Charlotte Eloise Stancioff
Institute for mediation and conflict management
arki_lab Designing Cities with People
arki_lab has extensive knowledge and experience with co-design and engagement. Their first hand knowledge of citizen involvement will ensure an inclusive and conflict-free process.
Cities are in a perpetual state of renewal, particularly in Europe, where buildings & public spaces have faced numerous transformations. Our project focuses on the multifamily building typology. These buildings are often deemed unsafe and unsustainable. We propose a comprehensive engagement process that aims to renovate a building and public spaces into an inclusive, safe and liveable area. A critical goal is to ensure that the final outcomes are embraced and sustained by the end-users.
We will work in the suburbs of all cities in Bulgaria, starting with the suburbs of Sofia.
Lack of socially and environmentally sustainable solutions have been prevalent throughout Eastern Europe. Even as larger cities start to adapt new methods of living and moving, smaller cities have been mostly forgotten in the transformation process. Even if the renovations and upgrades are implemented, they’re mostly cookie cutter solutions that don’t address the local knowledge or the socio-cultural context. Our engagement process aims to develop renovation solutions that respond to the residents’ needs and ideas. One of the main goals of this process is to ensure social sustainability and create new networks within communities. By bringing together different user-groups we aim to establish new dialogues and partnerships that will help embed the design solutions in the community.
Many individuals across Eastern Europe and the Baltics live in multi-family housing. The residential inventory is over 50 Million sq. meters and has been steadily deteriorating, becoming insalubrious, and increasingly dangerous. As owners and governments do not have the necessary funding, cookie cutter and generic solutions are being used, distancing the residents further from their neighborhoods and communities. Meanwhile citizen engagement, in this context, has taken a different path due to a number of historic and cultural reasons. However innovative and inclusive engagement methods offer an opportunity to both create liveable and sustainable spaces and also introduce efficient methods for community engagement.
Buildings are concrete and tangible places in people’s lives. Most renovation processes are top-down, disconnected from the actual users, making it difficult for residents’ to envision and participate in the proposed development. Our proposed engagement process will be designed based on the user groups and challenges of the specific community. The process will include different engagement events, workshops and meetings that will activate different users in different ways. For instance arki_lab’s tool, arki_nopoly, an engagement board game brings different, sometimes conflicting stakeholders, around the same table to discuss and share their ideas to reach a common vision. Methods like these will be used to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, whether they’re young people or elderly.
The fundamental goal is to build a sense of ownership within the community by letting citizens contribute to the transformation of their neighborhood. Differing from only relying on traditional community meetings, we allow everyone to engage in the transformation of their cities, merging bottom-up and top-down approaches. By building engagement across stakeholder groups, we identify critical problems or needed improvements within the city’s buildings by giving the spotlight to residents. The tangible result will be an energy-efficient and socially sustainable building and public space renovation. But this will be the secondary goal to the community-building objectives. The process will also serve as a new and innovative way of doing community engagement in the Eastern European context.
Most current solutions for multi-family building upgrades in Eastern Europe disregard the actual end-user and present generic, lifeless ideas that don’t relate to the context at all. Our proposed engagement process wants to reverse this approach by applying inclusive and democratic methods to co-design and co-develop the ideas with the end-users. Our partners, arki_lab, have designed numerous engagement tools that can be customized for different workshops. From digital to analog methods, their process ensures that the end-users’ ideas are directly translated into the implementation phase, demonstrating that everyone’s voice and opinion matters. The process also fosters and strengthens community values by bridging the gap between different users and resolving conflicts.
We believe the benefits and advantages of community engagement processes have been mostly overlooked in building renovation in Eastern European countries. There is great value and continuity in built projects that reflects the end-users’ and stakeholders vision. This not only creates liveable and safe residences but also socially sustainable and active public spaces as well. The more people are involved in the process, the more they are invested in protecting and maintaining it. We believe that distancing urban development from citizens has pushed citizens to indifference, conflict and disinterest in their surroundings. We believe fostering community values and democratic development leads to strong and resilient cities.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
33000 2 project manager, 2 project advisors, 2 social media managers
6000 Server/platform dev
1000 IT maintenance and website
500 Travel for partner NGOs and team
500 Accommodation for partner NGOs and team
7000Media and Campaign including online ads, website, flyers, design, web video series
2000Workshop planning and implementation
I would love to learn if it makes sense, would they like to implement in their own situation? Have other organizations implemented similar projects and what was the final goal and feedback?