Idea #9: Crowdsource your Community Toilet Scheme

February 18, 2011 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Map Image: © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA

Age UK have launched a campaign called Change One Thing where they support local older people’s groups to improve their neighbourhood.

Their campaign manager Mary Milne got in touch since naturally the subject of public toilets is coming up quite a lot! Over lunch with my Supervisor Jo-Anne Bichard we got onto the subject of Community Toilet Schemes: Do they work?

Common issues:

  • Some people do not feel comfortable using pubs
  • A Community Toilet Scheme cannot replace 24Hr provision
  • Participants must cover a range of opening hours
  • It should include disabled access toilets, baby-changing, family toilets, and if possible, a Changing Places facility
  • A scheme by itself will not work in places with high tourism or events, where many people will arrive at once.
  • The schemes won’t work in places without enough businesses, e.g. parks!
  • You need to assess whether people are using the scheme and each of the different participants, else it’s a waste of money!

This last one bothers me quite a lot; enough to have written a post about it back in October.

How do you get the right participants?

Idea #9 is in line with some of my ramblings yesterday on taking a people-centred design approach to public services (and eventually building the Big Society).

Rather than finding as many businesses as possible to sign up and then trying to assess which ones the public are using after 6-months, a year, 2 years… (and really, how do you find out?)

…you first ask the public which business premises they’d like to use, and build your scheme around that.

Consult a small group (or groups, for a council-wide scheme) of maybe 7 or 8 local residents who represent as broad a representation of the population as possible, including older people, families and those with continence concerns.

Give them pins and a map and ask them to mark which local toilets, public or not, they use at the moment: public toilets, supermarkets, workplace, home, shops, pubs, libraries. These premises would make a great skeleton scheme (and since the public are using these toilets anyway, the businesses may as well make some money out of it!)

But all the maps are different!

For example, half of the group may use the local pub, either by sneaking in, asking permission or being regulars.

But half the group say they would feel uncomfortable or unable to use pub facilities, even if they were on the scheme. What do you do?

Inclusive design is about creating solutions that don’t exclude anyone on the basis of age, gender, class, culture, ability… What it doesn’t mean is that one solution ‘fits all’. A range of options is often required.

So pub toilets should be included but they cannot be the only evening provision in the area.

The local group could even approach the businesses themselves, in person or via letter:

“As both your customers and local residents we’d like you to participate in the Community Toilet Scheme. We think this would be a generous contribution to the local area”.

That would really put the ‘community’ into Community Toilet Scheme!

This report by the Dept of Communities and Local Government on Richmond-upon-Thames’ scheme has a lot of the details on the nuts and bolts of running a scheme – essential reading for any council thinking of starting one, although it skims over the public consultation aspect a bit.


Entry filed under: Ideas!, Service Design. Tags: , , , .

… the Big Society … Broken Locks

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