LOOPER stands for Learning Loops in the Public Realm and the project is funded through JPI Urban Europe with support for the UK portion provided by the Economics and Social Research Council. The aim of LOOPER is to build a participatory co-creation methodology to demonstrate ‘learning loops’, which are new ways of decision-making that bring together citizens, stakeholders and policymakers and incorporate visualisation technologies and experimentation. This process unfolds through the implementation of ‘Urban Living Labs’ here in Manchester (Brunswick) and also in Brussels and Verona with exchange and learning taking place across the three sites (looperproject.eu).
Over a period of two and a half years LOOPER project participants from the Brunswick neighbourhood, local partner S4B and the University of Manchester in collaboration with Manchester City Council are moving through the learning loops. The process began with discussions of issues of concern in Brunswick and gradual framing of problems followed by participatory data collection and visualisation in order to fully understand the nature of the identified problems of air quality, traffic safety and community/green spaces. Based on collective understanding of the problems to be addressed, we began to co-design potential solutions, and evaluate their desirability and feasibility. An important component of this process was the participation of a wide range of stakeholders in a ‘workshop to evaluate proposed interventions in the public realm of Brunswick’ held 19 November 2018. This workshop made clear that there was support among stakeholders for many of the proposed interventions with interest coalescing around greening and traffic calming. Particular interest was shown in making changes to Brunswick Street that would address all of the identified problems.
Based on the outcomes of this workshop and subsequent discussions, we are now implementing several interrelated interventions focused on greening, traffic calming and placemaking. This process involves Brunswick residents and local organisations, various teams within Manchester City Council, and other stakeholders. These interventions are understood as experiments. They consist of temporary or more long-term changes to the neighbourhood that are being monitored in relation to a range of potential effects. There is an opportunity to embark on a second learning loop where certain elements can be adjusted and the effects monitored. The desired outcome of the overall process is that everyone engaged will learn from it and will apply this learning in future decision-making and actions in Brunswick and beyond.