Rachel Sara, Matthew Jones



Universities have a civic responsibility towards the cities of which they are a part. This is typically operationalised through Outreach and Engagement, which aims to share and apply the expertise and knowledge generated by the university with communities. The model is typically a one-direction path from the University to communities, but there is potential for the engagement to take on more of a two-way collaboration, in which there is an intent to generate new knowledge and enact positive change. This paper reflects on the practice of Hands-on-Bristol, a collective bringing community members, architects, trainee architects, and academics together to co-create projects. This practice is conceived as a form of Spatial Civic Agency that empowers a community organization to participate in making and re-making their places. Projects typically involve a process of co-creation, bringing into consciousness the conditions that shape a community’s place in their world and catalysing possibilities that seemingly cannot otherwise be unlocked. The paper analyses the process of the projects using four key civic agency concepts which identify a need to: Involve the citizen as co-creator; Engage with public and community places; Reconceptualise the role of the professional; and Understand democracy as a lived social and cultural experience grounded in everyday life. The analysis suggests that this participatory approach to education questions the primary focus of education as provider of practice-ready graduates and makes a place for the University as civic agent with transformative potential to co-create more sustainable, resilient communities.


community; university; civic agency; co-creation; live projects.

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