Good neighborhoods are not products or commodities like a car that can be engineered by experts on the drafting table. They need to grow on their own, like a plant. Investments in terms of money alone, are by far insufficient to develop a new neighborhood. Other forms of resources, like time, social networks, or creativity, are necessary. Houses can be bought and sold like commodities, but homes and neighborhoods must develop, they must grow. Because the physical elements are not the only aspects of neighborhoods, developers cannot be the only ones responsible for creating them. Neighborhoods need to come alive through a process of inhabitant involvement and community building. The social aspects, the development of social cohesion and community participation need to be supported and strengthened in urban planning and development.
This also shifts the perspective on the value of neighborhoods. If value is defined solely in physical terms, then “living” in houses and neighborhoods is regarded as diminishing the capital value, as “using it up”. However, unlike a product that is worth less when second hand, houses and neighborhoods often rise in value, like for example housing built in the twenties.
In this book we have developed a perspective on urban development where inhabitants are not seen primarily as consumers, but also as producers of neighborhoods, investing their money as well as their time, and their social and cultural activities into their surroundings. In this perspective the value of neighborhoods is not only judged by the state of their physical units and demolishing and rebuilding the physical is not the primary perspective to the development and upgrading of neighborhoods. Maintaining and strengthening the social networks of neighborhoods is seen as key and the Nest! is developed as a strategy to this end.
The Nest! project is based on a set of observations and principles that shape its innovative approach to urban planning:
General Principles include that people are not primarily considered as clients or as social problem cases, but as the richest asset municipalities have and that human development should therefore guide the process of urban planning. The best plans are made when those with the primary interest – the future inhabitants – are involved in developing them. Neighborhoods develop from a community process, rather than out of an engineering product. In this process diversity and an open and gradual development are important elements. Another element is bringing together different stakeholders so that they can reinforce one another, create a process of synergy and widen the scope of development. Planners and decision makers have much to learn from the grassroots. All inhabitants can contribute to urban development, no resources should go to waste
Productive partnerships between actors with different roles in society, for instance local authorities and the community, require a cultural and mental reorientation as well as enabling structures and training, but the process of city development benefits from including all.
Key element of the Nest! approach is to make productive use of vacant land, planning gaps and other unused assets in urban development. Another principle which has guided the design of the Nest! is that countries of the North can learn from the experiences and expertise of countries in the South. In industrialized countries of the North poverty exists both on the level of economically and socially excluded groups, as well as in form of qualitative poverty, the poverty of social relationships. An important development task in industrialized societies is to re-integrate the culture of care into public life.
Specific principles applied in the Nest! approach include that the project is implemented inside the existing legal context, and that limitations are explored and margins expanded in close collaboration with the authorities in charge of enforcing them. In the Nest! approach all people involved benefit and nobody is harmed in their interests. Costs involved for participants and partners do not exceed the benefits. Financial sustainability is in balance with social sustainability by making non-monetary assets and contributions visible and exchangeable with monetary assets and by stimulating economic exchange in a way that supports cooperation, social cohesion and community building.
Adjusting the social/physical balance in urban planning by up-grading the social aspects involves innovations in several areas of social policy. The Nest! as developed in this book contributes strategies and solutions to key dimensions and areas of social innovation:
In post industrial society, the knowledge economy is gaining significance. Accessing resources like talent and know how, is becoming crucial. Ways of identifying and developing talent reserves are a valid strategy to stimulate economic development. This implies acknowledging skills and competencies arising from informal settings and finding ways to mobilize and access them. It also points to the necessity of creating stimulating environments through urban planning, where creative minds like to dwell. This includes a social climate that acknowledges and stimulates diversity and creativity. Temporary settlements offer a way to create experimental space in urban centers that offer these qualities in a fashion that is both systematic and flexible.
The need to access untapped resources applies double in regard to socially and economically excluded groups, like migrants and refugees, people whose access to the labor market is blocked despite of the fact that they have many competencies. Current migrant policy is not equipped to channel the wealth of skills and talents which migrants and refugees bring with them into the host society. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed, even if the political goal may be for refugees and migrants to return to their country of origin: Studies show that it is those who do well in host countries who are more inclined to go back and contribute to the development of their home societies.
