„Civil Laboratories” Workshop
The Society of Polish Town Planners – Wroclaw Division
“Civil laboratories” were a pilot project in the frame of Wroclaw Citizens Budget 2015. They concerned performing workshops with citizens in five selected districts of Wroclaw by using techniques of social participation methods Planning for Real. The meetings were held in February and March. The project was coordinated by Bartlomiej Swierczewski from the Wrocław Municipality and Malgorzata Bartyna – Zielinska, representing The Society of Polish Town Planners.
The main problem of the Wroclaw Citizens Budget (WBO) is the lack of involvement of larger social groups in the application process for the WBO. There are local groups that try to push their own projects such as schools together with parents. As a result, quite often, projects from which could benefit larger group of residents are not passed, because there are no people who would promote such project. On the other hand residents are not aware that such request was made. Very often they do not know that they may act as a group and submit an application for funding the project by WBO, which would improve the quality of life in their neighborhood. Hence the idea of running
a pilot project by applying on the selected neighborhoods Planning for Real workshops to reach a larger group of people. During workshops citizens could discuss about problems in their neighborhoods in a broader sense, together with specialists from various fields. It was assumed that if the method proves to be effective and efficient, next year the workshops will be conducted on a larger number of districts. It is significant that in the next year the amount
of money to share within WBO project will be increased. The workhops were called “Civil Laboratories”. The positive effects – increasing the activity and involvement of residents in the application process for the Citizens Budget, increasing residents’ awareness about their neighborhoods. Presence during the meetings specialists of various fields will give the citizens the opportunity to consult their ideas and make adjustments before applying. Pilot actions supporting the campaign promoting the WBO in 2015 (workshops) were conducted on five selected neighborhoods: Biskupin-Sępolno, Borek, Oporow, Szczepin and Brochow.
During the „Civil Laboratories” it was not possible to perform all stages of Planning for Real method, that is why we claimed that we work using techniques of Planning for Real method, instead of saying that this is the Planning for Real method. These techniques and tools had to be adapted to Polish conditions and needs during the workshops, and that was one of the biggest challenges. During the workshop typical initiative group had not been formed, but it could be assumed that the cooperation of the Wroclaw Municipality workers with local leaders helped to tie similar group, because they were the leaders who initiated the action. Our role was to conduct meetings by using tools and techniques of Planning for Real method. The facilitators had volunteers to help. We decided to have three meetings during „Civil Laboratories” workshops on each neighborhood. The models of area were made by children during classes at schools situated in these neighborhoods.
The first meeting with residents and local leaders aimed to:
• identify areas with highest interest of the residents, determining critical areas of neighborhoods,
• predefine stakeholders,
• outline the general problems of the district.
Although it is not a part of P4R methodology, this meeting was important because it was impossible to prepare models of whole district. Hence the choice of sensitive areas, for which models would be prepared.
On each districts the scheme for the first meeting was the same.
There were three posts:
• 1st – “attendance list” – participants of the meeting, by using pins and stickers identified
on the district map their place of living, on the other board they could indicate their age
• 2nd – choosing the area for the workshop – the selection of the most important areas was made by using square foil cards pinned to maps . Each of the participants had up to three cards. After photographic registration cards were periodically removed from the map. At the end we selected the area for which models were prepared. Below – map from Oporow district.
• 3rd – the urn – citizens were encouraged to identify the key stakeholders and the problems of the neighborhood, write their ideas on the cards and put into the urn.
On each neighborhood was school chosen. Children with help of facilitators and volunteers prepared the models of selected area.
During the workshop we worked by using model prepared by children and „problems and suggestions cards”. Residents had the chance to identify problems of their neighborhood
by placing cards on selected areas on the model. We were also interested in the age range
of residents who attended the workshop.
Again, as it was during first meeting, we prepared three posts:
- 1st – “attendance list” – participants of the meeting, by using pins and stickers identified
on the district map their place of living, on the other board they could indicate their age group.
