Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
Forgetting to feel?
8 June 2020
Few things in life are as tangible as the places where we live. Big events in the wider world broaden our outlook but they also magnify the importance of what’s on our doorstep.
So what is on our doorstep, how does it come about, and how does it function day-to-day? These are questions that have become much more relevant to us all during Covid-19 while everyone spends more time at home.
Grappling with the answers is why I do my job. It’s a privilege to help people play a part in the future of their neighbourhood and it’s also what makes places fail or succeed. For me, championing ideas that come from the public and making sure their voice gets heard is a win:win situation, both personally and professionally.
As a sector, I sense we are happier debating policy and viability than asking residents what they think or how they feel. That requires everyone to open-up and see the world from different points of view, which isn’t easy in a world where levels of trust are already so low.
The system we are a part of is not set up to feel. Empathy doesn’t tend to be part of our training as a planner, surveyor or accountant but, it is part of being human. Remembering to bring that part of us to work can pay great dividends and forgetting to feel creates many risks.
Many of my colleagues and peers recognised this long-ago but the industry at large has probably not. So I believe policy must work harder to force the pace and drive better community engagement. Its importance is recognised and frequently cited, but for all the hundreds of policies that exist at national, city-wide and borough levels on the minutiae of infrastructure, trees, design, there is next to nothing on engagement.
A lot of emphasis in emerging policy is rightly placed on local authorities engaging earlier and more effectively with civic society, but I think more must be expected of our industry too if we are to achieve a step change in community involvement and build greater trust.
Most importantly, we must expect more from ourselves. Grosvenor’s Community Charter is all about just that. We intend to set a new standard for public engagement across our business and remembering to be human (not just professional) is right at the heart of it.
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