‘Co-creation – is a form of cooperation in which all the participants influence the process and the result of that process, such as a plan, recommendation or product. Co-creation is characterised by dialogue, common ground, enthusiasm, decisiveness and focus on the result. Conditions for successful co-creation are equality of the participants, reciprocity, openness and confidence. And these conditions are best met in a structured but creative process accompanied by a process coach. Integrity is required of the participants. Co-creation is considered suitable for solving complex issues and achieving changes.’
This creative form of collaboration primarily revolves around value creation by all the stakeholders. The stakeholders think, determine and organise the co-creation process themselves. Creating a platform strengthens the direct interaction between all the stakeholders. Co-creation can only work if there is sufficient openness and a joint goal that has been identified.
Co-creation means bringing people together around the table who can make a contribution or have a good view of the issues being discussed. Team members are brought together to contribute and share ideas and experiences.
Expertise with regard to content is expected from experts and privileged observers. For each theme, a workgroup is set up to further investigate and discuss the topic led by a chairperson. A process coach is appointed to offer professional assistance to the various workgroups. He takes care of developing the network of stakeholders, organising the co-creation process, compiling the workshops and the reporting. In addition, the communicator in the process ensures that information is exchanged between the workgroups and that the client is communicated with.
Each co-creation process starts by compiling a representative project group. Only in this way will you bring together sufficient different opinions from the very beginning. That group forms the basis of any successful process. The group outlines the process, defines the stakeholders and determines which topics will be discussed. Where necessary, experts can then be consulted and the required desk research carried out into the various topics to be examined so that the issue can be clearly charted on the basis of the information collected and the outlines of the co-creation process further drawn.
Both experts and other team members can always involve other people in the process in order to dig into a topic in more depth and thus arrive at a collection of valuable information.
You should know that a co-creation process can be adapted at any time in function of the results obtained and the input of the stakeholders. And that only an open mind, positive thinking, thinking in terms of solutions will lead to a result that is supported. Creating added value together for man and society.
Ghent is looking towards the future. A lively mix of living and working will define the city in 2030. However, whilst looking for a valuable and well-founded answer, the city together with the sector and the end users started up a co-creation process. This resulted in an interaction of sustainability, innovation and creativity.
In 2014 department of Economic Affairs of the City of Ghent carried out an analysis of the Ghent office market. Although the city centre still offers the greatest share of offices in Ghent, it became clear that this share is growing very sharply. The study revealed a number of important trends in this context. It is noticeable that an increasing number of (in this case large) office users are no longer opting for the city centre. We see that the smaller and younger companies often opt for smaller surface areas. The fact that many offices are housed in historical patrimony does contribute to a positive image of ‘offices in the city centre’. However, these old buildings are more difficult to renovate and are therefore often less comfortable and flexible, whilst it is precisely in these areas that office users are making increasingly high demands. Combined with the general belief that offices in the centre are difficult to reach (by car) (even though the greater part of these offices are still located close to exits of the motorways and the R4), ‘offices in the city centre’ remain a difficult topic.
When existing offices are redeveloped by project developers, we see that – in view of the higher land value – residential development is often opted for. This phenomenon means that offices are being pushed out of the city centre as it were. And the result is that there are practically hardly any vacant offices in the city centre, but this also removes part of the necessary flexibility of the office market in the city centre.
The versatility of the city centre of Ghent is an important quality and the city wants to keep this diversity in the future. Offices are an essential part of this. This is precisely why the City of Ghent elected to set up a co-creation process, in which various interested parties were consulted in order to arrive at well-founded insights and structured recommendations.
To work out the process, the city called on FGDG, the Flanders Ghent Development Group, that with the aid of Bopro took on the “Offices in the city centre of Ghent 2030” process.
Arriving at a vision step by step
In the initial phase, the project team called on the knowledge of experts to get a clear picture of all the elements required to arrive at a thorough analysis of “offices in the future”. Areas of expertise such as spatial planning, technology and infrastructure, climate and energy, work organisation, the new way of working and end users, vacancy and repurposing, mobility management, private investments, communication and IT were included.
In the second phase, various stakeholders were divided into several workgroups. In this way, a dialogue was entered into with investors and property developers, but also with end users, municipal services, experts, residents, etc.
