(Just) Neighborhood Making

An inclusive trans-disciplinary approach to engaged resident (community) led repair, building or space making


Neighborhood Making is an approach to spatial development that works beyond the often polarised and biased definitions of ‘community’ currently in use, and employs a more complex multi-user process through accountable inter-relationships that focusses on social, spatial and governance based needs, wants and visions.
A Neighorhood Development Project in Johannesburg – Image: 1to1

The idea of framing a space as a ‘Neighborhood’ rather than simply ‘a Community’ offers a more spatially attuned framing of the scale and nature of people and space. This framing allows for more nuanced understandings of actual community dynamics, leadership and project articulation. This concept does not exclude the nature of community, rather it allows for more diverse and accurate readings of local leadership and residents as well as not being limited to urban areas – the concept translates well to rural contexts.

The idea of ‘Neighbrhood Making’ is not novel nor unique to this platform, but is offered to a South African context as a means of working through existing complex issues of local leadership, resident politics and governmental requirements, while aligning projects and user/beneficiaries towards more tangible socio-spatial processes.

Community versus Communities – Image: Bennett

Based on prnciples of Socio-Technical Support, a Neighborhhod Making approach can range in scale from user-centered tools (apps, knowledge systems or furniture), structural products (shared facilities, buildings or small-scale infrastructures) to larger spatial products ( site-layouts, neighborhood design or small-scale urban/rural projects). The authorship of these outputs is importantly collective; while particular actors in a project may carry more responsibility in areas of technical and social process guiding, ownership, experience, need and funding.

Scales of Engagement – Image: Bennett

This is an inclusive approach and careful not make hard distinctions between ‘non-professionalised’ and ‘professional’ practitioners involved, but rather focusses on skills, experience, and abilities of those involved in the spatial development processes. The users can include individuals, collectives or larger social groupings (aka ‘communities’) but makes careful distinction in developing and maintaining the designer/user relationship.

Just Neighborhood Making

1to1 offers an additional layer of Spatial Justice to this framing, and sees the neighborhood scale as an important spatial scale that holds great potential in mobilising disparate (or connected) local residents and groups to better access to local government support towards larger spatially just plans for our town and cities.

1to1 promotes an iterative, visual and problem-solving mode of socio-technical design support that blends traditional technical design practice with the social sciences’ criticality, rigor and systemic readings of place around the scale of a ‘neighborhood’.

In addition, the organisation encourages a careful positioning of the practitioners involved in regard to socio-spatial justice and a practice that works through responsibly ethical principles of engagement and co-making.

Principles of a Just Neighborhood Making Approach

  • Critical (questioning, challenging, self-reflective)
  • Socially Aware (demographic Positionally awareness ie gender, race, culture, etc.)
  • Empathetic (equity, inclusive, open)
  • Proactive (responsible, careful, and forthcoming)
  • Process driven (project managerial, goal oriented, motivated)
  • Structured (organised, clear, and driven)
  • Visual and/or Social Communicative (open, dynamic, engaging)
  • Facilitative (inclusive, listener, sharer)
  • Design-Led (iterative, solution driven, innovative)