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Are you deploying 'Feminist Design Principles' for inclusive, active spaces?

I've returned from the first leg of my Churchill Fellowship travels, and reviewing my series of meetings, it is unfortunately heavily -- though not exclusively -- white and male. My aspirational list was more diverse but circumstances meant I did not meet with everyone I had hoped to meet.

Matt pushes his eldest daughter in a pram, with his newborn baby in a sling on his chest and a backpack with his camera etc on a footpath next to a cyclepath next to a skatepark in Copenhagen
Travelling with my 3-year and 2-month old research assistants gave me a different perspective to the accessibilty of public space

This particularly concerns me as one of the things I believe is key in creating active environments is creating equitable environments that feel safe and accessible to all. This has been the drive behind the Build Back Fairer series of events I've held in my day job, these sessions look at how we might address inequalities of access to the public realm.

So far topics have included addressing inequalities based on age (for children, and teens), race and culture, disability and gender. Across those events we've had 20 external speakers, from groups like African Families in the U.K, Transport for All, Make Space for Girls, Beatfreeks, and Our Bodies, Our Streets just one has been an able-bodied, white male, and 17 were female.

One thing that reassured me about those who I have spoken to on my Fellowship, particularly in Denmark, is their openness to diversity of thought, consideration of inequities and desire to lead from behind and empower others voices in their work.

In my first three meetings with active projects; Street under Buen, Norrebro United's Backyard Football, and Game NGO, each one mentioned the importance of, and their engagement with and adoption of what they termed 'feminist design principles'.

A multi-couloured staircase acts as an informal seating space next to a white 'room' with many windows, that is light and airy.
The staircase and 'greenhouse' created by women & girls at Urban 13 in Copenhagen

Alex at Urban 13 and Street Under Buen spoke of how in making their space more inviting to females, they supported user-led design to the point where the teenage girls designed the space and he carried the wood and paint.

Aske at Norrebro United's Backyard Football -- a project that adapts club football to small multi-use games areas in areas of deprivation -- spoke of how in their first endeavour into building from scratch they'd be removing the fences, sinking the pitch and creating social seating and terracing to create a more open, safe space.

When asked about how Game NGO has evolved over their 20 years, CEO Simon recognised that in their first workshops didn't have many girls involved and didn't have a strong enough focus in how to include girls. That's changed since then, and he hopes that as a result of his organisation's work with LOA -- a foundation that supports innovation in sport facilties -- to create 'A KNOWLEDGE AND INSPIRATION CATALOGUE MAKING SPORTS FACILITIES MORE ATTRACTIVE TO GIRLS', that this will only become more ingrained in their approach.

In the coming weeks I'll be speaking with a number of people who for various reasons it wasn't possible to meet while I was on the European mainland, including Lore Cuypers of Vital Cities, Maud de Vries of BYCS, Anna-Louise Bradley and Olga Sowa of Placemaking Europe. I've also been thrilled to engage with people who have followed my travels through LinkedIn, like Nourhan Bassam of GamingX - an initiative that allows children and youth to have a place to play in and to gather that is safe and inclusive to girls.

If you'd like to share your experiences on accessibilty and inclusivity of active, public spaces for women, girls or other groups who may face barriers -- particularly in Belgium, Denmark, France, Jordan, and the Netherlands -- please do get in touch.

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