Today the Australian strategic design agency Thick, in partnership with Arup and the City of Melbourne, are launching the Green Laneways online guide. The guide has been developed following a first-of-its-kind research project which explored funding models for community-led greening initiatives. It outlines an innovative approach for governments to enable local communities get green infrastructure into the places they live and work.
Green spaces in urban environments are becoming increasingly important as our cities continue to expand. By introducing plants into urban spaces green infrastructure encourages city dwellers to spend more time outdoors, improving their health and wellbeing. It also address environmental issues relating to urbanisation, such as air pollution, carbon emissions, noise and wildlife displacement.
Despite the benefits of public greening (and its increasing popularity) funding is still a major obstacle, as there is a lack of readily available funding for green infrastructure projects. This means that these projects are often reliant on community co-funding and collaboration to get them off the ground.
This funding challenge required an innovative solution which engaged communities in the whole process – not just when funding was needed. “We found that involving people from the start of the program helps to build trust, excitement and momentum,” says Thick’s Service Design Lead Angela Bode: “Once they’re engaged, funding conversations will evolve naturally and they will be more enthusiastic about making a contribution.”
The guide sets out an approach which helps communities ramp up engagement in greening projects. “We created the guide to share our understanding of what motivates people to come together and invest their time, money and resources into ‘greening’ their laneway,” says Bode. “Communities can use the guide to get started in setting up their own independent and self-managed green infrastructure program.”
While the guide is based on research conducted in Melbourne, Australia, the information is applicable anywhere in the world. “Communities can take it, use it and adapt it according to their local needs and circumstances,” says Bode. The intention is for the guide to be continuously updated and refined, as communities from around the world use it and provide feedback on their experience.
The evolution of the guide is already underway, with the City of Melbourne likely to incorporate it in possible future rounds of their Green Your Laneway program.