Training the Trainers: passing on the skills of engagement

YES Planning is a student volunteer project which offers town planning students training in engagement skills and which, in turn, extends an understanding of town planning amongst young people in the community. Through this initiative, it is hoped that young people in the region will be inspired to become involved, not only in local planning issues but also in wider democratic processes in the longer term. For the town planning students, YES Planning allows them to learn how to share their subject with a broader audience and to learn how to listen to young people’s views about the local environment.

The findings of the project have been turned into an engagement toolkit to enable town planners, teachers and youth workers to start to explore young people’s views about their local area.

In this post one of Yes Planning’s newest first year recruits reflects on a training session that was run by students in November 2016.  The students, Sean Peacock and Ben Million had been instrumental in setting up the project three years ago.


The training session that Sean and Ben ran helped us to get to know what the YES Planning opportunity was all about, as beforehand I was unsure. We were told about the aims of the project and about the praise the project had received in the past which was great – everyone got to know what a fantastic opportunity they were getting involved in. We got to participate in some of the activities we would run with the pupils on a future school visit which I thought was really helpful, as opposed to just being told about the activities. This was also useful for the facilitators of YES Planning, as volunteers could give feedback on the activities, which might have been more difficult to get from children of such a young age. We discussed what challenges we might face working with groups of children and how we could overcome these challenges to get the best possible data from the pupils, through utilisation of the tasks we had been taught about.

Cognitive Mapping Skills

Cognitive Mapping Skills

I felt like we were all well prepared for the school visit because of the training session, and I personally found the school visit very rewarding and insightful.

I look forward to the next opportunity YES Planning presents!

Amy Ingle, Stage 1 Urban Planning


For more information about YES Planning please contact Teresa Strachan, Lecturer in Town Planning,

Working together on cooperative neighbourhoods

On Wednesday 25 January, the School hosted a participatory workshop reflecting on the use of communities within recent policy agendas. It considered the emphasis placed on “localism” over the last nine years, the forces driving it at the national level and how it has been interpreted in northern, urban locations. It also asked how a localism agenda might be reworked to better reflect the needs of these areas.

The event was organised by Dr David Webb of the School, with partners Greening Wingrove and the CHAT Trust, and funded by the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal and the Global Urban Research Unit.  This participatory workshop is the latest output of their collaborative partnership, building on their project Reclaim the Lanes which worked with residents of an area surrounding a back lane in the Arthur’s Hill area of Newcastle.

The workshop proved extremely popular, around 85 people attended from local authorities, charities, community interest companies, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, consultancies and arts organisations.

The morning was structured around several presentations with time for panel and table discussions.  After an introduction to the themes from Dr Webb, he and Caroline Emmerson (CHAT Trust) presented their work on Reclaim the Lanes. Caroline Gore-Booth (Giroscope Ltd) talked about collaborating around self-help housing in Hull and after some initial reflections, Alan Barlow (WEA Greening Wingrove Project) presented Wingrove’s community innovation fund. Armelle Tardiveau (Newcastle University) and Cllr Marion Talbot (Newcastle City Council) talked about their experiences of co-designing Fenham’s Pocket Park.

Read the morning presentations at the links below:

The morning panel discussion was led by a presentation from Annabel Davidson Knight (Collaborate CIC) which reflected on early attempts in Oldham to use public services to support community action. She described their intention to create a virtuous circle, with learning and feedback generated from community hubs being used to adapt and update the way services were provided locally.

The afternoon presentations also focused on the use of community hubs, with Tony Durcan (Newcastle City Council) explaining the importance of digital for reducing the cost of service delivery in the city, and setting out Newcastle’s support offer for those who find it difficult to use digital technology unaided. Mark Cridge (MySociety) then explained the use of Fix My Street as a way of encouraging more efficient and transparent reporting of environmental problems. Rob Webb (Transmit Enterprise CIC) described the potential benefits of the Poverty Stoplight system and Pete Wright (Newcastle University) set out the work they have been doing to promote digital civic technologies in Newcastle. An interesting discussion was had on the use of digital to promote a culture change in public services, including the sometimes unseen benefits of face to face communication and the dangers that innovation might be driven primarily by austerity.

Read the afternoon presentations at the links below:

The event allowed for the sharing of experiences of community work from around the region, with numerous insights being offered during the morning panel session. Many of the themes raised were also relevant to Newcastle City Council’s policy cabinet meeting, which directly followed on from the event. Despite the huge challenges presented by austerity, it was interesting to reflect on the variety of responses being taken both by community organisations and local authorities. The experiences of Oldham and elsewhere show that creative ways of promoting joint working are emerging, and that future reflection on these may have much to offer for the way we seek to manage our cities and neighbourhoods.

Dr David Webb is Lecturer in Town Planning and Director of Engagement in the School