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Participatory System Dynamics in Thamesmead

We started participatory system dynamics activities with institutional stakeholders and resident representatives in 2019, to bring together these local stakeholders, to map their perception of the blue/green/built infrastructure, and to model and simulate systemic interventions for improving the use of natural space, leading to sustainable decisions.

An important area of urban regeneration in south-east London

Thamesmead has an extended network of blue and green natural spaces, with several sites of nature conservation interest. However, case study stakeholders underlined how these natural areas are underused. Through participatory system dynamics modelling workshops and interviews, we developed maps (causal loop diagrams) that allowed us to compare how different stakeholder groups perceive the factors influencing the quality of Thamesmead’s blue/green/built infrastructure.

We started with a qualitative modelling approach, scoping the problem that the group jointly wanted to address

After the initial qualitative phase, we created a simulation model and used it to build learning and co-produce novel knowledge on what affects people’s use of natural space in Thamesmead, taking a holistic approach to investigate the factors influencing it. The model explores the dynamics over a 60-year time horizon (2000–2060); it captures dynamics between the use of natural space, perception of safety, and community participation, together with other influencing system elements such as design aspects. Unlike conventional studies, it represents the impact on both physical and mental health.

The model was applied to the co-design pilot ‘Pathways to the Thames’ led by Peabody.

Through an online interface, the model allowed the stakeholders to test different scenarios together, exploring how they affect the use of natural space by capturing the dynamics between the influencing system elements. It was an example of true co-production of knowledge. The stakeholders were Peabody, Marsh Dykes and Thamesmead catchment partnership, Thames 21, London Wild Trust, Environmental Agency, GLA, Thames Water, Clever Cities project, and we partnered with the CAMELLIA project.