Enabling thriving communities beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games
At a glance
Long after the spotlight of the Olympics and Paralympics fade, ensuring the needs of associated communities can empower, connect and cultivate spaces that put people at the heart. Genuine, inclusive engagement builds the foundation for vibrant cities and healthy, interconnected communities that can thrive beyond the Games.
Each Olympic and Paralympic Games aims to leave a tangible legacy. As communication and engagement leaders, we see first-hand how communities contribute to an evolving world beset by mega-projects that aim to shape our future.
Why? Because the true legacy of the Olympics lies not in the temporary spectacle, but in the enduring spirit of communities that host them. Meanwhile, lingering demands for decision-making remain front-of-mind for sections of the community when tackling issues such as gentrification and associated dislocation of communities.
Engaging the Hardly Heard
Plan. Reach. Understand. Listen. Act. is a framework we use to engage our 'Hardly Heard' communities. The Hardly Heard are often groups impacted by projects, where traditional engagement methods may not have the reach we as practitioners hope for. This disengaged cohort can include people living with a disability, the culturally diverse, people in a particular age bracket or those experiencing other societal barriers.
Long after the spotlight of the Olympics and Paralympics fade, understanding the needs and wants of the Hardly Heard can empower, connect and cultivate spaces for communities to thrive. As an example, the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games left behind many positive legacies, with extensive public participation, community ownership and creation of enduring public spaces. It offers an exceptional demonstration in how to effectively co-create solutions with the community.
By learning from previous Games, we can shift the focus from grand and temporary visions, to focus on the needs of real people post event. When communities are given the opportunity to be part of co-creating a space, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and belonging.
More than just building concrete and steel structures, co-creation is about building places that foster social connection and well-being. It encourages us to develop spaces that are vibrant and combat loneliness, encouraging positive social interaction across generations.
Engaging the Hardly Heard through genuine, inclusive engagement builds the foundation for vibrant cities and healthy, interconnected communities that can thrive beyond the Games. Through implementing the Plan. Reach. Understand. Listen. Act. framework, we:
- Foster innovation and creativity in connected communities
- Promote resilience and adaptability
- Empower communities through inclusive and transparent decision-making
- Build community pride and social license to operate through a shared vision for the future.
Strategies for building connected communities
To effectively engage diverse community members, we can adopt a multi-faceted approach that encompasses a few key strategies.
Community-led decision-making: Empowering community members to participate in decision-making processes that directly impact their lives fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that the needs of diverse populations are considered.
Speak beyond words, but not without voice: By harnessing the universal languages of images and storytelling to bridge cultural, language and comprehension gaps, this empowers us to communicate complex concepts and empathise with our communities, fostering a more inclusive and informed world, regardless of ability, culture or tongue.
Celebrate diversity: Recognising and celebrating the cultural richness of the community through events, festivals and public art fosters a sense of pride and belonging among diverse populations.
Invest in diverse neighbourhoods: Directing resources towards the revitalisation and development of diverse neighbourhoods promotes equitable growth and ensures that all areas of the city benefit from economic opportunities.
Always learn and adapt: While public participation underpinned the approach, Barcelona offers valuable lessons for future initiatives, where prioritising transparency, accountability, and equitable decision-making can pave the way for lasting positive change.
Engaging the Hardly Heard isn’t a box to tick – it's the oxygen that fuels genuine progress and values-based engagement. By applying the framework to elevate their voices, listen to their needs, and empower them to co-design the future they deserve, we can learn to nurture vibrant and prosperous cities that put communities at their heart.