Migrants come from a background, where community orientation and care are part of everyday life and are embedded in strong social networks, something that is disappearing in the Northern countries. Acknowledging these orientations and skills as resources and providing channels for them to be integrated and contributed into the setting of host countries, is a challenge relating to key concerns of modern societies.
The Nest! offers ways to tap into these resources and engage them in productive development.
An important part of the resource orientation developed in the Nest! relates to innovative economic strategies. The dominant orientation towards market forces has created a duality between a highly productive labor force working ever longer hours and those excluded from productive work. This causes issues of polarization and social exclusion. The concept of a community economy is developed as a strategy to bridge this gap. Community economy is an economy that makes use of and validates all resources in the community. Within the parameters of a local economy, different resources and assets, like time, money, knowledge, or care, can be validated and made exchangeable. In the Nest! the economic power of neighborhoods is enhanced by linking and making optimal use of local resources that under normal circumstances are not being accessed.
New economic strategies like a community economy also involve a shift and readjustment of the balance between the social and the economic. The market economy tends to undermine social life rather than sustain it. Yet the world is growing towards greater interdependency. Awareness is increasing of the need to develop forms of associative cooperation that create win-win situations and take responsibility for the whole. Ways how economic value can be created by cooperation as well as how cooperation can be created by economic structures need to be further explored. The Local Economy System developed in the Nest! project suggests one way of how this can be done.
Another area where
innovation is needed to provide for the requirements of modern cities
involves new strategies of local governance. Blockages in urban development
in industrial countries are not caused by institutional weakness, but rather
by the contrary. It is because of exactly the strength and success of urban
planning in the
New governance as well economic strategies have implications for the welfare state. In times of a shrinking labor market the need for a redistribution of tasks and responsibilities between market forces, the state and civil society has become evident. In societies with a tradition of well organized and all-encompassing governmental services like the Netherlands, both the disincentives as well as the incentives and enabling structures for the stimulation of civic engagement and self help need to be carefully examined.
Studies show that voluntary work and engagement builds on acknowledgement (also monetary) of people’s skills and contributions. Voluntary engagement seems to happen as an extra to paid work, not as a substitute. This points to the need to reconsider the sharp boundaries and demarcations between state, market and the voluntary sector and to find ways for finding new combinations of employment and welfare, paid and unpaid work, primary and subsidized labor markets, which include subsidies for self help activities and the remuneration of voluntary work.
People are on welfare because they lack possibilities to contribute their capacities inside the formal economy. They can find themselves in this situation because they have no or the wrong diplomas, have mental or physical challenges, are too young or too old, are ill at ease with the structures and working environment of the labor market, or are at home taking care of dependents. These groups have few alternatives of actively transforming their talents and capabilities into monetary value, which leaves huge and much needed potential to go to waste.
This calls for the reduction of institutional and legislative barriers to economic activities outside of the formal economy, as well as for the loosening of regulations around applying work inside the welfare economy. In general, it calls for new concepts of welfare and stronger linkages and openings between the formal and informal sectors of society.
The projects developed in the Nest! develop pilot strategies of combining voluntary and remunerated work and the formal and informal economy that give important pointers for the reform of the welfare state.
In this book we explore the idea of setting up temporary settlements in urban development locations in the time gaps when the old use is discontinued but (re)development has not yet begun. The results of this exploration confirm that temporary settlements indeed relate to many of the above mentioned innovation needs and can contribute solutions to many of the major challenges in contemporary urban development.
Temporary settlements as developed in this book create exchange and win-win situations between groups and systems that usually are not linked. They provide affordable housing and temporary solutions to temporary weaknesses in the housing market.
They create a framework and opportunities for active participation of inhabitants in the development of their neighborhoods, thereby demonstrating how the concept of “more responsibility and participation of citizens” can be applied to the area of urban planning.
