Gabriel van den Brink: Prachtwijken?! 4.10.07 [NL]

 E-Urban heeft Gabriel van den Brink hoog zitten. In de NRC van 3 october publiceerde deze wetenschapper, die veldonderzoek (Rotterdam!) niet schuwt, een artikel, waarin enkele conclusies worden getrokken uit het boek Prachtwijken?! dat onlangs onder zijn leiding tot stand kwam.


< (De geselecteerde "Prachtwijken". Klik op kaart voor groter beeld.)

Het boek zal hier binnenkort worden besproken. Hieronder de integrale tekst van het NRC opinie-atikel, afgewisseld met commentaren van ons. ...

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A British contributor to e-urban writes:

Despite the turbulence of the Blair years in th UK government, one of the policies that has been carried forward with quiet persistence is that of local community engagement and empowerment.

strongprospcomm%206c20%20UKGov.jpgPerhaps the very fact that this is not an issue that catches the headlines in the way that Iraq or the National Health Service do, has protected it from too many shifting trends. On the other hand it has not progressed as fast as its advocates would have liked.

The big question in this field for the next couple of years is whether community empowerment will be further increased and make a decisive impact under Gordon Brown or will be pushed aside by other issues. There are signals in both directions.

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Respect! Onderzoek naar sociale cohesie 1.6.07 [NL]

minister-vogelaar%20web%207601.jpg<] Minister Ella Vogelaar van Integratie en Stedenbeleid (o.a.). Een grote verandering vergeleken bij haar voorgangster, wat integratiebeleid betreft. De combinatie met (grote-) stedenbeleid kan een heel vruchtbare worden. De vroegere FNV-vakbondsbestuurster opereert vanuit het ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening en Milieubeleid. Ook dat kan bijdragen tot een productievere aanpak van de problemen: Niet vanuit de "regels", maar vanuit de stadswijken in hun geheel... (foto beeldbank ministerie van VROM).



Er is een boek verschenen, dat signaleert, dat integratie van bevolkingsgroepen van verschillende herkomst ècht een tweezijdig proces is. "Het moet van twee kanten komen", luidt de volkswijsheid over 'liefde'. Evenblij's studie toont aan, dat de "autochtone" integratie-partij niet thuis geeft als het om inspanning of zelfs maar respect gaat. Dat is uit en te na aangetoond in een hele rij wetenschappelijke studies, maar daar is nooit wat mee gedaan. Als je integratie wilt, moet je eigenlijk eerst gaan opvoeden, leren, trainen in de autochtone stadswijken.

Haat, afwijzing, afsluiting - die hoeven maar van één kant te komen, om de boel in het honderd te laten lopen. Maar als die dingen de vrije loop worden gelaten, of zelfs aangemoedigd, zoals in de laatste jaren is gedaan door Bolkestein, Fortuyn, Wilders, Verdonk en de Rotterdamse LPF, dan roepen ze even nare tegenreacties op van de uitgesloten groepen....

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European Support for Urban Practitioners Needed 23.5.07 [EN]


Ilda Curti, QeC-ERAN president, 22.5.07, Brussels 

May 22, I participated in an European Workshop in Brussels, organised by QeC-ERAN (Quartiers-en-Crise/European Regeneration Areas Network), an independent European NGO, that I have been co-founding in 1988/89. After being taken over by political urban representatives in 1993, it has been searching in vain, mostly, for a role between giants like EuroCities and the Committee of the Regions. But now, as the European programmes like 'Urban-I' and 'URBAN-II' are replaced by a complicated new system, where the cities have to find their way for European funding for their integrated neighbourhood redevelopment programmes, this organisation gives again a proof of its relevance for the promotion of quality and and sustainability of territorial urban interventions.

The human factor 

For those interventions are done by humans. By project leaders and -managers, who are crushed between the needs of emancipatorial actions in the field and the obligations of reporting about them in terms of day-to-day politics. Haroon Saad, QeC-ERAN Director, resumed an audit of the results of a questionnaire with 159 repondents, that illustrated convincingly, that our colleagues, whether in the urban government, or in a  project-staff, need support on exactly the same issues as have been singled out by the European urban ministers' conference in Bristol (fall 2005). In 'huibslog, the continuation of 'Huibs' Urblog, we published a first, rather irreverent impression of the workshop.

