The long-term challenges of loneliness across generations, growing segregation, social inequality, as well as reduced quality of and access to welfare services in urban areas require radical proposals for changes. Solutions which think outside the box and solutions which do not rely on a business-as-usual approach. Therefore, we suggest:
1. A top-down (and buttom-up) strategy that challenges legislation in the non-profit housing sector:
We propose a strategy which gives the housing associations an exemption from current legislation. The strategy must allow test projects where housing associations can lay out an area for commercial business, which the citizens themselves can take part in. Furthermore, the strategy must be based on a bottom-up approach, where the housing associations themselves apply for a test pilot project that matches them with a company.
2. A method that engages the citizens right here and right now through testing:
We propose a method where pilot projects and testing are used to embrace, engage, and empower citizens, and at the same time collect data on how to create "Neighbourhoods for Generations." The National Building Fund selects a number of pilot projects with the potential to create communities, and housing associations apply for a specific project. The pilot projects are systematically evaluated using quantitative and qualitative methods that provide valuable knowledge which can be applied in other contexts.
3. A pilot project based on match-making and binding partnership:
We propose a specific pilot project called "Urban Farming Restaurant," which includes the cultivation of agricultural land in urban spaces. A binding partnership means that "Urban Farming Restaurant" can run a commercial business in the housing association’s area (rooftop, outdoor space, etc.) but at the same time engages with housing association members through jobs, free communal dining, providing facilities for events and access to healthy, organic vegetables, etc
From Re-thinking to Re-acting?
For many years, there have been tons of plans, strategies, and visions in the non-profit housing sector. All with good intentions of creating a framework for the good life, across generations. Unfortunately, many strategies and plans have had no effect, and many local communities still face physical, social, and organizational challenges.
The strategic planning is often of a general and theoretical nature, making it hard for citizens to relate. Citizens find it difficult to understand the overall ambition, such as creating an "intergenerational neighbourhood," as they have no way of knowing how it will affect their everyday lives. The long-term and abstract perspective of the strategies makes it difficult to engage and motivate citizens and stakeholders to take ownership of the development of their neighbourhood. We want to address this by making the development more accessible, relatable, and even tangible for the citizens. So rather than rethink, we must react together with the citizens.
Graphic 1: Taking Action Beyond the Planning Offices
Instead of relying exclusively on desk planning for long-term strategies, we believe in actively engaging and directly involving communities. Let's set a precedent for an alternative approach that is rooted in practicality, ensuring that our actions translate into tangible results, reaching communities on a broad scale.
Bonding and bridging
Social dynamics in urban areas today:
- People gather in social networks in which they can mirror each other (people with comparable socio-economic status)
- When these bonding networks become dominant, it can pose a greater risk of society becoming divided and cohesion being challenged (conflict of interest, trust issues, lower sense of security, etc.)
Social dynamics which we need in future urban areas:
- Creating social networks that bring people from different backgrounds together (across social status, ethnicity, economic circumstances, age group, etc.)
- When different groups of people meet, they are building a mutual understanding that promotes cohesion (increases equality through cooperation, interaction, and cultural exchange, etc.)
Then how can we bridge generations in urban areas?
By creating a pilot project that:
- Embraces different means of contributing
- Engages people with different perspectives and at different levels
- Empowers people socially, organizationally, environmentally, physically and economically
Graphic 2: Embracing, Engaging, and Empowering Generations
Bridging - through diverse contributions, perspectives, and empowerment, fostering a sense of participation and co-creation.
Creating and facilitating meaningful meetings across cultures and generations
Singles and lonely people motivated by the community
Residents motivated by self-sufficiency
Residents use facilities as a meeting place for various activities
Institutions, companies and associations are involved to create a network and collaboration
Residents employed within the project, benefit economically
Graphic 3: Intersecting Motivations
Meaningful meetings regardless of motivation: Cultivating a shared project for individuals, institutions, and residents, fostering collaboration and community engagement.
It is all about giving people the desire to meet
- Families that sign up as members of the Housing Association and buy vegetables
- B2B: local businesses, e.g. a restaurant, buying vegetables
- People from outside the area, visiting the garden or restaurant
- Volunteers: Locals, as well as people from outside the area, with common interest in growing vegetables and working with plants and soil.
- Young people seeking employment in the restaurant
- Recently retired people who have time to tend the gardens
- Unemployed people who are searching for a job
- People who are already active in the community, e.g. the local football club, garden association, knitting circle, etc.
Graphic 4: The Cocreator, the Participant, and the Receiver
Our project provides a range of opportunities for involvement, catering to diverse groups with various engagement options that suit individual means and preferences.
How to scale the strategy and method
Our proposal is that the The National Building Foundation set up a secretariat that every four years offers pilot projects that housing associations can apply for. Pilot projects are followed and evaluated systematically, which create knowledge from reality about how to create neighborhoods for generations.
Graphic 5: Strategy and method
The model shows how The National Building Foundation can both initiate concrete projects and gain new knowledge from real-world experiences within the non-profit housing sector.
How to scale the specific pilot project
Urban farming restaurant facilitates both the community in the housing association, activates Axelborg and creates an attraction and connection with the surrounding city of Horsens.
Graphic 6: Connecting Urban Scales: Impact from Region to Block
Illustrating the significance of the project across various urban scales - from the region to the city, housing area, and individual block. It showcases the project's impact and its role in fostering connections at different levels of the urban fabric.
Read more about the project
Click below to download the pitch and discover how the project can foster intergenerational communities within the non-profit housing sector across Denmark.