At the centre of our collaborative research is Govan, a former ship-building neighbourhood with a long working-class history in Glasgow. As many industrial sites, Govan was harshly hit by the process of de-industrialisation. Unemployment and the dismantling of former industrial sites are just some of the issues that Govan had to face.
Despite such vexing issues, the neighbourhood, and the whole city, reacted by undertaking a significant process of urban regeneration, as witnessed by new housing developments, the conversion of industrial buildings and spaces and modern architectural landmarks.
But urban regeneration is not only about the physical requalification of the spaces. It is also about re-building the social fabric, re-connecting the community and rebuilding local identity. In Govan, social regeneration involves a variety of actors – what we call “smart urban intermediaries”. Officers, volunteers, activists and third sector workers are committed to drive forward the regeneration of Govan and improve the quality of the spaces and experiences for residents and visitors.
In the past months, we interviewed a group of intermediaries who are active in the neighbourhood, with the aim of understanding how they try to make a difference.
The initial interviews indicate a shared desire for a greater understanding of the process of social regeneration. Some respondents highlighted that regeneration is not only about rebuilding space, but about investing in people, breaking the poverty circle by equipping them with skills and knowledge. And this type of intervention requires the engagement of the community. Our initial talks with local intermediaries also reveal a dense web of connections and collaborations in the neighbourhood to achieve social and physical improvements.
In the upcoming moths, we will continue to work with local, national and transnational partners to explore what enables and/or hinders the role of intermediaries in fostering collective action in urban context in Govan and its sister neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, Birmingham and Copenhagen.