Innovation, Creative Thinking and Knowledge Exchange Shape SuDS+

March was a busy month for SuDS+ and the innovation team.

Innovation forms a key part of the SuDS+ process. Our partners, Isle Utilities, recently led two workshops which were designed to harness innovative solutions within and beyond the water sector. These events have been open to stakeholders outside our project team to encourage knowledge exchange and ‘blue-sky’ thinking.

SuDS+ Innovation Forum: ‘Co-Design’

Co-design was the theme for our second Innovation Forum. Speakers joined us online from four of Defra’s Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme (FCRIP) projects including:

  • Brian Weatherall (from Durham County Council), SuDS+
  • Sarah Ward and Helen Staddon (from Westcountry Rivers Trust), DRIP, with additional content from the Upstream Thinking: Rapid Response Catchments Project, Department for Education SuDS in Schools, and Connecting the Culm.
  • Tom Palmer (from Southend-on-Sea City Council), Catchment to Coast
  • Ruby Shepperson (from Suffolk County Council), Reclaim the Rain

Each project gave an overview of their work and approach to co-design. They then shared their top challenges of/barriers to effective co-design, which fuelled wider discussions with delegates on the call. In the context of flood risk management, the following co-design challenges were raised:

  • Co-designing in rural locations and on private land is hard.
  • Project delivery can hinder time available for creativity.
  • There is a risk of engagement fatigue if it is the same volunteers each time.
  • Communities don’t always want to talk about flooding, they have other everyday issues to raise.
  • It takes a long time to engage with communities, particularly when searching locations for improvement and developing concepts for change.
  • Drainage designs still need to be led by experts at some point.
  • Co-design can be too much for local authorities, the process needs to be streamlined.

It was agreed that every community is unique, therefore one size fits all does not work for co-design. Speakers, some of whom are based in local authorities, said that co-creation and co-design are fantastic tools which can deliver better and tailored outputs, “but we have to deliver at some point”. It was concluded that more evidence is required to demonstrate the benefits of using a co-design approach for flood risk management. It was also clear from the discussions that everyone has their own take on what ‘co-design’ entails.

Thank you to all our speakers for taking part in the forum!

Slides presented during the innovation forum can be accessed on our ‘Innovation’ Knowledge Hub page.

Creative Thinking Workshop

The SuDS+ project has entered the design and implementation phase, and a series of workshops are being run to identify innovative approaches and solutions to be considered for SuDS+ design in Stanley South. These workshops will focus on how SuDS can provide community benefits significantly beyond the traditional four pillars of SuDS (water quantity, water quality, amenity and biodiversity).

The first creative thinking workshop was held online on Tuesday 26th March 2024. Based in different organisations located across the country, 15 participants joined the call to discuss and share ‘whacky’ and ‘realistic’ ideas relevant to the ‘+’ element of our proposed community SuDS+ schemes. It also gave participants a chance experience ‘creative thinking’ approaches, something which they can take away and apply within their own projects and organisations.

This interactive workshop also included ‘deep dives’ into challenging topics around maintenance, littering and fly tipping. These issues were chosen as they were raised numerous times by the Stanley South community during our engagement work.

A few examples of ‘whacky (blue-sky thinking) ‘+’ ideas generated include:

  • Beetle gardens
  • Geo-cache nature trails
  • Pop-up market stalls
  • Community food shops
  • Community repair cafés
  • Land art.

Additional deep dive topics will be covered during future workshops. Keep an eye on our website for future events or contact us directly if you would like to join us.

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