To assist with community engagement in CityVerve, we’ve recruited Contact Theatre’s Creative Experts to help us reach out to the citizens of Manchester; we introduced them as Community Champions at the end 2016. Today, in the second of a series of three guest blogs, we hear from Kyle Walker about his experience on the project so far.

I can’t believe I’m now at the end of the first phase of my work with CityVerve. It feels like my workshop crept up on me and engaging with the community participants came around so quickly!

For me, it  has been brilliant to be a part of  this project because I have been able to gain first hand experience of the amazing people that want to see Manchester become a Smart City and actually do good here. Whether that be people from organisations that are directly linked to CityVerve, or  external participants. I have found that everyone involved has a collective vision and that is to starting to positively tackle issues that effect different communities across Manchester.

Seeing the passion and opinions that came up during the Social Isolation Community Forum Workshop, highlighted that people have a lot to say on what happens in Manchester and there was an inspiring sense of ownership of the city. This made me realise that I really needed to ensure that I was the bridge the gap between the community and the CityVerve project partners, because this project is happening no matter what, and it’s my role (and duty as a proud Mancunian myself) to make sure that these views and opinions are voiced to the people within CityVerve that needs to hear them.

When it came to the day of my workshop and people were coming through the door, I again saw how much this meant to everyone attending. There was a reason they were coming to an open workshop on a Monday afternoon and it was my job to find out why and create an atmosphere that allowed people to openly talk and share all of their wonderful stories and experiences that makes Manchester such a special place. I found that people were more than happy to do this and at the same time, discuss how they felt organisations and local communities could work together to tackle issues such as social isolation. Because these are the people that are actually living in these communities and they want to ensure that they do their best to make it a happier place for EVERYONE to live.

I think my biggest takeaway so far is to make sure that the varying views and opinions uncovered through the intervention workshop, are voiced back into the CityVerve consortium and more importantly, have been listened to. From my point of view, CityVerve partners can actually see the importance of community input into designing a Smart City and ultimately, that different communities can help shape the project and have a positive impact on CityVerve as a whole.

So, even though this project is still in its early phases, my work so far has highlighted that it had the potential to do a lot of good in this city and highlight Manchester as a Smart City. If organisations continue to listen to the community and the community continue to have the opportunity to voice their opinions, then I think CityVerve is going to have some very exciting outcomes for Manchester as a city!