In the Nest! approach grassroots involvement is supported in a proactive perspective based on positive visions rather than as a protest movement . Community building is placed at the center and at the start of urban development. Settlements are structured as learning organizations thus contributing to a perspective of “learning cities”.
The Nest! mobilizes local resources, skills and talents, creates possibilities for validating all contributions and opens up ways to trade different forms of contributions and resources, on an equal basis. Favorable conditions for attracting pioneer energy and creativity are created as well as enabling conditions for developing the potential of informal learning and entering them to formal education as well as decision making processes. The Nest! is a learning laboratory for new ways of partnering in city development, and how to bridge as well as broaden public private partnerships.
Temporary settlements are a valuable contribution to the image and profile of the town in which they are located. They stimulate integration and social cohesion and contribute to high quality living environments by providing new services to families, elders and double earners.
The Nest! is a project of the Mother Center International Network mine. It basically up-scales the principles
of the internationally successful
The structures of public life have become more and more exclusive of children. They are relegated to “islands” in society, like childcare centers, playgrounds, or entertainment parks and events, which specifically target their needs. In the rest of society, they are basically structurally unwelcome. Traffic has made it too dangerous to play on the streets, increased distances have made children dependent on adults to chauffeur them around to the pockets in society intended for them. The scope in which children can autonomously explore their own environment has become increasingly limited. Mobility and a “footloose” society have created residential environments that become anonymous to the degree that inhabitants seek and live their social networks elsewhere. Children and other dependents are the ones most vulnerable to a society that has de-linked social contacts and social networks from neighborhoods and urban space. The urban environment has become adapted to those who are the strongest. For children and other dependents, environments are safe and supportive as well as stimulating, when there is adult presence, when people feel a basic responsibility for each other, when everyone watches out for each other. This is no longer a given. It takes conscious efforts and policies to reconstruct this kind of quality in our urban environments.
The Nest! project attracts people willing and able to spend time in
the neighborhood, bringing life, services, small businesses, diversity and
cultural richness to the settlement. Through the community building projects
Present alternatives often demand a choice: either a neighborhood is urban and has aliveness, but too dangerous for children to grow up in, or it has (parking-) space, comfort and a green environment, but is boring. The Nest! combines the best of both worlds, a village in the city.
This is the kind of surroundings children need to be safe, to be able to explore their surroundings autonomously, to build up their own contacts and networks in the neighborhood and to receive many impulses and learning opportunities from their immediate environment.
Families face a lack of support services for the care of children, elderly and other dependents. These gaps are both quantitative and qualitative in nature. In trying to juggle ever more complex roles and realities, and a changing demographic composition of society, families face a growing need for affordable services. Such services are often too expensive if organized by commercial forces. Institutionalizing care services by the state welfare system has proven to have quantitative as well as qualitative limits. Institutional services are often seen as lacking in flexibility, and, especially in the case of eldercare, in personal involvement and individual attention.
Mother Centers have developed a range of services to meet this demand, ranging from babysitter-referral services, drop-in childcare, eldercare, hot lunches, pick-up, transport and accompaniment services for children and elderly, delivery services, janitor services, or household and gardening services. What characterizes these services is that they are affordable, flexible, customized to local and individual needs and that they have a family-like quality.
In the Nest! Project these services are up-scaled to the level of the whole settlement, involving all groups of residents both on the supply as well as on the demand end.
Women are central to urban planning and development, as they are both key users as well as key producers of residential environments. Due to a gender specific division of labor, it is mostly women who take on the majority of care work and reproductive tasks and responsibilities in families and neighborhoods. Women tend to spend more time in the homes and in the communities than men. Thus they often have a lot of practical knowledge of what is needed in the built environment, the local infrastructure, and the design of public space and public services, in order to meet the needs of all members of the family. It is important to include this knowledge and expertise in neighborhood planning and development.
