© Goethe-Institut

    Sharing Spaces
    May 29th-30th 2015

    Glasgow marked the first IN TRANSIT group study visit. Participants from Rotterdam, Stockholm, Helsinki and Dublin met in Glasgow to focus on Sharing Spaces and how sharing public spaces can tackle social inequality and lead to less social polarisation.

    The local IN TRANSIT initiative, North Kelvin Meadow Campaign / The Children's Wood, is a community group set up in October 2008 to campaign for a formerly overgrown green space to be kept as a multi-use community green space for the people of Maryhill and others in Glasgow's West End. The initiative sees that the space is currently under threat – the council wants to sell the land for high-end housing. The initiative regards the space as vitally important to the community and claims that sharing open public spaces can help to reduce social inequality. By taking over an unused plot of land, the initiators of North Kelvin Meadow Campaign succeeded in changing people's perception of public space and turned the overgrown land into an outdoor community centre. Today there is a coexistence of many different people who enjoy the freedom to shape the meadow according to their needs and wishes. Recently, the initiators have handed in their own planning application and asked for 50 years of tenure for the lot in order to actively shape the future of the North Kelvin Meadow. The space is of significant importance given the local context: Scotland ranks bottom in rankings of child well-being as there are hardly any "wild" spaces for kids and everything is "planned" and "safe". Moreover, research has shown that people in deprived areas such as North Kelvinside, have minimal access to green space. Access to open spaces has both direct and indirect impacts on people's physical and mental health, and can also enable people to build social capital.

    During the workshop, the IN TRANSIT initiatives shared how their projects evolved and how the immediate surroundings shaped their work and approach. The discussion also touched upon how their spaces are designed in a way for heterogenous groups and individuals to access and take part in the activities taking place. The workshop was followed by a tour through Glasgow's Maryhill / North Kelvinside area and a public discussion on social polarisation at the meadow.

    The participating initiatives were:

    Access to Space
    September 17th-18th 2015

    The focus of the IN TRANSIT Dublin event was Access to Space. The issue of vacant space in Dublin is a highly politicised area of research, especially in light of the current housing and homelessness crisis. The two local IN TRANSIT initiatives OurFarm and Connect the Dots are both dealing with the issue of accessing space, albeit with different approaches and outcomes.

    OurFarm is Dublin's largest inner city food-growing farm, situated on a disused site on grounds of the Irish National College of Art and Design. The space was discovered by chance when the two students Rian Coulter and Fabian Strunden were temporarily using an unused shop just next to the College for an art installation. It is the largest greenfield site in the city centre and was completely unacknowledged by anyone. The space belongs to the College. Over time, the space went through different stages with the College considering to to build student accommodation or sell the site altogether. But during the 2008 financial crisis, the value so low that they decided to keep it. The crisis was an opportunity to build what is today the largest food-growing farm in Dublin City centre.

    Through field research by the other local IN TRANSIT initiative, Connect the Dots, it has been observed that there are a number of groups and organisations within Dublin interested in vacant space and how it can be utilised. Yet they have noticed that such stakeholders – ranging from artists, arts initiatives, collectives, squatters, charities for homelessness, researchers, students, council members, architects, city planners, and developers are working within disconnected silos across the city. Connect the Dots aims to explore, pilot, and test a series of creative/experimental interventions to help those interested in activating vacant space to learn about each other and from each other – to connect, pool knowledge, share resources, and collaborate.

    Specifically, the project consists of a structured series of events to facilitate the development of a collaborative network to address the issue of prevailing vacant space in Dublin. It identifies and brings together diverse stakeholders in an iterative series of events that aims to encourage dialogue, build connections, share knowledge, and spur collaboration. Anyone who expresses an interest can get involved, particularly those who have utilised these spaces in some way, are currently living or working in a space, or wish to in the future. Connect the Dots co-creates the events with their participants, assessing each event and utilising feedback in order to inform and shape the next.

    The IN TRANSIT Dublin event was centred around a Connect the Dots event. Connect the Dots invited the IN TRANSIT partners from Northwest Europe together with about 80 local participants into the old local Goethe-Institut, a vacant Victorian townhouse currently awaiting renovation. The participants were formed into groups and assigned to local architecture students, who guided their group to carefully prepared rooms of the otherwise totally empty house. Here, the groups were introduced to one specific empty space in Dublin – floorplan, neighbourhood, former use, status – and asked to brainstorm on new use concepts for the space. After a structured brainstorming session within the small group, the ideas were visualised. The second phase of the event consisted of so-called "expert speed-dates"; here, each group had 10 minutes to present their ideas to a rotating group of experts. During the speed-dates the ideas of the groups were discussed and tested against building regulations, fire regulations, heritage laws and other constraining factors. The event proved to be an inspiring format to bring together a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and start the discussion on what could be done with Dublin's vacant spaces.

