Citizen participation: informal communication tools and cases

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Written and edited by: Tita Kaisari-Ernst, Jekaterina Lavrinec, Katja Niggemeier Designed by: Rūta Baradinskaitė Publisher:

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Copyright © NGO “” (on behalf of the InterContexts partners), 2013 All rights reserved ISBN 978-609-95560-0-0





Who we are and what we have done together [InterContexts partnership]

Principles shared by InterContexts partners




Why informal communication tools matter?

Types of communication tools

Communication tools: cases




How to create communication tool that work

Co-users of a communication tool in a neighbourhood or a community

The Partners of InterContexts and their local projects

Preface This guidebook to informal communication tools for communities and neighbourhoods is a result of the collaboration in the InterContext learning partnership* which brought together practitioners who work in the fields of neighbourhood management and civic and cultural education. Five NGO’s from Portugal, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania and France share their experience in developing and applying communication tools, which foster citizen participation and cooperation and promote change. We hope, this short guidebook inspires social workers, neighbourhood managers, community organisers, activists and professionals in civic and (inter) cultural education to search for creative solutions in their community and neighbourhood development work.

* “InterContexts – Contributions of Civic and Cultural Education in Disadvantaged Local Contexts” is a Learning Partnership financed through the EU Life Long Learning Program Grundvtig, August 2011 – July 2013.


Who we are and what we have done together


cooperation, participation, community work, civic and cultural education, social cohesion, local development, informal communication.

InterContexts partnership key competences for participation. In the context of this partnership we elaborated local projects, which were characterised by a spatial and participative approach. These projects aimed to foster the participation and create changes through the involvement of the inhabitants. For example, the local project of the French partners focussed on participation of neighbourhood communities in collecting and sharing their memories connected with the place. The Lithuanian partners developed community art projects seeking to revitalise a wooden neighbourhood which experiences a pressure of rapid redevelopment of the area.

We are a group of NGOs from France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal, which cooperated in the past in European projects or met in related European conferences concerning citizenship. Participation, community work in disadvantaged areas and the fight against social exclusion are common issues in our work. Going a step further we wanted to explore how civic and cultural education can promote social cohesion and local development in disadvantaged local contexts.

This short guide to informal communication tools in communities / neighbourhoods is a result of InterContexts partnership which made possible systematic exchange and development of common viewpoints despite the differences of local contexts.

The learning partnership InterContexts* was put in place with the purpose to analyse and compare our different working contexts and exchange experiences and know-how in order to develop approaches to strengthen participation, cooperation and to train


Principles shared by InterContexts partners InterContexts partners believe that: Local development and social cohesion can only be achieved with the participation of the inhabitants. Civic and (inter)cultural education contribute to promote social cohesion and local development in disadvantaged local contexts. Communication is a decisive factor for the development of any kind of social project in disadvantaged areas and it is often one of the main obstacles for local development and social cohesion.

Local development is a pathway of a community, a neighbourhood or an area to make use its potentials taking into account social cohesion.

Cooperation between the local community, development agents, local stakeholders and the administration is a prerequisite for a sustainable development.


Why informal communication tools matter? A crucial point for the success of our projects/ actions is the communication with the local people and the administration. On the one hand communication is the biggest challenge in order to involve the people, to motivate them and to disseminate the results at local level. On the other hand the cooperation with the administration is important in order to have sustainable results. In the context of this partnership, we decided to concentrate in the communication at local level and to answer the questions: which steps are needed and which are the requirements for the elaboration of communication tools in community and neighbourhood development work. The cooperation between local level and administration is a very important issue, which has to be approached at national and European level as a topic on its own.






Information and exchange of ideas, dialogue, local participation, social change

The word “communication” derives from the verb communicare ‘to share’. In the context of this text, communication is the way to share and exchange using different media in a community / neighbourhood.

community. Independently of their fate these tools achieve to initiate a discussion and strengthen the dialogue between the members of the neighbourhood/ community. These tools could be used by social workers, neighbourhood managers, community organisers, city-planers, professional in civic, cultural and (inter) cultural education and activists.

From our perspective the aim of communication tools in community and neighbourhood development work is:   to foster information and ideas exchange;   to reinforce dialogue at local level;   to strengthen local participation;   to promote change.

