Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.
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Urban Commons - A methodology for reactivating social cohesion in the cities(Resource ID: 270)

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The teaching resource will be based on gameplay/ interactivity principles that will simulate coalition building around important issues of public space in a typical neighbourhood in the cities, such as the re-use of neglected, vacant and derelict spaces, a shift from ‘my’ to ‘our’ approach when it comes to how we view and use the neighbourhood, infrastructural changes for the benefit of all the residents, economic and social (self) sustainability, improvement of environmental conditions, etc.

This teaching resource aims in giving a methodology to promote pro-active citizen participation in developing/designing public spaces into vital community places, with people-friendly settings that enhance and protect local values, meet the people’s needs and contribute in the creation of vibrant and socially coherent communities.

The teaching resource will be based on gameplay/ interactivity principles that will simulate coalition building around important issues of public space in a typical neighbourhood in the city, such as the re-use of neglected, vacant and derelict spaces, a shift from ‘my’ to ‘our’ approach when it comes to how we view and use the neighbourhood, infrastructural changes for the benefit of all the residents, economic and social (self) sustainability, improvement of environmental conditions, etc.

Based on a clear, participatory methodology, the ‘play the neighbourhood’ game will involve numerous actors who are directly part or could influence the development/planning processes within a neighbourhood (students, experts, inhabitants, local governance, NGO's, etc.). The situation at hand will have been extracted from a real-life context, and will build preliminary mapping and research for a better understanding of the interests, priorities, conflicts, and overall dynamics in the neighbourhood.

The game will compel participants to balance their collaborative and competitive behavior against each other in order to make the neighbourhood flourish. In a “safe” environment, the participants will be able to exercise and speculate about the best ways, strategies and instruments to develop their neighbourhood, all of which will serve as the foundations for the development of the masterplans from which the urban intervention will then take shape.

The methodology to apply for reactivating “commons” in urban settlements has been consulted, reviewed, and successfully tested on a number of occasions in areas and contexts. The methodology can be summarized as follows:

1.The teaching activity starts with the presentation of the main topic and the most appropriate method to do so is the “Case Study Teaching”

2. The “Fieldwork” starts with a survey through a “Mental Mapping” method. Students will have to approach the topic/selected area by the development of the different subjective maps and images that can be further exploited and discussed

3. A “Performance” should be thought and implemented to increase the awareness of the community on the need to address the identified problem as a community.

4. A community mobilization and detailed surveying must be conducted. Such processes use “Individual interview” and “Focus group” methods which will further contribute to problem identification and the suggested solutions.

5. A workshop/process must be conducted based on gameplay/ interactivity principles that simulate coalition building around important issues of the “chosen” public space in the neighborhood. The “play the neighborhood” game will involve numerous actors who are directly part or could influence the development/planning processes within the neighborhood (inhabitants, design experts, municipal representatives, donors, NGO representatives, developers, etc.). 

6. Following the inputs form the gaming process, the students will have to develop the solutions into a feasible technical project of urban intervention.

7. Community, decision making institutions and possible donors or contributing stakeholders will be further consulted through public presentation on the site where the urban intervention is to take place. Any necessary intermediations and changes are conducted and reflected in the technical project.

8. Performance of the urban intervention together with the community members that are willing to participate in the activity.

Integration of Social Stakeholders
The teaching resource integrates a large range of societal stakeholders. Aiming at developing a participatory process in the design of urban, common spaces through focus groups, gaming, etc., the resource asks for the participation of very diverse stakeholders such as students, urban planners, architects, designers, local inhabitants, activists, decision makers, representatives of local governance institutions, environmentalists, representative of NGO’s, donors, etc. All of them are asked to play a role in developing comprehensive and inclusive process models for sustainable urban development.
Strength
- The teaching resource acts also as a methodology, and as such can be easily modified and applied to diverse contexts and scales, in both social and physical terms.
- The teaching resource can be divided and implemented in parts as all steps include particular methods which contribute in the active learning of the students.
- The resource, if successfully implemented, has an impact that goes beyond the academic environment as it empowers citizens in the decision making process.
- The wide range of stakeholders gives the resource a strong interdisciplinary approach.
- The methodology used in the teaching resource, gives viable solutions in contexts where “state investments” are impossible.
- The resource incorporates actual and important societal challenges in the academic process
- Real life conditions provide an active learning experience for students.
- Alternative design and participatory methods are provided to students.
- Helps students having practical experiences
Weakness
- For the teaching resource to be implemented fully, it needs the participation of a wide and very diverse range of stakeholders which might not be easy to achieve.
- The implementation of all the activities implies the availability and the will to contribute financially and this might be difficult to achieve.
- The implementation of the teaching resource entirely needs a lot of time, and the best approach would be to engage students exclusively in this process for at least one month as the distribution in time might compromise the continuity and lose the “momentum”.
Learning Outcomes
The intended learning outcomes are to enable the participants to better understand the importance of the public space and the active citizenship as a catalyzer of social cohesion. This last one is one of the fundamental pillars for sustainable urban development. The activities conducted during the teaching activities, fieldworks and gaming, allows all, very diverse stakeholders, to experience through creative processes and active learning by investigating at the same time real life conditions and societal challenges. Such approaches will help students to learn how to deal with complex situations, which enhances their holistic and critical thinking.
Relevance for Sustainability
The teaching resource addresses one of the main challenges of urban development, which is the constant destruction and disintegration of public spaces and as such the disappearing of the social cohesion which is one of the fundamental pillars for sustainable development.
Related Teaching Resources
The previous knowledge required is acquired during the courses of urban theory and urban and architectural design.
Preparation Efforts
Medium
Preparation Efforts Description
The main efforts stands in the preparation of case studies to be initially presented and in establishing contacts with a large group of stakeholders interested, influential and with possible financial possibilities in the process of urban development.
Access
Free
Assessment
Participation and contribution of the students for a successful implementation of the activities is envisioned by the teaching resource.
Credit/Certification Description
6-12 ECTS (depending from the overall time of implementation)
Funded by
This teaching resource, realised within the project ConSus, has been funded with the support of the TEMPUS of the European Union. The contents reflect the views of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Contact

Elvan Dajko
elvandajko(at)gmail.com
This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
U_POLIS - POLIS University
Institution:
POLIS University, Tirana, Albania
Date:

License

Creative Commons
BY-NC-SA

Teaching Tools & Methods

  • Excursion
  • Mini-project
  • Written material
  • Game
  • Simulation program
  • Measurement device
  • Simulation