Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts (William Bruce Cameron)

For a time now many influential thinkers have emphasised the point that we need to start measuring and counting ‘wealth’ in new ways. Up until now most economies have been built around counting what is easily counted and measuring what is easily measured. Often the most important contributors to a person’s quality of life, the intangible stuff such as happiness and belonging, has been somewhat overlooked.

Voist’s latest project aims to do exactly that. Mapify offers communities the tools to begin counting in new ways, allowing them to build an updatable, online snapshot of their neighborhood. It pin-points what really counts in a local area and what the contributing factors are to local wellbeing. The data gathered by Mapify can be used by community members, planners and local authorities to aid policy and decision-making, this can be particularly helpful for an area undergoing regeneration.

The Mapify logo (© Voist Ltd)
The Mapify logo

At the beginning of 2013 Voist was approached by Dave Wybrow (The Cockpit theatre), the Church Street Futures Steering Committee and SUSD. The brief was to come up with a way of visualising the extent of the Arts and Culture community in Church Street (just a stones throw from the Edgware Road). The great concentration of Arts and Culture based groups, high levels of trust and understanding between community members plus work carried out with the community all needed to be measured and accounted for. The purpose of the project was to create a snapshot of the area before it undergoes a mass regeneration over the course of the next 10 years.

Voist has now teamed up with Westminster City Council to run a full Arts and Culture based phase of Mapify in the Church Street area. Voist recently invited the Church Street community to The Cockpit Theatre for Mapify’s official launch. Penfolds Cupboard, a pop-up restaurant run by local senior residents in and around the NW8 neighbourhood together with designer Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad, provided the food for the event. Gaia Marcus from the RSA joined us and delivered a keynote speech about the RSA’s Connected Communities project. She discussed the importance of network mapping and the benefits of pin-pointing peoples connections and key players within a community.

Conceptual map of Church Street's arts and cultural organisation by Ruta George
Conceptual map of Church Street’s arts and cultural organisation by Ruta George

Martin Whittles (Church Street Infrastructure and Public Realm Planning for Westminster City Council) came along to encourage the community to get involved with Mapify. He explained that the Council could use the information collected by the site to help with the areas regeneration plans. Westminster has chosen to extend the Mapify project in order to gain a fuller understanding of the Arts and Cultural community in Church Street. The borough wish to gain a detailed overview of Arts and Culture in order to more effectively deliver future funding and support to organisations. It was acknowledged that at present there is a lack of knowledge about this aspect of Church Street. As the borough sets to establish its own source of funding for local Arts and Culture so as to be untouched by future national budget cuts, greater detail about the local area is a necessity. It is hoped this can help to avoid a repeat of the drastic current cuts about to be felt by organisations receiving funding for Arts and Culture from Westminster.

What Mapify Church Street will offer its users?

Mapify will automatically create easily understood visualisations of each organisation’s data so that users can see what kind of contributions they are making to the area. Each organisation will have updatable profile pages and digital pinboards for users to share news and post info about upcoming events. The site will also illustrate each organisation’s network map.

Instead of creating a report that could possibly become out of date within a year, Voist wants to deliver a product that can continue to be of use to the community whether it is a year or five years down the line. The Mapify Church Street site will encourage organisations to update their information and add new data to the site as time progresses. This will allow organisations and users to track back and see how an organisation has developed and how their support networks in the area have grown or changed.

A view of the Mapify homepage
A view of the Mapify homepage

It is hoped that the site will promote local organisations to the wider community, aid the process of collaboration between various groups and perhaps even be used as a tool for funders to seek out potential organisations. Fundamentally Mapify is to be a place for Arts and Cultural organisations to show Westminster City Council how the vibrant and diverse work that is undertaken in the area contributes to well being and quality of life.

 

If you wish to find out more about the RSA’s Connected Communities work then please click here.