    During an internal exchange, the IN TRANSIT initiatives shared their best practices and key challenges, how they had gained access to their space, how they made their ideas happen and what impact they had so far.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Social Infrastructure
    October 9th-10th 2015

    The third IN TRANSIT group study trip was to the village Röstånga, situated 60km north of Malmö. The theme was Social Infrastructure. Social Infrastructure can be understood as social resources that are not provided by public administration. Traditional infrastructures tend to be very stable, inert and inflexible as they are built for time: social infrastructures are more flexible and can adapt to the local and immediate needs.

    The theme was of particular relevance to the local IN TRANSIT partner, Röstånga Tillsammans (Röstånga Together). Small villages like Röstånga (900 inhabitants) have experienced the withdrawal of both the public sector services and the private sector. This development urges communities in rural areas to reorganise and rethink both their role in the local community and the capacity to run services. A few engaged locals saw this vacuum as a potential for grassroots activity and founded a non-profit development NGO Röstånga Tillsammans. Through a community shareholding company, the villagers have bought and developed variouses houses and amenities. The organisational setup keeps the profits in the community, creating employment, sustainable development and contributing to the local economy.

    Besides the physical infrastructures, Röstånga Tillsammans has created valuable social infrastructure that was created while developing the physical infrastructures. This includes trust, local pride, a strong community, an increase in inhabitants, preventing the local school from closing, jobs, local circular economy and much more. What becomes apparent with Röstånga Tillsammans holds equally true for the other IN TRANSIT participants as well: they build, directly or indirectly, new social infrastructure.

    After having spent a day in Röstånga, the group traveled to Malmö. The workshop in Malmö brought together a range of people from the local social innovation field. It touched upon the following questions: Does an invigorated civil society result in a weakening of the social contract? Are social entrepreneurs a sign of failure / collapse of society? Are social entrepreneurs going to keep the responsibility for providing services or will the state eventually take back responsibility?

    A main focus of the workshop was measuring social impact. Today, most funding requires measuring the outcome of the initiative's work. The donors want to see the social return on investment, which is often hard to grasp. While methods for measuring social impact are widespread and available, time and resources for measurement are often lacking and the initiatives often feel the provided criteria are not applicable.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Learning City
    October 29th-30th 2015

    During the event in Rotterdam, IN TRANSIT was part of the annual Rotterdam Stadmakerscongres, a one day conference organised by the Architecture Institute Rotterdam (AIR) that brought together a large number of Rotterdam's urban initiatives, city officials, architects, planners and other so-called "city makers". The theme for the fourth IN TRANSIT trip was based on this year's Stadmakerscongres' theme: The Learning City.

    The two local IN TRANSIT initiatives are Leeszaal and Afrikaanderwijk Coöperatie. To both initiatives, learning plays a crucial role in their everyday practice and development.

    The Leeszaal ("Reading Room") started in 2012 when the public library in Rotterdam decided to close 18 out of 24 libraries. After vehement protest in the area came to nothing, two engaged locals, Joke van der Zwaard and Maurice Specht, decided it was time to formulate a tangible, positive, and imaginative answer. Together with their neighbours, they started their own reading room which is totally volunteer-run. After three years, Leeszaal is no longer simply an initiative. The pioneering phase is done and now they focus on continuation. This leads to questions about sustainable funding, maintaining the quality of the space and allowing the initiators to slip away.

    The other local IN TRANSIT partner initiative is the Afrikaanderwijk Coöperatie. The cooperative on the scale of a neighbourhood is an umbrella organisation that brings together workspaces, shopkeepers, local makers, social foundations and the large local market. The Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative creates opportunities through the provision of skill-based labour, training, services and products to enhance the self-organising ability while trying not to waste talent and human capital. It stimulates sustainable local production, cultural development, knowledge exchange and entrepreneurship, as well as shared responsibility and participation. The result is a self-organised and self-run body that continues to create local, self-produced economic opportunities, leverage political power to shift policy and negotiate economic advantages.

