Chapter 4:      Knowledge from the bottom up

By providing favorable conditions and experimental space for pioneer energy, temporary settlements are a way to access skill potentials and knowledge resources in society. In this chapter we describe how this aspect of temporary settlements can be more systematically organized and can be made productive for urban development and governance. This is accomplished with the Neighborhood Academy.

Generating Community Involvement in Urban Development

The Neighborhood Academy is centered around a learning and knowledge building methodology that taps into informal knowledge sources and generates community participation and community involvement. The Neighborhood Academy organizes the temporary settlement as a "learning community". It creates a process for engaging the local community in the development of the new neighborhood and enters the perspectives, skills and expertise of residents into local planning and governance. The Academy both has an internally oriented task of structuring internal communication and community building as well as an external task of partnership building and linking to public decision making.

Knowledge from inside and outside the Settlement

The Neighborhood Academy structures the process in the temporary settlement in a way that both brings out the existing knowledge in the settlement as well as brings in required know-how to fill in knowledge gaps. The knowledge resources that exist in the community are identified through tools like skills audits and portfolio approaches that document and validate prior learning, including informal learning, as well as mapping out special interests and talents.

Inhabitants are mobilized to participate in the development of the neighborhood through a vision building process and the facilitation of neighborhood planning groups in the academy. Trainings in leadership development and conflict resolution as well as specific skill trainings in building and construction, business and marketing, and in urban planning support the process. International knowledge and expertise from self-help and grassroots groups to support the Nest! process as a whole as well as the participation of women is contributed by Grassroots Women’s International Academies (GWIA), a peer learning strategy that has been internationally successful in up-scaling and validating grassroots best practices in community development and community participation.

The Alchemy of Communities

When collectively evaluating the lessons learned in every situation, even difficulties and failures become productive learning opportunities, become the basic alchemy of communities, weaving gold out of obstacles and challenges.

The Neighborhood Academy organizes regular community evaluation sessions on developments in the neighborhood and offers opportunities for the community to interact and connect around learning and vision building.

Developing accreditation systems for the learning happening in the settlement, further adds value to the experience, and supports pioneers to emerge with new skills and credentials, that take account of their involvement in participative community development. This involves building up partnerships with institutions inside the formal education system.

Participation and Partnership Building as a Skill to be learned

An important function of the Neighborhood Academy involves highlighting partnering skills between different sectors of society as an art to be learned and hosting various forms of dialogues, round-tables and skills trainings around participation and partnership building. These workshops and debates between different stakeholders are designed to orient public authorities and mainstream players towards learning a new role when engaging in partnership with civil society as well as supporting grassroots groups in widening their understanding and perspective on partnership opportunities. This involves identifying the win-win interfaces and creating a culture of respectful collaboration on both sides.

Harvesting the Lessons Learned

The Academy will be central in organizing a documentation process of the temporary settlement, in order to extract the learnings involved and analyze conditions for transfer and replication. Documentation will take three forms:

A writing class for residents, in which they learn to write up their experiences in the settlement in a story telling format as well as a journaling class, in which inhabitants learn a journaling process to self reflect on their learning process: what has changed in their life, in their thinking, in their scope of action, in their mentality, in their way of relating to issues in the settlement.

Thirdly external evaluations will be organized in cooperation with universities and external agencies to develop indicators of success of the project in terms of community empowerment, sustainable partnerships and urban development.

 

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