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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.