The Social

“There         are three places in our neighborhood that are truely intercultural. The Super-Market, the Mother Center and the Community Garden.” (Mother Center Male Molle, Haarlem)

This section describes the social projects of the Nest!, designed to advance social cohesion and community building. The Mother Center, (Chapter 9) and the International Garden (chapter 10) are organized around interests that connect people across different cultural and social backgrounds.

Children are often the first to “break the ice” in a new neighborhood.[1] They are interested in each other regardless of the backgrounds of their families. The “chat over the garden fence” is also proverbial for generating neighborhood contacts.


The Neighborhood Study presented in Chapter 11 describes how the social projects developed in the temporary settlement also meet the needs of the neighboring communities and contribute to integrating the new settlement into the surroundings.



Chapter 9: The Mother Center

One of the social projects in the Nest! is the Mother Center. This chapter describes the model and lays out the elements needed for implementation.

Mother Centers are self managed public spaces in the neighborhood, where mothers and their children meet on a daily basis. The atmosphere is informal. You join by having a cup of coffee in the coffee shop or by a visit to the Mother Center second hand store. Childcare is offered on a drop-in basis for all ages throughout the opening hours of the center. Mother Centers are based on participation. Their motto is that “everybody is good at at least one thing – that they can contribute”. They are places where mothers can relax, focus on their needs and interests, exchange knowledge and experiences with peers, receive personal support, take or give courses, and initiate services like childcare, eldercare, laundry or other household services.

This chapter describes the experience of the Mother Center Movement[2] and lays out the added value of the Mother Center both to the temporary as well as the permanent settlement and describes the elements needed for implementation.


Mother Centers create community

Mother Centers break through anonymous and isolating structures of residential areas, they enhance the quality of life for families and create opportunities for children under kindergarten age to meet and interact. Mother Centers strengthen the parenting skills of families with young children as well as support the reintegration of women into further education and the labor market. They empower women and contribute to gender equality. The centers revitalize neighborhoods and the local culture and strengthen a climate of tolerance and understanding. They develop leadership potential in the community and are incubators for new ideas, innovations and local problem solving.


The shift from client to problem solver

Welfare institutions and family support programs consistently report that they are generally reaching a very small segment of families .Research conducted by the German Youth Institute portrays that the lack of response to institutional parent education and parent support measures is strongly linked to the institutional atmosphere and the paternalistic and school-like structures many of these programs convey. The Mother Center model takes a different route. Rather than addressing problems and deficiencies and what professionals can do to fix these, the focus turns towards competencies and capacities and what can be done to support the potential of families to help themselves and each other.


Creating enabling conditions for self help and civic engagement

Despite or maybe even because of their success on the ground, Mother Centers are a challenge to the professional welfare system and its centralized, bureaucratic and segmented structures. The lessons learned in Mother Centers raise issues of welfare policies and legislation of a larger nature, which can be described as the “political governance paradox” [3]

Recommendations are developed in this chapter on how this paradox can be resolved, which include reforms of social welfare legislation. Creating direct funding titles for family and community self help initiatives, increasing the margins of tax free remuneration for civic work and creating opportunities and incentives to supplement welfare subsidies with paid work in the community, constitute strategies of a new welfare mix, that can both counteract negative effects of unemployment as well as generate stronger social responsibility, initiative and civic involvement.


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