People Powered Places: Practical Guide

Metropolitan Workshop was founded as a vehicle for productive collaboration. We have always valued working with existing communities, and see their stories and aspirations about the past, present and future of the places in which they live and work as integral to forming a meaningful brief, testing and developing proposals, and assessing the success of results. People Powered Places aims to enhance the rigour we bring to community engagement in planning and housing.

The Graphic

People Powered Places

Annual Research Project, 2020-2022

Project Leads: Ava Lynam (Researcher in Residence) and Dhruv Sookhoo (Head of Research and Practice Innovation)

People Powered Places is our second annual practice-based research project and aims to critically appraise innovative methods of community participation in planning and housing design, in order to enrich our approach to working with new and existing communities. We selected our research theme during the Covid-19 pandemic when it felt particularly relevant to re-examine our own practices in relation to emergent, collective and participatory models for shaping places to generate the enhanced quality and value that help communities thrive.

Our project began by preparing a working paper, People Powered Places (Prospects 2), which captured and analysed the perspectives and practices of leading community practitioners and community-based developers. It became apparent that the issue of what constitutes meaningful community engagement in practice was highly problematic, and enabled and constrained by an array of interrelated concerns and challenges. Contributors described a continuum of opportunity in which they actively sought to extend their practice beyond the consultation required by the statutory planning system. Instead, they engage with more participatory methods that support the creation of proposals that better reflect local needs and aspirations, and thus contribute to the development of lasting community resilience and empowerment.

Practical Guide to Community Engagement

The result of this process, People Powered Places: a practical guide to community engagement, has come out of collaboration with a range of planners, architects, community practitioners, academics, and developers. Through review sessions facilitated by The Glass-House Community Led Design, community representatives have become active partners in the development of a series of principles and recommendations toward more meaningful community engagement. Below, are the constituent parts to the Practical Guide – a live document which we will continue to develop as it is tested out on projects.

If you would like a .pdf copy, please email

Publication – People Powered Places: The Graphic

Publication – People Powered Places: Postcards

Publication – People Powered Places: Principles and Recommendations

Publication – People Powered Places: Process and Reflections

Publication – People Powered Places: Resources

Publication – People Powered Places: Cover

People Powered Places (Working Paper)

Editorial Team (working paper): Ava Lynam, Dhruv Sookhoo, Lee Mallett (Urbik) and Neil Deely.

Practice Contributors (working paper): Denise Murray, Jonny McKenna, Kruti Patel, Ozan Balcik, Tom Mitchell, Peter Kent

External Contributors (working paper): Catherine Greig (make:good), Ciron Edwards (Iceni Projects), Dick Gleeson (formerly, Dublin City Council), Helen Dowling (Ansuz Action), Keith Brown (independent Community Organiser), Lesley Johnson (Phoenix Community Housing), Lev Kerimol (Community Led Housing London), Dr. Michael LaFond (Spreefeld Cooperative and Statbodenstiftung), Naomi Murphy (Connect the Dots), Nick Woodford (Mesh Workshop and Peckham Coal Line), Nicola Bacon (Social Life), and Stephen Hill (C20 futureplanners).

Communications and Graphic Design: Alys Mordecai, Andy Syson and Simon Rhodes (Smiling Wolf), Richard Robinson, Pia Berg, Kruti Patel, Ozan Balcik, Cathal Cocoman

Review of Guide: July 2022

Publication of Guide: October 2022

Practice Focus Group: Members: Andrea Doyle (Dublin); Denise Murray (Dublin); Michelle Tomlinson (London); Ozan Balcik (Dublin); Ryan McCloskey (London); Shaun Matthews (London); Sinead Jennings (London). Tom Mitchell (London, senior team sponsor). Facilitators: Dhruv Sookhoo; Ava Lynam

Practice Publications

  • Ava Lynam, Dhruv Sookhoo, Lee Mallet, and Neil Deely. (2021) People Powered Places (Prospects 2, working paper), London: Metropolitan Workshop.
  • Ava Lynam and Dhruv Sookhoo (2021) Overcoming participatory idealism, London: Metropolitan Workshop.
  • Ava Lynam and Dhruv Sookhoo (2021) Different values, different currencies, London: Metropolitan Workshop.
  • Ava Lynam and Dhruv Sookhoo (2021) Centring children in the participatory process, London: Metropolitan Workshop.
  • Ava Lynam and Dhruv Sookhoo (2021) Increasing financial transparency, fostering trust, London: Metropolitan Workshop.
  • Ava Lynam and Dhruv Sookhoo, People Powered Places: a practice guide to community participation in planning and housing, London: Metropolitan Workshop, forthcoming.

Invited Contributions (selected)

  • Kruti Patel and Dhruv Sookhoo. (2021) Oakfield Village: A Healthier Kind of Suburb, Newcastle upon Tyne: Newcastle University. Guest lecture delivered to Masters of Urban Design and Masters of Architecture students as part of Principles and Practice of Urban Design.
  • Dhruv Sookhoo. (2021) Fundamentals for Creating Local Identity/ Use, Activity and Supporting Community Life (Code School), London: Urban Design London.
  • Dhruv Sookhoo and Jonny McKenna. (2021) People, Powered, Places: A context for community participation in planning and development, Land Development Agency, Dublin.
  • Metropolitan Workshop (2021) People Powered Places, in Irish Architecture Foundation. (2021) Re-Imagine [Online-Internet]. Available at: (accessed: July 2021). Paper featured in IAF Placemaking Resources.
  • Denise Murray and Jonny McKenna. (2021) People Powered Places, RIAI Conference 2021, RIAI: Dublin, 03 November 2021. Available at: (accessed: November 2021).