Expert article
Edit 08 January 2021
by PIETRO ELISEI

The second wave of the pandemic threatens the participatory process. Being able to move the project forward despite the second wave of the pandemic

The right of children to grow in places that meet their needs, with inclusive services and concrete opportunities.
A child-friendly city, where differences and isolation leave room for culture and aggregation.
The low numbers of infected people during the summer made it possible to have an important dialogue with the target groups of the Capacityes project. We refer specifically to the children who are the protagonists of this project together with families in economic difficulty who will be able to take advantage of a comfortable shelter through the cohousing experience promoted by this innovative action led by the Municipality of Bergamo. Late autumn 2020 meant the consistent recurrence of the pandemic and the return to virtual interactions. The problem was to keep the already activated planning process alive, but also to keep the protagonists of the project connected, primarily the target families. This new emergency immediately required a change of strategy: A rethinking of the intervention to deal with the new health emergency. 

The efficiency of virtual participation

The dual nature of the action was maintained, individual contact, in person, with the cultural mediators (many of the families involved are not Italian, and are made up of migrants who have been living in Bergamo for several years) and the virtual contact. The latter is useful for the partnership to constantly monitor the situation of the families involved in the project. The solution is to use a series of video-calls to keep in touch and dialogue with the families. This approach allowed to keep the target families updated on the progress of the project and to maintain the co-design events in action. The families involved in the initiative have responded very well to this stimulus from the project partnership. They were very happy to know that the project did not stop. For some families, the situation worsened during this period. In this sense, the work of the mediators was fundamental as it made it possible to orient families towards those local associations that can help them in particularly difficult work and housing situation, to ensure that their situation does not worsen further (The city of Bergamo offers various forms of bottom-up help, this is linked to the world of volunteering, which provides basic assistance to individuals and families in difficulty).

Working on training to encourage integration into the local social and productive fabric

The fundamental point, however, is to place families in the context of the social, cultural and economic life of Bergamo. This means going beyond the simple care pathway. Despite the difficulties induced by the second wave of the pandemic, the Capacityes project will carry out training initiatives to facilitate the work-life integration of unemployed members of the target families. This problem particularly affects women. Most jobs require at least a middle school certificate. The idea behind the initiative is to understand the qualifications of women, support them in enrolling in the provincial centres for the employment of adults and get them to obtain a middle school certificate. There is also the alternative of putting them in contact with entities that can recognize qualifications obtained abroad. For women without school education, middle school courses were made available to help them make up for their shortcomings;

The work of linking key projects through street art continues

One of the significant points of innovation of the Capacityes project is in the role that children and the new generations have in the context of this urban regeneration action. Workshops with children's were concluded already in July: 20 workshops held in the children summer leisure centres. In fact, during the summer, the low number of infections made it possible to carry out the activities in person. Mid-September, the situation became much more difficult. In recent months (from October to December) the possibility of returning to schools was considered, but the situation did not allow it and this made it necessary to postpone the planned workshops. In any case, the drawings and proposals already developed by children can now be developed for the realization of the murals. These murals will constitute "Ariadne's thread" among the symbolic places of the local regenerative process: Following the children messages in public spaces to identify their contribution to the redevelopment of places. The necessary authorizations to carry out the work on the walls are well underway, collected by private individuals, by ENEL which has agreed to put at disposal two small houses, and by the Codussi school which provided the gym wall.

Children Arts Workshops
Children drawings inspiring local artists to design the murals, source: official Capacityes facebook page 

The project is working on the sketches developed by the artists, inspired by the children works, and which will be subsequently presented and discussed within the partnership and with local communities. Logistics organization works are being prepared for the realization of the murals themselves (implementation is estimated for mid-May). Also, the design project on an artist's map of the area affected by the project, thanks to the help of the pupils of the Galgario school, will be realized. Finally, the artist will create the map, it will contain these places chosen by the children and information on the location of the murals. By January the project will collect all necessary elements to complete this map.

Advancing with the technical design and bureaucratic procedures for permits

Although the implementation of the project is suffering from the fact that many meetings are postponed or organized virtually due to the current situation induced by COVID19, during the preparation of the monitoring sheet the municipality realized that the design and technical activities are quite linear with timing, the problem now starts in the second part of the project, which coincides with a greater commitment to the livability of spaces and the physical implementation of activities. Online meetings and preparatory activities took place with the architects in charge of the renewal of the spaces to be re-used for the co-housing experience. Besides, in-person meetings are planned for the activities that can be carried out at the hub for children. A networking operation started, through the municipality of Bergamo, with all the services already active for the age groups that will be involved to understand how to integrate the project into the existing network. It is not to simply launch an initiative, but to innovate the offer and give it a guarantee of future sustainability thanks to the direct involvement of the community. As regards the renovation of the buildings, delays are expected due to the interruption of some intervention procedures during the first phase of the health emergency. 

Doubts and uncertainties to be understood and managed to improve project choices

Clearly, in this second semester of the project, there are still many challenges to be understood, contextualised and faced. One of these is to make the residents of the neighbourhoods affected by this innovative action understand the extent of the regenerative process and the impact on the local scale. Concerning the redevelopment of the building that will host the co-housing experience, meetings were organized with the owners of the surrounding area and with the offices operating in the surrounding buildings. A dialogue has been initiated regarding what will be included in the building, how the design of the spaces will be managed and how the housing function will be integrated with respect to other functions and services already operating in the area of ​​the ASST (Social Health Company of Lombardy Region) complex. The dialogue made it possible to start thinking about a series of important issues, such as the location of the entrances, parking lots, garden appurtenances, project management for the duration of the 3-year project and future management.

As for the creation of Hub4kids, after the first meeting, including just the municipality, the designers have made themselves available to meet also the project partners most interested in the co-design of the structure, as well as the stakeholders and bodies dedicated to the themes of childhood and educational services.

In the coming months, the project will have to work much more to develop a more in-depth dialogue with residents and associations to better understand the impact of this regenerative and innovative action. In fact, both the redevelopment of the building to accommodate less well-off families in cohousing, and the redevelopment of the farmhouse to create the Hub4kids require changes to the urban context of proximity. These buildings must be inserted in the city fabric considering their new functions and launch a dialogue the community of residents and the activities production facilities and the services currently developing in the areas affected by the project.

 

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