A six-step guide to animated storytelling for urban regeneration

By PRP – 14 May 2020

With the country in full lockdown a number of public consultation events have been unable to go ahead due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But people can still, and should have their say, if we’re to build the resilient and inclusive communities the UK needs.

In the face of this unprecedented challenge - alongside the changing nature of our living, economic and social conditions - we now need more than ever to be proactive and inventive when it comes to conducting public consultation events as these are a vital component of a regeneration project.

As a response, PRP’s urban design team has developed a bespoke digital engagement guide, called Animated Storytelling, that local authorities and developers alike will be able to easily implement to overcome the absence of face to face engagement with their communities, and keep the momentum going on their projects even if construction has been paused.

This new six-step guide is the result of extensive research on engagement techniques and forms part of the overarching strategy for online engagement, and encourages different levels of participation and meaningful conversation with the community. Engagement techniques include a combination of video streaming, voice recordings, QR codes, interactive consultation boards and digital questionnaires, which allows easily accessible information for everyone.

Most importantly, the Animated Storytelling toolkit is allowing us to remain close to communities, communicate with them and explain design concepts, answer questions and collect vital feedback for our projects. Recent findings also suggest that these techniques make it easier to communicate with traditionally hard to reach communities providing a new background for fresh ideas.

Our guide to Animated Storytelling is based upon the principles of Connect, Collaborate, and Create and follows the six easily applicable steps:

Step 1 – Listen: evaluate the community needs and access to smart technology

Step 2 – Adapt: create bespoke engagement strategy based on communities’ access to smart technology

Step 3 – Digitalise: set-up the streamline process of the engagement and videos

Step 4 – Share: release information – animated storytelling videos accessed by QR codes

Step 5 – Connect: collect feedback via digital questionnaires, chat groups, dedicated apps and helplines

Step 6 – Empower and collaborate: keep communities together and at the centre of every decision-making process

All these techniques are already being applied on a number of ongoing regeneration projects with great success. Local communities as well as clients, and especially the younger generations, have reacted very positively to the idea of digital engagement and we’re able to communicate more easily with hard to reach people.

We are evaluating our approach on a daily basis and we are elaborating our research in order to reflect the bespoke needs of our projects and clients. Gradually, we are evolving further our skills and techniques in order to expand our digital engagement strategy to the wider marketplace.

By Manisha Patel, Senior Partner at PRP and Spyridon Katsaros, Director at PRP