The bargain comes with strings attached, however
It featured the input of 3 EU citizens, who shared their proposals for more vibrant communities
Earlier today, one of the sessions, which took place on the second day of the European Research and Innovation Days 2021 event, treated the question of how the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative could contribute to the current transformative processes. Special guests were three EU citizens, each of whom delivered a presentation of their vision on how to improve the cities where they live and work.
What arose as a common thread during the discussion was the need to engender better inclusivity and to help vulnerable or marginalized groups in a way that helps them truly feel as forming part of a functional society.
Spaces and infrastructure undoubtedly also play a role in community formation
The session was hosted by Rosalinde van der Vlies, who heads the Clean Planet Directorate of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. She was joined by Xavier Troussard, Head of Policy Lab at the EU Research Council and Michaela Magas, a designer who is also one of the official New European Bauhaus ambassadors.
The idea was to have an open and honest debate on what the New European Bauhaus meant for the citizens of Europe, and this was a chance to hear some of their voices. After all, as the officials repeatedly emphasized the NEB initiative is in its nature and by design meant to be a participatory and democratic movement - one which will only succeed if it is built from the bottom-up.
What were the citizens’ proposals?
Sylwia Kaszuba, an architect from Poland, suggested the creation of outdoor sites which would stimulate social interaction and counteract the harmful effects of prolonged isolation. These would also feature regular cultural offerings giving the chance for that industry to recover from the pandemic damage. Her other proposal had to do with drastically improving the public transport between urban areas of cities and their outskirts.
Liis Liivand, from Estonia, was similarly interested in the creation of inclusive and communal spaces, however, she saw them more as indoor centres which would provide free activities and where everyone would be welcome. For her, this would be made possible through partnerships between municipal administrations and civic and volunteer groups.
Her other proposal had to do with the provision of a new type of elderly care homes, where people would feel that their lives have a purpose, and which are indeed pleasant places to be in. For example, such homes would feature a communal garden, which would be tended and maintained by the residents themselves.
Dimitar Shingarski, from Bulgaria, focused instead on the youngest generations. He addressed the chronic shortage of kindergartens and schools in the big city centres of his country. In his view, the plentiful abandoned factories and industrial sites, which were an eyesore, could and should be reconverted and transformed into welcoming and positive places of education. Such an initiative would also require the strengthening of partnership ties between municipalities and teacher-parents associations.
It was evident from the citizens’ proposals that they could be described both as addressing issues particular to each country, yet also being universal to all of the EU. Ageing, rural demographic decline, social isolation and the loss of communal feeling are all unfortunate phenomena that are likely to strike a nerve with every European citizen.
As the NEB is concluding its co-design phase and getting ready to analyze the results after months of collecting concerns and ideas from across the continent, Mr Troussard promised that the initiative will stay true to its stated purpose to represent and empower the grassroots voices.
The next steps will be to present the analyses of said concerns and ideas and turn them into meaningful actions. This will likely happen in September, the month when also the New European Bauhaus Prizes will be awarded in different categories.
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