Especially internationally, women’s participation and leadership is becoming one of the key developmental issues. Long term community processes are seen as more likely to be holistic and sustainable, when women are central to the process. UN Habitat has made the involvement of women a key indicator for success. Women’s leadership in local governance has proven to often be more inclusive and more effective. This is because women tend to take the perspectives and needs of all groups into consideration, not only the views of the quick, the articulate, the most powerful and influential. Women create alliances across divisive social categories and traditions. They often take the lead in peace building and weaving the social fabric of neighborhoods.
knowledge, expertise and leadership potential of women is an integral part of
the Nest! Project. The
The trend to compartmentalization and segmentation among generations in contemporary society contributes to the alienation of neighborhoods. Multigenerational meeting points and activities are rare. Homogeneous neighborhoods generate mobility. People go elsewhere for the various functions in their lives. As neighborhoods and their inhabitants grow older and less mobile, homogeneity and the need for mobility becomes a greater problem. On the long run diverse neighborhoods in terms of population, age and interests, can adapt better to (demographic) changes and challenges. They develop more opportunities for complimentary needs and services. Current debates often paint negative scenarios of an over-aging society. At the same time, government involvement and budgets in caring for the elderly are being reduced, leaving more work for family members.
The Nest! provides in-between solutions. The available means for care-giving are spread over a larger group of informal care-givers in the neighborhood, thus providing family like care without over-burdening families. The Nest! Project contributes to a vision of multigenerational living, in which the interests and needs of young and old do not necessarily contradict or mutually exclude each other. The Nest! pilots a perspective on urban planning that integrates the generations, by providing housing options to all generations and by creating new concepts of care and innovative close to home services. Such a perspective is also shaped by including opportunities in the Nest! design for active contribution and participation on a multigenerational basis and by not limiting economic and social validation of contributions to “high achievers”.
IV) Benefits of Temporary Settlements
In the field of construction and urban planning it is not only the visible factors like the physical environment and building-style that guide consumer choices. To a great extent the more soft factors like the social structures of neighborhoods, their image, their identity determine the choice where people settle. People like to live in a neighborhood that is considered “in”, that they can take pride in, that people talk about.
The temporary settlement adds community and liveliness to the neighborhood. It creates attractions and events, that give the area prestige, recognition and visibility. The activities in the temporary settlement go beyond cultural events and leisure activities, they create a social anchoring point in the neighborhood that can prevent decline. They allow for a build up of ‘history’ of the location and for a continuous flow of inhabitant involvement and creativity, the soft investments of neighborhoods.
Inhabitants of newly developed neighborhoods often find themselves under double pressure. They have to combine a busy job and care tasks in an area that is often not (yet) ready to provide services. There can be quite a time gap between the arrival of the first inhabitants and the full operational functioning of shops, services, transport and other businesses.
The strong points of the temporary settlement is time and flexibility. It attracts people with the necessary skills and networks to identify needs and locate resources. Gaps in the planning and delivery of services can be filled in on the spot by people with the ambition and energy to invest into their surroundings, and with the creativity and ideas to design unusual solutions. The temporary settlement can offer targeted services that help residents cut themselves loose from the viscous circle of having little time, working a lot, traveling far and having even less time. Services are available from the start before residents have found their (high)way to services and businesses outside of their neighborhood.
The temporary settlement ensures that especially in the beginning stages of a new development there is presence in the neighborhood. This is important for security as well as for social cohesion and liveliness. The temporary settlement functions as a kind of social “warming up” of a neighborhood, creating a range of small businesses, places to meet, social and cultural events and activities that ensure that public space is animated also outside of traffic rush hours.
The temporary settlement offers a range of possibilities to participate in community life. Some residents will be interested in joining the various projects and activities. Others will mainly be interested in the available services and not in getting active in the neighborhood. It does not take the whole of a population to create community life and a social climate in a neighborhood. It takes an active segment, to which others can link to in a more consumer way. The temporary settlement can provide this active segment and provide easy access for others to link up to community.
