16 March 2010

Co-creating London

What would you do to make London a better place?

That's the question being asked at Co-Create London, the first project from the Co-Creation Hub. Although various planning/social media/branding agencies are involved, Co-Create London isn't trying to sell anything. Instead the plan looks like:

  1. crowdsourcing suggestions for things that'd improve London
  2. the co-creation bit: a workshop with contributors, "London experts", and Co-Creation Hub team members to develop these suggestions into clear ideas
  3. pitching these ideas to City Hall and the mayor

My suggestion was for A system of rent stabilisation (like in New York). London's crazy house prices have pushed rents too high to cover landlords' mortgages, and I don't think it's a good thing. Young people are either pushed into moving in with their boy/girlfriends too quickly to save on rent, or otherwise have to live like students in shared housing until they're 38 (the average age of a first-time buyer without parental support). Rent controls and stabilisation could peg rents to tenants' incomes, stop landlords for demanding excessive increases each year (mine asked for nearly 10% this year, in this economic climate!), and keep central parts of the city vibrant by giving them a better social mix of people than just council tenants vs. the rich. Go on, give it a vote!

The most popular ideas are:
* free wi-fi hotspots in public spaces across town

* Open library-style book kiosks/ book swap system in Tube stations so Londoners are never without reading material on the underground!

* simply by put air conditioning on the tubes would improve life in London during the Summer 100%

* Oyster Card becomes Oyster London card - pay for anything in London up to the value of 20GBP

* Annual Open Labs Day...Similar to Open House Weekend, but celebrates our city's vast and under-appreciated science culture

Throughout an interesting mix of the practical, the imaginative, the speculative and the already occuring. The demand for practical changes is probably the strongest - free wifi, later tube opening hours, air conditioning on the underground - but I hope some of the more imaginative suggestions get developed & taken forward to the Mayor too.

I'm fascinated, though, by the various demands for vacant or abandoned spaces to be put to social/community uses - be these spaces empty land, or empty shops, or the tunnel walls in the underground. Some of these things are actually already taking place, such as Spacemakers Brixon Indoor Market project taking over empty shops, or the community gardens and allotments Landshare or What If projects are doing. How exciting to find that these projects capture something in the wider social imagination of the city; a suggestion that maybe the wider public good is more important than private property rights...


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