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Aedes takes up the innovation challenge for livable neighbourhoods

Social housing at the core of future communities

Amsterdam, 16 December 2019 | Social, Urban

The Innovation Challenge Liveable Neighbourhoods 2018-2020 was set up to attain innovative solutions for complex quality of living issues that social housing associations in the Netherlands face. Six teams worked together on these issues for a year through design thinking methodology. All team members came from different work fields, including employees of social housing associations and healthcare facilities, scientist, residents and city council members.

The teams consisted of around one hundred participants, working together to solve the issues in four consecutive workshops. They examined the issues from various points of view and experimented with different solutions. Various working methods were used, including brainstorms, a hackathon and direct conversations with tenants and other stakeholders. Defining the right solution to match the issue was a constant focus point. A diverse group of experts formed a Council of Inspiration, advising the teams and giving feedback to strengthen the chosen solutions.

After a year of deliberation, the final solutions were presented by each of the six teams. The two winning teams will now start putting their plans into action.

Audience award

Team 6 won the audience award. They worked on the quality of living issue presented by Hester van Buren, director of Amsterdam social housing association Rochdale. The concept was two-fold: building a future where young people literally build their own new living concept, and educating staff to recognize and prevent criminal behaviour at an early stage. Mrs Van Buren said that ‘It was great fun to work on the project. I am very proud of the results. We have become more aware of how to deal with criminal undermining in innovative ways. Residents would explain how they could easily point out twenty Rochdale accommodations that are housing illegal activities, but also explain that they would not snitch on the neighbours. We need each other to build a strong neighbourhood and we are currently making our first plans. Our solution consists of two components: forming an expert team to prevent criminal hotbeds and helping young people stay on the right path by building their own future. We mean this quite literally: we will try to help them realize a building project in the Nieuw-West neighbourhood. The design thinking method we adopted during the Innovation Challenge helped us view issues from a different point of view. Working in the workshops made us realize we need experts to educate our staff working in the neighbourhoods to become more resilient to the criminal behaviour they come across. The length of a whole year for the project was a little long. We might have benefited from working in a ‘pressure cooker’ working method.’

Jury award

Team 1 won the Council of Inspiration jury award. They worked on the quality of living issue presented by Walter Hamers, director of social housing association Talis from Nijmegen. Their Social Airbnb would temporarily house people who are currently unable to live independently with other tenants that have room and care available for them. Walter Hamers underlines that ‘It was nice to talk about the problems in our neighbourhoods with people outside our line of work. During our third workshop we approached forty organisations from Nijmegen. Every working group operated from their own background. We had a hospital working group, a residents working group, an entrepreneurs working group. Even complete strangers can have opinions that can lead to the right solution for an issue. It’s not just about working together, but about truly listening to each other. The Social Airbnb will hopefully open mid-2020. Amsterdam already has project Onder de pannen for homeless people and Utrecht Kamers met aandacht for young people over 18 years old. Our target group is slightly differently: it’s a form of assisted living for residents with mild disabilities, to be used as a stepping stone to independent living. Social Airbnb can contribute to a ‘soft landing’ in the neighbourhoods, provide income for our tenants and result in more affordable accommodations. We want to work with healthcare companies to develop the right protocols, because there are still a few decisions to be made. We will gain experience from a select few accommodations before searching for the right scale of implementation.’

* The Innovation Challenge Liveable Neighbourhoods 2018-2020 has been an initiative by Aedes, the BlomBerg Institute and KWH.

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