Without underestimating the importance of “traditional” communication tools, methods and strategies (for instance webpages, leaflets and posters, press releases, newsletters, conferences, workshops etc.), we think that more creative, participative and context related approaches are needed in community and neighbourhood development work. We concentrate on communication tools that have an impact at the level of the community/ neighbourhood. One of the aims of these communication tools is the stimulation and the intensification of the informal communication.

We focus on communication tools used in neighbourhoods and communities, that do not only inform, but much more promote the communication between the inhabitants. For us it is interesting to find out how to produce communication tools, that can be appropriated, changed or rejected by the members of the neighbourhood/


Types of communication tools In the context of the community and neighbourhood work, we recognise the following types of communication tools:

Interaction Tools: Communication tools for the reinforcement of the communication between the inhabitants. A meeting is a classic format to come together and discuss about an issue of common interest.

Information Tools: Communication tools which mainly aim to inform the inhabitants.


Events are a moment of coming together and share. Activities that involve the community as a a whole (for example, the museum of Alpalhao in Portugal brings together all generations of residents, who take active part in arranging exhibitions).

Symbolic – Representation Tools: Communication tools that reinforce the feeling of belonging to an area, to a community or highlight the positive character of an area. Exhibition or other communication forms which focus on the identification with a space, a group.


Communication tools: cases


Burbuliatorius (Bubble your city) LT Period of activity: 2009 – till now Place: Public spaces in Lithuanian cities Aim: to revitalise public spaces by encouraging citizen participation in noncommercial events Addressee: residents of the cities with deactivated public spaces Format: periodical citizens gatherings Type of tool: interactive communication How it works: Burbuliatorius is a periodical open gathering of citizens in public spaces. The main part of this event is soap bubbles. Citizens are invited to detect deactivated public spaces which have a good recreational potential, and to choose a place (a square, a park, a field) where they would like to gather every second Monday in evening during summer season. Participants are invited to bring soap bubbles and to “bubble� the chosen place. Citizens are invited to develop all kinds of non-commercial activities, to arrange picnics and art improvisations, to play field games, and to initiate open workshops. As a result, public spaces in more than 14 Lithuanian towns as well as UK and Scandinavian cities that joined the initiative are periodically revitalised by their residents. Initiated by:,


GatvÄ—s komoda (Street Komoda) LT Period of activity: 2012-till now Place: Vilnius neighbourhood Aim: to encourage sharing and to build nets of mutual help Addressee: neighbourhoods residents and every passer-by of any age Format: art intervention Type of tool: interactive communication How it works: Street Komoda is an urban furniture, designed for sharing small items and books. It s a site-specific object, and an urban camouflage is developed for it by invited graffiti artists. It could be used by everyone, who wants to get rid of items, which still are useful or to find some useful items,, or just enjoy the game of anonymous sharing. People develop their own rules of using the Komoda by bringing books, pencils, candies and badges, music albums, and leaving postcards with messages to each other. As a result a temporal community of users of Street Komoda emerges in a few days. A pilote Street Komoda was developed together with an international group of students, which took part in a workshop, run by the members in the framework of LitPro summer school.

Initiated by:,


Berlins longest handmade scarf DE Period of activity: March 2013-till now Place: Weiße Siedlung – Neukölln / Berlin Aim: to encourage sharing and communication Addressee: Weiße Siedlung und Neukölln residents in Berlin Format: social project, “An die Wolle, fertig los!” Type of tool: interactive communication How it works: Berlins longest handmade scarf is a way to mobilise inhabitants and especially women, to strengthen sharing and communication and to improve the image of a disadvantaged area. Everyone who likes knitting can contribute with a scarf of given measures, or can come to knit together with others in the local neighbourhood centre (Nachtbarschaftstreff Sonnenblick). The goal is to knit a scarf of more than 500 meter long. After an official measuring, the scarf will be sold in pieces and the money will be given to the NGO “Ein Herz für Kinder”. Because of its easy and enjoyable nature, the project has already attracted the attention of people, media and local authorities, including the Mayor of Berlin-Neukölln. People can contribute in different ways: they knit; they offer wool or motivate their friends and relatives to engage. As a result, the project has reached people outside the boarders of the area where it was initiated. Moreover people got together and networks are strengthened. Initiated by: Kubus gGmbH, sonnenblick@


The Museum of Alpalhao PT

of teachers and a museum curator. Therefore, the museum is not only representative of their way of life, but also participatory. Everyone is involved in it. Today an old lady takes care at a volunteer basis of the museum. Kids from the local primary school are the guides. As a communication tool the museum strengthens the communication and in particularly the intergenerational dialogue and the identity of the village. Started by: ICE ( Institute of Educational Communities ; ESEP ( School of Education of Portalegre ), Municipality of Nisa , Parish of Alpalhao ; Nisa Group of Schools ( EB1 School and Kindergarten Alpalhao).

