By WiT, Feb 27 2014 03:41PM

First posted January 2012 - John Mitchell

We are currently working with a Community Trust to explore how they might bring a former library back to life as a community resource.

We have been working with the Trust over a number of years, and recently helped them produce a learning history that identified a number of key areas to develop in order to work in a more connected, collaborative, inclusive and effective way.

Our conversations with the Trust about the library project started with these findings from the learning history, and initially invited them to imagine how they might redesign the Trust if they were starting anew – especially in the context of the current political and economic climate.

From this, and drawing on living systems theory, we together started to imagine how things might be if the Trust were reconceived as ‘ecosystem engineers’, helping to create an environment and culture in which rich and diverse life can grow and flourish. The former library might then be imagined as a ‘platform’ around which the Trust can host diverse community organisations, individuals and activities, encouraging connection and collaboration, and the creative energy and innovation that can emerge from self organisation.

We are now in the process of helping them to develop a brief and conceptual design for the building and activities and spaces it might host, alongside ideas for an appropriate organisational structure and culture to support this development.

This process might or might not lead in the end to a physical project to remodel and occupy the library – there are many issues of finance and resources to resolve first. But it is already leading to new ways of working collaboratively, and a culture in which more people within the Trust are stepping up into positions of leadership.

And the Trust is now taking ideas for connecting within and across communities that have developed through the project – hosted workspace, a curated event space, collaborative work with partner organisations – and is already working on early prototyping of these ideas within and around its existing buildings and projects.

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