By this enquête, the urban practitioner becomes visible: he or she has an university grade (in any sector), is mostly over 40 and is a woman (58%). Those people are essential to urban renovation. Nobody else can do what they do. But their skills are not a study- or learning subject in universities. Recently, the UK started an academy, the ASC, to provide training and courses for urban practitioners. It has an Europe-wide ambition, but, as we evaluated here, it remains for the moment stuck in UK-specific activities. As a commercial-inspired institution, it tries to specialise in heavily subsidised consulting in Eastern Europe. Behind the QeC initiative, is a demand for European facilities for training, peer review and quality control over urban projects. This is exactly what we try to do by e-urban. For, as an integrated European approach to urban renovation recedes, cities all over Europe are opting more and more for an integrated approach to their marginalised neighbourhoods. As Claude Jacquier, at the final conference of the URBACT-Regenera city-network in Lyon, concluded, the human factor, the project leadership, is esential to the quality, the sustainability, of the urban redevelopment project.

Project leaders stretched between two roles 

The urban project leaders (elected urban government members) and -managers (civil servants or hired people) are mostly torn between two roles:

1. They have to manage volatile community processes, steering them by all means into the direction of emancipation, participation in the regional economy, social empowerment, delivering education, cultural deployment, and self-government by local organisations of different kinds. That work needs investments in the most unexpected activities, which have, in most cases, no subsidies that are provided for.

2. They have to 'translate' what they are doing into the wordings and benchmarks, set by an authority (or several authorities) with quite different priorities in mind. They have to manage 'partnerships'  with and between services, the private sector and local initiatives, over which they have no sway. And, mostly, their political bosses don't have that either. To put it squarely: The whole instutional landscape they have to work with, is not embedded into their project. That is why Jacquier pleaded for a systematic inclusion of institutional benchmarks into the project plan and into the project evaluation.

As we stressed before, people in this situation need empowerment, they need more skills (and power) to manage those conflict-ridden fields. No wonder, that one of the most stressed needs was: "conflict solution" skills. And, if I may follow my gut feelings about this, this need is not about internal personal- or personnel- related conflicts, but it is about institutions which follow their own, particular logic and who tend to opt out of the partnerships, the moment that the heat of urgency within the political sphere subsides. In practice, project leaders deal with those problems by mobilising inhabitants, other institutions and/or offering money to co-invest. That does the job, in most cases. But the eternal risk of partners ('stakeholders', as they are called now) who enter into conflicts and opt out, remains.

Scientific audit doesn't help either. Universities are as compartmentialised as (local) authorities. If the job of evaluation is given to an economic department, it stumbles over the money spended on a multicultural singing choir, for instance. Sociologists question the need for non-public house-entrances and governance departments do not understand, why the project group is managing inter-institutional conflicts, in stead of resolving them.

Urban regeneration projects are about regeneration, emancipation, not about structural or governance reforms 

Well, the answer to all that is, that a locally coordinated intervention has its own, particular, rules. It cannot deliver along the lines that economists would prefer, nor along those of the sociologist. The project leader has no mission to reform the style of governance. Without that, his or her role is already difficult enough. Maybe, local experience with integrated approach will help to streamline the cooperation of services. Maybe, private enterprises' experience with partnerships in local development will help to change business strategies from quick profit into more sophisticated middle-term investment policies. But that is only a side-effect of urban neighbourhood development. We have to work with the institutional landscape as it is. And it is about that, that we want to learn from each others' experienxces.

This is why I understand the need of thespondents for better tools to deal with conflicts as a demand for support from local, national and European authorities. In daily practice, European support often acts as an engine for establishing cooperation by institutions on a local level. Now, with the new European rules for cities coming into force, an impetus for local sectorial integration is very weak. It depends, more than before, on the local inventiveness, to realise integrated intervention. This local inventiveness is no abstract thing: It is human. Men and women, dedicated to their community, do that work.

An European funding for the (continued) formation of urban practitioners? 

Corinne Hermant-de Callaraÿ, representing the DG-Regio at the workshop,only cale upo with a meager subsidy for lovcal project monitoring groups. Something more than that must be possible, given the billions, REGIO is going to spend. Some millions from that budget must be earmarked for the people who will have to do the job. For their training (an European academy?), for improving the quality (a set of riules) and for a better position of urban leaders and managers, offering them a chance to communicate and to unite.

Is it going to happen? A first step has been put on that road. What will be the next one?