    During the course of the two days in Rotterdam, the initiatives shared their experiences and together gained insights into how to advance learning and thereby strengthen their initiatives.

    Trial and error: how does one learn as an initiative?
    We learnt…
    • to challenge the youth, they always find creative and powerful solutions.
    • the importance of a local door-opener.
    • that it is good to ask for more when negotiating with external partners.
    • that not paying rent also means that one can't demand certain things from the owner of the house. We now prefer to rent the space in order to be taken more seriously.
    • that working together with the local municipality was crucial for our success.
    • to identify different stakeholders within your project and be able to find the appropriate approach and potential cooperation model with each stakeholder.
    • to be aware of the value we create with our work: How can we benefit from it?
    • to start a dialogue about ideas and involve people from an early stage.
    • that you can't attach every idea to your project: it needs to fit to your identity.
    • that council and civil servants are key players: make friends at the administration level!
    • that mistakes are not bad, they are lessons and thus it is important to make the most of them.
    • that founding an association serves as a reliable partner for the municipality.
    • that it is difficult to disengage and to hand over responsibility to (new) users of the space.
    • that there is a need for constant reflection of your own position and participation culture: transfer power in early stages.
    • that people grow in the process.
    • that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
    • that without social media, we would not exist.
    • to make use of all the talent and resources existing in your networks.
    • that sometimes you need to "dress" differently as an organisation depending on who you speak to: founding a cooperative meant it was easier to be involved in decision-making than if we had been a foundation.
    • that while the language/outer appearance changes the project/idea has to stay the same.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Alternative Living/Housing
    November 19th-20th 2015

    The IN TRANSIT Helsinki event focused on Alternative Living/ Housing. About 20% of the Finnish population live in the metropolitan area of Helsinki due to migration into the cities and lower job possibilities in the countryside. Thus, the city suffers from a housing shortage that has resulted in high rents and house prices as well as increasing living expenses.

    There are a rising number of civic initiatives in Helsinki that try to work around these outcomes, such as the two local IN TRANSIT partner initiatives, Yhteismaa and Oranssi.

    Yhteismaa (Common Ground) is a non-profit organisation, specialising in new participatory city culture, co-creation and social movements. All the projects share the aim of a more fun, free, sustainable, responsible and social urban life. These include an international flea market day, a table set up for a thousand people to eat in the middle of a street, art exhibitions at home, international conferences, a social media platform and many others. Yhteismaa has shown the city of Helsinki and its citizens that communal activities in Helsinki's public space are possible free of charge. Yhteismaa challenges people's perceptions of where the boundaries between public and private spaces lie. By providing only the framework and leaving the actual activity to the people, a profound feeling of ownership and responsibility for the spaces evolves.

    Oranssi is an organisation created to renovate and repair old houses as reasonably priced rental apartments for young people. The key concept is participation of residents in planning, renovation and practical maintenance. By providing low-cost housing and creating steady, lively and socially united housing communities, they aim to encourage and support young people to find their independence. Oranssi provides an alternative to standard market apartments which are often difficult to finance for young people.

    During the workshop, we examined how the IN TRANSIT initiatives provided alternatives to the status quo, what they did differently than the usual actors, whether the approaches would be applicable elsewhere and what factors were key to their successes.

    After the internal workshop, the IN TRANSIT group study visit featured a tour to alternative housing and culture spaces in Helsinki as well as a public discussion at Laituri, Helsinki City Planning Department's public information and exhibition space. Titled "How can and do citizens participate in the building of their city?", the discussion touched upon the means and limits of participation. Participants included the Deputy Mayor of Real Estate and City Planning, local urban initiatives and the IN TRANSIT participants.

    The public discussion evolved around the questions if a high degree of social capital is a prerequisite for participation and whether the city ensures spaces of enablement or opportunities for those with less social and cultural capital. Interestingly to the participants from outside Finland, the discussion with the city officials was very cooperative and open. While discussions on participation are often loaded with conflict elsewhere, the event left the IN TRANSIT guests almost in disbelief: it was reported that people converse with city officials directly via Facebook messages and the Deputy Mayor invited people into her office to continue discussions about the ideas and issues raised during the event. In short: it seemed like Helsinki understood the potential of co-productive urban development and was trying hard to offer supportive policies and structures that would enable co-creation.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Civic Ecosystems
    November 26th-27th 2015

    The IN TRANSIT London event focused Civic Ecosystems – designing and testing new ways to grow the civic economy. Participatory City Lab, the local IN TRANSIT initiative, is a laboratory that designs and test methods, strategies and systems to grow the civic economy at regional, city and local level. This economy, which is built on the ideas and models of innovative citizen-led initiatives, is creating new systems in areas ranging from energy to food and housing to play. It is changing the appearance and economies of places across the UK and around the world. Participatory City Lab is working in partnership with local councils, housing associations and other institutions to re-organise our local systems to create equality of opportunity for all people.

