A laneway is often occupied by a number of different types of individuals. These can range from long-term building and apartment owners, investors, commercial tenants (across various industries) and short-term residents. 

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Each group has different needs, motivations and expectations. The key is to understand who the different groups in the specific laneway are, what their characteristics are (e.g. a behaviour trait) and, finally, what is important to them. This will help you identify who would be best to approach and involve in your program. 

Your task is to uncover who has the most to gain from the program, who feels the most passionate about the program, who is prepared to commit time, effort and/or funds, and who has a level of influence in the laneway. These individuals or group of individuals become your target group

There is no limit to the number of target groups but keep in mind that less is often best. Avoid the temptation to go overboard and nominate everyone in the laneway as a target group. For example, you might identify 4–6 very distinct target groups – each one is different in how they’d benefit from the program or their level of involvement. 

How to get started

1. Learn more about who occupies your laneway

Each laneway will be different. 

The first step is to create a list of all of the different types of people that are currently part of the laneway. These might be individuals that live, work, own property, lease property or regularly visit the laneway. Also identify how they are connected to the laneway. 

The second step is to find the commonalities (similarities) between all of the individuals to identity groups. 

In Melbourne

Through our research, we found that most the common groups in a Melbourne inner city laneway are:

  • Short-term residential tenants who are renting an apartment / house
  • Long-term residential tenants who are renting an apartment / house
  • Commercial tenants who are running a business in the laneway
  • Onshore building owners who are leasing out a residential space
  • Offshore building owners who are leasing out a residential space
  • Apartment owners who currently reside in the space
  • Building owners who are leasing out a commercial space
  • Members of an Owners Corporation Committee
  • Regular visitors of a laneway (e.g. employees of a business located in the laneway)

2. Develop a rich picture of who they are 

Once you’ve identified who occupies the laneway, you need to develop an understanding of who they are and what is important to them – all within the context of living, working or regularly visiting the laneway. 

The best way to uncover this is to speak to them directly. Avoid relying on your own assumptions as you’ll most likely miss or misinterpret something. Set aside some time to conduct a few informal interviews (e.g. catch up over coffee) to uncover the following: 

Their current needs

Uncover what is important to the individual (e.g. their priorities).

For example, in Melbourne we found that residents of inner city laneways would like to see an improvement in the cleanliness and safety of their street. Laneways are often used to store large commercial rubbish bins or can be a common place for crime to occur. 

“Of course I would be interested in a program that would help clean up my laneway and make it an even better place to live.” 

Olivia, apartment owner & resident

Their wishes and expectations of the laneway 

Learn about what would make the laneway a more pleasant place to live, work or visit.

Many of Melbourne’s laneway businesses are investing a lot of time and effort in increasing visitor rates and footfall, as their laneways may be hidden and off the beaten track. 

“Anything to have people look down the laneway is a good thing. I’m all for getting more people to walk down this laneway, instead of it being a parking zone for cars and rubbish bins.”

Justin, business owner

Their frustrations

Investigate if there are any barriers that hinder someone from achieving their desired tasks.

For example, businesses we spoke to expressed their frustrations of the lengthy and costly process in applying for Council permits. Additionally, hospitality businesses are required to apply for Council permits to extend seating areas into the laneways. 

“Applying for Council permits is painful, I’m sorry. If it wasn’t for that, I would be able to do so much more.” 

Camila, marketing manager at a laneway business

Their concerns 

Investigate what worries individuals and stops them from initiating change in their laneway. 

For instance, many of Melbourne’s laneway residents shared their difficulties by engaging other members in their building to make key decisions (e.g. maintenance needs of the building). It can often feel like an ‘uphill battle’ that is best avoided where possible. Unfortunately, Ideas for change often don’t make it very far. 

“It’s not an easy process. Everyone has their own priorities and it can be difficult to reach a consensus. Sometimes it's easier to just avoid interacting with the others [in the building].”

Ken, apartment owner & resident

Their relationship with the program owner 

Unpack what their relationship with the program owner is and how this could potentially impact their experience and willingness to get involved in the program. 

For instance, in our research we found that some business owners and residents have had bad experiences engaging with the Council – the owner of the ‘Green your Laneway’ program in Melbourne. It is important to acknowledge this mindset and identify effective ways in addressing this concern during future interactions. 

“Why should I fund it [the program]? The Council has plenty of money.” 

Charles, apartment owner & resident

3. Identify who your target group is

Now that you have a better understanding of who occupies a laneway, define who has the most to gain from the program, who will be the most passionate in getting involved and/or who can offer the most in return (e.g. time, funds, networks). 

The nominated target groups become the primary group of your program. You will design and deliver a program based on who is part of the primary group and what is important to them. 

It’s essential to remember that other groups are not excluded from the program, they are just not part of the primary group. 

In Melbourne 

Through our research we identified that the target groups for Melbourne’s ‘Green your Laneway’ program are:

  • Commercial tenants who are running a business from the laneway
  • Apartment owners who currently reside in the space
  • Building owners who are leasing out a residential space
  • Building owners who are leasing out a commercial space
  • Members of an Owners Corporation Committee