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Research Features: Think Lab

Life Chances: Tackling Deprivation in Salford and Manchester

Professor Terrence Fernando, Director of the University’s iconic ThinkLab, has been working with Salford City Council’s Strategic Partnership Executive (SSPE) to support the Greater Manchester Life Chances pilots that tackle social and financial deprivation in and around Greater Manchester.

The SSPE nominated three Life Chances pilot areas – Little Hulton, Winton (both in Salford) and a joint cross boundary pilot with Manchester in the Higher Broughton/Cheetham Hill area – but were undecided about where and how to start planning, and how to begin tackling these issues.

Two Dimensional Approaches or 3D Modelling?

In the past, numerous meetings, documents, discussions and site visits would have been undertaken, and statistics and data on each area stored and assimilated in an attempt to give a theoretical picture of where and how precious resources could be directed to achieve best outcomes. This two dimensional approach is long and laborious and does not enable planners to visualise the outcome and impacts of any decisions made.

This is where Professor Fernando, his researchers and team of technical wizards entered the arena! The team plotted and mapped the data gathered by SSPE into a virtual 3D model of Salford City to create a ‘virtual Salford’ and gain a clearer insight into the predicted plans and expected outcomes of the pilots.

Virtual Mirror, Real Spaces

Mixed reality environments allow virtual mirror images of real urban spaces to be populated with the statistics of that area. This enables local agencies to work collaboratively to better understand how partner resources are being invested in different communities to deliver shared outcomes and achieve ‘better for less’ services. The virtual Salford platform has the potential to provide predictive scenario building capacity to explore desirable futures, demonstrate barriers to progress, show interdependencies and explain different policy choices. All of this has the ultimate aim of informing speedier and more effective decision-making.

Virtual Salford also allows performance monitoring of local regeneration and service transformation programmes and provides a practical engagement tool to communicate, engage and consult with local stakeholders and citizens that stimulates debate and discussion and captures feedback.

This innovative virtual platform has great potential to support delivery of local authority service transformation and regeneration programmes, achieve well planned and cost effective services and benefits to businesses, educational establishments, homes, transport networks, and healthcare and city management.

In this project Professor Fernando and his team are working in partnership with SSPE and key agencies, such as Community Health and Social Care, Children’s Services, NHS Salford, Environment and Community Safety Agencies, Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Jobcentre Plus, Salford City College, GM Probation Trust, Skills Funding Agency, City West Housing, Salix Homes and Government Office for the North West.

To find out more, or to examine ways in which you could work with the ThinkLab, please visit the ThinkLab website.

Theme: Built Environment

The ‘Life Chances’ project is exemplary of the work being performed under the aegis of the ‘Built Environment’ theme, one of the university’s four cross-cutting interdisciplinary themes.