We know that economic development can interact with the social fabric of place in a meaningful and positive way but how do we make it so?

While different measures of social value offer tools to document and record these assets, alongside environmental and economic value – the AHRC’s Place Based Research Programme is exploring how to actively work with the social fabric of places.

In The Good Ancestor (2020) Roman Krznaric describes the ethnosphere as the cultural web of life – a human companion to the biosphere. He highlights how as we focus on the material things – we are all the while contributing to and interacting with a web of ideas, thoughts and intentions. In early work with muf architecture/art we wrestled with working with lived experience as integral to place and this became a defining feature of the practice’s approach.

As part of its Place Based Research Programme the AHRC is currently running nine knowledge exchange projects on the theme of place – that explore the potential contribution of arts and humanities research to local regeneration and development. A focus on felt experiences set out by Programme Director Professor Rebecca Madgin aims to ‘centre place and people within place’ simultaneously improving outcomes for both.

Aimed at encouraging collaborative working with communities and local authorities the projects span the four nations. They explore different ways of engaging communities to develop approaches to culture, heritage and place. And bring university research teams together with communities to design initiatives, capture values and define needs.  Supporting community led initiatives to deliver place making – enabling decision making and developing governance structures.

Glasgow School of Art’s Innovation School is leading an initiative that builds on a series of projects carried out with creative communities. These co design cultural strategies and collective visions for cultural and economic development. Each project begins by mapping creative practitioners existing assets and values and evolving a strategy and vision from this. Working with sometimes isolated creative practitioners in Shetland a survey informs the design of a series of funded workshops.

The nine projects conclude early in 2023 and will be available alongside an wider evidence based documenting what place based approaches work and how.

Image – Shetland Arts

… … …