Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

PROPOSAL | Your Neighbourhood Lab

This is a proposal we recently submitted for a lab style initiative in an inner urban mixed use precinct as part of their place management program. The proposal was developed with two other small and innovative practices with shared interests in sustainability, participatory process and social design. We enjoyed developing this proposal so much that we wanted to share it, as it demonstrates our ability to think small and create intimate exchanges for the benefit of communities, neighbourhoods, infrastructure and networks. It recognises that strong neighbourhoods are essential for vibrant local economies and social environments.



This proposal pitches ‘Your Neighbourhood Lab’ as a program of workshops and a community information session with residents to facilitate their involvement in enhancing their sense and experience of neighbourhood. We will use the shopfront as a learning/workshop environment – a gathering space – to undertake community engagement about neighbourhood development. The project goal is:

A palpable sense of sociability, community and neighbourhood in the locality and immediate surrounds

Project objectives are:

  • Creative and immersive and participatory stakeholder engagement as a community building process
  • Greater awareness of needs for community development and infrastructure
  • Local residents encouraged to initiate and build social and community capital

As a collaboration of dynamic small practices, we will develop a workshop program to facilitate resident discussion about neighbourhood and community. Workshops will present information and facilitate experiential engagements drawing on enabling methodologies e.g. Jane’s Walk. The approach is modelled on the Planning Camp developed by the UK’s Building Community Consortium. It also draws on such initiatives as Ezio Manzini’s Enabling Solutions, Jane Francis Kelly’s Social Cities (Grattan Institute) and Jay Walljasper’s The Great Neighborhood Book (Project for Public Spaces).

Our approach recognises that the resident population will increase when new developments are completed. Brisbane’s urban development and increasing density has not been supported by new and innovative approaches to community development and social infrastructure. With reference to QUT’s High Density Liveability Guide, it is our intention to work with the community to develop relevant ideas for community development in the neighbourhood, including infrastructure. While the precinct has a high level of amenity and access this is not necessarily indicative of a sense of neighbourhood or community. Without pre-empting workshop activities, the discussions may reveal a need for low key social enablers such as a community or neighbourhood association, an online community portal or social network, a welcoming kit, a co-working space, informal common interest or ‘meet up’ groups, mobile or temporary facilities, a community hub and other community-oriented solutions.


A dynamic and thriving neighbourhood is integral to the attractiveness and liveability of place. The Your Neighbourhood Lab will be comprised of three workshops. The processes will draw on our creative sustainability approach, which recognises human need as a system rather than a hierarchy (The Max-Neef Model of Human-Scale Development), with an intention of triggering creative and generative thinking among resident participants. The workshops draw on community planning and social design methodologies which facilitate bottom up processes – as Roberta Brandes Gratz writes  ‘not being afraid to think small’ – while anticipating some potential social inclusion issues in the locality e.g. children, international students and aging in place. Enabling is a key idea in this process. The social innovator Ezio Manzini stresses the importance of developing tools to enable communities to design services where the idea of co-producing value is taken seriously. The following workshop program will be developed:

[Click to enlarge]

A community information session presenting ideas and images generated through the workshops. Attendees will be able to comment on some of the proposals.

The workshops are intended to be opt-in and out. Participants will not need to attend all of them. The project team will ensure that learnings and insights from each workshop are passed on to the next.

The final day will be a community information session where ideas from the workshops are presented in exhibition form. There will be opportunities for other residents to comment.  This enables the sharing of findings and ideas with a broader group of interested stakeholders as well as seeds ongoing conversations. The project results can be used to inform ongoing community and neighbourhood development activity in the locality.

The process will be supported through communications strategies including letterbox drop and social media (polls, facebook and twitter) as well as printed and display materials. The project will culminate with documentation of the process that can be used to inform further planning and design initiatives.

This project supports the achievement of a range of outcomes as articulated by the client, particularly those that seek to enhance social capital, encourage self-organisation and seek ongoing involvement from members of the community.


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