42 BIG little conversations…

With forty-two insightful conversations in the comfort of DELVE’s installation and out on the street, we certainly got to know residents of Harlow, Essex in our recent People Markers Mapping Lab in the centre of the town.

With an attendance of over 130 people over the two week period, we played with the concept of data harvesting as a way of having more meaningful conversations.DELVE 1DELVE 2DELVE 3© DELVE Associates 2017 all rights reserved     image credit:  Richard Sobey 2017


People Markers mapping lab: conversations about people, place and prosperity

DELVE Associates presents

image of People Markers installation Sept 2017
exploring you, here, now…

People Markers

part of a series exploring new ways to get to know your constituency, its value and its concerns

Over a two week period, DELVE’s artists and planners will use the questionnaire to understand you;  and it only takes a few minutes.   Fully intending to miss the point in a sea of data, this is an installation that invites you to develop the bigger picture with conversation, a clipboard and a ball point pen.

Playing with the information we give away as we go through daily life, People Markers uses a fictional, but fully recognisable, standardised test to get at the vital statistics we shed through loyalty cards, geo-locative technologies on our smartphones, our use of web browsers and just about any activity.   Who knows who you are?

Bring your voice and remember who you are.

Where:   East Gate Gallery, 5 East Gate, Harlow, CM20 1HP

When:   Friday 15th to Saturday 30th September 2017;   10.30am to 3.30pm

closed Sundays and Mondays

image credit:  Richard Sobey DELVE


Announcing launch of Resilience and Prosperity through Culture, Harlow



Today we launch our online report ‘Researching Resilience and Prosperity through Culture, Harlow’. The executive summary is available here – Researching Resilience and Prosperity through Culture Harlow 2017 – Exec Summary.

If you’d like to read the full version – contact us at hello@delveassociates.eu

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Images: Excerpts from Resilience and Prosperity through Culture – full report.

Using cultural activity for effective impactful cross-cutting initiatives

Cross cutting initiatives

DELVE’s “Resilience and Prosperity through Culture:  a Harlow case study” outlines eight initiatives designed to involve communities and businesses in creating significant impact across the key agendas of health and wellbeing, education and life-long learning, green space and the environment, local economic development and the creative economy.

With a focus on vision and ambition, the initiatives offer new models, processes and approaches for creating enhanced resilience and prosperity in neighbourhoods and across the district as a whole, by linking the five themes and providing a signpost to the future direction for the role of culture in action in Harlow. They are intended to offer a strategic approach to positioning Harlow as an exemplar, leading the development of good practice from which others take inspiration and learning.

DELVE’s publication outlines eight initiatives in brief, with one of these further detailed to demonstrate practical application.   Each initiative includes potential Harlow ‘real-world’ partnerships and stakeholders who could develop, co-produce and implement the initiatives as well as making connections to national stakeholders and partners.   The detailed initiative includes budget implications and timeline from development to completion to show the scale and ambition of the strategic approach identified through the research.

Potential partners include named community groups, residents associations, voluntary organisations, charities, faith groups, social enterprises, private businesses, public institutions and local authority departments. Each initiative includes some regional/national and international exemplars addressing similar issues and themes as a starting point for finding out more about projects dealing with similar issues (albeit in a different context).

The eight initiatives are:

  • Upcycling the Cycle Paths
  • Harvesting the Green
  • Green Wedge Learning
  • Playable Town
  • Hospital: Health: Heritage
  • Leading Edge: Technology Futures
  • Untapped Treasures: New Town Legacy
  • Little Ideas; Big Data

Coming next:  more on the eight initiatives revealed in “Resilience and Prosperity through Culture:  Harlow ” launched as a pdf on July 26 2017.




Connecting prosperity and resilience, health and wellbeing

Grappling with ‘prosperity’ and ‘resilience’:

DELVE has spent some time exploring and testing socially useful approaches to resilience and prosperity, drawing on many years’ experience of socially engaged practice in the creative sector and in supporting the strategic sustainable development of organisations.   Holding onto these understandings is key to DELVE’s approach:


DELVE defines a prosperous town as one which is thriving, characterised by its inhabitants’ high levels of well-being and access to fulfilling jobs and varied employment opportunity in a high quality environment with many, varied social / communal activities – shifting away from a definition focussed solely on financial success.


A resilient town is one able to respond to opportunity and is ready to withstand unknown challenges that may be around the corner, whether they be environmental, economic or social. It has the means to bounce back from such adversity, maintaining its sense of wellbeing by having strong relationships and interconnections’.

DELVE believes all places can be both resilience and prosperous and that these characteristics of place are intertwined. This report sets out to support the neighbourhoods and the district of Harlow New Town as whole to become more resilient and prosperous.

Focus on health and wellbeing:

To develop its cross cutting initiatives, DELVE has analysed the potential revealed by its action research to focus on practical resource efficient action.   In this, it has also taken the New Economics Foundation’s influential work on wellbeing for the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital in which it developed a set of evidence based actions to improve personal wellbeing.

(NEF) sets out five actions on wellbeing:

  • connect
  • be active
  • take notice
  • keep learning
  • give

Seriously…. try them in your daily life:   These five actions really make a difference.   DELVE applies them in the development of its projects and responses to opportunity so that they can empower individuals and organisations to create localised solutions for resilience and prosperity.

