Milly is an urban researcher, planner, and designer whose work explores socially just, economically inclusive, and environmentally sustainable approaches to urban development.
Milly is currently developing Inhabitant, our research initiative which seeks to gather post occupancy feedback from the people who experience our projects every day. She is working to analyse qualitative interview data and create internal ‘feedback loops’ which will support evidence-led design and placemaking across our practice.
Alongside her role with us, Milly works one day per week as a Research Assistant for the Trusting Communities: Principles of Community Ownership and Stewardship project at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. The project is exploring community ownership structures across a range of assets such as land, housing, and energy.
What challenge is the industry currently facing in relation to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)?
I think the main challenge is ‘washing’ in all of its forms. Greenwashing, social value washing, you name it. There’s a risk of organisations changing their working practices slightly to fit a certain metric or framework, but not really addressing the systemic and interlocking challenges that we’re facing.
This issue is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to work on Inhabitant. I feel that using qualitative alongside quantitative approaches to POE – directly talking to the people whose lives are impacted by our designs and developments – is essential to understanding whether our schemes have achieved our ambitions for positive impact.
Biggest career influence?
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked for a food co-op which supports agroecological farming in the place where I grew up. We worked in a huge range of areas, from developing procurement processes and producing research papers, to hosting community engagement dinners. My then-boss and now-friend India Hamilton had an incredible way of totally disregarding the typical boundaries of projects. Working with her really opened my eyes to the importance of big picture “systems thinking” when trying to understand complicated problems and bring about any kind of social change.
Tell us about a project you find inspiring.
There’s a project called We Can Make in Bristol, which is absolutely fantastic. It’s a community land trust which is building affordable homes with locally sourced materials, using a modular approach which can be adopted and adapted to multiple contexts. Their approach is truly collaborative, sharing their ‘build your own’ kits and hosting neighbourhood organising events like ‘Retrofit Reimagined’ where people share ideas on how to enact positive change at the local level. Their work is both practical and visionary, which I find really inspiring.
Interesting fact that nobody knows about you?
My great-grandpa was a man called James Blyth, and was supposedly the first person to convert wind energy into electricity using a home-made turbine in his garden in Scotland.
- RICS and RTPI accredited MSc Urban Design and City Planning