‘’Nieuw-west is not a cookie, it is hard working’’.
During the last months, we as SmartUrbI team in Amsterdam have had more than 25 informal conversations with a wide range of individuals, organisations and initiatives. By walking and cycling through the area of Nieuw-West we have been in contact with people from the municipality, senior self-organisations, gyms, citizen initiatives, clubbing organizers, theatre makers, women’s-communities and artistic self-help groups. Nieuw-West is a vibrant, active and thrilling context to work in and many persons, project and practices are active in ‘making a difference’.
As included above, contacts indicate this specialty of Nieuw-West since ‘’it is not a cookie’’ and that it demands hard working to get things done. This contributes to why we want to know what this hard working is about. In the upcoming stages of the fieldwork, we will dive deeper into this. But let me devote some words to describe the area in which we are active.
Nieuw-West is a borough with around 150.000 inhabitants, which is huge part of the city of Amsterdam (820.000 inhabitants). It has been built within the philosophy of Garden Cities and its surroundings are green and with a beautiful lake in the middle of the area (Sloterplas) it attracts many runners, cyclists and dog-owners.
When one visits Nieuw-West this specific physical infrastructure and architecture stands out. But, however it is geographically close to the city centre, for most Amsterdam citizens it feels ‘far away’. This distance is mainly not only understood in geographic terms, but can also be read in terms of social-cultural, social-economic and financial distances, because Nieuw-West has a different social composition than the city centre of Amsterdam.
This has made the area attractive to new Amsterdam citizens in the past and recently. Therefore, the area consists of a substantive community of ‘elderly Amsterdammers’ next to a big amount of youngsters. Next to this, it facilitates a large cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. This makes this area relevant and interesting in multiple perspectives. These diversities cause struggles and struggling people sometimes can make a difference.
It is in this context that we speak with multiple entrepreneurs, self-made men and women, people who serve communities, aim to ‘empower others’, ‘grow because they see others developing’, are motivated ‘if they can inspire or help neighbours’ and feel engaged ‘because they need to’. Sometimes with great silence, sometimes with noisy rumour. Sometimes acting with political activism, sometimes with pragmatic entrepreneurialism, but always with a severe and a personal relationship to Nieuw-West, which binds all persons, projects and practices together.
In the upcoming weeks we have planned more informal conversations, formal interviews and an Urban Living Lab (focus group) in which we will dive deeper into what ‘hard-working’ means, to understand how these people make a difference. As such, it’s our pleasure to be part of this research project in this area, because Nieuw-West is the best!