The issues were raised from various perspectives during fascinating discussions and possible (forward-looking) solutions were reflected on as well as which factors are decisive for Ghent’s office market in the future. In this way, it was possible to create a joint vision with broad support about “Offices in the city centre in 2030”.
A vision of the future ‘for’ and ‘supported by’
Good, multimodal accessibility is central to everything. Variation in the different means of transport on offer (bicycles and bike-sharing schemes, properly functioning public transport connected to Park and Rides on the edge of the city), means that everyone can make the best choice for them at any time. Designing the necessary infrastructure at high-quality locations and with sufficient flexibility makes it possible to react to the transition towards increasingly sustainable mobility. In the future, the buildings can then simply be adapted to this new mobility.
Thanks to smart positioning of the offices and buildings of the future, they will contribute to high-quality compression of the city centre, in which it is crucial to activate unused or underutilised buildings and land. If whilst doing so, land and buildings can be bundled to develop collectively, the added value for the neighbourhood and the city can be maximised.
The offices of the future contribute to an interwoven streetscape. A healthy mix of functions will create a lively neighbourhood, where the functions will strengthen each other further. So, it will be important to know the needs of the neighbourhood in order to react to those needs correctly. Office functions can for example also fulfil the social and economic needs of the neighbourhood (there can be space for non-profits, doctors and solicitors, service companies and authorities). Thanks to joint ventures between the city, local residents and private players, better choices can be made for the neighbourhood. This will result in optimum use of the infrastructure and green spaces. For example, car parks must be strived for that can be used twice over as much as possible (during the day for offices, in the evening and during the weekend by residents). Offices or meeting rooms can be used in the evening by other parties (a meeting of the residents’ committee or as a meeting space). In principle, this also applies for other spaces such as for recreation (sport and relaxation for the neighbourhood).
Sustainable technology can also be used jointly so that the climate-neutral goal of the city becomes feasible. Where is there room for small district heating networks or a collective geothermal energy supply? Maximum use must also be made of the potential for exchanging energy flows (residual heat from cooling systems or datacentres can be used elsewhere).
In this vision, the city will serve as the office of the future. After all, the city centre has significant added value for employees: there are many facilities present in the immediate vicinity: possibilities for lunch or a coffee, printing and postal services, crèches, ironing service, sports facilities, etc. The presence of more workplaces in the city centre will attract even more of these facility services.
The design of the buildings must be adapted to the new flexible working practices. In the future, we will see less and less impersonal open-space workspaces but more spaces adapted to innovative work concepts. Inspiring workspaces, spaces to meet, for project work and for brainstorming. Quiet rooms for concentrating. It all revolves around the employees’ creativity. This is where the greatest value creation of the future can be found.
By offering a diversity of workspaces, the worker will be able to choose his workspace depending on his current wishes. Companies will have to commit to this ultimate flexibility, especially to win the war for talent. The City of Ghent can be the first to offer a solution to these future needs.
Instruments to put the vision into practice
During the co-creation process, it became very clear for the stakeholders that the council will have to implement a number of necessary measures to achieve the vision of “Offices in the city centre of Ghent in 2030”. In that context, 2030 is not the future, but it starts today!
One cornerstone is that Ghent must continue to commit to an efficient and properly functioning multimodal transport network. A high-quality network of cycle paths, fast and frequent tram and bus connections and smooth-flowing traffic on the R40 are all essential for this. Linked to this, Park and Rides in good locations that are well connected are needed to connect the outskirts with the city centre properly.
If the City does not want the city centre to slowly change into a “residential area”, it will have to provide direction. So, the city is the director. By making use of incentives and conditional regulations (for example where this can be justified in a planning sense permitting additional storeys if sufficient offices are planned in, etc.), the developments that contribute to the City’s goals can be the ones that are achieved. To this end, the necessary flexibility in zoning and planning regulations will certainly also have to be introduced to amongst other things permit compression, interconnectedness, temporary and flexible programming.
An integrated vision and even more crucially, an integrated functioning of the city administration remains essential. Conflicts during the realisation of developments must be avoided, thus removing any frustrations about the conflicting demands of policy domains such as the environment and climate, economy, zoning, mobility, heritage, green and residential areas. This should lead to a simplification of procedures.
For the participants of this intense co-creation process it is clear that, if we want to achieve this joint vision of the future for Ghent, there is a need for creative investors and developers with the guts to create these offices and buildings of the future!