In an increasingly urban world, we need to devise sustainable, engaged and constructive ways to live together in urban centres. Globally, over 50% of the population lives in cities. This figure is set to rise to roughly 70% by 2050 worldwide, and to over 80% in Europe.
But not all cities are growing. Across the USA, Europe and Japan, smaller urban centres are shrinking and, while COVID-19 dented this trend, smaller urban areas are struggling. These urban growths and shrinkages necessitate strategic planning to ensure sustainable, inclusive and equitable urban living. Without it, there’s a risk our urban spaces create greater levels of the dangerous inequality, division and radicalisation with which communities worldwide are struggling.
How, then, can we strategically improve cities? Shaping them to be more liveable, sustainable and inclusive, with existing local resources?
The role of “Impact Places” in strategic urban (re)development
An approach balancing social impact and economic sustainability is vital to quality urban development for commercial, public and community stakeholders. We see “Impact Places” as a solution: real estate development and urban regeneration/re-development integrating holistic impact and sustainability.
Usually, this incorporates objectives, physical elements and use-cases beyond housing (“first place”) and commercial/work (“second place”). The creative, the community, the environment and the innovative all play parts, adding value and values to re(new)ed places. The “Third Place” concept is key here, and an established element of community-building and culture-making.
The Archipel&Co conception of Impact Places builds on this, adding strategic elements with economic sustainability as a foundation for lasting social and environmental impact. We see an Impact Place opportunity to be grasped in the economic culture (re)development ecosystem. It’s becoming open to, and needs, more entrepreneurial approaches, rather than artistic, informal and public approaches alone. Our team builds these bridges between social enterprises, culture- and community-builders and corporate organisations. We thrive on finding the overlap between purpose and profit, delivering on the impact potential of “out of the ordinary” projects (though we’re pleased to see them becoming more “ordinary”!). Below, we’ll share our experience of delivering Impact Places in France.
Project context: L’Épopée, Marseille
L’Épopée is a major Impact Place in Marseille, which we co-founded with Synergie Family (a social startup in the south of France), MCES (a leading impact e-sport company) and MAKE ICI (collaborative, social impact-focused makers’ spaces). Combining office, studio and event spaces, it was designed to drive creativity and innovation, with a focus on education.
The location chosen for L’Épopée is the former Ricard headquarters and factory. Fallen into disuse yet emblematic of Marseille’s history and the iconic entrepreneurial spirit of Paul Ricard, it was the ideal building to take on new life through this project.
Building the Archipel&Co “Impact Places” methodology
After this first Impact Place creation odyssey and building on L’Épopée’s success, we continue to evolve our Impact Places approach. We’re now applying it in Paris and Bordeaux, combining key ingredients:
1. Crafting a compelling story; sharing a dream that’s rooted in real needs
The project narrative must be meaningful for buy-in from diverse stakeholders. The story must be rooted in thorough research into the community’s history and current reality, needs and aspirations — grounding social impact in real requirements, not an ambitious but short-lived dream. Finally, the project story must be measurable to demonstrate impact delivery to all stakeholders.
2. The art of dynamics
Expert project management is vital, alongside identification, engagement and evolution of stakeholders who will animate the Impact Place. For long-term success, these projects evolve into communities that need a dynamic mix of support, creativity and pragmatism.
3. The alchemy of organisations
Impact Place projects need to deliver business value, with the business rooted in local values. Economic, legal, commercial and social aspects all need attention and platforming, from managing rents and ownership governance to fundraising and ensuring a thriving variety of commercial activities.
4. Our passion for doing
We’re able to build the right teams to create Impact Places, uniting architects and designers with urbanists and environmental and technical assessors, then assemble the right team to manage the location, recruiting and developing talent to evolve it.
Lessons learned: how to generate lasting socioeconomic impact with Impact Places
1. Embed your Impact Place in the community
This breakthrough saw us evolve from broader system change focus to tailored local impact focus. To succeed, Impact Places must be anchored in the local community.
2. Connection is key for long-term viability
Project sustainability is a direct function of the connection you’re able to maintain with the project partners, local authorities, tenants and surrounding neighbourhood.
3. Uniting diverse expertise is a must
A melting pot of expertise areas is needed — from fundraising to legal, governance to recruitment, technical to creative. Innovative, adaptive bridge-building is essential.