    The Liverpool-based initiative Homebaked is the other local IN TRANSIT initiative. The Homebaked Bakery Cooperative was incorporated in June 2012 by a group of local residents passionate about the possibilities of re-opening an old bakery in community ownership, and creating a successful enterprise with social as well as financial value. Homebaked aims to support the local Liverpool community to "take matters into their own hands" regarding the future of their neighbourhood. They also founded the Homebaked Community Land Trust, a membership organisation that allows local people to collectively buy, develop and manage land and buildings.

    Apart from field trips through East London, the IN TRANSIT trip to London was centred around an extensive workshop that focused on the theme of building Civic Ecosystems. The workshop asked: What in our current systems either blocks or supports innovative place-making initiatives?

    • There is a risk of falling apart in individual interests.
    • Engage and disengage when it is your time. You have to let go at a certain point.
    • How do we look after ourselves? How do we not burn out
    • It is sometimes hard to fit the projects into existing legislation: i.e., getting insurance for a group – there was no scheme for what we needed.
    • Administration work is very time-consuming.
    • All the projects need a lot of time and flexibility
    • Money is not employed on a local level but on a global market. We need to create local circular economies!
    • The more money is involved there is more driving us away from the voices we need to hear the most and it makes us a little less creative.
    • There are a lot of spaces that cannot be accessed but are sitting empty.
    • Government always look for a model, always want to scale up whereas the value of our work lies in the small-scale.
    • They are stuck to the old idea of private property and investors; disbelief in alternative structures and initiatives as a result.
    • Current regulations. We need exceptions from the market logic!
    • Lack of political guts. Scepticism.
    • Our work is often too similar of a mandate for governments.
    • Hard to show measurable outcomes. Working itself is more important than measuring.
    • Never found the right parameters to measure our work. We tried Social Return on Investment – it was horrible!
    • Balance gains with dangers of losing your own identity. Need to keep existing identity of a space/people and do not patronise them with your own brand.
    • Branding easily excludes people if they do not align with the story being told.
    • Whose voice is it? Difficult in a community! Who is it for? Local vs. international. 
    • Networks of people are at the basis of what we are doing. They bring ideas, energy, resources and open doors.
    • Keep it real, be strategic, be flexible, be open, risk open-end processes (that includes the risk of failure).
    • Develop something from existing local structures.
    • Seek independent money that is not linked to the interest of those who lend the money. Money should be produced by the project to be really independent.
    • Money is in many ways accessible if you organise it in a different way.
    • Money is a way to connect people: if there is an opportunity to make money, cooperation might be easier for some people than if everything were voluntarily.
    • Temporarily using spaces often works in the interest of the owner. Conservation regulations can be in favour of conservation by use.
    • Spaces are processes: buildings / spaces are crucial in holding a group together.
    • Government plays a crucial role.
    • Measures are useful for accessing funding.
    • Communication is key: keep it simple so that people understand what your initiative is about
    • You have to find the right channel for each group: we don't need an app, we want to create offline people-to-people connections
    • But social media is crucial: large group of followers; financial support through kickstarter campaign.
    • Success stories from elsewhere help a lot.
    • Learning needs to be on all levels.
    • Learning is key: we are learning professions as we go.
    • Shift to co-creation culture is making people more aware of and open towards new ideas.
    • There is an existing culture of doing things together in rural areas, revive it!
    • Relationship-based culture is helpful and blocking at the same time.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Centre / Periphery
    February 24th-27th 2016
    Oslo / Kirkenes

    Paying tribute to the geographical disposition of the country with its specific political implications, the IN TRANSIT meeting in Norway was two-fold. Whereas the first part took place in the capital Oslo, in the mild and prosperous south, the second part was held in Kirkenes, located at the rough and harsh northeastern end of the country's long, stretched coastline, struggling against an economic downturn. Norway has strong regional distinctions strengthened by comparably poor traffic connections. Furthermore, the country has been traditionally divided between the economically developed and well-off south and west coast and the barren and precarious northern areas. Hence, the connection between the political centre and the periphery has always been complex.

