Lucinda Hartley’s CoDesign in big growth burst

Lucinda Hartley
Lucinda Hartley

Founder of Collingwood’s CoDesign Studio in inner city Melbourne returned to her chief executive role at CoDesign Studio this month after parental leave, but says in many ways she considers it a new job. The past year has seen enormous growth with staff numbers growing from 7-12 to more like 15-20, she says.

“We have a lot of part timers and casuals so the numbers fluctuate a bit but there’s been a definite increase in the number of people in the office.”

It’s not just new people on board, but new systems and processes.

“We are working with the staff on a new strategy that may take us in a new direction in time but [I’m] pretending that it’s a brand new job and really trying to listen to staff about their experiences and challenges and opportunities that they see.”

The business is on the lookout for one or possibly a few senior consultants. The successful candidates will have a minimum of five years’ experience and the ability to be flexible across a range of different job types.

“Fundamentally we are about inspiring this culture of participation around neighbourhood building and that could mean community development, it could mean property development, it could be project management, it could be design,” Hartley says.

The Neighbourhood Project returns

The Neighbourhood Project is entering its second round and Hartley describes it as “the largest community-led placemaking project in Australia”.

“It’s working with councils and communities to systemically change the way that we create public open space,” she says.

“And by that it’s about looking at capacity development for councils to help them remove risk and red tape that will enable community action, and working with community leaders to give them permission and opportunity to shape neighbourhoods.”

The first round recently concluded and was independently evaluated. It will inform the second round, which is going to focus on “identifying pockets of community energy” across Victoria. It’s also about looking at how community leaders can be supported to do things more effectively.

“In an environment of rapid urbanisation and rate capping, where there aren’t huge buckets of public funding towards local neighbourhood renewal, we need to look at ways that communities can co-create and take responsibility for local neighbourhoods,” Hartley says.

“So this project will help transform dozens of public spaces as the physical outcomes, but it’s main goal is actually to inspire active citizenship and see a new culture of participation in the way that we create cities.”

The project was presented at the UN Habitat III Summit last year and six governments directly approached CoDesign Studio about the need to establish more effective relationships between urban managers and citizens to get things done.

The project is backed by Resilient Melbourne, which is a member of 100 Resilient Cities pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

“There is real opportunity for this program to become a model that is well beyond its current footprint in Victoria – looking at how we actually inspire this new culture of active citizenship and participation in urban development,” Hartley says.

CoDesign is providing a forum for community organisations to share stories and lessons learnt at Great Neighbourhoods: Australia’s first summit on Community-led Placemaking on 27 April.

They hope the summit will build a movement for stronger local leadership in the creation of great neighbourhoods.

“What’s unusual about this summit is it’s bringing together mayors and CEOs of councils with community groups and citizen leaders as peers,” Hartley says.

“We have a number of property developers also attending to think about how they can be more involved in community strengthening.

“You don’t often have that forum where people are equally treated in that environment as citizens trying to shape a neighbourhood together.”

What did Hartley do during her parental leave?

In a rather unusual approach, she moved to Samoa with her seven-week-old baby.

She says the year overseas gave her the opportunity to re-engage with the international development space where she has spent half of her career, not just in Samoa but also through a consulting job for UN Habitat for the UN Habitat III Summit in Quito, Ecuador.

“It has given me, personally, some key insights,” she says. “Both those experiences highlighted for me that urbanisation is a really global challenge now.

“It really hit home for me in some ways how common the challenges are – they express themselves differently but there’s the same challenges around affordable housing, traffic congestion, people coping with rapid change and what that means in terms of culture and lifestyle.”

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