Period of activity: 1996 - until now Place: North Alentejo ( Nisa / Portalegre ) Portugal Aim: To encourage sharing and communication, especially between generations Addressee: villagers , students , education professionals , municipality , social workers Format: community activists Type of tool: interactive communication / symbolic representation How it works: The Museum of Local Alpalhao is the product of donations of the residents and a multidisciplinary team accompanied its construction. The house and all the exhibits are donations. The restoration of the building was done by specialist of the municipality of Nisa and the museum was developed with the participation and help of the villagers. The exhibits are organized in different rooms representing a house (the kitchen, the bedroom of a rich house, the bedroom of a poor house, the lounge in a rich house, etc.) The museum looks like an ethnological museum with the difference that the exhibits are not selected / curated. All the donations of the residents have a place in a certain room of the museum. Moreover the texts of the exhibits are written by children based on the testimony of elders with the guidance


Verbatim FR

accurate to share with other inhabitants in order to express feelings, memories, expectations regarding a specific issues in the cities. Posters, postcards, stencils have been designed together with the young social anthropologists apprentices in a way that the words of the inhabitants were highlighted. Several ‘campaigns’ of display, distribution of cards, etc. were organized during one year in order to foster exchange also through a website and public meetings.

Period of activity: March 2013-till now Place: Paris 17th (Porte Pouchet), Clichy la Garenne, Saint Ouen, France Aim: to promote the expression of inhabitants regarding different issues (i.e. Paris and its suburbs, urban memories of both sides of the ring road, modifications of urban territories, etc.) concerning their city and foster social links, appropriation of urban territories and encourage the participation of inhabitants in urban projects Addressee: inhabitants of the three cities, residents and passers-by Format: Posters, post-cards, sticks, stencils with printed verbatim of inhabitants Type of tool: Symbolic-representation

Initiated by: Metropop!,

How it works: Six volunteers of public service have been trained by social anthropologists to conduct interviews on specific issues concerning the three cities (Paris 17, Clichy, Saint Ouen) separated by the ring road which are going through similar important changes of their territories (demolishing of buildings, new buildings, new means of transportation, etc.). They have collected the words of the inhabitants and chosen which words in their interviews would be the most


How to create communication tool that works Steps and important questions for the elaboration of a communication tool: Seeing, observing, finding what kind of communication practices exist already. When and where are the people coming together and talk naturally? Use all senses in order to understand and find the local communication mode. Look at the space. See how the people move, where they gather. Listen to the people, to their stories, how and about what they talk. Find what are the important issues, points of discussion in the area.

Define the local channels of communication. Identify the local stakeholders and the relations between them. Learn about the history of the area/ community. Understand the politics, the tensions and the conflicts.

Setting a contact with the people Pay attention to the way you get in contact with people. The success of the communication depends in a great extend of that. Create some pretexts for getting into contact.

Be aware of the conflicts, the tensions and the history of the community. Use the local networks and communication channels.

While developing an informal communication tool, it is important to be aware of the area, of the local conflicts and politics, as well as the respect for the differences represented in the area. It is especially challenging not to perpetuate stereotypes or create new ones. Consequently the question of how much input could be given from outsiders to the community/ neighbourhood is very important.


Interact with people and find local partners. Discuss with local people and local stakeholders about their communication practices in their every day life. Build trust is a work that needs time, but it is an important requirement for the success of any communication tool used in a community or neighbourhood. Pay attention to the different types of trust. If you are a co-actor in the community it takes less time to build trust than if you are an external actor.

Evaluate if it is the right moment to use a communication tool. Sometimes the situation in the community/ neighbourhood can be so complicated that no communication tool could be effective. Develop a network of interested people and stakeholders, who wants to co-develop the communication or to propose a new communication tool to the area, to the people.