    Taking the specific Norwegian situation as its starting point, the IN TRANSIT meeting compared the respective experiences and challenges for bottom-up initiatives in the centre and the periphery.

    Part #1 Oslo Top-Down Camouflaging as Bottom-Up

    Oslo is developing even faster than other thriving Scandinavian and Nordic cities. The increased requirements for new living quarters, office spaces and industrial real estate are obvious. In recent years, decrepit port and industrial areas, once the city's main source of income, have been converted into commercial buildings, loft-living residences and shopping malls, gemmed with spectacular landmark architecture for cultural use. Open urban spaces and undetermined areas are already today scarce and have disappeared almost completely in the inner city districts. The enforced urban transformation challenges alternative place-making and bottom-up planning initiatives.

    The local partner project in Oslo is Hauskvartalet. The neighborhood of the Hauskvartalet city block is part of a major redevelopment along the Aker river in Oslo. The project is one of the few bottom-up housing initiative in Oslo. Although its future is uncertain, the project is important for it started a debate in Oslo on how a participatory design process for communal housing can look like.

    During the stay in Oslo, a public event was held in cooperation with Oslo Pilot, a two-year project investigating the role of art in and for the public realm in preperation for the Oslo Triennial. The event featured presentations by the participating IN TRANSIT initiatives Oranssi (Helsinki), ØsterGRO (Copenhagen), Participatory City Lab (London) and Gängeviertel (Hamburg) and was followed by a lively discussion of how top-down developments increasingly camouflage as bottom-up in order to make their development more attractive.

    One such example is the waterfront development of Bjørvika, a former central harbour area in Oslo. The development is an interesting example of the blurred lines between authentic bottom-up initiatives and top-down initiatives camouflaging as bottom-up in order to make redevelopment schemes more attractive to a certain class. The urban development of the Bjørvika area has been hotly debated. The developers have devised a public art strategy, which is supposed to contribute to diversity, local identity and civic co-ownership. In the planning of Bjørvika, there has been a strong emphasis on commons. The term gives rise to associations with open spaces, available to all, and to an egalitarian mindset. In Norway, the term allmenning is closely connected to allmannaretten – the right to cross and temporarily use uncultivated land.

    In Bjørvika, art has been incorporated and actively invited in by the developers and others with interests in the area. What were the desires of the commissioners when they included a programme for art and to what degree could the artists create an independent space to manoeuvre within such a commission? How would the artists relate to the risk of being instrumentalised within such a large economic and political machinery? It becomes impossible to look at art interventions in Bjørvika without considering the wider political and social perspective.

    We visited the Bjørvika site, standing around a freshly-lit campfire, between allotments, a grain field and a community bakehouse, yet amidst the massive redevelopment of the former harbour area. The IN TRANSIT participants discussed how culture has become an attractive tool for urban policy makers and problematised the political staging of cultural practitioners.

    Part #2 Kirkenes Bottom-Up: Stay Grounded

    From Oslo, IN TRANSIT made its way to Kirkenes. Kirkenes is situated at the very periphery, in the far northeastern part of Norway, 12km from the Russian border, 35km from the Finnish border and about 400km inwards from the arctic circle. The city of Kirkenes is ideally placed for cross border cooperation and cultural exchange in the Arctic. The local IN TRANSIT partner initiative Pikene på Broen was established in 1996 and has spent the past 20 years realising cross-border culture projects in the fields of fine arts, theater and performance.

    Pikene på Broen's projects create meeting places and build bridges across borders and genres. Their motto is to bring the world to the Barents sea region and the Barents out into the world. Pikene på Broen challenges people's understanding of geopolitics, centre and periphery. Many of Pikene på Broen's projects and activities have started long term and positive exchanges across the border. It has resulted in Pikene på Broen's implementation of an artist in residency scheme, where artists from both sides of the border meet and develop art projects for their annual festival, the Barents Spektakel.

    This year's festival theme was Rethinking Location. The theme reflected the vulnerability of place: the changing concept of place results in a constantly shifting relationship with the neighbouring countries, specifically Russia. Nothing is static in neighborly relations and our perception of place does not exist in vacuum – when changes occur in one place, the interconnectivity of the region means that all are impacted. This became particularly relevant when, in late 2015, a new migration route sprung to life in the Arctic. By plane, train, taxi and even bicycle, refugees came across the northern Schengen border between Norway, Finland and Russia. Pikene på Broen has picked up the issue by organising Transborder Cafés to address how the communities on both sides of the border can integrate the newcomers.

