Place mattersSaturday, 16 February 2013
If there is one overwhelming conclusion that emerges from the Place Management and Place Branding Conference that has just concluded in Manchester, it is that place matters. We heard delegates from around the world talk about the importance of place to communities but we also heard that, despite this importance, many places are under threat.
The theme of the conference was the Business of Place and there was widespread discussion about whether we can apply business principles to place. The language of business (management, branding, marketing) has been adopted by those who are concerned with places but at the start of the conference Rob Hopkins from the Transition Network emphasised the importance of bottom-up approaches to making places better that was echoed in many of the papers that followed. Such bottom-up approaches are informal and loosely structured and, in the early days at least, are usually very unbusiness-like. They are, however, about making a difference.
Community engagement in making places better was discussed in a number of papers at the conference. Initiatives in Pittsburgh and Moscow showed how local people and users of a place could be intimately involved in experimentation to determine the most appropriate way forward for its reuse or regeneration. Papers examining the more top-down approaches taken in Medellin, Columbia, Portugal and Singapore illustrated the challenges to securing community adoption and engagement, though in some cases this had been the end result. A number of papers identified the role of residents in successful city branding and some of the consequences of not doing this well or at all.
A keynote presentation on place management, marketing and Manchester illustrated, amongst other things, how what some have seen as place alienation by some in the community, resulting in rioting and looting in the city centre in 2011, was followed not only by many local residents becoming volunteers in the post riot clean-up, but by widespread and visible support for an I love MCR campaign.
The conference explored numerous approaches to place management, branding and marketing that will be of relevance to researchers, practitioners and policy makers across the globe. If you were not able to attend, you can get an insight into what was discussed from the current issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development which features six articles from those who presented papers and which is available here http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?issn=1753-8335&volume=6&issue=1