The greek word “polis”, which is also the root for politics and political, originally means the structure of a community, not distinguishing between people and the build structure of the city. It also refers to the city states in ancient Greece that were the nucleus of our modern democracies. A polis is a multiplicity, it is an irreducible complexitiy of views, opinions and ways of living. The challenge of the polis is to develop a common understanding and a structure that enables and allows this multiplicity to exist and flourish, instead of separating and reducing complexities in order to control. Polis means to always strive to integrate all levels of stakeholders in participatory processes, reaching from all individual citizens, to associations and organizations to city administration and politicians. But it is also a constant reminder that democracy means that we have to actively perform citizenship and re-invent institutions of citizen governance. Therefor we strive to organize and facilitate meetings and workshops which open up and invent new common approaches of city governance.
Following the good experience with the first workshop we planned another follow up workshop with the association Platz Da?! e.V. at the Bauwagen at the last weekend of August 2016. The association organized a whole festival called Herzblick with free entry as a chance to welcome new citizens and to meet and discuss the challenges of refugees.
On Saturday afternoon we were invited to facilitate a workshop which this time was based on the concept of the association for an intercultural meeting place in Mainz. Platz Da?! already introduced their idea of opening an intercultural center in an abandoned office space in the city center in 2015. When it became clear that the whole building was going to be used as a new refugee housing, they wanted to re-new the concept and convince the city to integrate a meeting space in the same building at ground floor level. Our aim for the workshop was to build on the experience from the first and work on the concrete proposal for the intercultural space.
The workshop started with a session on political engagement strategies run by Platz Da?! e.V. , which introduced modes of non-violent resistance and community organizing, influenced by characters like Saul Alensky and Srdja Popovic. After that we started with introducing the concept of the intercultural meeting place and had the ground floor plan prepared to work on top with drawings and materials. We started with a stake-holder mapping, to sum up all the groups and people that would be interested in the developments of that space and we organized them in clusters of supporters, potential supporters and potential opposers. After the stakeholder mapping we started to collect possible use scenarios for the intercultural meeting place. What activities should go on there? What was missing yet in the city? What facilities would be needed? Due to the hot weather we were not able to continue with prototyping after that two clustering activities, but we had a first good collection to work further on the idea of the intercultural meeting place.
In December 2016 we collaborated with the association Schöne Aussichten – Forum für Frankfurt. The association focuses on participatory research and dialogues around the future development of the city and has developed a set of 10 factors that have been described by citizens as important development fields for the city of Frankfurt since 2014: Work/Economy, Culture, Education, Health/Wellbeing, Environment, Mobility, Housing, Security, Living together, Politics/Administration. These factors have been described in detail through qualitative research and have been discussed in public engagement dialogues.
The city of Frankfurt a.M. is currently running a participatory process across the city to develop a vision for an integrated future development. Several participatory events took place already in summer 2016, but in late autumn the city invited to take part in four dialogues that would discuss four different scenarios how the city could handle growth of inhabitants and the building of new housing. We took part in three of these dialogues and invited a mixed group of stakeholders from the 10 different fields for a curated dialogue to reflect around the cities process in relation to the associations own developed factors. Main idea of the event was to network across different influencers and to steer the discussion around the cities engagement process.A very diverse and interested group of participants came for an evening event in which we facilitated the process through our Vision Mapping tools. The three little stages we first used in the Future Learning Workshop in Braunschweig were used again to address different questions and the different views of the participants on the integrated development concept. First the participants were asked to introduce themselves through the lego figures by drawing or writing something about their position and role on the little flag. The participants were then asked to reflect on their own experience during the cities dialogues on the four scenarios.
As we could not assume that all of the participants took also part in one of the dialogues, we kept the questions linked to the small stages quite open. The first stage, the square, was linked with the question: What becomes visible to me through the cities dialogic process? The second, the hexagon was supposed to give an answer to with the question: What would enrich the dialogic process for me? The last, the island, invited the view also from an organized perspective: What does the process of integrated city development imply for my own project?
Starting by introducing themselves and their organization, the participants were asked to explain there visualizations or characterizations to the others in groups of three to four. They were then asked to also compare their won scenarios and find parallels or differences in their positions. After this first round of exchange, we made a tour through the different landscapes that were developed on the individual tables and discussed the different viewpoints. All participants were also asked to comment or emphasize with post-its. In the last new mixing of the groups, the participants were supposed to develop a vision of how their common goals could be developed – what would they need to reach their vision? Some of the participants also moved parts of the visualization landscapes and integrated them in one of the other scenarios.
In the end we had a last round of feedback with the whole group, which revealed how the scenarios offered some very crucial insights but also build the hope across the group, that they would be able to influence these pain points through more exchange between the existing organizations. Everyone seemed to be exited to work on this common vision of connecting their goals and individual motivation was inspired.