Wolverhampton for Everyone (WE) is collectively working towards a people-powered city where everyone can feel able to participate in creating the city they want to live and work in. When people have agency over things that affect their lives, we believe that they can be happier, more resilient and make more meaningful connections.
During the COVID lockdown, we have been using this time to pause and harvest what we have learnt from our first year to inform the design of the next phase for Wolverhampton for Everyone. Our growing year has been alive with activities co-designed and led by Wolverhampton residents and beyond, including trade schools, repair cafes, playing out, TEDx Wolverhampton, a social entrepreneurship course, Make:Shift Festival, design jams for the climate emergency and for Playful Wolverhampton, and the growth of networks and ideas for We Make Our City Fest.
As part of our ‘pause’, we are sharing how Wolverhampton for Everyone has grown, what we have learnt so far, and how our plans are evolving around COVID and physical distancing.
A People-Powered City
WE is a social lab and platform, which means we seek to create the conditions that make it easier for people in Wolverhampton to create, share, make, do and learn things together. We enable and invite people to share their ideas, co-create activities and find positive solutions, in collaboration with others, that help make their lives better and contribute to thriving, resilient neighbourhoods and communities of Wolverhampton.
By working as a platform we are able to:
- Spark curiosity as we work out loud;
- Invite and welcome people to join in many different ways to suit their time, interests and energy;
- Create conditions that enable people to explore, design, make and learn, and in the process inspire others who observe and listen;
- Celebrate and share what people are doing across Wolverhampton to spark even more curiosity.
The diagram below shows this participatory process, allowing people to engage with activity at different stages and for as long as they wish, bringing their initial motivations and questions, and leaving with inspiration and energy. This flexible process continually enriches the platform with new ideas and skills.
Wolverhampton for Everyone Partnership
In our growing year, WE has hosted, co-designed and activated events that have unearthed and celebrated people’s gifts and talents. WE has since grown into a movement of people and organisations curating a participatory system that connects people, places and communities to unlock potential and create positive change. Each person brings their network, gifts and ideas to the movement, and collectively, we are the Wolverhampton for Everyone Partnership. This movement connects spaces and venues that reach people in different neighbourhoods across Wolverhampton.
In our growing year, we have hosted 9 co-design / activation sessions, enabled approximately 4,000 hours of participation, and catalysed and supported 54 projects designed and led by locals. WE supported people to crowdfund over £193,000 of additional funding into the city for grassroots community projects.
Our co-design and activation sessions have included:
- Bringing TEDx to Wolverhampton — WE supported a Wolverhampton resident to curate this event, bringing together a planning group of 10 local people. The group ran a community outreach programme and an all-day event where 14 (mainly local) people gave talks, 8 local performers entertained, 20 volunteers supported on the day and 250 local people took part.
- Bringing Repair Cafes to Wolverhampton — WE helped form a group of local people, who held three sessions, involving approximately 30 people.
- Bringing Trade School to Wolverhampton — Local people offered their skills and knowledge to run 15 classes for other local people in our week-long Trade School Wolverhampton Festival.
- Playful Wolverhampton — A design jam and sprint with approximately 45 local participants, who were invited to co-design activities, alongside decision-makers, to create a more ‘playful city’. As a result, 6 ideas were prototyped and tested within communities, with approximately 200 people taking part.
- #OneGreenGov — WE facilitated this event to bring people together in Wolverhampton around Climate Change. We held two mini jams to design prototypes of small collective action that could have an impact on the City’s system. The prototypes explored how to reduce the human effect on our planet, which is leading toward climate change. 7 prototype ideas were developed. One idea was to develop a City Garden Festival, which will be prototyped as part of We Make Our City Fest.
- We Make Our City Festival — WE hosted co-curation sessions with local people in preparation for the first We Make Our City festival. The aims of the festival are to make the City Centre kinder, more connected and more playful, by holding activities across the centre over a week.
These activities have been building blocks in enabling people to get to know each other, building trust, trying out new skills and approaches, and encouraging experimentation and learning.
Whilst we work to nurture this participatory culture, we understand the importance of paying attention to the journey, as exemplified by our sister lab, CoLab Dudley. Their generosity in sharing their learning as they design and adapt tools to help take them in a direction of a more welcoming and kinder high street, has laid a foundation on which we can evolve and share our own tools. These tools are helping us to slow down, reflect, and learn from the experiments that have been happening across Wolverhampton.
We’ll be sharing how we have been reflecting on this journey in our next post.