Home » RIBA offers guidance on “democratic” stakeholder engagement

RIBA offers guidance on “democratic” stakeholder engagement

by Mark Cantrell
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The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published new guidance to ensure that stakeholder engagement is considered, when appropriate, at every stage of planning, design, and constructing of buildings and places.

The Engagement Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work is a free resource for built environment professionals, the organisation says; developed in collaboration with the Association of Collaborative Design (ACD), Sustrans, and supported by the Landscape Institute.

As RIBA puts it, engagement is about “actively involving stakeholders” in decision-making processes that affect them. That includes individuals, organisations, special interest groups and communities.

On building projects, engagement should take place during the lead-up to planning applications, throughout the design process, and should be maintained in the form of progress updates during the build.

Engagement is also essential during the management and stewardship of completed buildings and places, RIBA adds.

Research led by the ACD has revealed the “pressing need” for engagement to be integrated into the design process, rather than treated as an afterthought.

RIBA president, Muyiwa Oki said: “Engagement isn’t just about ticking boxes – when done properly, it is a powerful tool for making our society better for everyone.

“Through listening, nurturing relationships, using open and respectful dialogue, and starting the process early, good engagement creates better project outcomes and makes our built environment more inclusive, sustainable, and relevant to the communities it serves.

“Local knowledge and participation are vital to ensure projects are climate resilient, and make communities stronger. The Engagement Overlay will help RIBA members and other professionals to adopt a truly democratic and collaborative approach to designing and building.”

Sarah Jones-Morris FLI, lead author of the Engagement Overlay, and is co-chief executive of the Association of Collaborative Design, added: “We are delighted to see the landmark Engagement Overlay published.

“It promises to raise engagement standards across the built environment sector, which will radically improve the places where we live, work, and socialise. The most successful projects are collaborative, where contractors, designers, councils, and local people share their perspectives, resulting in better neighbourhoods.

“The overlay strives to enable responsible decision-making and follow a clear process – a major accomplishment.”

The guide outlines best practice to integrate engagement into every stage of the design and construction process, RIBA says.

Advocating a “democratic and collaborative” approach, it will help professionals bring everyone to the table at the right time to make projects inclusive, sustainable, and responsive to the diverse needs and strengths of neighbourhoods.

According to RIBA, by using such an approach, engagement can be a “key driver of positive change”.

Paul Ruffles, principal designer at Sustrans Scotland, said: “The Engagement Overlay is a valuable and understandable method of bringing engagement into design and construction processes.

“Projects where people have been embedded into the processes from the early stages have consistently demonstrated positive real-world results in terms of local involvement, awareness, empowerment, and support for projects.”

Image credit: CHUAN CHUAN/Shutterstock

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