The Folding Chairs of the Housing Market
First and foremost, the temporary settlement provides housing in the sectors where the shortage is felt the most acutely. Temporary settlements create low cost housing for starters on the housing market and allow for flexible solutions to supplement existing processes. On the longer term the real shortage is in the upper segments of the market, so it is only appropriate that the solution be temporary. Meanwhile accessing an undeveloped potential on the housing market can help bring back more speed into the housing production.
Creative Neighborhoods as an Element of City Branding
Temporary settlements open up spaces for experimentation and are a way to attract and involve creative forces into urban development. This gives municipalities a competitive edge, and helps attract creative people to the city. The city can profile itself as an innovative and a learning city.
Temporary settlements in development areas also open up possibilities of lessening the burden in other neighborhoods by giving groups whose potentials are blocked a place to go. It is like an outlet or outsourcing strategy, so that challenges are not concentrated in one neighborhood. Problems in one part of town can become part of the solution in another part of the town.
Increased Quality of permanent Housing
The building organization for self commissioned housing suggested in the Nest! Project (Chapter 8) allows for more individual choices, attracting families who like to have more say on the design and details of their future home. This allows a direct link to clients, they are not an anonymous market, but become partners in building, thus allowing a mare targeted adjustment to their wishes, preferences and priorities. Houses can have a better price/quality relation and fit peoples wishes better if they are commissioned privately.
The Nest! Project involves a strategic approach to citizen involvement and participation. It creates engagement and participation of the inhabitants by creating a sense of ownership, identification and belonging. By organizing a process, where inhabitants actively shape and invest in their neighborhoods, an additional player is introduced to urban planning. By serving their own interests and realizing their dreams, inhabitants have valuable perspectives and contributions to offer to city development.
Such a process can expose the physical forces in urban planning to a social dynamic that can greatly improve the quality of city development. Participation opportunities also give potential opponents a way to voice their issues and can integrate opposing energies into a constructive process.
Finally, opening up civic participation in development processes give traditional developers and construction businesses new partnership opportunities. They can get involved in processes outside their normal professional realm. They are given an economic opening to be closer to social processes, that often stay out of their perspective, but that are very important if “houses” are also to be “homes”.
temporary settlement involves tools to develop citizens
skills like self initiative and collective responsibility. Local knowledge
and talents are transformed into a development resource by making them
accessible and operational. This result or “product” of the
temporary settlement is not temporary. It enriches the city beyond the scope and
duration of the temporary settlement itself. The focus on knowledge building
and documentation provided by the Nest!
The issue of youth is a prevailing concern for many neighborhoods. If there are not enough activities and opportunities for young people in a neighborhood they quickly tend to be seen as a “public nuisance” hanging around in the streets and making noise with their scooters. Youth can be a great resource too, if they are able to link up to interesting endeavors and use their energy in a constructive way.
The temporary settlement creates a range of attractive projects and activities in the neighborhood, to which young people can contribute their time, creativity, energy and ideas. Motivating and engaging the next generation in active participation and shaping of the urban environment, is a crucial contribution to the stability and sustainability of urban settlements. The Nest! has the potential to score highly in this respect. Especially since this can be done in an intergenerational context, in which the talents and skills of different generations can inspire and cross-fertilize each other.
Besides creating more balance between the physical and the social in urban development, the Nest! also stimulates economic development by accessing unused resources and opening up new markets in the field of housing and services in a variety of ways which we summarize below:
With the temporary settlement, land that temporarily lies idle before development, is put to use productively. Human resources that are blocked or hidden are mobilized and entered into economic channels. Groups who normally only consume, become producers. Economic force is consolidated by assembling and matching local resources, by federating and associating, by developing new partnerships and by encouraging economic initiative:
For groups whose access to the formal labor market is difficult, the Nest! offers opportunities to apply their knowledge, skills and resources. This way they can grow towards economic self sufficiency and develop economic initiative in a semi-protected environment. By linking entrepreneurial activities in the framework of local networks, economic chances are expanded.
During the time period that construction of a new neighborhood has started, but is not yet finished, small-scaled community businesses and services can thrive that under normal circumstances could not (or barely) exist. They can fill the vacuum and temporally have a monopoly, which gives them a good head start for consolidation into permanence.
