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Engaging Community in designing safe public spaces

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Engaging Community in designing safe public spaces


HealthBridge's partner Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust (WBB), with support from UN-Habitat and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), worked with a low-income community in Dhaka to convert five small public spaces. More than 1 million people live around these sites and at least half of them are the beneficiaries after implementation of the project.

WBB organized a workshop to use the computer game Minecraft to gain citizen involvement into the planning and designing process. At the Minecraft workshops, which were held at the WBB offices, a variety of local residents worked together to decide what they would like to see happen to the open spaces. The existing spaces were largely used as rubbish dumps and for vehicle parking. The residents included males and females of a mix of ages and physical abilities, working together in groups of six. The main concerns expressed in the workshops were for safety, a place for children to play, and a walking path for the elderly and others to exercise.

Dhaka minecraft
One of the designs created by participants using Minecraft

An architect fine-tuned the Minecraft-based designs and women, girls, toddlers, youth, people with disabilities and the elderly were prioritized during the fine-tuning. The plans were then shared with community to finalize the designs and begin implementation.

Ultimately, the project brought 134 changes in the selected 5 spaces and brought opportunities for low income groups who are unable to access quality public spaces. Now, children of the surrounding communities have fun places where they can play with a sense of comfort and safety. Approximately 7000 people are using the sites daily, which includes 5200 children and 3000 women and girls.

The project represents a collaboration between local citizens, WBB, HealthBridge, and local government. A total of 33 meetings were organized with officials and 67 government representatives contributed 201 hours of in-kind contribution to the project. DNCC has committed to replicate the model to improve small scale public spaces in other communities and allocated $240,000 USD to complete the rest of the work on the sites.

For more information about this project, visit WBB's website.

Dhaka mirpur
Children's zone in a small reclaimed space in Bangladesh
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