co.build

Being part of actually building or producing something is an activity that is still an undervalued part of creating a common city, owned and actively shared by its inhabitants. The participation not only in planning an activity or a public place, but also being part of its realization enables another level of ownership by the people involved. This approach should not be misunderstood as a call against professional work, but it could imply to prefer local contractors or involve neighbors for manageable, smaller tasks that have a visible output. Being part of realization creates local storytelling, a heritage of: We did it, this is what we created. The contributions could be many, from baking a cake for the opening event, to building a public piece of furniture, to planting or caring for plants in an urban garden. It doesn’t necessarily take professional knowledge to help something into being, but these co.building, co.making activities definitely could build new knowledge, learning from others with more experience.

Apart from the effect of involving people in a different way that is neither just being an audience nor being involved in planning and deciding, the activity of making also offers a way to participate without necessarily being able to express yourself verbally or being educated in a certain way. Everyone with two hands could water some plants in a community garden, everyone could help in cooking activities or help in some ways to build something.

This does not imply that these kinds of activities are carried out in the most efficient way, but that the activities are able to create new relations through the common experience of doing and achieving something together. In the terminology and the concept of the commons, these kind of activities are called commoning, because they both create new common goods and they are a way of commonly making things, the activity that is as essential to the concept of commons as is the resource that is regarded as a common.

The challenge of Co.Building are the different roles and hierarchies that that are needed but could also exclude people from participation in the making process. To integrate activities of co.building means to establish  an idea of how informal learning could be organized between those who already gained experience and those who are new to the task. It also needs a clear understanding and distinctions where activities of co-building could be beneficial and where professional work should be preferred. But as within the practices of co.culture and co.design, actually doing things together, creating visible, touchable results is a complementary way of learning to value democratic practices and getting a sense of what it means to achieve things as a community.