In the area of privately commissioned housing the strategy introduced is to divide the development process into two phases. Large scale mechanized works are commissioned by the temporary housing co-op and done by traditional contractors. More customized building is commissioned by individuals, assisted by the housing co-op. This way the headaches of privately commissioning are reduced to a minimum, while maintaining the maximum of advantages in terms of price and freedom of choice. At the same time this type of organization opens up a wider field of construction work to local craftsmen and small scale businesses on the building market. In this set-up the Nest! acts as an intermediary organization between private customers and contractors and officials. This makes privately commissioned housing more manageable on both sides. It also opens up a way for traditional developers to be involved in private commissioning while still applying their comparative advantage of scale and working method.
On the individual level the Nest! offers possibilities to consolidate family finances by engaging in income generating activities. There are also possibilities for building up savings, both by saving rent as well as by participating in the collective savings schemes. Saving in a group is an effective way of opening up financial opportunities beyond the scope available on individual level. It also is a way of creating the motivation and discipline needed to save regularly, also for people with no or low saving habits and track records.
For market forces the Nest! opens up new investment opportunities on both ends of the housing market. On the lower end the Nest! introduces low cost housing for groups like students, migrants or starter families, who have a hard time finding housing on the current market. This market segment has been monopolized by housing corporations. On the upper end of the market new packages of real estate and services will find an increasing demand.
There is a additional interesting point for market forces in the Nest! Project. Besides of more products that can potentially be marketed, the Nest! offers larger groups of people access to the existing ones. The group of potential customers for newly built housing increases. Starter families find in the Nest! possibilities to build up the means necessary to purchase a unit in new neighborhoods, through saving schemes and living cheaply for a few years. The interim housing opportunities in the temporary settlement also provides solutions to avoid losing clients in the time it still takes to get the newly developed settlement completed.
By making use of land prior to development in form of temporary settlements, delays in planning and development are not lost time (and money). Instead, during the interim period the land is made productive, by the economic activities and investments in the temporary settlement.
Delays in the development process mean that the settlement can remain longer in place, making the investments there more profitable. The temporary settlement from that perspective becomes an attractive investment to at least partially compensate for losses.
It is difficult to imagine temporality in a context where permanence is the norm. Although that should not be a reason to not do the experiment altogether, a solid risk management is needed to avoid dramas during the closure of the settlement. Reasons why the settlement would indeed be of a temporary nature are in the nature of the settlement itself, its organization and the pioneers.
The settlement consists of the most basic dwellings, that in a Dutch context in general will be described as ‘sub-standard’. When the housing market loosens up, they are the first to remain empty. The rental contracts are to be very clearly temporary, but more importantly, the organization of the Nest! will stimulate mobility. The temporary housing co-op works from the start on being dissolved. This implies finding buyers and possibly new locations for the housing units, but also assisting pioneers in finding permanent housing. As difficult as the market might be, five years tends to be more than enough to find a place well beyond the quality of a trailer-home.
The clearest prediction on the fate of the inhabitants can be made by looking at their motives for coming to the settlement in the first place. Basically the temporary settlement will attract two kinds of inhabitants. People who are interested in temporary housing as a stage in their lives and people who are interested in temporary housing as a step towards realizing permanent housing.
Examples of the first category are for instance students, for whom temporary housing coincides with a temporary period in their lives. After their studies they move on to other locations and other phases in their life. Artists as well are often interested in temporary space and arrangements as a life style, in order to move on to other challenges and continuous inspirations. For the group of pensioners, that use the temporary settlement on a part time basis, the housing will function like a summer vacation place. Such second houses are used for a limited period of time and alternatives are widely available when the settlement discontinues.
