How can we, in collaboration with citizens, build a sustainable future to benefit the entire neighborhood? By responding to the daily needs of the residents, we ensure that this doesn’t even take much effort. Lower the thresholds and everybody working towards a common goal, yes that should do it! Together with the City of Mechelen, we took up the challenge to connect circular solutions with the specific needs and interests in a pilot neighborhood in Mechelen.
There’s something for everyone
The Bethaniënpolder-Auwegemvaart neighborhood was deliberately chosen because of its rich diversity among the residents. To reach as many of them as possible, a wide range of participatory methods was used, both online and offline.
An open book
Through a first survey, we quickly got a good overview of the greatest needs that exist among the neighborhood residents. A few of them also kept a diary, which gave us a good picture of their daily grievances and opportunities.
In young hands
We also listened to ROJM, a youth house for socially vulnerable young people. Using various statements about the circular economy, the teenagers were triggered to start a good conversation about what matters to them in daily life.
Party in the neighborhood
In order to make the project top of mind among the residents as much as possible, we made sure that Stroom was continuously visible in the streets. That’s why we took to the streets and created various communication elements: flyers for mailboxes, large banners welcoming residents and visitors at the main road through the neighborhood, window posters on which residents could report supply and demand, etc. And during the neighborhood party, Stroom welcomed the residents in a real street fair. People were able to chat with us and via tablets they could give their preferences in terms of circular solutions, using a Tinder-based approach. With trial and error, and a persistent but always enthusiastic effort, we not only got to know the residents better, but also the ways we could best reach them and involve them.
From all the information we gathered through different channels, we were able to distinguish clear, recurring themes. We used these thematically arranged needs to map out existing circular solutions.
In the final phase, we brought residents and other local stakeholders (such as Bio-Planet, t'Atelier, etc.) together for an interactive workshop. During this co-creative evening, we shared the results of our research and, over a few bites and drinks, everyone had the opportunity to give their honest opinion and suggest additional ideas. The flash cards with circular solutions that we created to serve as conversation starters were so appreciated that various groups in and around Mechelen still use them. That was clearly a sustainable participatory concept 😉.
Made to measure for Mechelen
Various circular solutions were suggested. These were further enriched or adjusted, always based on the most important question: which ideas do you think will (or will not) work in this neighborhood and would make your life easier?
“Thanks to all the input we got, we were able to make a first step towards 4 concrete city labs that the city of Mechelen will soon start up.”
To be continued...
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