What is a social city in 2030? And what kinds of interventions are needed for a city to facilitate connections and community among its residents? The Chief Technology Office of the city of Amsterdam has commissioned Reframing Studio to explore these questions. The result is a vision on the social city, as well as interventions and concepts that serve as an embodiment of the vision. Two of the concepts were developed into pilots. These pilots were carried out on the ground in Amsterdam with Amsterdammers.
Sal van Dijk
Femke de Boer
The five reports, published on the research platform of the city of Amsterdam
Video on Facebook for 'Buurtverhalen', one of the pilots
Connections between Amsterdam residents are formed in various places throughout the city; at schools, in associations, at businesses, in neighborhood stores, in libraries, on public transport, at events, in residents' initiatives, and so on. In the future, too, Amsterdammers will connect with other Amsterdammers. However, sustainable connections are becoming less and less self-evident. Key reasons are digitization, growing spatial segregation, and the city's expansion. This distance has an impact on the attitudes of Amsterdam residents towards connecting and community.
The vision is based on 26 interviews and 4 workshops with Amsterdam residents, academic experts, operational experts and other stakeholders that have a connecting role or who may take on a connecting role in the future. The key insight is that the ease with which connections are established is situational. Someone may be open to making contact with a stranger at one moment or in one situation, and not at another moment or in another situation.
Thinking in terms of situationality fundamentally differs from the way in which facilitating social connections is typically approached. Firstly, initiatives often focus on reductive target groups, such as 'lonely people' or 'the elderly'. Secondly, initiatives often focus on changing the attitude that people in such a group have. The preference is often a more "connection-focused" attitude. People are expected to become more self-reliant or they are actively linked to others. As a result, these initiatives often have the unintended effect of mainly appealing to people who are already inclined to connect in the situation that is offered. The people who need the most help with connecting in that situation remain a blind spot. Our advice is to start from the diversity of attitudes towards connecting to others and design the social city around all of these attitudes.
In order to put this advice into action, a variety of concepts for a more social city was designed. These concepts aimed to cater to different connection attitudes and focused on mechanisms that eased the distance between different attitudes. Two of these concepts were developed into pilots that were carried out in the city with the cooperation of the municipality, as well as local businesses and non-profit organisations.