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Community leadership

Learn about why community leadership is important for the sustainable transformation of historic places of worship.

In the previous section you explored the notion of design leadership. Starting from the idea that any individual has the capability to use design in their everyday, in the previous steps you explored an example of community-led design in a historic place of worship. You learned that design leadership involves a re-balancing of power and sharing of expertise so that the whole design process (from inception to delivery) becomes truly shared.

In this section you will focus more specifically on the notion of community leadership. Community-led design is essentially about acting and making decisions together with others.

Places of worship, particularly those that possess significant architectural and historical qualities, are places that connect to, and benefit, a wide range of people. As buildings, they are ever-present within both urban and rural environments and they have a cultural and social value that is well beyond the boundaries of a particular locality and the local faith group. Although the faith association of these buildings might create barriers for people or communities of different faith or non-faith backgrounds, they also serve to connect people together due to their social values and pastoral care mission.

In a recent survey exploring the perceptions and views of people about the role and value of places of worship in collaboration with the Baroness Warsi Foundation, participants highlighted their important function in connecting people. Here are some answers to the question: “what is the value of a place of worship for you?”:

  • “A place apart but for all”
  • “A space in which you are always welcome”
  • “A place to express one’s humanity communally and socially”
  • “A sense of place and belonging for a whole community in the widest sense – something greater than just a place of worship”

It is therefore important that any decisions about changes within these buildings, however big or small, should take into consideration a wide network of people, who are associated with the buildings and who may be affected or may indeed contribute to its future. This includes the congregation, other people who run activities or services in the building, service users, visitors, neighbours as well as other individuals and organisations who have a stake or an interest in the building (such as planning authorities, denomination and heritage statutory bodies, historical societies, etc). Community-led design is about people working and making design decisions together. This requires inviting these various communities to contribute to design decision making at all stages of the design process.

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Enabling Community-Based Leadership in Design: Sustainable Development of Historic Faith Buildings

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