Event-based Models


The event-based model centers around programming and activation. The model involves temporary alteration or creation of public spaces to make them conducive to social gathering for a defined period of time - an evening, a full day, a season, etc. This section of the guide describes a number of case studies for event-based stewardship models.


An event-focused approach to public space management often leads to strong and visible successes in the realm of activation and programming. Events provide a good incentive for the public to gather and linger, and this can help build sustainable momentum around a public space, making it a desirable destination for more spontaneous and informal gatherings outside of the formal event structure. By providing many people with positive social experiences in a space, events can help solidify a broad base of support for a site.

Event-based stewardship models can help managers and other stakeholders define clear roles, often due to a permit structure which requires that all parties to create detailed plans for liability, event design, set-up and clean-up. In many cases, the event-based model requires the lead public space manager to build partnerships with companies or organizations outside of their industry. For example, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society worked closely with local bars and restaurants to create a series of new public spaces through a series of seasonal beer gardens in 2013 and 2014.


One key weakness of the event-based model is that activation and programming are temporary. With this model, a space may be activated and well-cared for around an event, but then abandoned at other times. It is not a guarantee that the parties who are leaders in events continue to be involved as stewards of the space. Events can also be quite time-consuming and labor intensive for small organizations or individuals. An events-based management model has the potential to lead to fatigue and burn-out if the responsibilities are not shared.

Seattle Festival Street Program | Seattle, WA (Photo: Flickr user Litlnemo)
People in Plazas | San Francisco, CA (Photo: People in Plazas Facebook page)
Pop-up Beer Gardens | Philadelphia, PA (Photo: Flickr user TC Davis)