Finding Common Ground

Social Enterprise World Forum
July 14, 2017

CROSS-SECTOR COLLABORATION FOR COMMUNITY-LED DEVELOPMENT

 

Last Monday the 23rd January, I (Brie Sherow) had the pleasure of co-hosting Finding Common Ground with my co-host Monika Markova.  We talked about city building through cross-sector collaboration and heard from eight different community groups (and a few wild card presenters from the audience), who have ideas and plans for development projects.

In Christchurch we’ve seen a multitude of examples of small-scale projects that have taken place over the past years because of partnerships in the community, but how does that process work on large-scale projects?  How can we take what we learned building the Pallet Pavilion, or the Sydenham Pod Park and apply it to permanent developments?  How can we take learnings from international examples like Nightingale co-housing, and apply them to our local context?  What we’re asking is, what does it look like here in Christchurch, between us?  We all have a role in the development of our communities, but we need to ask ourselves what we each have to offer, and what we need from each other in return.  And how can we make sure that the financial returns from these investments are spread horizontally, back to the purpose of the buildings that we’re creating and across our communities that the buildings are serving?  You might already realise that there are more questions than answers, but that’s ok, because the first step to finding the answers is to start asking the right questions.

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Monika has worked in many different sectors of urban development, but always wondered what projects would look like if outside perspectives were more welcomed.  Her work as an intern in a small private planning firm in Germany, local government in Christchurch, the corporate world at Beca, and community development in Leipzig, would all have been different if bridges were actively built between the different sectors.  Each sector has their own way of doing things, but there are people in each of them that are willing to innovate - they are curious, they look to the outside and are ready to experiment with different models, they just need to be given the chance.

At Beca, she sees technical expertise all around her in the fields of engineering, project management, planning, landscape architecture and ecology, but I wonders how those skills can be plugged into projects such as those being presented. How can corporate entities contribute to community projects with their long-standing expertise in a financially viable way?

You might know the Sydenham Pod Park (Max’s Pipe Dream at the 2012 Ellerslie International Flower Show), which Beca did pro bono together with Greening the Rubble. It’s a great example of collaboration, but if we are to really move beyond the transitional and into long-term development, how can this model be scaled up and applied to more projects?

Her hope is that in time, the phrase ‘community-led’ will disappear from planning language, as we will work in a much more organic and collaborative way, and it will be implied.

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During my five years as project manager for Life in Vacant Spaces (LIVS), I learned how much it meant for citizens of a place to come together and take part in creating it.  However, LIVS works in transitional spaces, the projects were temporarily in place while landowners are working through future plans.  There will always be a need for temporary projects, but I could also see a need for communities to have access to permanent space in the city.  And I thought about how much it would mean for citizens to not only take part in designing the spaces that serve them, but to also become investors and owners of these spaces.  So to build on Monika’s question - How can corporate entities and government institutions communicate more clearly with local communities in order to respond to their needs while still being fairly compensated for their work?  We’re lucky that a group of people have been putting a lot of thought into these questions already - Thank you Camia Young for creating Ohu, and to the Ohu Foundation board for your work over the past year.  Anake Goodall, Anna Guenther, Tony Chamberlain, Raf Manji, Clare Evans, Ryan Reynolds, Huia Lambie, and Billy Matheson.

While we listen to the presenters’ share their ideas, let’s get excited and inspired by the work that they’ve already done, and let’s also think about how we might come together to support them in their next steps and across the stages of their development.  Monika encouraged everyone to leave their professional personas behind and instead think of themselves as citizens of this community. We can instead look at each other as forming a large pool of knowledge and skills available to contribute to projects and be rewarded for it.

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Josie Schroder spoke about Korimako, a development inspired by Nightingale, a co-housing initiative in Australia that has social health, economic resilience, and environmental sustainability at its core.  The core group came together to look into creating new ways of development in the city.  The aim is to include those that have been left out of traditional development processes with mixed tenures and typologies, profit-based but not profit driven.  The group is keen to share costs and open to exploring joint ventures with landowners.  “Everybody involved in determined to do something different,” Josie said, “something marketable, but that the city is currently lacking.”

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Jamie Stevenson spoke about Linwood neighbourhood and her work with Te Whare Roimata.  Te Whare Roimata are looking to raise awareness of the impact of the earthquakes on the Inner City East/Linwood and the stagnancy of regeneration in this vulnerable community, and to look forward to a period of community-led development. Any significant change will need to involve not only community members and organisations, but local and central government, and community-minded developers. This is an area with many vulnerable people, who, rather than being dictated to, want to have a voice and influence in their own community. New developments should reflect the needs and aspirations of locals, and this group is seeking like-minded people and groups who are interested in this kind of development.

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Pauline Wayman and Bev Shepherd introduced the New Brighton Sustainable Coastal Village Project, a co-housing project with a commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle.  This is a grassroots group seeking to establish an exemplar co-housing community based on permaculture principles.  Private dwellings for housing will be balanced with access to shared facilities and open spaces.  They seek to pool knowledge and capital in order to create more affordable and healthy buildings, organic gardens and regenerative landscapes.  Sharing facilities, assets and labour amongst members and the wider community will enable each community member to lessen their footprint.

In order to move forward this project needs to build a community of people who are committed to living in the space, people keen to participate in the planning and leadership needed to drive the plans forward.  They are planning promotional events in February and March, and hope it will inspire others to join them.

They are seeking land around 3500 sq m to accommodate 18-25 residencies.  Community Land Trusts and mixed ownership models could help to establish affordable housing values linked to wages rather than driven by the property market.  An innovative approach could be to form a Mutual Home Ownership Society, a model adopted by LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) in Leeds, UK. http://www.lilac.coop What are the possibilities?

