Medium_optimized-wp_20160303_002 Innovate Dublin invited TURAS partners to present on the theme of Activating Vacant and Unused spaces in Ballymun. Authors Roisin Byrne + Donagh Horgan

03 Dec 13:03

Roisin Byrne

Inspired social innovation workshop and presentation with Ballymun community.

TURAS at Innovate Ballymun (Image Donagh Horgan)

Ballymun has a rich social history since it began as Dublin’s answer to innercity overcrowding. When first built (1963) the flats were heralded as innovative models for modern city life, and prospective tenants had to pass an interview. But the necessary services, shops, public transport and infrastructure never were fully completed, resulting in a range of social problems emerging over time.

In 1997 Ballymun Regeneration Limited was formed, Demolishing the towers, building a ‘New town’ and working with people to maintain community and the community strengths, which remain apparent today as we participate in the workshops following the presentations, hosted by Innovate Dublin, who aims to provide citizens with the tools to manage their own communities. Innovate Ballymun is a pilot initiative of Innovate Dublin. The first thematic area – “Activating vacant or underused spaces in Ballymun”, set up a conversation looking at how community organisations can take over the glut of vacant spaces in the locality.

Innovate Ballymun invited a number of social innovators, working on the theme of activating vacant space in order to inspire the community and help steer the discussion.

The TURAS partners presented the following projects: Collaboration Dashboard, Reusing Dublin and Connect the Dots, followed by Voidstarter who presented precedents from Cardiff of a type of ‘meanwhile space’ working solution. It was interesting to hear some of the roadblocks Voidstarter has encountered in Dublin.

After the presentations we had workshops, which invited the local experts and stakeholders to identify locally vacant and underused spaces in Ballymun. We found there were many. Workshop participants were then invited to focus on one site and one match use for it. We found that the local stakeholders really were the local experts and that listening to them talk and come up with solutions was inspiring. But what’s next?

What if these kinds of workshops could lead into supported action?
What if there was a mechanism, which could do that?
In its presentation Voidstarter pointed out that in Cardiff the Local Authority actively seeks out uses for its vacant spaces. When I spoke to Simon O’ Rafferty of Voidstarter afterwards though, he said it took many years of collaborative effort to get to that point. Some of this experience was echoed by Pamala Connely when she told us her story of how Ballymun Regeneration Limited had activated spaces.

The workshop identified roadblocks encountered which include;

- In Dublin there are many separate agencies with responsibility for example; Fire, Health and Safety.
- It can be difficult to find out who and meet the person who is responsible for is doing things on the ground.
- Planners are busy with ongoing tasks.
- Too much red tape around reusing vacant spaces.

Workshop diagrams bringing out tacit knowledge. (Images Aoife Corcoran, Reusing Dublin)

Following the workshop Innovate Ballymun have set up a community of practice around the theme where we hope we can set up one or more pilot projects to test and interrogate the barriers above. We are already working closely with our Local Authority partners to scope out a pilot to set up a community cafe in a vacant commercial unit.
It will be crucial to ensure buy-in from the local authority and take advantage of all planning knowledge gained in Ballymun over the last few years, both during and post regeneration. A key element of setting up the community of practice will be that expert resources can be plugged into the pilot projects and effort may be shared among the interested parties. This type of multi-agency and cross sector working is new in Ireland, and part of the work of Innovate Dublin will be to inspire and stimulate capacity for service design and social innovation.
For more on Innovate Dublin :

Its inspiring listening to the solutions people come up with for their own place. They know the complexity involved, and what it would take to solve issues.(Image Donagh Horgan)
Keywords: Innovate Ballymun, Social Innovation,