Find out more about the application of  DELVE’s thinking around prosperity and resilience and how the 5 ways to wellbeing have been used to create exciting initiatives for Harlow in the downloadable PDF “Resilience and Prosperity through Culture:  Harlow” coming July 26 2017.


New publication coming this month: ‘Resilience and Prosperity through Culture: Harlow’

Coming this month:  

DELVE is publishing “Resilience and Prosperity through Culture:  Harlow“, the result of an action research and analysis project in the UK’s first designated New Town.

Using performative gaming processes from the creative sector along with formal spatial and urban design analysis and tactical urbanism methodologies, DELVE moved beyond community consultation to quantify assets, reveal attitudes, expose behaviours, express aspirations and uncover potential.   Directors, Sarah Spanton and Richard Sobey identified core opportunities and relationships across the town to develop a series of cross-cutting strategic initiatives addressing five key themes:

  • health and wellbeing
  • education and life-long learning
  • green space and the environment
  • local economic development
  • creative economy

Defining ‘assets’:   

DELVE’s “Resilience and Prosperity through Culture:  Harlow “ capitalises on its specific understanding of ‘assets’.   DELVE perceives assets in the broadest terms, considering the residents, history, architecture, industry, skills, character, public realm, private and social businesses, public institutions, the town vision etc.

We believe these assets can with imagination and innovation be harnessed to more effective and positive use, to make a place more active and engaged in civic society, to squeeze the value from all opportunities, so that places can thrive in all dimensions (economic, social and environmental) becoming more resilient and positive places in which to work, live and play.

DELVE identified eight key assets in Harlow:

  • It is the birthplace of fibre optics communications
  • The heritage of new town planning
  • The number of cycle paths and the cycle museum
  • The walkability of the town centre
  • The heritage of the public health sector
  • The abundance and variety of public green spaces/infrastructure at a range of scales
  • Its ambition for innovation and technology development
  • Its potential to be an incubator for sustainable living technologies

Find out more in DELVE’s downloadable PDF coming July 26 2017.


QR codes, Gibberd’s Land Use Analysis, and Harlow’s 70th Anniversary

Following DELVE’s action research and Place Markers mapping lab in Harlow, Co-Director Richard Sobey has created an artwork that draws on creative conversations during the mapping lab’s performative games and on Frederick Gibberd’s 1952 Masterplan for the New Town.

The mixed media gallery work with found objects & virtual content can be seen at Parndon Mill Gallery, Harlow; part of Harlow’s 70th anniversary celebrations, until August 6 2017.

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Reimagining Gibberd’s original Land Use Analysis as an analysis of residents’ time spent on a variety of daily tasks, the work plays with the way the detail of daily life impacts on planning decisions.

By utilising QR codes, specific statistical references are connected to original statements captured during interviews with residents about what they value and how they spend time in Harlow.   This community engagement and asset mapping work has fed both the creation of this art work as well as the development of DELVE’s publication ‘Resilience and Prosperity through Culture, Harlow’ due for publication later this month.

DELVE supports the development of vibrant sustainable places where people can thrive and draws on both creative and formal planning techniques to discover unusual connections between people, place and prosperity.

Image credit: DELVE (Richard Sobey)

Place Markers mapping lab: conversations about people, place and prosperity

For two weeks, DELVE ran its Place Markers mapping lab at East Gate Gallery in Harlow.   Members of the public were invited to contribute to a conversation about people, place and prosperity through three gaming mechanisms designed around town, street and home.

In collaboration with local residents, DELVE artists and planners captured and honed ideas, initiatives and interventions across place-making, health/wellbeing and economic development to create a landscape of project, programme and policy starting points for the local authority.

Place Markers was a performative installation that grew the more we talked.

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Image credits: Richard Sobey (DELVE)

Place Markers – join the dots and talk about Harlow, Nov 26 – Dec 3 2016

DELVE Associates presents Place Markers

DELVE invites people living and working in Harlow to join the dots; using a map, a magnifying glass, the odd dice and a lot of ping pong balls, help create an installation that grows the more we talk.

Focussed around two themes, but going off in all directions, you are invited to contribute to a conversation about people, place and prosperity.

You just need to bring your voice and remember where you live.

Dates: Sat. 26 Nov – Sat. 3 Dec 2016

Open: 10.30am to 4pm

At Gatehouse Arts & Gallery, East Gate, Harlow, CM20 1HP


The value of adding creativity into the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEAM) mix

Following on from our latest post – we’ve been thinking about the value of the STEAM subjects in schools and in informal educational settings. There’s been an emphasis in recent years on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), but by adding arts subjects (STEAM) into this mix – creativity is harnessed.

We particularly like Ken Robinson’s thinking around creativity:
‘Our starting point is to recognise four characteristics of creative processes. First, they always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective. We therefore define creativity as: Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value.’
From: All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (1999), for the UK National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education

We believe that linking creative/arts subjects to other subject teaching and learning – young people’s innovation and invention skills will be more strongly developed.


Image credit: Sarah Spanton (artists and teachers working together at Whitecote Primary School, Leeds, 2009)