Your Streets Your Way: Nurturing creative agency through design in Lambeth

Larry Botchway

31 July 2023

The Your Streets Your Way competition aimed to foster the agency of local people to use their knowledge of their area. The competition invites local people to submit ideas to re-design 10 selected street locations across the London borough of Lambeth. Through this process we saw the value of creating the right environment to nurture creativity and the confidence to put forward ideas, particular from those who did not have backgrounds in design.

So, what happens when communities are given the platform to design and what steps are required to ensure this process is as effective as possible?

We Made That have been working with Lambeth Council to manage the second year of the ‘Your Streets Your Way’ design competition. This year we received over 70 fantastic submissions from people ranging between 6-74 years of age, most of whom were residents of Lambeth borough. The winners and commended proposals have now been announced.

Creating an environment of comfort and confidence

People have great ideas, particularly for the places they know well. Sometimes creating the right environment to support those ideas is all that is needed.

We began by promoting the competition using digital platforms (social media and websites), however, we also know that this approach can limit participation to those who are familiar with getting information through these methods. Through diversifying the approach by using workshops, flyers and local newsletters, we quickly saw an increase in participation, particularly from young people a burning passion for their neighbourhoods.

To encourage design input from people of all backgrounds, the submission requirements were not fixed. This allowed individuals with varying skill levels to represent their ideas in a format they felt most comfortable using. We also developed worksheets with simple line drawn backgrounds designed to encourage participants to draw and/or describe their proposals on a simplified representation of the respective site.

For individuals with no formal training in design practice, attempting to design can be intimidating. As a result, support was provided through in-person workshops and online 1-to-1 sessions. We attended local events and supported several participants to develop their ideas.

The selection of the events we attended were also important to consider. To ensure voices of those who do not typically get involved in design processes it was vital we went to the spaces in which these people were. By coming to them in spaces they felt comfortable, we were able encourage the participation of many who likely would not have applied individually.

One of the sites for Your Streets Your Way

“As a local resident and a young creative, designing my first-ever mural in Stockwell Passage has been a joyful experience that makes me feel grateful for the opportunity to engage with my local area and community…. Judging the entries by members of the local community adds greater transparency and tailors the winning selection to reflect the needs and character of the neighbourhood. Personally, as an aspiring public artist, I am excited about this beautifully curated competition. Not only does it allow me to take my personal creative work to the next level, but it also fills me with pride as a Lambeth resident.”
Akmaral Khassen, Stockwell Passage winner

Community design agency can go beyond the design process

As part of this competition, a group of local community leaders, organisations, and residents with strong connections to Lambeth were brought together to judge the submissions and ensure local priorities were being considered. The Local Judging Panel used judging criteria typically used by professionals for design competitions.

However, the selection of criteria also raised questions around its adequacy for this competition. Using a scoring sheet which marked each proposal against strict design criteria removed some of the agency of the Local Judging Panel, by assuming their priorities, it also affected the odds of the selected proposals being non-professional designers. In the future, we recognise the judging panel could be brought together earlier in the process to define criteria they value as important. This would ensure the selected criteria takes local priorities into account and create more opportunity for varied entrants.

The range of submissions and wealth of ideas emphasised the value of local knowledge and understanding. Without the traditional skills provided by formal design education, several members of the Lambeth community responded to issues they felt required attention and provided worthy solutions to these challenges. With the right environment and support, anyone tap into their creative agency. 

Ultimately, we found that by, providing diverse means of communication, being flexible with the range of activity, providing support through digestible material and workshops, and platforming community members to lead the decision-making process, we could make the most of the voices of the community. We think these are lessons that apply to delivery of all future projects.

What happens next?

The competition has now come to an end and the winning designs have been selected by the Local Judging Panel. Lambeth Council now aim to turn these ideas into a reality. First, each proposal will be reviewed to ensure they can be built and positioned safely. Following this the proposals will be reviewed further by local stakeholders at each site to ensure the community are satisfied with what is to come. The designs will then be further scrutinised to ensure the communities’ voices are taken into account, then finally the proposals will be delivered.

If you are familiar with any of these sites, keep an eye out for some of the proposals to see how spaces can change when community voices are given the space to inform the designed process.

Winning proposals

Below is a list of the locations and the name of the winners.

To see the winners, runners up and judges' choice submissions, check out