To stay in touch or get involved visit their FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/NewBrightonCoastalVillage/

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Ryan Reynolds invited the audience to participate in a thought experiment as he introduced his idea for Non Wilsons carparks, a potential solution for communities to make a bit of money quickly as a means to support larger projects.  Wilsons carparks are all around the city but they only do the bare minimum to make a profit, which then goes offshore. Non Wilsons Carpark is an invitation to think about a different way of providing temporary car parking in the city. It could be that the revenue adds amenity to the site over time, and/or where the carpark is run by local communities with the profits helping to bolster existing activities.

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Fiona Stewart from Cultivate Christchurch shared her ideas around housing adjacent to land in agricultural production, a network of farms propagated by the next generation.  Cultivate already operates a successful urban agriculture initiative, where the money from produce goes back into support for their youth programs and community.  They provide work experience and healthy food, so housing is the logical next step for their services.  In order to move forward they need land for common use with a long term lease, to be used for housing, agriculture, and shared space for services.  The project also needs support developing the financial aspects of the site’s sustainability during and after construction.

To learn more about Cultivate, visit their space at Peterborough/Manchester on Thursdays, or at Halswell (211 Hendersons Road) on Wednesdays.  Connect with them at these spaces for their garden working bees and events, or email Fiona with any thoughts, ideas, or collaborative opportunities.

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Many landowners in Christchurch have vacant site parcels, although most never intended to be property developers.  Camia Young spoke from the perspective of a landowner who is keen to do something different with her vacant lot, a development co-created and co-owned by the community.  She is looking to build a community of creators and investors, “we need to own what it is that we create.”  Inspired by the Enspiral network, her aim is to create an intentional community that comes together for something bigger than themselves.

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Sue Bagshaw from 328 Youth Health spoke with other members of the Youth Hub collaborative from Te Kura, White Elephant Trust, and Collaborative Trust. The Youth Hub aims to bring together and support a number of vital youth services in one accessible central location, together with transitional emergency housing for about twenty young people.  “We need to be connected in relationships if we’re going to connect and build relationships with young people,” Sue said.  They are currently finalising their exact needs and looking for a suitable piece of land. They would like to join with others and discuss options for land use. For more information or to get involved, contact project lead Dr Sue Bagshaw on bagshaw@clear.net.n

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After the formal presentations, I opened the floor for wild card pitches, and members of the audience shared their ideas for community-led developments.  I opened the floor with a pitch of my own, an evolution of the XCHC arts production and exhibition space with the addition of accommodation in the form artist residencies, co-living, and a hotel.  Everyday I witness connections happening between those on the arts production side, and people visiting for exhibitions, events, and the cafe.  And I think that the XCHC’s purpose, to cultivate a creative ecology, could be further supported by providing for live-in and visiting artists using the space, as well as guests who are keen to experience the creative scene here in Christchurch.

What I envision is a space that would combine the residency based arts hotel with co-living and co-working, basically a sliding scale of accommodation fees depending on use of the space and length of stay.  Memberships would be available to use any combination of the spaces (production, exhibition, co-working, long-term residency, short term stay) and join a network of these hotels across New Zealand and the world.

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Stephen Morgan spoke about forming a renewable energy cooperative which would enable a group of households and businesses to own their generating assets and share power generation between them.  The timing is potentially good in terms of opportunity, technology convergence, and public awareness.

In order to move forward he needs to gauge interest and identify other projects to create partnerships, potentially to supply land and housing developments for an energy cooperative.  He’s also seeking data around the potential benefits of offset costs due to offsetting the need for further major centralised power generation scheme upgrades.  This project will need a lead to investigate the business case and structure in greater detail relative to a specific proposal.

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Jane Quigley spoke about the Viva Project, which was formed following the earthquakes to support sustainable and community focused development in the rebuild . Viva has approximately 600 people on their database keen to see the development of a sustainable urban village in central Christchurch. They are activity involved in purchasing land for this purpose. Visit their website for more information and to register interest. www.thevivaproject.org.nz

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Geoff Butcher described a project (see Cooperativesections.co.nz) which helped people get sections about a third cheaper than market price. Geoff would be willing to undertake another similar project, or to help other people do so. Stage 2 of the project is to create a small 'pocket neighbourhood,' ideally with a range of ages and household types for people who want to be part of a supportive community.  People will personally own a section around a central garden, which will be jointly owned by the encircling properties.  The bones of the Hikuwai Pocket Neighbourhood already exist, and could particularly suit people trying to create alternative designs or to use alternative materials, or who need to take advantage of innovative financing options including shared ownership and leasing of the land.  Visit www.Hikuwai.co.nz or contact Geoff at gvbutcher@xtra.co.nz or 027 5397534.

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Jason Pemberton spoke about the many young people have interests and activities that run counter to their housing (musicians = loud; mountain bikes = dirty and occupy lots of space) etc. In addition to this, often they are paying premium rates for low quality housing making it hard to save money.

He and his friends thought pooling their savings to collectively purchase a property to live in that provides better for the lifestyle they want, and lets them pay rent into their own pockets rather than someone else's. There are many ways this could practically work, but in essence there needs to be an excellent legal agreement and plan with some specific timeframes.

A big part of the problem they face is driven by the speculative housing market, so they would almost certainly agree to keep the property out of the speculative market after their time together concluded. This could mean selling it on at cost plus inflation to a new group to do the same, or furthering the ethos of the idea in some other form.  They want to start in 2017.

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