Developing a rich picture of the recovery in London as you see it

While I was on holiday, there was a session on rich illustrations facilitated by Isabel Young at the Young Foundation, who had co-facilitated our London Policy & Strategy Network session on how to develop peer research.

If you’ve never heard of rich picturing and are curious, here’s a good video on how it works. Even though I couldn’t make the session, I committed to doing the homework, and this was the task:

Using a sheet of paper, draw a “ rich picture “ (or “ mind map “) of the situation that you wish to evaluate — London’s recovery system. Try to use pictures, words, and symbols. Think about the city and its systems as you experience them; what is hindering or enabling recovery? How are you and your community currently responding? Where are you in this ‘system’?

Below is my “rich picture”. I’m always intrigued by how people interpret other people’s rich pictures, but what I was thinking for mine is first:

The map of London in terms of its networks. At an institutional level, which is relatively fixed — both at a borough and regional level. At a hyper-local level — where specific neighbourhoods will have more robust social infrastructure than others — in some cases, institutional & physical (significant employers, transport hubs, public services & local economy), in other cases, informal (cultures of organising communities and entrepreneurship), while others won’t. Then at an individual level, the relationships we have with others, be that where we live, work, and connect (which may be a mixture of the two before or neither). Everyone’s map will be different, depending on where they work or live and their perspective.

The pandemic has exacerbated another dimension that the map of our networks and London’s is shifting; our relationship with our environment is constantly in flux in terms of how we adapt to new challenges — be it to get to work, to make a living or how to access support, or to new directions by policymakers or major employers, landowners or investors — be it on furlough, organisations moving out or going bust, or reinventing themselves in what they focus on or how they work.

All of that influences and is influenced by how strong the pre-existing civic culture and identity is — have we previously adapted or influenced our environment on our own — either as individuals or as local networks, or have we done so collectively?

In a city like London, you’ll find organisations or networks that can be very influential beyond where they are based — a significant employer or investor, a pioneering community group or startup, or an up-and-coming regeneration area. They may use their levers at a regional or national level because that’s their organisation’s focus, but what levers could they use to support the renewal of the neighbourhood they are based in?

Suppose networks like the London Recovery Board or Civic Futures Programme are essential at a regional level. How can you mobilise hyperlocal and regional players to reinvent how we tackle changing challenges, like how we tackle hunger, go green or provide welfare at a very hyperlocal level? The level at which you’re more likely to see the visible impact and can connect informal self-organised community players and the more formal institutional organisations?

Developing a collaborative enquiry that you will embark on

We were then asked to identify a collective enquiry question we could use

Young Foundation

We were then asked to create something representing the big question
or thing we each want to explore for our community as part of Civic Futures.

How can we mobilise London-wide organisations to use their levers to help tackle poverty challenges that have visible impacts on people’s lives (i.e. hunger, debt, insecure work, etc.) in ways where short-term approaches can be tested at a neighbourhood level (i.e. food coops, peer to peer lending, employment rights). Long-term strategies developed at a London level (i.e. essential universal services, community wealth funds, etc.)?

How could we test that in 2–3 neighbourhoods where London-wide organisations can push those levers?



Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese