By Mats Mats Jarnhammar
People and Planets
How can we support communities to play an active part in shaping their neighbourhoods? How can we create social cohesion and strengthen the trust between community groups? How can we create an enabling framework for active citizenship? These were some of the topics being discussed during two workshops organized by RESLOG in Çukurova and Marmara in May 2023.
Invited Swedish expert Mats Jarnhammar, Neighbourhood Development Advisor to the RESLOG project at People and Planet, met with teams from 14 municipalities in the two regions. The first was held at the Seyhan Municipality Technology and Innovation Center (SEYTIM) and the second one at the Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU) in Istanbul.
The workshops discussed specifically how municipalities can work more innovatively to use community centers as an entry point for active citizenship, and how neighbourhood development activities can strengthen the collective ability of communities and local stakeholders.
Mats presented examples of neighbourhood development approaches from Swedish cities which had led to long-lasting positive change in terms of feeling of safety, quality of life and happiness in the neighbourhoods. Seven principles for establishing a successful community center were also presented, illustrated with concrete examples. The group then discussed its possible applications in a Turkish context.
Together with the RESLOG regional experts and field officers, visits were also made to two neighbourhoods in Seyhan and Sultanbeyli where the neighbourhood development approach is being piloted through the project.
The neighbourhood level presents a unique opportunity for promoting more active citizenship and improving cohabitation between community groups. It is the space where people meet, interact, discuss, collaborate and carry out activities. Several of the most urgent priorities facing people are found at the neighbourhood scale: housing, access to basic urban infrastructure services, access to school, health clinics, markets, public space, safety, recreation, and often also to livelihood. In short, it provides a space for both addressing the key challenges but also realizing the key opportunities for active citizens to collaborate for better cohabitation towards multi-layered resilience.
- It was interesting exchanging experiences with my Turkish counterparts, comparing how we in Sweden work with neighbourhood development and community centers and how it is being done here. My impression is that Turkish municipalities are very proactive in testing new solutions and approaches. I look forward working more closely together in the coming months, says Mats Jarnhammar.
The Swedish Expert Workshop was the first in a series of events now being organized by the RESLOG project.