By: Finn Dyrby Hermansen, Resident in Nord Vest, Copenhagen, Denmark / Dan Kreutzfelt, Resident in Nord Vest, Copenhagen, Denmark / Annika Agger, Researcher on the Smart Urban Intermediaries Project.
Same but different!
What surprised us the most – was that the SUIs (smart urban intermediaries) from four cities share so many similarities!
A view from Finn Dyrby Hermansen – Practitioner
Reflecting on the intensive days at the Transliving Lab in Glasgow, we talked about how striking it was that many of the participants shared some of the same capabilities and experiences. As SUIs, we are characterized by the fact that we often work on different scales at the same time: in the locality – on the street as well as in the municipality influencing politics. This form of pastoral care – of the community – can sometimes be difficult or tiresome, especially in many incidents where we experience that the public authorities do not adequately acknowledge our efforts.
We realised that many of us are doers meaning that we initiate events and projects where locals can meet and interact. An illustration of this is Dorendel from Amsterdam who organised ‘Happy Disco’. This is a community event with dinner and music that attracted local neighbours from the age of 5 to 85. Many people volunteered to prepare food and help with practicalities for this successful project, however there were very few helpers at 3am assisting with the clean up.
A view from Sandra Hall – Practitioner
This experience resonates with some general aspects of how the international group of SUIs do local activism. Being a SUI means that many of us have ideas, knowledge and contacts to initiate projects for the benefit of our neighbourhoods. However, we sometime need ‘a little help – from our friends’ as the Beatles nicely coined it. This help can be in form of different resources e.g. access to localities, information about permissions and communication to reach out, practicalities and resources to perform and carry out the event. The helpers can be from local neigbours, local public authorities to NGO´s or charities. In practice, it will often be a mix of these actors.
It is here, that we found some differences among the four cities. In Denmark, we have local neigbourhood councils and some urban regeneration projects, that offer staff and serve as platforms, helping local stakeholders with resources and knowledge to interact. For example, it can be practicalities such as where can we borrow a megaphone or get electricity if we want to run an event at a local square? Or knowledge about finding our relevant collaboration partners.
The point is, that in order to get things done – it is often a mix of different actors efforts. As a consequence, SUIs need to be very clear about what their ideas and expectations are, so that their peers do not expect too much of their vouluntary effort. Furthermore, we need to support and help the efforts of local SUIs so they do not ‘burn out’ but in contrast can shine, and create activities for the benefit of the neighbourhood. For that reason, we really appreciate the signs we saw at the community centre in Govan: “Glasgows helping heroes”.