• Rik Berbé

Place making in the City of Nijmegen

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Neerbosch district in the Dutch city of Nijmegen celebrated its 50 years of existence in 2015. The golden jubilee celebrations brought attention to the district’s history, but were also an occasion to plan the future of the neighborhood for the next generations. Rik Berbé (ChangeLabs) was chosen to be part of the urban planning project to support the district’s leadership during the full process.

Urban planning of the different districts is a very important part of the full development of the city itself. Neerbosch’s district has been a bit more remote to other parts of the city but it has a lot of potential. We jumped into this massive development project of Neerbosch’s future because we want to be ready when the right time comes to execute our plans for the future scenarios, describes the Neerbosch District Manager Ed van Dael of the background of the project.

Van Dael tells that when the management of the city was planning new methods to discover the future of Neerbosch for the next 20-30 years, Rik Berbé came to their mind as a facilitator with new and innovative solutions. We had heard about some of Rik’s previous projects which were highly successful. Therefore it was clear from the beginning that we wanted to bring Rik into our process as well, to both inspire us with new methods of thinking, and also to practically share the work load of such a massive development process, explains van Dael.

Shaping alternative scenarios for the district Neerbosch

Van Dael describes that the approach Rik introduced to the project was interactive. All the important important stakeholders were engaged in the process with the use of social media and the Howspace interactive platform. Van Dael tells that jumping into such a big and complex process can be frightening at first, which is why you need a partner you can trust. Creating visions of the future is never an easy task to do. At first everything seems blurry and you don’t seem to understand where the process is taking you. At that point you just have to have faith in the process and it will pay back wonderfully. This was our case as well, but we had the full trust in our partner all the way till the end, tells van Dael.

The development process started with stakeholder analysis and stakeholder interviews carried out by Rik. In this first phase of the process it was also crucial to identify the parties that have not usually been involved and engaged in such processes before. By broadening our networks and hearing from new people was very fruitful to the project. It was very important to us to hear all the views and ideas for the future scenarios of this district, van Dael explains. Rik introduced the Howspace digital platform as a tool to which all the material produced during the process was collected. Material shared on the platform included video interviews of the citizens as well as of the city’s leaders. To encourage and empower the citizens, voluntary workers that represented the full demographics of the district, carried out the interviews. All of the material was visible to all parties involved in the process, enabling transparency.

How does the place look like when these children are 24 years old?

Firstly, it was great idea to have all the material collected in a visual way from all the parties involved in the process. What was even better, was the interactive nature of the Howspace platform that made it possible for all the parties to discuss the visions together, van Dael explains. From all the material collected and analyzed, the future vision started to get clear, representing what is important to the people of Neerbosch. As a follow-up, the achieved vision will be made visible for the citizens at the city’s September’s festival. Later on, the project will continue with some more formal meetings with decision-makers to discuss the formed plan for Neerbosch’s future. Van Dael tells that he is very pleased with the new methods of working that had made it possible to engage and empower the citizens. He also mentions, that without the interactive platform, they wouldn’t have been able to collect all the input of the people in the area.

It has been very refreshing to work with Rik. We have used completely new ways in defining the future scenarios for the district. It has been great to see how many people we have been able to engage in the development process. I think that this is the way that urban planning should be done – by engaging the citizens and the full range of professionals of the city to the process, Mr. van Dael summarizes the highlights of the cooperation so far.

Landscaping and storytelling is used to shape and reshape the district

Nijmegen is among the three oldest cities in the Netherlands, and in 2005, celebrated 2 000 years of existence. The city consists of 44 distinct neighborhoods, one of them being the Neerbosch district of 7 000 inhabitants.

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