Within the project 'Make your City!', Waag contributes to accelerating and strengthening initiatives that contribute to our local urban environment. We call the active citizens behind these initiatives city-makers. For this project, I was asked to organize a meeting with five city makers to talk about their initiatives and about the role of city makers in Amsterdam. That conversation would be joined by stakeholders from the municipality, and by minister Koolmees of the ministery of Social Affairs and Employment.
The king joins the table
The meeting took place on Wednesday the 11th of July. The 'Kolenkit' neighbourhood was chosen as a location for the visit, where the minister would then also be given a tour to understand what the activities of one of the city-makers, Cascoland, mean for the neighbourhood. Because the neighbourhood had already been informed of the minister's visit, local residents were spontaneously sweeping their sidewalks to tidy up the area for the minister’s planned tour. When all the invited city makers were present, the door of the meeting room - a simple construction shack - was closed, and someone from the city council said: "Thank you all for being here. There is one more thing that I need to share. The minister will not pay us a visit, but you will have a talk with King Willem-Alexander and mayor ad interim Jozias van Aartsen." Three minutes later the door opened and the king and the mayor joined us for a conversation while we were all slowly getting used to sitting at the table with these special visitors.
In the conversation, Ama of Bloei & Groei explained why each city-district needs its own approach, and what she does in south east Amsterdam to work with women on self-confidence and increasing their courage to participate socially. Roel of Cascoland how interventions with artists help to keep old and new residents connected in a rapidly changing neighbourhood. Mourad of Young Amsterdam explained how he is still looking for a more structural partnership with the city to reach young people who, according to him, are less easily reached by the municipality. Laura of Keet Smakelijk told how she is finding more and more collaboration with schools and how she actively teaches children to eat healthy and actually cook. Finally, Joep of the Koeckebackers shared his vision on talent development for people in Amsterdam who are less likely to find a job, and how he thinks that not only the municipality, but also every large organization can play a more active role in this.
Our visitors extensively questioned the various city makers. Furthermore, they themselves were also challenged with the question about what they can do to contribute to the themes that city-makers are committed to. The king told how work-visits like these across the country provide material and insights to be discussed with government ministers or policy makers. The mayor also promised to contribute by including the topic of city makers in Amsterdam the next day, when he would transfer the chain of office to Femke Halsema.
After the meeting, Waag, Pakhuis de Zwijger and Kennisland handed over a two-part Dutch publication. In the first part, the most important insights that we have gained in 'Make your City' are shared and a future vision is presented. This part also refers to commons thinking and the Donut Economy as perspectives to build from. The second part describes the project on a more operational level, showing how the development process has been set up. This can also be repeated and improved elsewhere. If you're interested, you can find a pdf of them at the Dutch version of this post.
The visit from the king was the crown on our work. Now this project comes to an end. However, due to the content of the new coalition agreement in Amsterdam, we do not see this as a closure, but rather as a start of a period in which the city can and will increasingly benefit from all the value that our city-makers offer us.