Groups belonging to the second category will be interested in the temporary settlement as a stepping stone towards their goal of permanent housing. These are for instance starter families, who use the low rent to grow towards a more permanent solution. Growing towards this permanent solution in another setting is one of the objectives the settlement is actively working on. This makes it different from for example a squat, where maintaining and upgrading the squat itself into permanence is of importance. The more support the pioneers get in moving on, the less likely they will be to have any interest in remaining on the stepping stone. For the low income groups amongst the starters, like refugees, it is the most difficult to move on and find permanent housing. It cannot be predicted yet if and when the housing market will loosen up. Still their chances are increased by the networking skills they obtain in the Nest!. An important aspect of risk management in the temporary settlement, involves actively supporting the pioneers to access social housing, while they live in the temporary settlement.
A final reason why it is unlikely that problems will arise in ending the settlement, is in the character of the pioneers. The squat movement has been made up of a protest potential, that is more willing to enter conflict situations than the pioneers foreseen as the inhabitants of the temporary settlement. The Nest! pioneers will be co-owners, which also increases and stimulates a responsible behavior.
The question about ideology is often asked in regard to what is required of inhabitants that are interested in moving to the temporary settlement. Do they need to commit to a communal way of living? Are there expectations and demands regarding the amount of time and engagement they invest in the temporary settlement?
The answer is very simple: no.
There is no mandatory idealism, no ideals to sign up for or participation commitments required to live in the temporary settlement. The Nest! offers opportunities that are taken on, because they link to self interests. Participation in the projects and activities of the Nest! is voluntary and will happen to the degree that it can be linked to personal interests. For many the temporary settlement will simply mean an affordable place to live, a good balance between low price and acceptable quality. For others there will be other aspects involved that attract their interest and participation: income generating opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, saving opportunities, education and knowledge building opportunities, creative opportunities, opportunities to take initiative, voice opinions and take influence, opportunities to meet and interact with others, opportunities to experience community. Often even motivations that seem more “ideological”, like “making a difference” or “contributing to society” might very well be the wrapping of a self interest, like adventure, having fun, meeting people, or being where the action is.
temporary settlement will have social effects. These are the consequence of
these self interests, the result of people following their inclinations and
priorities. This can be demonstrated by the example of the Mother Centers.
Participants in Mother Centers are attracted to the project, not because they
want to contribute to the social cohesion in the neighborhood, or to the
integration of migrants, but simply because they are looking for an
inexpensive cup of coffee in an environment that welcomes children. Their
self interest is that they feel isolated and are looking for communication
and contacts, or they want to lower their family expenses by finding cheap
second hand clothes or toys. This self interest is a perfectly valid reason
for attending. In fact the first person who goes to a
The temporary settlement is planned as a way to jump start social life and community in the newly developed neighborhood. Do the elements of liveliness, presence, social cohesion and interaction collapse, when the temporary settlement is gone, or what are the lasting effects in the new neighborhood?
To a certain extend the sparkle and the magic, will be gone once the temporary settlement is dismantled. That is no drama, because by that time it has played its role in bringing life to the new development.
Still, not all is gone with the pioneers, simply because some pioneers will stay in the neighborhood, and because of the experience and products the project leaves behind.
The projects like
Some of the service businesses might also be successful and flourish to the extent that they are consolidated and strong enough to continue business on another location after the temporary settlement is over. Through the events and activities over the time period of the temporary settlement, many neighbors of the new settlement will have gotten to know each other and social networks will have been established in the neighborhood.
Besides of the permanent neighborhood being exposed to the Nest!, a number of the pioneers will also remain in the permanent neighborhood. They will take along the Nest! experience as they move into one of the self commissioned houses or the rental houses in the neighborhood. This way they transfer the community experience, the spirit and social networks built up in the temporary settlement to the permanent neighborhood.
Finally, there is the learning experience of the Nest! that remains. That in the end is the major accomplishment of the Nest!. During its existence it will generate a body of knowledge that is being put in practice on the spot, in the plan developed by the settlement, including a permanent housing project, which will reflect the learning experience in built form. The Nest! will shape the concept of a learning city as a permanent product.
