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"Living better together" travelling workshops

Tools
This resident experience questions the concept of Living Together and offers pragmatic solutions for dialoguing with a neighbourhood’s inhabitants.

The supporting idea for the project arose through a project to mitigate disagreements between neighbours through the practice of meditation.

By hearing from people on a daily basis, the following points were noticed

  • People need to express themselves about actions and projects (or absence thereof) that affect their living space ;
  • Some residents’ lived experiences are dispossessed or even “forgotten” after the vote when decisions around managing community life are made;
  • Too much distance between elected officials and residents;
  • Lack of time and places where words can be freely shared ;
  • Lack of infrastructures to create projects envisioned by people who are directly affected by them.

Objectives:

Create traveling workings for residents around the concept of “Living Well in Your Neighbourhood” (living better together) with a view to:

  • Foster residents’ free and creative expression ;
  • Help raise awareness of individual and collective potential (the power of action) ;
  • Create a bridge between residents and the political sphere;
  • Create concrete and effective synergy between the two systems (win/win logic);
  • Give both systems (residents and elected officials) the chance to work consistently together ;
  • Rebuilding social ties.

Implementation

Three Namur neighbourhoods were selected for this pilot experience. Socially, the three neighbourhoods were different, but their residents all shared a common need for a place to express themselves and available space to hold a workshop. The Social Cohesiveness Department created a local partnership in each neighbourhood and planned meetings three times a year, led by a city mediator. Residents received flyers inviting them to participate in the evening workshops.  

During these workshops, residents were invited to explain their experience of living in their neighbourhood, what Living Together meant to them and what they would need to live “better” together. They were asked about their vision of creating social ties and whether they were ready to invest in their neighbourhood. From these reflections, tangible actions emerged, such as neighbourhood parties, street and façade beautification, expressive signs, welcoming newcomers, lists of requests for local elected officials, etc.

In the next phase, participatory budgets will be implemented in a structured way for the first time. The details of how they will be used remain to be defined.

Results

The concept is attractive for residents who have asked for spaces in which to speak and innovative projects. It is also attractive for elected officials and the administration, who are better able to perceive residents’ expectations and difficulties.

A number of questions remain to be answered about this pilot project. How can tangible bridges be built between residents and the decision-making sphere? How can pressure dynamics from residents be avoided? How can emerging projects be funded? How can we go from demands to tangible action?

These questions open a few avenues of exploration to take the project’s development further :

  • Insert the project into general community politics ;
  • Take hold of the project as a tool for exercising responsible and active citizenship ;
  • Create a cell that is specific to project management ;
  • Develop the project by organizing events around exercising democracy and citizenship (round tables, symposiums, etc. … with residents and a pluridisciplinary team) ;
  • Create and develop a border-free network around “Living Better Together” on the timeline.