Residents workshop Manifesta project Genk-Zuid

On Tuesday June 21st we organised a workshop with residents and other people representing residents from the area (more concrete a community worker and a social district manager). With them we elaborated further on the results of the mapping, which we did with the experts coming from an industrial, environmental, technological and social background, on how industry and living can coexist. While the first workshop revealed abstract scenarios on a policy level, with the residents, our goal was to activate them to take part in the project and engage them to reveal their concrete and personal scenarios on the subject. Learning from our first workshop, we changed our approach for this second workshop in two ways: (1) we developed a scenario to engage participants and (2) we developed a mobile lab that functions as a workspace. (1) To engage residents to take part in our project, we developed the scenario of the Cultivating Communities. The scenario tells a fragmented story about a group of people that tries to resolve their neighbourhood issues bottom-up. Their actions include protests, and experiments to develop air filters. This scenario was based on previous interviews with actors involved in the subject and on the first mapping session. With this scenario we want to trigger participants to collaboratively explore the potential and possibilities of bottom-up interventions and in this way engage them for these grassroots initiatives.

The scenario was made tangible through a series of artefacts like miniature scenes, graphic information and a community laboratory. We used the wooden sign toolkit that we developed for the first workshop to visualise miniature scenes like protest actions of the community. The idea was to enable citizens to remix these scenes and visualise new ideas for the scenario. Additionally graphic artefacts, like a manifest, explained the ambitions of the community. (2) A second iteration concerns the development of the mobile workspace or lab. With this, we tried to tackle the rather passive approach that we observed with the participants of the first mapping session. The lab contains the different artefacts, a 3D mapping area where people can map their scenarios by using the artefacts, and the wall of the lab can be used to display other graphic material. Because the map is mobile, it can travel from neighbourhood to neighbourhood to gather knowledge from residents of the Genk-Zuid area. Through this process different artefacts will be altered and added to the lab, enriching the scenario.

The workshop of June 21st started with telling the story of the Cultivating Communities through a series of different artefacts that were mapped in the lab. We then asked participants to create new ‘members’ of the Cultivating Communities. For this, they could fill in member cards for real people (that they know) or fictive people (that could contribute to the future scenario of Genk-Zuid). These member cards actually represented personas: they could fill in the specific expertise, hopes and dreams of the members. This created a fictional group of people including a mother with a wide social network in the area, a theatre maker and a local environmental politician. As a next step we discussed what kind of actions the members could undertake in trying to establish a healthier living environment. The participants agreed to reach the different local residents through accessible information. An idea emerged to create (critical) theatres of the environmental issues in the area. The second part of the workshop included visualising these new scenes (or actions) for the scenario. We used the wooden sign toolkit to enact the ‘local theatre’ idea on a miniature scale and to remix the existing ideas.

This workshop gave us a lot more personal content about how people experienced their living environment. The artefacts and the lab helped to provoke curiosity with the participants. Also, the workspace area triggered the participants to actually use the lab and the artefacts and create their own scenes. But we also experienced that the scenario needs to be expanded to really connect with the citizens of Genk-Zuid. We will try to do this by expanding the personas and visualising them through a new series of artefacts. The duration of the workshop also formed a problem. Making it difficult for the workshop participants to keep focus till the end of the workshop. During the following workshops we will try to focus on smaller parts of the scenario. Through an iterative process of workshops and by processing the content of the workshops, we will further develop this collective scenario on how industry and residents can coexist. The idea is that the scenario can act as a common language that enables actors from different backgrounds to collectively think about new solutions for their local environment.

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