Expert session: Community Building

Knowing the others, learning form others

This expert session occurred during the New Europe City Makers Pre-Summit on the 4th and 5th of February at Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam.


How should we fuel the sense of community? Why community is so important? Community building entails the necessity to get together with a common goal from a local active view and a way to empower the society.

Community development is highly linked to community building as it mirrors how community gets together actively to encourage collective action against common problems in an specific area. Community development includes all aspects from sustainability, education, awareness and knowledge in neighbourhoods. Many initiatives are born from both community builders (areas becoming garden, theaters, kitchens, Do it yourself constructions, etc.) and community developers (urban farming, district business) seeking to improve the liability of neighbourhoods by sharing concerns.

Three workshops have been organised in which three organisations were represented. Each of them gave a different view and work in different issues regarding community building.

Jekaterina Lavrinec and Julius Laimikis (Laimikis)

The speakers introduced Co-design as a tool for community building in urban spaces.

“Co-design as the creation of the conditions for cooperating and mutual rethinking and reactivating urban spaces through creative activities.”

Workshop: the aim was to look into needs and resources to reshape urban spaces to turn them to share places. Where co-design in urban spaces has a great role as its involvement can bring people together.

As an example Jekaterina explained “Bubble the city initiative”. How such initiative can bring together a lot of people. She also emphasised how the idea of municipalities bringing new structures can threat bottom up initiatives. Empowering the community entails strong ties between different sectors as architects and other kind of experts who are involved. “It is always about the process and it never stops”

© Jitske Schols

Jekaterina and Julius presented the group with five different co-creation scenarios. The first scenario showed a flat with a shared garden. The second sketch displayed a shared space surrounded by shops, schools and apartments. The third one showed a street where the pavement belonged to all, but at the same one to no one. The last two scenarios were created by the group on the spot: an industrial area and a park. Jekaterina and Julius encouraged each group to first identify the needs of the displayed area, and secondly to identify the available resources. They showed how the community is key in changing neighbourhoods.

Heleen Van Praag (Ideeenbrouberij)

The organization invites people to make the city nicer and better with ideas to improve the city. They make the inhabitants participate by asking their ideas/initiatives in neighbourhoods.

Gouda sparkles is how they call  people when they get together, initiatives and co-creation, she explained. The main goal is to involve people in the coordination and cooperation process between organisations and the municipalities. To perform this task they share ideas, organizing meetings, they have a platform where people share projects and ideas.

Workshop: they tried to find successful factors for community building.

Joana Dias (Academia Cidada)

Joana started her introduction by comparing a community with “Functioning gear” to understand how a community works.

“All parties have to have a common participation. The more people participate, the stronger the community will grow.”

Workshop: Joana built the workshop around the obstacles for community organisation. Among these obstacles we found: lack of trust, ideologies, discussion vs dialogue, lack of common interest/ long term perspectives alienation, fear, individualism, possessions and rights, passivity, empathy and lack of space.

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