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Former warehouses in the Wetering District Š AtelierVA

2013 - AtelierVA


Right to plan:

The Sustainable Wetering

Community (SWC) %"201&+)""1"/&+$,**2+&16&0 $/,2-,#+"&$%,/0&+1%"*01"/!*"1"/&+$ District. They enforce a sustainable agenda to help ‘preserve’ their neighborhood, and received a fund of 250.000 euro to pilot the making of their UNESCO listed habitats into low-energy emitting houses. But the community wanted more, and opened-up the restrictive deƜnition of sustainability, only as an energy related subject. Together with other associate local communities they continue the work of the thirty plus year old etering neighborhood association țeteringerbeteringȜ, so the district “continues to be a pleasant place to live and work.” Under this larger “umbrella” association, different communities may operate as long as they align to a grounded historical and spatial consciousness. This in theory means that different values and interest can Ɲourish side by side, without much interference of interests. But we have also learned there are issues concerning this very divide, and interests between social units have to be weighted continuously to align everybody to the progressive cause described in the codices of the neighborhood community. Especially now they pledge the right to plan and wish to take over democratic and decision making processes normally executed by the city council. The motive - aartje started the eteringDuur7aam community țthe Sustainable etering Community) in 2011. In this act, she forwarded sustainability as the added value to the already existing value set of the larger neighborhood association. She called for like-minded people

in the neighborhood periodical; “I was very nervous, what would they think? But this is,” she told us, “also part of the struggle of today, we, the public, have to be taken serious again, let us stand on our own two feed and come forward with our concerns, and act consequently. e have forgotten how normal this actually is. So now you - government (added) - have to let us grow; give us the space and freedom to discover our own values” (translated). The experiences of Maartje concerning this issue made her emphasize these last words; “when we appeal to the city council, they are all positive when we talk about our dreams and our cute projects such as city farms and solar panels. But when we infringe ourselves in their space, and really challenge the way government is dealing with the responsibilities they have, then they withdraw and start to defend themselves, since they are keepers of ‘the general interest,’ and we are unable to take over these tasks” (translated). How they plan The SC members have a lot of energy and ideas, but seem to be overwhelmed by the amount of work necessary to change even the smallest things in a crowded, ‘institutionalized’ neighborhood. Besides UNESCO listed, the area is central located (which mean that there are many opposing interests) and the local Amsterdam authority can sometimes be - as oƛicers themself admit; “a multi-headed monster.” To change just a little thing, one should ask for permits, change regulations and Ɯnd solutions to problems that completely contradict with the point of view of the community.


A lot of time is wasted to organize the bureaucratic rumble before even starting a new project. In fall of last year, Maartje told us, they Ćœlled in a request to ‘green’ public space (remove some tiles along the facades and place small containers on the pavement). It took them half a year to get the approval and a small fund. By then they had to wait for next spring of the following year to plant new vegetation’s. Nico arsijns, the responsible oĆ›icer told us these are very normal procedures, since it takes that long to inform and get an approval of all the diĆ›erent servicesÇż “To be frank, SC is luckily, at the moment, one of the few communities out there. If there would be more initiatives, we wouldn’t be able to handle all the work. The organizations in my district take about two-thirds of my time: It is the internal organization, meeting other civil servants and Ćœnding feasible ways to respond, that take most of my time. e therefore try to standardize our responds. Because we forecast the amount of initiatives will grow. The Sustainable etering Community is the early adapterâ€? (translated). The network of cooperation - SC, like TTC, wants to be more independent to global economic processes. They pledge the right to plan to take the future of the district in their own hands, and change the value system of the etering society at large. here the interests of the residents come Ćœrst, and the city-wide economic interests second. This economic interest is demonstrated in the continuous growth of the tourist sector. This Maartje told us; “creates destabilized neighborhoods.â€? But instead of calling out for the ‘elephant in the room,’ they talk about cooperation with other institutions and communities on a diĆ›erent (sustainability) level: “Because when the local economy is analyzed with a long term sus-

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tainable mind-set, or ‘we would go abstract enough’, one sees how ridiculous some of these projects are. It seems that tourism and other short term economic growth projects are the only viable narratives around� (translated).

Value – In other words, SC wants to change the value set of the etering society at large, and implement sustainability as the deĆœning value (and all social structures are organized according to it). If so, they should become an agenda setting community (or institution) and assign sustainability to all transaction within the society (which will order non-sustainable structures as irrelevant). In a network society, as in other social structures, what is value is decided by the dominant institutions in society. If the dominant institution is global capitalism, the supreme value is the accumulation of Ćœnancial assets in the global Ćœnancial markets (Castells, 2009). “The lack of a sustainable value at market or public sector parties is the biggest cross-grain out there (translated)â€? says Monica, another core member of SC. This is exactly what the community plans to change. To make sustainability the deĆœning value in the local etering society. Alignment of values – So essentially, the pledge to plan is an act of implementing a set of translations in order to align the values and interests in the etering District. To remind us;

2013 - AtelierVA


translations are the process of reaching common deƜnitions. A successful process of translation generates a shared space, equivalence and commensurability in an actor-network (Plesner, 2009). The million dollar question is whether SC is able to Ɯnd these translations? And subsequently, if this can be done within the etering associations’ umbrella organization and with local institutional social units on the other side (such as government)?

