Often our work involves helping an organisation to better involve their constituents or clients in decisions. Space in Common was different. We were funded by a group of academic and non-academic researchers working together on an action research project called ‘Jam and Justice’; the aim of Space in Common was to help groups outside government to build relationships and explore how they could work together better to improve large-scale planning decisions in Greater Manchester.

We did this through a series of four evening workshops happening in the build-up to a major consultation on the ‘spatial plan’ for Greater Manchester. We recruited participants by researching and reaching out to relevant local networks and contacts, including those built up by the Jam and Justice project. Throughout the project, we worked hand-in-hand with a team from Jam and Justice.

  • Our first workshop gave people space to share their experiences with each other. We intentionally brought together a range of different groups to help participants learn from other experiences. We also encouraged our group to start thinking about what needs to change in order to build a better conversation about large-scale planning decisions.
  • At the first workshop, we had heard that the jargon surrounding large-scale planning decisions is a major barrier. At the second workshop, we invited a planner from the council to talk everyone through how it works, where the voice of communities fits in, and what challenges local authorities face.
  • At the third, we brought the coordinator of Just Space, a London-based community network working together on large-scale planning matters, to share their experiences.
  • Finally, at the fourth we encouraged participants to think about ways they could work together in future to influence large-scale planning decisions.

Our final report outlining what was learnt can be accessed online here. We hoped through this programme to encourage groups to continue to work together – while we didn’t manage to catalyse a formal coalition or network, we did put new groups in touch with each other and set up a shared mailing list for participants to stay in touch.

Participants told us they valued learning more about this topic, forming new contacts, getting a chance to hear from people they otherwise wouldn’t have come across, and that it focused them ahead of the planned consultation. If you want to learn more about the Jam and Justice project (of which this was one part), you can access their website and report.