The ideals to discuss and to create alternatives towards issues such as urban poverty; the urgency to have more democratic and participative urban planning projects, giving a fair response to the needs of the newcomers and war victims; the privatization or public spaces; and the negative effects of gentrification, were the central issues of this four-day meeting in Amsterdam, at the City Makers Summit, together with so many projects that make the difference everyday, on a local, regional, national and international level.
The idea of city-making is a political movement.
A movement that includes anyone willing to claim a city that promotes direct action with a stronger participative power, supporting visible changes on the urban and social programme.
Claiming the right to public spaces ( or the heterotopian spaces that Lefebvre used to claim) as a “survival strategie”, we are also confronting all the social and political movements that make our desire to (re)build the city real.
The idea of citizen participation is an old concept, but it still stimulates us everyday. Already in 1969, Sherry Anstein used to openly defend in her book entitled A Ladder of Citizen Participation that “citizenship participation is the power of citizens”.
She couldn’t be more right!
The circular city
We are now living times of inequality, not only on a local level, but also on an European level. Among other problems, the affordable housing crisis, the increasing privatization of the public space, or the increasing urban poverty, promote exclusion and alienation of many communities.
As a response to that, New Europe Cities in Transition brought together many city makers from all over Europe, in order to present solutions and good practices of radical, resilient, cooperative and multicultural cities.
Citizenship Academy (represented by Joana Dias and Sara Aranha), was also here to raise awareness about many of the effects caused by many political strategies, and to talk about one of the biggest tragedies of today’s cities: the urban poverty.
The debate was formed by several participations coming from a big variety of countries such as Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic or Belgium. At the end of the day, many were the outputs to think about collective strategies that foment a new idea democracy in our cities in transition!
Together we all agree that cities have to be circular, and many were the projects presented that are being developed by that concept/ that are developing that concept. Initiatives and organizations such as Urban Helsinki, Okus Doma, Ex Rota Print, Urban Gorillas, La Borda ou Locality, prove us that, what many considered an utopia, is actually possible: communitarian entrepreneurship, social action, alternative economies, grassroots movements, participatory urbanism, co-housing or local initiatives managed by the inhabitants.
So we spent the time between meetings, workshops and conversations.
The second day of the Summit was definitely inspiring. The project Caracola was the proof that work in community can be sustainable.
Similar to Lisbon, many are the unused or abandoned places in Maastricht. Its use (temporary or not) for cultural, social and creative initiatives is one of the main strategies of urban regeneration in many Dutch cities – very rewarding, not only for the owners, who avoid the degradation or illegal occupation of their spaces, but also for the organizations that have the chance to explore a space and its areas, with affordable prices.
Would also these initiatives make sense in the city centre of our Lisbon?
Caracola has been developing something that, in my opinion, is becoming one of the most sustainable and creative alternatives of the last years: urban regeneration through culture and local initiatives. As a cultural and social center this project is, at the same time, creative hub and coworking space, non-fomal educational center and a meeting place where they even make homemade pizza together! Even better: they have been developing this project together with the community and with the support of the municipality.
When I asked them how are they getting the financial support that is so important, the answer was simple: first, the founders agreed on a cheaper rent for a two-year period. “And then what?”. After that, either the the contract is renovated or they continue the project somewhere else. Simple as that.
Besides that, they have the contribute of the Startups renting part of the place; the support of the municipality and the donations of the community.
Like Lisbon, Maastricht is a city of constant transformations due to its economical e demographical changes. Initiatives such as Dekor Fabriek – an old factory that became a space where designers and creative people can show and present their works; or Belvedere Maastricht, an urban development project that aims to create a new cultural district for smaller entrepreneurs, creative and cultural enthusiasts. Both projects are a step further on social innovation and they were born in response to the necessity of affordable housing and working spaces.
The industrial areas are still the cheapest ones and also the most charming.
Like everywhere in the Netherlands, we had to explore the projects on a bike until the end of the day. It was also really important to be part of an international group like that, with whom we shared and discussed good practices, knowledge and strategies of each country!
The Impact of Amsterdam was also one of the many initiatives in this City Makers Summit, as the beginning of a stronger relationship between countries. To promote social innovation and collaborative city-making was the new start for many ideas. Among them, it was highlighted the importance for:
- citizenship participation on the building the city;
- to facilitate the access to budget, though communitarian practices and alternative economies;
- to enable a reinterpretation and to redefine a better regulation in order to protect the common goods, like the principle of equality, inclusion and diversity;
Citizenship Academy was also here, hoping to contribute to a more visible and participatory urban change, because in the city, we create the alternatives.
The makers of the city of alternatives!
Translation support: Rafaela Fonseca
@Pakhuis de Zwijger