Idea Camp 2017 #RDgrantee Sytze Schalk had a rather busy spring holiday. During the week which spans February to March in the Netherlands he and his creative partner Martijn Klink organized their project ‘The Village’ [‘Plekboek’ aka ‘Placebook’ in Dutch]. The idea seems simple, but there are worlds behind it.
Beverwaard, one of Rotterdam’s peripherical neighbourhoods, made headlines in October 2015 when the local authorities met with popular opposition to the construction of a refugee centre in Beverwaard. Complaints about “money better spent on maintenance in the neighbourhood” and “fear of newcomers” symbolized the feeling of neglect by the local administration. The idea of “The Village” is to promote ownership of the neighbourhood by all its’ inhabitants. What more level playing field than a board game, so ran their thinking. “We developed a game with the purpose to introduce everyone’s view on the neighbourhood to others. Not necessarily for people to become friends, but to get to know another view.
Calls for contribution were translated into Arabic and English and distributed around community centres, the refugee centre, karaoke locations and “those informal meeting points every neighbourhood has.” And so in the spring holidays some 150 Beverwaard residents played “the Village” and shared their points of interest with Sytze and Martijn. “With the input collected via the community tours and playful walks we are now writing a travel guide to the neighbourhood, for long time residents and newcomers alike.” This multilingual travelguide will again be distributed in Beverwaard, “to the snackbar and the refugee centre, and places in between.” Sytze agrees with the remark that the views of some 150 participants cannot represent those of the 12.000 inhabitants of Beverwaard, but replies “these engaged citizens enable the participation of others.”
Reflecting on his participation in the Idea Camp ‘Moving Communities’ Sytze firstly mentions how he – mostly working in theatre – had to grow into the atmosphere of civil action which he says characterized the Idea Camp. “It forced me to shift my focus on the end product to the co-creation process and involvement of stakeholders. Something from which I still benefit each day.” Something else he took home was the idea of inclusion, explained via his project: “’The Village’ is not about the longtime Beverwaard residents or about the newcomers in the refugee centre, it is about the combination of these groups.” His discussions with fellow Idea Camp participant Adam Carter, coordinator for a refugee centre in Amsterdam, further convinced Sytze that local connections are what counts.
Those local connections make the real impact; local media jumped on the project. In those stories longtime residents actually made clear the popular opposition to the Beverwaard refugee centre was caused by false information: “Our neighbourhood did not get worse,” or “We live next to one another, so we better do live together.” Sytze and Martijn envision repeating this neighbourhood game in other cities in the Netherlands, preferably in rather isolated ones, as they believe they can help cause the same impact elsewhere.