Knowledge exchange: Improved community engagement through spatial and visualisation methods (ICE-SAV)

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details


Research groups from the University of York and University of Abertay (Dundee), London Metropolitan University and the Groundwork Trust have independently developed community engagement approaches. These approaches include specifically a spatial dimension to assess issues and develop solutions. Linked to the spatial disaggregation of information is the use of novel visualisation tools to improve the communication of this information between different stakeholders. The various methodologies have been developed to engage with the public to more effectively incorporate their community knowledge, environmental understandings and preferences into decision making processes.

In order to add value to these research activities a knowledge exchange activity was undertaken in order to consolidate the range of currently independent methodologies for community engagement and participation in environmental decision making that have been developed by the various project partners. This knowledge exchange identified how these approaches could be better integrated and utilised by communities to address their research concerns.

Layman's description

New approaches to engage with different communities (residents of particular neighbourhoods but also groups with different expertise or knowledge – communities of interest) that incorporate or combine spatial (mapped based and linked to real places) and visualisation (three-dimensional views or abstract representations of information) tools hold considerable potential to improve interaction between and within groups. This improved engagement provides opportunities to improve the understanding of different viewpoints between and within communities but also to generate new knowledge or novel solutions to complex (often difficult) problems by allowing people to see things in a different way. The Improving Community Engagement through Spatial and Visualisation methods project saw groups of academics, charities, local government officers and community groups come together for three seminars to share and exchange their experiences of what approaches work where, when and for whom based on previously funded projects. These discussions helped the seminar participants to make previously unrecognised linkages between methods used in their research and community engagement work. The seminars also identified gaps in our understanding that require further research together with opportunities to apply and combine methods in new contexts, with different communities, to improve the engagement of stakeholders in real world decision making.

Key findings

The latest interactive 3D Visualisations can be used both for interdisciplinary knowledge exchange but also to facilitate fundamental scientific discovery.For engagement and understanding ultra-realism may not be the most effective approach but instead abstract representations may be more useful to encourage co-learning.The use of visualisations including mapping can both encourage and enhance the engagement and interaction of communities for knowledge exchange and problem solving. However different engagement tools are needed for different locations or audiences and these needed to be tailored for specific communities to realise these benefits. Novel new technologies offer exciting potentials to significantly improve community engagement using visual approaches linked to spatial locations particularly with the proliferation of Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled devices (including tablet PCs and smart phones). However, there are still significant exclusion and inequalities in who can participate using these approaches to engagement that leave a role for more conventional analogue (paper) tools. Novel visualisation approaches can help overcome issues of data overload for participants by bringing complex data together in an intelligible and interesting way. These approaches offer different communities ways of understanding multiple interrelated issues to allow them to be betting included in efforts to solve difficult complicated real-world problems (such as flood risks and climate change impacts). In order to maintain community engagement the visualisation methods need to be varied to retain interest and stimulate ideas generation for decision making.
Effective start/end date1/01/1131/12/11


  • AHRC: £17,238.80