    Experiencing the vast differences from the mild and prosperous south to the rough and harsh northeastern end of the country's long, stretched coastline, IN TRANSIT Norway explored what role culture and bottom-up initiatives can play in central and peripheral development. While culture is often used as a catalyser for economic revitalisation in Oslo, it plays a different role in Kirkenes: can Kirkenes' unique geopolitical location be a factor in growing the town's cultural identity? Can expertise and specific knowledge of the cross-border region be the key to (peripheral) town development?

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    The Willing City
    March 14th-15th 2016

    To many, Copenhagen has become a paragon of urban development and integrated urban design. The Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl spearheaded a human-centred approach to urban development, which is being sought after by Mayors all over the world, aiming to copenhagenise their cities. The Danish planning system has been historically qualified as holding a comprehensive integrated character, depicting a harmonised and coherent institutional and policy framework across different levels of planning administration. In recent years, most spatial planning responsibilities have been decentralised to the local level.

    The final IN TRANSIT trip was themed The Willing City. Rather than discussing the barriers and challenges that come with engaging with city governments and local authorities, the two-day event in Copenhagen sought to explore the possibilities and opportunities that new cross-links between traditional administration and new actors could entail. What kind of political and legal frameworks will support participation and self-driven initiatives? What new interfaces with institutions and public administration do such initiatives need? What could the city administrations learn from civil initiatives?

    Similarly to the other places that IN TRANSIT visited, there is an emerging movement towards citizen-led action in Copenhagen. Interestingly, the city of Copenhagen is rather open towards and supportive of bottom-up initiatives, trying to negotiate ways to collaborate.

    The two local IN TRANSIT partner initiatives are GivRum and ØsterGRO. GivRum activates empty buildings and public spaces by engaging with local stakeholders and mediating between the community, public sector, local authorities and businesses in neighbourhood development. With roots in Copenhagen's activist soil, they create new directions for citizen-led urban development. Today, GivRum works as consultants and advisors for cities and private developers in transforming empty buildings and public spaces with means of community building. They have established themselves as an organisation that champions the perspective of civil society in city development. They have experienced that the engaging method they are working with is more and more legitimate at a political level.

    The other IN TRANSIT partner initiative is ØsterGRO. ØsterGRO is Denmark's first urban rooftop farm and is situated in the Copenhagen Climate Quarter. The Climate Quarter is a project run by the City of Copenhagen. It is a neighbourhood-focused effort to adapt to climate change; as the urban farm is a good way to absorb water during heavy cloud bursts and also fits into the city's wider sustainability strategy, the Climate Quarter financially supported ØsterGRO to set up their initial infrastructure. Working together with the local municipality was crucial to the success of ØsterGRO. In addition to promoting sustainable farming and providing local families with seasonal vegetables, ØsterGRO can be seen as a space developer. Now, that the farm is on the rooftop as a public amenity for everyone to use and enjoy, the formerly empty offices have become very sought after and the last year has seen new tenants moving into the building.

    Similar to the discussion in Norway, voices during the Copenhagen trip also aired concerns that co-created and self-organised initiatives themselves can become a driving force in gentrification and displacement processes.

    On a bike tour around Copenhagen, the IN TRANSIT participants paid a visit to initiatives that in different ways have succeeded in activating unused spaces in co-creation with the Copenhagen municipality.


    Until 2018, Bureau Detours has been given shelter on a narrow strip of land between the elevated rail tracks and office buildings. As the zoning plan prohibits any temporary buildings on the space, it stood empty and unused for years. Bureau Detours saw the potential for temporary use and activated the space through building Container By ("container city"). They proposed their concept to the area renewal office and were granted access to the land until 2018 and given funds to realise their idea. Bureau Detours wanted to provide an amenity for the neighbourhood: a fablab, music studio, bike and wood workshops, a greenhouse, a kitchen as well as spaces for workshops and a communal garden with a chicken house – all housed in containers.

    Container By is an interesting example of a local municipality reaching out to bottom-up initiatives in order to co-create spaces that activate the neighbourhood. The municipality trusted Bureau Detours as they had a track record of successful temporary interventions in formerly derelict spaces. Container By is meant to show the neighbourhood that the formerly void space can be used. In the future the municipality wants to turn it into a public park with a walking path.


