Hidden Connections, Shared Environments and Environmental Flows - how local walking interventions induce community positivity in urban locations.

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: BIAD Sch of Architecture


This project consists of a pilot study which explores the impact of an intervention, consisting of the holding of a seriers of 'self narrated walks', where the technique has been found to act as a catalyst promoting deep levels of environmental and sensory engagement which bring to the surface linkages between individuals' life events, culture and local environmental features in ways that can be extremely positive. The overall aim of the work is to promote community connectivity in bringing to the fore the different layers of interaction, meaning and identity which are placed upon the existing local landscape and its features. Work is set in a cross disciplinary context (architecture, haptics, well-being and art practice) with collaboration with a local community group and an international landscape practice. The findings will be assessed to help inform future research, including the implications for community, the wider well-being agenda, art & design practice and associated policyareas.

Planned Impact

Research is set in the context of the AHRC call Connected Communities and as such seeks to explore the potential of a research methodology consisting of self narrated walking. Here the potential impact of the findings is considered high, in that the existing research evidence gained from exploring this methodology, in a different arena, produced unexpected results that showed that the technique promoted deep levels of self inquisition regarding personal identity, life events, well-being and cultural identity. These were the result of environmental cues and increased sensory engagement, where, significantly, these aspects were explored by the individual where their personal, valued, life events were layered onto the environmental encounters and assimilated as part of the overall walking event.
Potentially, here we have a simple mechanism for eliciting cultural values and understanding the complexity of meaning attached to a local environment. The scope to apply this technique and utilise it to help build community understanding, to manage the environment and to design supportive environments is thus high, being relevant to both communities and professionals charged with looking after the built environment. Thus self narrated walking is believed to offer substantial scope within the whole context of community, well-being, the environment and the wider aspects of developing sustainable environments. Importantly, it is to be tested as a simple technique that can be organised by individuals or promoted by professionals.
Accordingly, the findings are thought to impact widely within the following areas:

-Architecture - including landscape architecture and urban design, the deep significance of built and natural forms, architectural and related education, professional practice, community design, follow up research.

- Planning and Policy -including aiding public consultation, understanding community values, development of regeneration strategies that are informed by community, guiding planning decisions, developing supportive actions, understanding the impacts of environmental change.

- Community action and the voluntary sector- including methods for eliciting and understanding the importance of the environment, community events, exhibitions, understanding how cultural histories are layered on the environment, holding walking events to help cement the community, facilitating a user based approach.

- Public Health - including understanding more fully the linkages between the environment and a positive life outlook, exploring the current agenda regarding clinical interventions to improve health and well-being centred on local walking, considering self narrated walking as a potential therapy, follow up research into public health.

- Art & Design Practice - informing practice, expanding the remit of community design, providing a context for the operation of such initiatives as artists in residencies, providing an additional interface between the community and art practitioner.


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Treadaway, C. Walk and draw: a methodology to investigate subjective wellbeing in Proceedings of Well-Being 2013

Description An effective qualitative research methodology was developed which gathered data through audio and video recordings (visual self-narration) whilst walking, and demonstrated the ways in which drawn representation can reveal hidden thoughts, memories and emotions, which are palpable and yet difficult to articulate through words. The methodology proved capable of delivering valuable insights into individual and community wellbeing enabling participants to articulate difficult and deeply embedded emotional connections.
Exploitation Route The broad methodology can be adapted with ease to situations where deep and emotional reactions must be elicited from participants.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description I am given to understand that the pilot project has been referenced by the Somali Community Organisation we worked with and by the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description More than Human Communities
Amount £32,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2013 
End 02/2014
Description Birmingham Botanical Gardens Walk and Draw 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Considerable discussion and joint drawing activity.

After activity, artists involved stayed on for more discussion of their new realisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Nature Discovery Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outlined new investigative techniques for understanding the nature and importance of our relationships with our environment.

Organisers of environmental groups present have maintained contact for further activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013