Propose a new communication tool to the area, to the people. Identify the requirements for the tool based on the results; the knowledge and the synergies from the second step. Give time for the development of the communication. Use the local communication channels and networks.

Train people to take on and appropriate the tool is important and it could be a communication tool itself. Have in mind that sometimes tools need guidelines how to use them.

Evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the tool. To what degree the tool is appropriated, how is it used and what kind of impacts does it have? Did the communication have an impact? Did it produce side-effects? Did it create a chain reaction in the community, in the neighbourhood?


Who supports the communication tool? Are the use and the results of the tool sustainable?

Co-users of a communication tool in a neighbourhood or a community Youngsters

It is recommended to involve the community on the very early stage of developing a communication tools. As a rule, the most active co-users of communication tool are those who have time in their everyday life and are spending time together with peers. Based on our experience the easiestr group to approach are the youngsters parents with small kids and the elderly. In the opposite people who are working are more difficult to involve, mainly due to lack of time. Of course, this is often the most important group in order to produce changes.



Case: While initiating community art initiative “Street mosaic workshop” in the neighbourhood of Šnipiškės (Vilnius, Lithuania), Lithuanian partners received support from elder people, who donated ceramic tiles for the community mosaic and from small kids, who became coauthors of street mosaic art-work.

Local organisations


Parents with kids

The ideal impact of a communication tool The ideal impact could be that the communication tool, its message, some of its elements or its side effects are appropriated, changed or rejected by the neighbourhood/ community and as a result communication is created or reinforced at the local context. Ideally the tool could be the inspiration for the new communication practices, the creation of a network or of an initiative of local people. The impact of the tool is not necessarily measurable. What is important is the qualitative improvement of the communication, in the sense of exchange and sharing, in the community/ neighbourhood. For example, a community gardening initiative in the neighbourhood can inspire regular picnics where public discussions take place. Also, new places for sharing and advices can emerge.


The Partners of InterContexts and their local projects. community work“ is put in place in Riga, Tartu and Vilnius. Contact: is a Vilnius based interdisciplinary platform for urban research, community and public art initiatives as well as urban activism. Founded in 2007 (and registered as NGO in 2009) the group focusses on creative revitalisation of public spaces and develops alternative communication tools for community building applying artistic tactics (art interventions, performances, happenings). “Citizen participation in developing public spaces: Šnipiškės neighbourhood“ is the local project of Laimikis. Contact:,

Metropop’! is a recently founded association of social workers, researchers, artists and volunteers interested in the question of the representation of Banlieue cities and their relation to the respective Centers. Metropop cooperates with “Ethnologue en Herbes” for the project in Paris: “My neighbourhood, our Patrimony”. Contact: Zeitpfeil e.V. is an association for nonformal and informal citizenship and (inter)cultural education implementing seminars, training courses, study trips and European exchange projects for young adults and adult learners on both regional and national level. Zeitpfeil undertook a study with the subject: “The participation of young people in the context of neighbourhood managements in Berlin.” Conatact:

ICE is a NGO founded in 1992 dedicated to the promotion of local development, animation and intervention in local communities by educational means in order to combat social, cultural, ethnic and economic exclusion and the desertification of rural areas. Their project takes place in Castelo de Vide: “Windows - views and stories of Castelo de Vide Portugal. An educational approach around heritage and memory.“ Contact:

Integracijas Centrs founded in 2010 by social workers, psychologists and pedagogues was essentially established to identify pedagogical and community work based methods to foster an inclusive society on state and community level, working top-down as well as bottomup, thus targeting all levels of society. In cooperation with the “Urban Institute” the project “Community work and participation methodology - Three applied research cases of public participation in

For more information visit InterContexts partners blog: http://intercontexts.


InterContext partners manifesto: Local development and social cohesion can only be achieved with the participation of the inhabitants. Civic and (inter)cultural education contribute to promote social cohesion and local development in disadvantaged local contexts. Communication is a decisive factor for the development of any kind of social project in disadvantaged areas and it is often one of the main obstacles for local development and social cohesion. Local development is a pathway of a community, a neighbourhood or an area to make use its potentials taking into account social cohesion. Cooperation between the local community, development agents, local stakeholders and the administration is a prerequisite for a sustainable development.stakeholders and the administration is a prerequisite for a sustainable development.

ISBN 978-609-95560-0-0

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