Expansion of the network – Aligning can be done in two ways; Ɯrst of all one can spread the word and convince people to join and take over the leading values and interests of the etering Community. Secondly one can be open for new input, and translate your own value-sets according to your communication with others. In the Ɯrst option, the network grows symmetrically and from the inside-out. The core-members have a central position, and are able to create dense and Ɲexible networks. The translations in this case is one-sided, since reaching common deƜnition means that others align to the goals of C. The second case, the networks grow asymmetrically, adding diƛerent cliques (dense structures of nodes) and loose ties. These type of networks have a high survivability, scalability, and generally said, a lot of bridges. This type of network is comparable to the way social networks on the internet operate. The likelihood of translations is very high, since there is no (or little) hierarchy. The network of the SC corresponds to the Ɯrst type, a central oriented type of expansion

that falls short oƛ horizontal expansion, since the way common goals and combining resources between networks is dealt with. Additionally, in an undescribed (liberal) program as in the neighborhood association, there is the danger that certain communities become the dominant social unit (the elite group). This seem to be one of the mayor concerns in the etering society. Both from the inside-out; how will SC (and C) grow and prosper, with the right alignment (and accompanying translations)? And, from the outside-in; how will C continue to be an open organization, where diƛerent communities can deƜne their personal narratives? In respond to this conclusion, both Maartje en Moniek added that in the case of the cooperation between habitants, the aligning is done according to the second type, because it is organized around the overall etering association (C), a non-human node, without many attributes attached, so individuals have a lot of freedom to shape their own narratives. e have no further data to support or denounce this. In this document we have traced the connections between community members and spatial professionals (civil servants and such). The right approach to organize the structure of the entire network is yet to be found. A topdown approach might work (think of how the merchant communities, as described in the preface, spread their interest and values).

Members of the Sustainable Wetering Community’ © centrum.amsterdam.nl


“Coalition of execution” (architect and builders)

Wetering Community

- perfection of production - collectively + cooperation instead of competition - capital value - reliability - standarizing - service oriented

- democracy - rol-playing - being reliable - being a ‘hatch’ - only custom based p processes on n - informal cooperation Municipality- city wide services

actor nodes (human and non-human)

- stability - long term vision - independency - instigating (boosting) - consensus driven; sustainability - taking action Municipality- city district services - democracy - facilitate - standarization - lack of time + diƛerence in rhythm - consensus driven; “general interest”

associations between actors value nodes

The network of cooperation of the Wetering community - registered between April-June 2013, based on journalistic interview methods and website network research © AtelierVA

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2013 - AtelierVA


But might also block valuable input of others, and consequently will tie communities together in a Ɯxed network of relative closed groups within a hierarchical relation (such as a traditional working sphere). A bottom-up approach on the other hand, will create an entirely diƛerent process, with it’s - as we have again seen in the preface, conƝicting interests, possible abuses of power and surreptitious deals. Is it possible then, to organize a concept and answer both questions; how the etering District will grow and prosper? And how this can be done without the deƜnition of a dominant value? Sustainability – One key issue is that SC tried to create a dominant narrative by implementing a broad sustainability program (to be clear; a program in network sociology is a combination of ideas, visions, projects and frames - not a list of bullet points). But this program encountered some problems; to start, Maartje described the problematic consonance of the world; “People frame it in terms of obligations; you have to stop eating meat, you have to stop traveling” (translated). The Transition Town Castricum network for example found a positive association of the word. They focus on doing processes without obligations (you only do anything, when you have the passion and enthusiasm to do so). But the goals of SC are programmatic, not procedural, partly because the SC was initiated with professional help to organize and plan the pilot to make their habitats into low-energy emitting houses. This pushed them in a “programmatic mode,” and obligated them to create solidiƜed goals. hile it might have been better to Ɯrst create a thriving SC, before taking a huge responsibility in managing a quarter of a million euro in funds. Program manager – But this planning direction might well be a prosperous one. The community, to us, is one of the most signiƜcant initiatives out there. There goals extend further then normally into the profession environments of

Key issues ș

How to change the value set of the etering society at large, and implement sustainability as the deƜning value in the social system?

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Find useful translations between the many diƛerent social units in the network, on the basis of consensus decision-making and the majority rule (deliberate democracy).

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How to nudge neighbors into taking over the communities’ extended consciousness frame.

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Burn-out is a common threat for volunteering work (, 2012). This threat lingers around the etering community too, since it is vertically organized (same actors do more). But the community has two options to solve this: 1- Become more horizontal and distributed, leaving the strict goals of the community behind, so others can enter with their issues. 2- Become a social enterprise, pledging for the responsibility and organization of the public aƛairs of the neighborhood, and the Ɯnancial responsibilities attached to it.

