tematisk workshop 2

26 augusti 2015
ArkDes, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm 

Läs mer om Seismic-mötet nedan på engelska. 

SEiSMiC Meeting in Stockholm  

The second NaNet meeting in Sweden took place on the 26th of August 2015 in Stockholm at ArkDes, the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design. After inspiring presentations 80 workshop participants teamed up to discuss grass roots initiatives and social innovators and their role in urban development.

The second meeting in the Swedish SEiSMiC national network was held back to back with the conference ArkDes Talks: Reprogramming the City. The conference showcased examples from the ongoing exhibition of how cities can be more efficient by adding new functions in existing underused urban spaces. In a panel discussion it was discussed how cities can become better at taking on board new ideas and make them become reality, using these examples as a starting point.

The Seismic meeting in the afternoon provided an opportunity to dive more deeply into this topic. The meeting was moderated by Caroline Dahl, researcher, architect and urban planning specialist who explained the strong interest for the grass rot perspective and the seminar that participatory planning and the involvement of civil society has been discussed since the 70-ies but that there are now signs that citizens are taking concrete action to get involved in the making of the everyday city.

The meeting started with three inspiring presentations. Carl Arnö from Tyréns and former project manager
at Umeå municipality showed several examples of citizen initiatives in the public space in Umeå and shared experiences from when Umeå was the Cultural capital of Europe with the motto of Co-creation. Katarina Fredrika and Amanda Larsson both talked about their experiences from the urban project area Kvarnholmen in Nacka south of Stockholm. Katarina Fredrika, artist and renewal strategist employed by the municipality of Nacka, showed how the municipality is involving the people living in the area in creating new spaces, such as playgrounds and green areas. Amanda Larsson,  founder of Magiska barnarkitekter (Magic kids architects) and Magiska Trädgården (Magic garden) is focusing her work to children’s right to the city and creating different small scale building projects. Katarina described that her strategy was to focus on the people who want to be involved, ignore the unwilling and to emphasize the playful parts of the projects. Amanda Larsson described how she had gone from being good at talking to children about the city to also being skilled at talking to other professionals about children’s needs and aspirations for the city.

The role of grass root initiatives

Participants were divided in eight groups for discussions on how grassroots and social innovators can work
together with cities administrations and other actors in shaping the city. Projects from the ArkDes exhibition Reprogramming the City and the inspirational presentations was used  as a starting point to identify success factors, barriers and needs for knowledge and structural change with the aim of  formulating issues to be addressed at the upcoming SEiSMiC Forum in Brussels in November. The groups discussed why it is important for local authorities to listen to grass root initiatives, social innovation initiatives and activism movements. Furthermore which professions could play a vital role in urban development processes and if structural changes are needed to enable social innovators and grass roots initiatives to have more influence, changes such as organizational preconditions, cultural mind sets and cooperation traditions.

Democracy was mentioned as the most important reason for municipalities to embrace initiatives from
grassroots and local action groups and furthermore that cities need to capture the creativity of civil society in order to find acceptable solutions to complex societal challenges. During the day several examples was described of how city administrations are trying new approaches to dialogues and involvement, mapping existing initiatives and actions, seeking dialogues in spaces where people already are, flee markets, shopping centers etc. Making the most of what is already there, inviting local action groups to take part in the reprogramming of areas in transition is also part of the new approach. Many participants mentioned other European city authorities’ ways of working, for example the Berlin city pool of process leaders.

In order to let grass root initiatives to thrive and last long cities can lower the bureaucratic barriers, show
strong and courageous leadership and demonstrate faith in the process, include other professions than architects in the project groups and engage external process leaders with the mandate to catalyst processes. There is not one single working model, sometimes the city administration needs to step in and give legitimacy  or even take over a project and sometimes it is better to ignore the project to let is survive outside the structures.  Social innovators and grassroots on their part can be more active and start in a small scale and apply for permit to scale up. The building industry and the financial institutes are other important players – today there is no working business model for temporary projects for example.  

Finally it was concluded that we need to further develop and refine the dialogue and participatory processes as well the processes for learning from past experiences. We need to apply a learning perspective. During the day the participants gave valuable input from their own experiences and projects, both from success stories and when projects have met barriers. All in all a great contribution from the Swedish NaNet to the SEiSMiC Forum in November.

> Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design