Phil Bixby and Helen Graham
A crucial question raised by the My Castle Gateway process is how can all of the contributions – all the post its, social media posts, survey contributions, interviews and discussions during events – be made to count. To this question we have two response: yes, we will openly archive and analyse everything so #everypostitcounts but it is also not quite that simple… making change happen is an ongoing process for which we all need to take responsibility. To be a bit corny for a moment, the posts and post it notes are just seeds, we need to collectively plan, discuss, plant, weed and ensure the good ideas grow. If the slogan for Step 1 of the My Castle Gateway process was Every Post It Counts, a possible slogan for Step 2 might be Change is a Process not a Post It.
Over the years we have scrawled on a lot of post it notes as part of consultation events and have often wondered where they go. It often feels hard to see any connecting line between your post it, your tweet or survey contribution and meaningful change. Through the design of the My Castle Gateway process we have built in two different answers to the question, ‘how will it all count?’
Every Post It Counts: Open archive, Open analysis
Our ambition is that every contribution no matter in what format are added to our online archive on flickr. We chose flickr simply as it’s a free online space and works, unlike other social media, as an archive. Flickr allows for a variety of ways of organising each item: by album, which allows us to log each individual event/conversation we’ve run, and by content, via its tagging tools. It also means that everything we do with the contributions is done publically, there is no secret spreadsheet. (If you spot your contribution is missing, it’s just an honest mistake and we will fix it, tell us and we’ll add it on).
We have now started to tag each contribution for content so we can identify key issues. You can see a list of tags generated so far. Anyone can add a tag. The only formula is that it has ‘castlegateway’ at the end so it is unique to this project, or we’d get every ‘tower’, ‘castle’, ‘prison’ in Flickr coming up. If you see a tag that would be useful, add it, tell us and we’ll add it to our tag list.
From the tags so far we can identify two popular ideas:
Key themes where the detail varies and needs more in depth work:
Overarching desires – for example for greater links through the area:
We have also tried to use different tags to flag areas of disagreement
We noticed that trees in Tower Gardens was emerging as an issue so we have both an overarching tag of treescastlegateway + towergardenscastlegateway have refined this so we can identify the disagreements:
Which takes us to Step 2 of the My Castle Gateway process.
Change is a Process not a Post It: Working together on key issues
One way of thinking of all this analysis is that it produces knowledge that the masterplanners use to draw up their designs and then the Council Executive will look over and approve the options. There is, of course, an element of this.
Next week we will be posting our open working draft of ‘Castle Gateway: What Matters?’ for comments, edits, corrections and additions. The masterplanners have sight of this and it will inform their ongoing heritage significance work. Over the next few weeks we will also produce a working ‘Castle Gateway Brief’ based on all the things people said they’d like to be able to do in the area, again this will be published openly as a draft on our website. In October all this work will end in masterplanning options to the Executive for discussion.
However, to inform the masterplannng options we also need to address openly the tricky issues in this area emerging for all the contributions so far. For example:
The Council wants to explore alternate uses for the car park but needs to think about how we can pay for it, while others worry that it is not clear how it will be paid for or that money always speaks louder than people.
While the vast majority of people who have taken part so far in the My Castle Gateway discussions, want to see something other than a car park near Clifford’s Tower and think walking, cycling and public transport can serve their needs, some people do disagree and really want to be able park there.
Of the people who want public space in Castle Car Park, some think there should be no buildings and want to be able to picnic in a green park, others think buildings can help public space to work well and want to be able to shop, eat and drink.
Some want Foss Basin to be tided up and be a place for tourist to wander, others want it to remain working, ungentrified and to be a place where people can be without spending money.
Some want the area to have another large-scale tourist attraction, others want this to be a place with independent businesses and a ‘community feel’ and think this will add up to a better experience for tourists.
None of the issues can be resolved by taking a majority poll, by any simple vote or totting up of number of post it notes. We need to all take responsibility for the issues: to see them through others’ eyes, to understand them better, to engage with expertise and to challenge ourselves and each other.
Not just having your say, but rolling up your sleeves
As we enter the Step 2 of the My Castle Gateway process, it should be clear that this is not about ‘having your say’: sticking your oar, disengaging and then moaning when the council doesn’t do exactly what you want. You can already from the online archive see that many other people also have ideas and there are no easy answers or obvious ways through. With greater power comes greater responsibility, so if you want to shape the future of Castle Gateway the time has come to roll up your sleeves.
There are 10s of ways of doing this. You could…
- Write thoughtful pieces exploring the issues and email us so we can post them as blogs
- Record a video with us sharing your knowledge of an aspect of the area or your understanding of the solution to a conflict of priorities
- Suggest and offer to co-organize an event to explore an issue further
- Suggest a speaker to invite (better still – see if they’re available!) or share resources (websites / videos / whatever) via twitter or our facebook discussion group
- Spread the word and involve other people who live and/or work in York who you feel can contribute
…and at the very least you can keep in touch with events through our mailing list and on Facebook and Twitter.
We believe that rolling up your sleeves doesn’t have to be a chore, so we are in the process of working with other creative minds to come up with events (we’ve got an event on 15th August to explore this, all welcome) which within that spirit of shared responsibility will illuminate the issues and result in agreed paths forward, which will work with the necessary timescale. Not everyone will be happy with every outcome, but we hope we can ensure everyone is happy that we’ve taken the best possible route to get to them, and have developed ways of working together which will endure within the city.