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Cultural Identities: "Social Town 2000" (Germany)
"Social Town 2000" Federal Competition Award
In recent centuries, classical urban planning time and time again had to take on new challenges. The expansion of house building in the post-war period and the integration of immigrants from former German territories east of river Oder, the necessity for the cities to adapt to the new structures associated with the motor car, or the re-evaluation of historic buildings and structures, illustrate this change.
Taking into account the limited resources and the fact that we all live in one world today's solutions must necessarily be sustainable.
There are three aspects to sustainability: economic, ecological, and socio-cultural.
Cities, in recent years, are considered more and more to be a socio-culturally determined expression of a society. This point of view raises the issues of equitable co-existence and equal opportunities, as well as of cultural identity and possibilities for development of different groups of people. Gradually these sensitive and 'soft' factors of development are also being taken into consideration in the economic evaluation of towns and their suburbs. The aim of a social urban development is to balance the interests of different groups of the population, to aim at a high level of tolerance and to improve access to public benefits. This again forms the basis for an active participation of the population in the development of the town.
In many German cities citizens' initiatives have developed, organised by individuals, groups, and organisations. They provide important support for urban development.
Politicians in Germany realised the opportunities associated with this. The new Federal Government-States-programme "Social Town" is intended to place stronger emphasis on the social dimension of housing programmes and urban planning.
To confront problems in urban development not from the aspect of its deficiencies, but directly from the aspect of people's problems and opportunities - that is the basic theme of the new programme. However, this new approach is still far from being a widespread one. It requires new alliances across the usual departmental divides. And it demands staying power and confidence: improvement in people's co-existence is not as easily realised as a newly-built house or a redeveloped boulevard. In most cases, it is exactly the invisible changes in people's behaviour and attitudes, which foster or hinder progress on the way to a social town.
The Federal Government-States-programme subsidises this public movement with considerable funds, which in the future will be increased even more. The main focus is on small projects, in which people's problems are directly involved and which at the same time make people agents of the change.
This programme has been operational for several years; it was time for an exchange of experiences and - last, but not least - an evaluation of the effects. All parties involved were aware that the matter had to be evaluated according to criteria other than immediate "profit".
To point this out more clearly, the Federal Government - supported by the Federal States and major associations in the housing sector - arranged a competition without financial reward. It was not a matter of winners or losers, but of a mobilisation of all the small groups in the country.
The competition "Social Town 2000" aimed at calling the social problems to the wider public's attention and to mobilise the residents in the neighbourhoods. The urban inhabitants, housing associations, and action groups were invited to communicate their own experiences with projects on the social stabilisation of residential neighbourhoods.
The results of the work on the cohesion of district and neighbourhood communities were to be the central point of the projects submitted. The alliance of the organisers of the competition - mainly housing associations - intended to express the common wish to honour the integrated approaches based on the multifaceted cooperation of different participants.
Altogether 101 projects participated in the competition. For a newly organised competition, not yet introduced to the public, this represents a good result. The 10 winners and the 5 teams which received an honourable mention demonstrated exemplarily and creatively, what can be done in practice to open up a future perspective for the town as social community. Four examples will be presented here.
With this contest, the protagonists made an essential contribution to the town's culture as well. The term culture here has to be broadened to include not only the artistic-aesthetic, but also the social element. The necessity to comprehend social relations as a basis for an urban culture, as a basis for a sustainable development, is of paramount importance. It is a matter of finding the solution to the most important conflicts and their transformation into the real movers of urban and cultural development; and it is a matter of overcoming the existing deficits and deficiencies.
Citizens' initiatives receiving awards:
Network for the development of the neighbourhood in the Nordstadt-district, Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen.
The Planerladen (planning shop) has since 1982 devoted itself to the promotion of democratic urban planning. Activities are directed towards all sections of the population living here, but especially towards the socially disadvantaged. Almost half of the residents are immigrants. In the Planerladen they have a say and can become actively involved.
Fields of work include social and community work, urban and open space planning, employment opportunities, qualifications, and further training. The Planerladen established its own networks, but is also integrated into overall urban bodies and activities. Professionals and unsalaried persons are working in collaboration .
Employment Pact and Neighbourhood Management
Joint initiative for the social stabilisation of the Rollberg-Siedlung in the Neukölln-district, Berlin.
The Rollberg residential estate has a huge task of trying to achieve integration. 35% of the 5,700 residents of the area are foreigners, 25% of the households are on supplementary benefit. In 1997 together with representatives of economic and employment policy the housing association STADT UND LAND Wohnbauten GmbH - the largest landlord in the Rollberg housing development - drew up the "territorial employment pact" in order to reduce unemployment. The alliance supports young, small, and medium-sized businesses, organises vocational training and carries out active neighbourhood marketing.
Since 1998 the activities have been guided by the neighbourhood and social management supported by the Berlin Senate, the Neukölln district, and the housing association. The benefits of the residents' work for the neighbourhood are apparent and sustainable and an improvement in the image of the neighbourhood has been the result. The first positive effects were reflected in the following decrease of notices. The bad reputation of the neighbourhood has been removed.
Gbf-Promotion in Thüringen
Employment project of women in Großbreitenbach, Thüringen.
Here the decline of the former East-German economy caused the shutdown of a relay factory. 14,000 people, most of them women, suddenly were out of work. The reaction of the women of Großbreitenbach was not resignation, but meet a new challenge.
In a conference, the initiative, founded in 1992, developed ideas for jobs. The social projects include: assistance in household management, women and family centres, youth centres, old people's clubs, women's magazines, mobile services, information centre for energy and environment, distribution of clothes and furniture, 'Women on the web' and others.
Almost 100 people found employment again. The first subsidiary companies have opened up new perspectives for the future. The mayor that won the most recent local elections is a member of the initiative.
Kunstplatte am Stadtsee in Stendal
Art, culture, and social affairs in the large residential estate on the municipal lake, Stendal.
The company that owns the large residential estate made a store's meeting room available with a view to promoting changes in the social and cultural atmosphere of the neighbourhood. From 1998 onwards the society 'Die Kunstplatte e. V.' has supported cultural activities, especially by young people. Various courses are offered to help improve the quality of peoples' lives: Theatre and musicals; stage management, drawing of nudes, photography; cookery from foreign countries; dance performances; video, fashion and design and others.
The number of participants in the courses is increasing steadily. The results are announced in public. For this purpose, there are different events and festivities. The society is subsidised by both the housing association and the municipality. It has set up a small network with professional institutions. With its activities, it crosses the borders between the different neighbourhoods and groups of the population.
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The Journal of Urbanism