Emotional intelligence can shape better places and spaces

What are the ingredients needed to shape places and spaces with greater emotional intelligence?

The growing mental health crisis

Finding better methods for managing mental health is fast becoming a priority for so many. Especially after two years of a global pandemic. Taking time to consider how we make our services, spaces and our interactions with each other more emotionally intelligent is vitally important.

One in five adults is likely to be juggling with mental health issues as a result of the pandemic. But how are spaces and places offering society much-needed rescue remedies? Our relationships are strained from carrying the weight of Covid-19’s effects on our interactions with each other. Steve Taylor’s claim that we will not find our answers at the bottom of a coffee cup, feels bold and poignant. What is it that we need to exchange now with each other? And, how can the places and spaces around us best support these exchanges?

We (the AKOU team) have long been monitoring what ingredients are best suited for making places more emotionally intelligent. We feel that this type of placemaking has less to do with the physical space itself. Rather it has more to do with how the soft infrastructure is acknowledged, considered and responded to during the full life cycle of a development (be it the creation of a new space, the regeneration of a place, or co-designing a whole new site).

Why building connection is key

AKOU has given a great deal of consideration to the measurement of social value over the years. And there is one common factor that we find time and again no matter where we are working. And that is that social value exists as a result and strength of relationships and connections.

The challenge for planners, developers and placemakers is to make sure spaces are designed to best support the building and nurturing of connection. It’s just as important to make sure that spaces are monitored and measured for how successfully they support connectivity.

Whether it’s launching a new project, consulting on plans or running co-design processes, it’s impossible to speak to everyone. But placing relationship building at the heart of any process (from design through to impact measurement) is key. It means you’re consistently assessing; who’s in the room, who is a particular individual speaking on behalf of, who are the community connectors, who are the information mavens.

Not everyone has the time, capacity or confidence to be part of discussions that ultimately influence their neighbourhoods. This means that many people, that could hugely benefit and revolutionise planning, designing, and implementing, are able to be in the room. Their voices are not heard, and if they are not represented by their connections then everyone loses out.

Up-level your emotional intelligence

At AKOU, we’ve spent the past several years developing and building tools that uncover the secrets behind good connectivity, and encourage fairer representation. Our various packages and toolkits can help you to gain new insights on your community. They also support your team to better harness relationships and emotional intelligence more effectively.

We’d love to hear from you, what thoughts do you have about how spaces can better support mental health? Do you find certain spaces better for connecting to people than others?