below was created by Laeline Design and showcases some of the local native bee species and the plants you can plant to bring them into your garden.

The blue banded bee, Amegilla sp., sculpture was made and installed by Respoke and shows how the male bees roost at night by holding onto stems with their mandibles. 

The sculpture is within a native wildflower garden containing some of the bees favourite flowers like native wisteria (Hardenbergia comptoniana) and emu Bush (Eremophila nivea). There is also a large wooden bee hotel on the wall.

Photo credit: WA Loves Nature

Stables Bee Hotel

The bee hotel below was designed to model the heritage-listed stables behind it. It has been orientated to receive morning sun and afternoon shade which is ideal for nesting bees. 

These hotels are not used by the European honeybee but native, solitary bees such as leaf cutter bees and resin bees.

Photo credit: WA Loves Nature

Neighbour Day (last Sunday in March)

Neighbour Day 2024 will be celebrated on 31 March. It aims to unite people across Australia in taking action to build relationships and a sense of community and belonging. 

To get involved, you can start with giving a friendly smile to someone, saying a friendly ‘hello’ to your neighbours, offering a kind gesture, or organising your own Neighbour Day event. 

You can register and search for events here. There are lots of free resources available to help support your participation in Neighbour Day. And after celebrating Neighbour Day, remember to make every day a Neighbour Day!

Placemaking and bringing nature back into social spaces: you can do it too!

Anyone can be a placemaker. It’s a matter of looking around you with new ideas, finding ideas that energise you and having a go! Placemaking encourages diversity and life in all its forms. It mixes things up.

How could you add nature back into social spaces?

How could you add social elements to natural areas? Connecting people to each other and the world around them can inspire more action.

One way to get involved in placemaking is through the establishment of Nature Blocks. Everyone can get involved in restoring, protecting and enhancing nature – whether you have a large garden or a tiny urban rooftop.

The main tip is to just get started on something, no matter how small. Nature Blocks are a fantastic way to start, or you can get involved with Conservation Volunteers Australia’s many other impactful projects as a volunteer or citizen scientist to restore biodiversity, oceans and rivers while building climate resilience.

About Town Team

Town Team Movement is a non-profit social enterprise building a movement of ‘positive doers’. It loves helping people who want to create change in their local area. Here are some places to find out more.

Find out more about the positive and proactive Town Team approach – www.townteammovement.com/town-teams/

Access free tips, tricks and resourceswww.townteammovement.com/resources/

Learn more about placemaking in the free Placemaking in 12 minutes crash course – www.placemaking.education/p/placemaking-in-12-minutes