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Rethinking the mapping of places and networks in Sheffield as a platform for positive action
A quick introduction to a piece of work I'm doing with Citizen Network and other partners
I once heard someone say at a conference that everything happens in a place. This really struck a chord with me and has informed how I think about data, the way it’s collected and what it represents.
The concept of place is tricky though. For example…
Do we all consider or perceive the same geographic area we live in as the same place?
Do we perceive place as something other than geography, such as identity, networks or things of interest?
Who defines the places within which things are contained, resources are distributed or decisions are made?
If things are presented to us in relation to a place with which we don’t necessarily associate or identify ourselves, how does this affect our interest in or agency to engage with that thing?
And if people don’t support or engage with a thing positively, can the desired purpose of that thing be realised as effectively as possible?
I spoke a bit about some of this with Tom Watson as part of the Data for Good Festival back in 2021, if you’re interested.
In terms of data in the UK, things are often collected in pre-defined geographical buckets, which have discrete boundaries and names. These are useful for all sorts of government, administrative and statutory bodies to collect information about places in a consistent way, usually about things that measure service performance or require addressing in some form or another. It’s useful for others too in describing the context within which they work and how they shape what they do. But are these buckets useful ways to describe place if you want to inspire citizen action and ownership in response to something?
All of the questions above - which aren’t new, by the way - form the basis of a project I’m getting underway in partnership with Citizen Network Research and others too. The idea to start with is to explore concepts of place with people in Sheffield (and possibly beyond), the boundaries of these places and what this all looks like against some of the administrative geographies or current notions of neighbourhood. By testing approaches for doing this and learning as we go, we will be creating a blueprint for a process that can tried out elsewhere too.
In a nutshell, we think that by collecting and presenting data about a place in a way that focuses on people’s own networks and similarities is a way to create a platform for inspiring positive action. Furthermore, by mapping all of these things together, we can create a visual way to engage with each other within and between places, as well as broker conversations about how this might inform more equitable, effective and person-centred service delivery and resource allocation.
What are we going to do over the next 3 to 4 months?
We will be using Maptionnaire to develop and share an interactive, online way for people to ‘draw’ and name their place(s) of identity, interest or physical base;
We will be running some face to face events around Sheffield to provide an offline way to engage people with drawing and naming their place(s);
We will create the first version of a map to bring together people’s notions of place in and an round Sheffield, and to overlay this with current ways of doing this;
We will be documenting the process as we go for others to comment on or learn from.
Watch this space! If you’re interested in being involved, supporting, informing or staying up to date with this work, please click here.