Attracting well-to-do inhabitants is a strategy for physical and social sustainability in urban planning. The Nest! takes this approach one step further. For a period of time, groups of people are attracted, who under different circumstances could become part of a problem. In the Nest! they are considered “well-to-do inhabitants” in regard to the qualities required in that environment, notably to socially jump-start the neighborhood. “Mixing” is looked at in terms of attracting a mix of population in urban neighborhoods with different and exchangeable assets.
Supporting pioneer projects brings “gentrification” in a longer term. Innovations started by pioneers often develop into quite successful and established projects, resulting in a rise of status and real estate value of the area. This approach involves the following requirements:
▪Municipalities should create and support as integral part of their spatial planning pockets of experimentation in their cities, “hot-houses” of creativity and innovation, that are allowed to
operate with less rules and regulations than usual.
▪ Temporary settlements should be enabled and initiated wherever time and space gaps in urban planning allows for them.
▪ Risk takers and creative people need to be actively approached and involved, their contributions officially recognized and acknowledged.
▪ Municipalities should support and create enabling conditions for a local economy, for small shops and small-scale businesses.
should support neighborhood initiatives like
▪ Municipalities need to invest in ways to make use of the talents and skills of migrants and refugees.
▪ Opportunities and incentives need to be created to supplement welfare subsidies with paid work in the community.
▪ Inhabitants of temporary settlements need to stay inscribed for social housing while living in temporary housing and be encouraged to move on, when the market for social housing opens up.
▪ Temporary housing should have addresses, in order to allow the receiving of rental subsidy.
Next to the municipality and commercial developers cities need to be developed by citizens. The “users” of housing and cities are an important but neglected resource for urban development. This resource can be accessed by supporting enabling conditions for the development of self-help and citizen involvement. This involves allowing more space for inhabitants to provide for their own needs and develop their own solutions. It also requires equitable partnerships with community initiatives in spatial planning. This is not a question of friendly intentions and non-committal hearings and forums, or one-time consultations. This is a process that implies structural and long-term participation and commitment of inhabitants, which includes a re-balancing of influence and decision making, as well as the flow of resources and power.
Such an approach involves the following requirements:
▪ Municipal regulations need to allow for the direct involvement of the users in municipal decision making, especially in the first stages of urban planning. Participation in decision making should include the allocation of resources.
▪ Supportive infrastructures like childcare, transportation, peer exchanges, or leadership support systems need to be part of involving residents in municipal planning.
▪ Capacity building trainings in partnering skills need to be offered to all stakeholders in the process of participatory urban development.
▪ Outside facilitation should be hired to accompany partnership building processes between mainstream and grassroots stakeholders in urban planning.
▪ Direct funding titles for self-help initiatives need to be established, independent of established welfare organizations, housing corporations or state and municipal agencies.
▪ Municipalities need to invest in finding ways to accredit and certify knowledge derived from everyday experience and informal learning settings.
▪ Community education needs to be recognized and resourced as a sector in its own right.
▪ Monitoring, evaluation and audit mechanisms and indicators on the success of involving inhabitants in municipal policies and on the responsiveness of municipal policies to inhabitant priorities need to be established.
The Nest! approach is targeted towards engaging inhabitant participation in community development and urban planning. This is a phased process. In the first phase an intermediary agency is necessary to initiate the project. Tasks of the intermediary organization is to identify a location, as well as to identify and engage development partners and pioneers for the temporary settlement.
The intermediary agency has an important role in the initiating stage of the Nest! Project. It acts as a facilitator of the process and as a focal point in developing a network of contacts and co-operations to implement the project. The result of this initial phase is the creation of an organizational structure, composed of the pioneer inhabitants of the foreseen temporary settlement and their partners. After an outside “scaffolding organization” supported the pioneer organization to get established, the normal project management cycle can be run by them. The pioneer organization negotiates the setting up of a temporary settlement and manages its legal, economic and administrative functions.
This book describes a case study targeted at a specific municipality. The Nest! approach, however, can be used and adapted to suit the local conditions anywhere. It is a methodology rather then a project for a specific location.