Researching digital placemaking for health and wellbeing in North East London


Digital Placemaking

People crossing the main road at Whitechapel station


The Digital Placemaking Scoping Project is an exploratory research study being undertaken by Calvium on behalf of the NHS North East London.                                                            .

The research explores how digital placemaking can enhance the physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing of North East London’s stakeholder communities. In particular, it seeks to reveal how digital placemaking can be incorporated into the strategic planning of future healthcare facilities and their neighbouring public realm. 

What is digital placemaking?                                                                   .

Digital placemaking refers to the augmentation of physical places with location-specific digital services, products or experiences to create more meaningful places for all.

Increasingly, we connect with the world through the use of digital technologies. We use digital wayfinding to plan and undertake a journey, input data into location-based citizen science projects or become immersed in augmented reality theatrical productions performed on the streets – and much more. As such, location-specific digital services, products and experiences are central to the ways that many of us encounter urban environments. This relationship between people, place, digital technology and data is the concern and the practice of digital placemaking.

At its core, digital placemaking aims to boost the social, cultural and environmental value of places by using digital technology to foster deeper connections between people and the places they inhabit.

Lots of new skyscrapers in Aldgate
Population growth in Tower Hamlets is projected to be amongst highest in UK.

Why this research is needed

As the population of North East London grows over the coming years, so too will their use of location-specific digital products, services and experiences to connect with each other and with their neighbourhoods. Residents already using personal digital technologies to support their health and wellbeing, will expect to access community-based NHS services through a range of innovative location-specific digitally enabled solutions. This research starts to set the scene for what future locative healthcare might be within healthcare estates and their nearby public realm, and how to achieve it.

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Stakeholder community engagement is key

Stakeholder community engagement underpins this research. Local communities are the experts of their lived experiences and therefore best placed to explore how digital placemaking might enhance their interactions with health services in North East London. As such, this Scoping Project invites healthcare staff, patients, carers and local residents to imagine and help shape the future of digital placemaking for health and wellbeing in North East London.

Group of three young women moving through the market. Image signifies local community

Adopting a care-full approach to innovation

‘Move fast and break things’ is an all too familiar and unhelpful approach to digital innovation. This Scoping Project is underpinned by an ethos of care throughout.

The project consists of three stages that run from April-July 2022. The first stage seeks to understand the current context related to geolocated digital health and wellbeing experiences in North East London and beyond, the second stage concentrates on stakeholder community engagement to imagine digital placemaking futures and the third stage delivers the findings.

A rich set of inclusive engagement activities has been designed, for both in-person and online interaction. The activities enable different forms of participation, use traditional as well as experimental methods and are scheduled to take place at different times in the day across May and June 2022. Each of the sessions aims to be creative, friendly and fun!  

Vicarage Field Barking 2022 crop
A current masterplan for Vicarage Field, Barking, includes a new healthcare facility as well as 900+ new homes.

About the team

The NHS NEL team and Calvium are working together closely to deliver this valuable research exploring innovative healthcare futures. The project is being led by NHS North East London’s Estates and Infrastructure team.

Calvium’s Dr Jo Morrison is project principal. She has designed the research framework, will be facilitating some engagement sessions as well as writing the final reports. Saliha Ahmed will direct all associated digital and print design and Matt Vostikas McLean guides the technical investigations. Roisin Alvy is leading the project management and Marisa Harlington coordinates external communications.

Specialists have joined Calvium to undertake specific activities:                                                                                                        .

  • Obsurvant are conducting an online survey focused on North East London. They specialise in unlocking high quality survey data by harnessing the latest research technologies.
  • Play:Disrupt creates playful community engagement activities across sectors in built environment, health and wellbeing and the arts to build better conversations with stakeholders.
  • Nataly Raab is a community engagement leader, creative facilitator and urban planning strategist with specialist experience in participatory projects in cities.                   .

Throughout the project, the NHS NEL and Calvium team plans to share information about this exciting and meaningful research.                                         .

If you would like to speak to someone about the project or if you live in North East London and would be interested in participating, please email:

  • Louise Phillips, Associate Director of Infrastructure – louise.phillips11@ 
  • Jo Morrison, Calvium –


Calvium circle logo