- 2nd – tables with selected „problems and suggestions” cards, arranged by categories.
The participants were selecting the cards depicting their individual insight into the problems and potential of the district. The cards were divided into eight thematic groups. Participants they were encouraged to write their own ideas as well.
- 3rd – model of selected part of the neighborhood.
Facilitators and volunteers role was to assist, help, explain the procedure. They were also writing down on special forms position, title, problem and number of cards put on the model.
The next step was to generate cards priorities, which contained information about the problem,
position of the card on the model, how many people have reported this problem or suggestion. Cards are used in the next stage – during the next meeting.
The last meeting was to prioritize problems, so they could establish which problems have
the highest priority, medium and low. Next step was to decide how fast the problems could be solved and how long it would take. And then – which problems could be solved by applying
Posts were prepared:
- 1st – “attendance list” – participants of the meeting by using pins and stickers identified
on the district map their place of living, on the other board they could indicate their age group.
- The other posts – tables with charts and prioritizing cards. Tables were organized according to problem groups, some groups were joined together.
- Municipality of Wroclaw – initiator of meetings,
- District Councils – auxiliary units of the City Council, were responsible for organizing meetings with residents, often provided premises,
- Local leaders – worked with the city, facilitators and residents. They informed residents about the meeting , assured the room , they were people who knew the environment , residents, the problems of the area, mostly from councils or NGOs.
We assumed that each of the district work group will be composed of two facilitators and volunteers – from 4 to 5, who will help facilitators. Both – facilitators and volunteers, were quite often, experienced planners, academics of the Faculty of Architecture Wroclaw University
of Technology or students of urban planning, large group were employees of the Institute
of Territorial Development and members of the Society of Polish Town Planners. It was also agreed that for the meeting there would be invited specialists from various fields.
5.1. Citizens activity
First observation is that the attendance on each of district was different. The record was
on Biskupin district, whereas only few people came to the workshop on Szczepin. Surely, the huge role was played by local leaders. They were responsible for informing and encouraging residents. The leaders were recruited between members of district councils or local NGOs. Apart from Szczepin, residents showed great interest and commitment in the workshops. We were concerned whether the formula of working with a model and later in groups with cards would be accepted, but the residents turned out to be very open-minded, willing to ask questions, discuss and cooperate.
Also classes with making models have been received very well. Most of the children eagerly took part in painting, forming buildings, making trees. Facilitators and volunteers were amazed
by children knowledge about form of buildings or services around the school.
The first benefit – the workshops helped to discuss and organize the issues of the area. Prioritizing allowed to set of problems in terms of importance and urgency. They were presented in tabular and sent after the last meeting to local leaders, so they could use it during writing their applications for WBO.
The course of the workshop differed in individual neighborhoods. Especially last meetings.
In Szczepn it was decided not to perform the last stage, because there was not enough information on area, despite on additional meeting with model. In Oporów residents together with the facilitators discussed the problems and together (instead of the original assumption that people are doing it individually) they decided on a hierarchy which problems had the highest level and after that which problems might be submitted in connection with requests for the WBO. During the workshop, residents had the opportunity to identify problems in their neighborhoods. They had plenty of interesting ideas for development. Residents were informed that it was their decision which ideas will be submitted in connection with requests for the WBO. Not all problems could be solved fast, quite often residents have no power to solve them, but all identified problems and ideas are valuable information for the municipality because the residents identified problems they would like to solve the most.
Have workshops contributed to the increase of number of requests for the WBO compared with 2014 ? In Oporów in 2014 the number was 4, this year has increased into 11, in Szczepin from 13 to 16 , in Brochów from 13 has risen to 16, Borek from 8 to 31 (this confirms the creation
of a strong initiative group), in Biskupin from 23 to 24.
It should also be noted that a group of volunteers working with facilitators had the opportunity
to familiarize themselves with the methods Planning for Real.