Eight tips for balancing growth and community inclusion

As place branders and place marketers, we all want to deliver better outcomes for our places. We want more opportunities for our residents, a flourishing economy, and to secure a sustainable future for our cities, regions, and nations. However, left unchecked, a rapid increase in fortune for a place can result in the displacement of your existing residents. Typically, the communities that most often find themselves squeezed out of their homes are working-class and people of colour, as they come under economic pressure due to rising costs.

We reached out to our Expert partners to understand what you should be doing to ensure that you’re driving inclusive and equitable development for your place - allowing everyone to thrive equally.


Prevent displacement.

A truly inclusive and equitable approach to neighbourhood or district development is less about preventing gentrification, and more about preventing the displacement that can occur when the identity, needs and ambitions of local people aren’t given due respect and consideration. Places should focus above all on nurturing a sense of belonging and unity, whether through bringing local cultural identity to life through grassroots events, promoting community cohesion with playful and inspiring spaces, or tackling loneliness by helping the elderly to grow older in-place and with dignity. Actions such as these - combined with fundamentals such as affordable housing - can help all members of a community, no matter what their socio-economic background or cultural identity to feel that they have a stake in the places where they live for the long-term.

Peter Jordan, Head of Insights, TOPOSOPHY


Prioritise the needs of your existing residents.

To foster inclusive neighborhood and district development and prevent gentrification, one approach communities can take is to focus on prioritising the needs of existing residents and developing a comprehensive anti-displacement strategy.

Some cities have developed anti-displacement strategies that include a variety of measures intended to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification. These can include solutions like rent control, eviction prevention support, incentivizing developers to build affordable housing, resident-owned cooperative housing models and community land trusts.

Equitable, inclusive development also requires understanding and addressing the needs of existing residents in a neighborhood or district. This can be accomplished through robust and proactive community engagement efforts that prioritise listening to all voices – especially those from underserved communities.

When cities take a proactive and inclusive approach to neighborhood and district development, they can create more equitable communities where all residents have an opportunity to succeed without the threat of being displaced by new development.

Kayla Dunn, Director, Destination Planning, MMGY

Build your strategy with your community.

Co-creation isn’t the same thing as engagement. More than collecting opinion, it’s about participation, often involving complex stakeholder management.

Naming the six London Overground lines with Transport for London taught us that you have to balance scale and depth. For example, intercept interviews achieve wide representation but only dig so deep. Workshops unearth richer stories, but you can only invite so many. The two working together is the best way to achieve fair, effective co-creation.

Communities should feel instrumental in shaping places. Co-creation that achieves both scale and depth is not only inclusive and equitable, but unifying and empowering.

Alex Fenton, Strategist, DNCO

Meet people where they are and reduce barriers to engagement.

Inclusive engagement is key! It is so crucial to have diverse voices at the table when developing a future vision and strategy for a place, to ensure that future serves all who use or reside in that community. This means meeting people where they are – being conscientious of and responsive to barriers that people may face when participating in neighborhood or district planning, whether accounting for cultural nuances, or providing language and translation services or accessibility accommodations. This allows you to hear from those who may be marginalized or underrepresented, not letting the loudest voice be the only perspective considered; incorporating all the ways people experience a place; learning about and protecting the unique aspects, spaces, or amenities that people treasure; and enabling all people to thrive in their communities in the ways that they value.

Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Director, Fourth Economy

Go deeper than sentiment surveys – particularly with marginalised communities.

Placemakers must work to authentically understand and engage the most marginalised groups and leaders through deep community engagement. Places often measure the success of their development efforts based on resident and business sentiment, often these qualitative studies do not sufficiently represent a significant sampling or perspectives of community members who are marginalized, including immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQIA+, and socio-economically and disadvantaged groups. The individuals and placemakers themselves should also come from, or at the very least work to authentically understand the dynamics of each community as it relates to underrepresentation.

Danny Guerrero, CEO, Culturist Group


Amplify your community’s unique attributes.

Find what’s special and attractive about your current demography—its cuisine, music, art, anything cultural—and bring attention to it. The opposite approach requires implanting new customs into your place that will read to current residents and prospective residents, investors, and businesses as inauthentic. If you leverage your existing community’s charm for growth, you’ll benefit your loyal demography while bringing in new audiences who appreciate what you already have to offer.

John Armstrong, Chief Creative Officer, Joy Riot

Encourage your visitors to form authentic connections with residents.

An evidence-based framework allows visitor destinations to better engage their residents to design tourism policies and interventions that strengthen host-community wellbeing. I am always impressed with the work being performed by Planet Happiness who partner with visitor destinations to deploy a wellbeing survey to canvass and assess host-community wellbeing and sentiment. This common-sense approach generates scorecards illustrating wellbeing domains where communities are thriving and suffering. Moreover, questions can be added to measure sentiment towards issues such as gentrification, thus ensuring the voices of target sections of the community are heard, and interventions are designed to meet the needs of the many, rather than the few.

Debbie Flynn, Global Managing Partner, FINN Partners

Create vibrant spaces which celebrate your diversity.

Ensuring accessibility is a key component for more inclusive and equitable spaces, neighbourhoods, and districts. It extends beyond physical safety to encompass inclusivity across all dimensions. Spaces should cater to all age groups and cultural backgrounds, promoting a sense of ownership and belonging. Art and placemaking serve as tools to enhance accessibility, facilitating connections among communities. Imagine spaces where children play while parents engage, where diverse cultures converge to exchange unique experiences. From our standpoint, true accessibility means granting everyone equal, physical, mental, and intellectual access, nurturing vibrant and cohesive communities.

Alexandre Lemieux, Director of Business Development and Co-founder, Creos 

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.