The public life diversity toolkit

Author Gehl People

This public life diversity toolkit, put together by Gehl in 2016, provides important insights into the relations between built form, public spaces, and inclusivity. It details the importance of encouraging more social mixing. The toolkit provides practical advice around how to gather evidence about how diverse a place is, in order to make improvements, including: the types of research questions that could be asked about a place, and the research methods and metrics suitable for answering them. The toolkit can, therefore, be drawn upon to help create more inclusive and diverse places, through data and evidence.

Date added 19 November 2020
Last updated 25 November 2020

This public life diversity toolkit, put together by Gehl in 2016, provides important insights into the relations between built form, public spaces, and social inequalities. As the authors argue, enabling more social interactions between diverse socio-economic groups in places is important, since “...experiences with people who are different from one another in public space is a fundamental building block of a more tolerant and inclusive society...” (p.4).

The toolkit seeks to help those designing, managing, and researching public spaces to answer questions about their place, such as: Do people from different socio-economic groups spend time in this place? How do people socially interact in this place? And what types of design and programming enables social mixing? (p. 6).

As well as suggested research questions, such as these, the guide explains the most effective methods and metrics for answering them, including individual-level data like intercept surveys; group-level data gained through in-person ethnographic observations; and macro-level data by drawing on big data like mobile tracking and social media. It also covers public space metrics (e.g. seating, lighting, and pavement width), alongside ‘12 quality criteria’ (e.g. invitations for sitting, protection from negative sensory experiences, and aesthetic quality), which together contribute to whether a public space enables or hinders public life diversity. Case study examples are also shared throughout.

The overall aim of the toolkit, is to help to create and manage “empathic and inclusive communities where opportunity is shared by everyone” (p.11).