Can we live in homes that allow us to share spaces and experiences? Can our homes match our lifestyles? Can our homes give us security and control over our lives — but also give us the flexibility that we need?

These are just some of the reflections that came out of the first Home of 2030 public engagement workshop last Tuesday in Birmingham, which welcomed people from across the West Midlands to share their experiences of home. Through a three-hour workshop which used a variety of the creative design methods of the Design Council’s Framework for Innovation — with some tweaks to suit a public audience, and to help people think about environments and homes in particular — we took participants through a process to build their vision for the Home of 2030.

This all forms part of the overall Home of 2030 programme, which is an initiative that has been set up to drive innovation in the provision of affordable, healthy and green homes for all. Understanding how people relate to and use their current homes — and asking them to reflect on the priorities of our future homes — is key to creating places that meet the needs of communities.

For our first session, it was fantastic to see participants share their diverse reflections and ideas. We started with people’s current experiences of home, including reflections on the challenge of tiptoeing around the house to avoid waking a young child (what does this mean for how we lay out our homes, and noise insulation?) and the military precision involved in cooking dinner each night for 11 people in a small kitchen with a broken extractor fan (the rice goes on first!). One of the things that struck me in particular was how many people said they valued the opportunity to discuss and share ideas with other people on their experience of home — particularly those with different experiences to theirs.

And then we asked participants to think about the future. We shared a series of provocative scenarios, based on how experts and professionals think we may be living in 2030 (from a world where we have moved from owning to sharing, to another world where climate change has required us to change our living behaviours). These prompted reactions including a strong call from the room for human contact, and for the need for public and private outdoor spaces and gardens by our homes. When it came to articulating their visions, we saw a really welcome range of ideas and ways of visualising — from a whole neighbourhood that was “self-sufficient, sustainable and communal” to a home that was “safe, comfortable and warm, for all the family from the cradle to the grave”. Something that surprised us was the strength of the call for communal living and sharing across the ideas and visions.

Reflecting on the level of conversation, sharing, interest and ideas in the room, it was quite powerful to see how this type of collaborative public engagement can be positive, proactive and empowering and not just reactive — with radical ideas for the “people powered community” emerging from the discussion.

There’s more to come, and if you’d like to be involved, there’s still time: you can join us in Oxfordshire, the West of England or Greater Manchester over the next three weeks.

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