What does it mean to be people-centred? And what difference does it make?

Back in 2020, we were commissioned by the British Council to answer those questions in the context of its Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth pilot programme, which aimed to explore the idea “that when people or communities are given the opportunity to engage with, learn from and promote their own cultural heritage, it can contribute to social and economic development.”

The British Council ran pilot action research projects with local organisations and communities in Colombia, Kenya and Vietnam, and commissioned The Audience Agency to evaluate how people-centred these projects were – and to consider more generally what people-centredness means and what best practice might be.

Now the British Council has published an essay collection inspired by the pilot programme, we’re able to share some of our general findings…

Spectrum of Engagement

  • People-centredness is a loose term. Although there’s a good consensus on what it involves, a range of practices fall under its broad umbrella, from consultation to citizen-led action.
  • Being people-centred is about both power and process. At its most radical, people-centredness challenges existing norms and power structures almost by definition. Yet expert-facilitated process also has a role to play – using techniques like human-centred design or asset-based community development.
  • People-centred projects are (at their best) flexible and emergent, often with open-ended outcomes. They may take longer to deliver than more traditionally managed projects.
  • Fully people-centred practice is not appropriate for all institutions or all projects. Understanding where your current practice falls can help you design projects in a more informed way – and move towards a more participatory future.
Screenshot 2023-10-17 145841.jpg Read the essay - 'People-centred approaches to cultural heritage and sustainable development'

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the essay by Sophia Woodley and Anne Torreggiani or get in touch to discuss how we can help build people-centredness in your organisation, project or funding programme.