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Find nudges, so the position of program managers is trusted by other social units in the etering society. So C becomes an advisor/consultant – in between professional communities and residents of the etering District. If more initiatives evolve – with privately developed values and interests – C is able to Ɯll the structural hole in the network (with many


mainstream institutions that shape ‘the wetering neighborhood society’ (if we follow the deĆœnition of society as nodes that have access and control). They therefore have realized that “a change of the ‘money stream’â€? is necessary. As Maartje says: “I think we should turn back the public money stream, things that we now take for granted; taxations or healthcare utilities, should come back into the hands of the public. This means we are self-directed, and decide ourselves how we spend our moneyâ€? (translated). The social enterprise - e see in this the next step of the local community movement. In the general boom-bust-boom trajectory of new innovations; it is the third and second-to-last stage, in technological terms called: “the slope of enlightenmentâ€? (Anderson, 2011). here the naivety of ‘this is going to change the world’ has given in and substituted by the idea of being part of the mainstream of processes (but not so cool anymore). However, the consequences inherited in this evolution might still be substantial for the spatial planning disciplines: a process of identiĆœcation and customization will happen. Neighborhoods become more custom-based and take the fruits (economical and societal) of their endeavors, in beautiĆœcation and social capital on one side, but in distribution of (among other) Ćœnancial capital on the other. Distributing local waste - The handling of waste the etering Community forwards is one example of a “reversed-processâ€?. The members disagree with the way the municipality takes the garbage in plastic bags, and transports it to a waste to energy plant - somewhere in Europe (but probably in the local harbor plant). Instead SC would like to re-use the local green waste for their own city farms. They would bring the waste to a nearby farmer to compost. The regular resident of the etering district pays a fee of ǘ1Ç?,Çœ2 euro (excl. AT) a year. ith about 2200 residents this means a fee of 701.184 euro.

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Changing this money stream would create a big fund to realize the SC’s goals, and create wider support and involvement of neighbors. ithout the necessity of horizontal alignment of values. e have presented this idea to Nico arsijns, the responsible oĆ›icer at the municipality central area department of planning. Much to our surprise he responded with enthusiasm. But the longer we deliberated about the consequences, the more doubts he expressed: “It would be counterintuitive to the rational and eĆ›iciency attitudes of civil servants - how can a custom-based approach be any better than standardization? How can this be better than our certiĆœed collecting service - how would they comply with the strict European rules of health and safety? Change your perception - The answer to the above questions is that they would not, they would not comply with these rules. Nor would the group be more eĆ›icient than the garbage pick-up trucks. The thing is, with the many democratization revolutions we now experience, it is not about lean-mean or customer comfort based processes. It can be done better because of a collective involvement of every node in the network - including the group ‘formally known as the customer.’ hen every resident would bring the garbage to a central location, we would not need a pick-up truck at all. This change-thinking is the SC’s strength and their biggest advantage, especially to the neighbor society. Our advice is to let them get the space and the freedom to discover their own strength’s as program managers, which would involve many errors and failures, and, maybe, just a few successes. But we believe that these successes greatly outbalance the failures, because on the long term, it is either to choose between the “venetianizingâ€? of the district (synonym for empty tourist cities), or a sustainable, social and poverty free neighborhood. e would opt-in for the second choice.

2013 - AtelierVA


BIASES: CONNECT ș

Create ‘devices’ so other etering society members are able to disseminate/ propagate their personal concerns and ideas – and SC is able to consult these issues, and act as a bridge node between diƛerent social units in the local society, strengthen the overall networks’ structural cohesion.

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Create ‘devices’ to monitor the success of the Sustainble etering community. To convince institutions (communities with Ɯxed values and interests) aƛiliated or just outside the network, to understand and perceive the new approach SC forwards.

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Create ‘devices’ so neighbors are able to better perceive and understand each other, forwarding the ‘loneliness and empathic agenda’ of the etering community.

GLUE ș

Create new spatial nodes (physical spaces) for the etering community to use for their collective needs; temporarily - on a diƛerent location - or in multi-use context with other communities. Connecting other nonpropinquial* nodes to the network.

REPROGRAM ș

Find ways (read translations) to ‘re-route’ the intentions of the community, when they stumble upon the many solidiƜed values and interest of institutional nodes in a monumental central located neighborhood (when laws and regulations block them from pursuing their intentions).

* A measure, in social psychology, to describe the interpersonal attraction, both physical and psychological, between nodes in a network. refering to i.e. spatial closeness or natural similarity.


“The Transition movement is based upon the sharing of ideas between diƛerent initiatives, without a dogmatic or prescribed character. This contradicts to the Ɯrst key issue of TTC described in this document. ithin this organization structure, Ɲexibility is endless and it makes connections with other more rigid organisations (such as government or corporations) possible, also in practice. The core-members recognize in this case, that ‘it’s goes like it is going’ is not always possible. Reaching targets also means, rolling up our sleeves; especially in the situations that inspire us” (translated). Maarten Nijman (TTC member).

“The framework of the etering Community is like an umbrella-organization, under which everybody in the neighborhood can take his/her own initiatives, facilitated by the etering Community, but not guided or controlled as such. This is to my understanding the type of organization (in the making) you advise us to be. Except the SC’s aim to be a self-directed neighborhood. There is no program, there are initiatives that go aƞer their sole goals” (translated). Maartje Romme (SC member)

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