Creating accessible spaces: What can your empty venue do for your local community?

August 24th, 2020 / by Simran

At the beginning of lockdown, narratives of community filled the media. Every time you turned on the TV you would be swarmed with metaphors of reconciliation telling us how lockdown has allowed us to become one.

Yet as we’re slowly easing out of it, this messaging seems to have slowly disappeared.

Instead, we seem to be leaving with a greater consciousness of the discrepancies between us as a nation, and how some members of society are more structurally disadvantaged than others.

We’ve already answered the question of what communities are beginning to look like, and now we want to make sure this unequal playing ground is confronted.

It may not surprise you to hear that our answer is the provision of accessible community/public spaces!

This means providing access to non-exclusionary public spaces; ones that aren’t based on spending power. We need spaces that allow for transactions of a more social form e.g., sharing knowledge on public speaking, dance classes, tips on growing vegetables, language classes and local activism etc.

What are the main features of a successful community space?

Joseph Rowntree Organisation proposed that the following ‘rules of engagement’ played a crucial role in creating shared social spaces:

1.     Access and availability

2.     Embedded in social networks

3.     Exchange-based relations that move beyond exchange of goods and services

4.     Leaves room for self-organisation

5.     Encourages diverse groups to share common spaces

6.     Avoids over-regulation of design and space

The ‘co-production’ of accessible community spaces

The community-focused nature of this criteria shoes how public spaces are ‘co-produced’. The Joseph Rowntree foundation summarises it in the perfectly neat statement that “people make places, more than places make people”.

It’s about using your public space to build relationships with the surrounding local communities, and these local communities themselves will shape the social value of your venue, depending on the environment that is created for them. 

In this piece by  The Glass House, they call for a more critical questioning of common spaces, saying we should always ask: “who feels welcome in which spaces?”.

Does it provide easy access to the Disabled community?

Is it open at times that the Elderly community feel safe to travel?

Is there an acceptable hiring cost that students could afford?

Share Somewhere

… And so we arrive at the amazingness of Share Somewhere! It’s a platform that recognises the importance of the ‘co-produced’ nature of venues and community spaces. By encouraging low-cost public spaces, extended opening hours and the engagement of underreached local spaces, it’s connecting local and diverse communities to spaces that allow for transactions which have more than monetary value.

The drive is to bring experiences like karate, entrepreneurship, writing and chess classes closer to the person who would otherwise have to travel and pay an unnecessary amount for them.

We’re a platform that encourages users to ask: “What can I do to make sure more people feel welcome in my space?”

Want to be a part of this?

List your venue here!