    Similar to Container By, the initiators of Øen – a non-profit art space located in a formerly empty small house – had approached the municipality to get permission to use the derelict house. The municipality granted them access under the condition that they would renovate the house and make it publicly accessible. Øen perceives it as a win-win situation: they had free access to the building and support from a local area fund while the municipality found a reliable partner that would activate the neighbourhood and create a community around the space.

    The initiatives we visited in Copenhagen felt that, in recent years, there has been a change from a culture of "no" to one of "yes, and" in the municipality. Albeit being aware of the role they are playing in urban regeneration, they see this change as a positive development and believe that cooperation with the municipality is necessary to truly co-create the city.

    The IN TRANSIT Copenhagen event coincided with the Copenhagen Architecture Festival ( IN TRANSIT recognised a great potential for collaboration and knowledge exchange and therefore jointly organised a one-day conference. The conference aimed at stimulating various local actors to question and discuss the local approaches and the role of co-creation in the future city development. As a part of the conference the visiting IN TRANSIT initiatives shared their knowledge about self-organisation and user-led urban planning processes in their neighbourhoods and towns.

    The various discussions throughout the IN TRANSIT Copenhagen trip concluded that it is important to showcase co-created user-led initiatives in order to establish a better understanding of the value that they create. There is a need for more flexible formal structures that meet the needs of bottom-up ideas. Trust on both sides was mentioned as the key to successful co-creation with public authorities.

    The participating IN TRANSIT initiatives were:

    Mitt 127 Stockholm
    Mitt 127 is an initiative by young people for young people from Skärholmen, an outer Stockholm district with 90% of the people having a migration background. Mitt 127 organises festivals, launched educational programs and raises awareness of political issues amongst young people from the area. Through their initiatives, Mitt127 succeeded in creating a local community where everyone is welcome.

    More about all Projects
    North Kelvin Meadow Glasgow
    The North Kelvin Meadow Campaign is a community group set up in October 2008 to campaign for the green space in Glasgow's Maryhill/North Kelvinside area to be kept as a multi-use community green space for the people of Maryhill and others in the West End. The initiative claims that through sharing open public spaces, social inequality can be reduced.

    More about all Projects
    OurFarm Dublin
    Dublin's largest inner city organic community farm. The aim of OurFarm is to harness the production and provision of organic food as a resource for educational, social and artistic application. It is rooted in a strong collaboration with several other community groups and aims at reconnecting people with the sources of the products they eat.

    More about all Projects
    Leeszaal Rotterdam
    What would you do if your city announced it would close 18 out of 24 local libraries? Protest, complain, become a cynic, or take action and create something new? After having tried the first, a group of residents from Rotterdam West decided it was time for the latter. In 2 years time a group of 90 volunteers have invented a lively community space. Open five days a week the Reading Room has a collection of 30.000 books you can just take out, 5 newspapers, computers, wifi and a range of programs revolving around language, literature, imagination and participation. With over 15.000 visitors a year the Reading Room showcases what a truly public space can look like.

    More about all Projects
    Yhteismaa Helsinki
    Yhteismaa (Common Ground) is a non-profit organisation, specialised in new participatory city culture, co-creation and social movements. All the projects share the aim of a more fun, free, sustainable, responsible and social urban life. These include an international flea market day, setting up a table for a thousand people to eat in the middle of a street, art exhibitions at home, international conferences, a social media platform and many others.

    More about all Projects
    Connect the Dots Dublin
    Connect the Dots aims at getting everyone together - in one room, working on one issue: underutilised space in Dublin. Councillors, architects, city planners, squatters, artists, charities for the homeless, academics, students, social entrepreneurs, and DIY initiatives will share both food and knowledge as we figure out ways to not only connect the dots, but to make a difference in Dublin.

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    Pikene på Broen Kirkenes
    Pikene på Broen is an organisation established in 1996 by art curators and producers based in Kirkenes / Northern Norway. Through their projects, they want to create meeting places and bridging across borders and genres. Their motto is to bring the world to the Barents and the Barents out into the world. Through their art projects they challenge our understanding of geopolitics, centre and periphery.

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    Hauskvartalet Oslo
    The former squatters at Hauskvartalet in Oslo and Eriksen Skajaa Architects have together designed an urban ecological residential project with non-commercial rental housing. The project is a discussion on what the sustainable minimum dwelling is today and an examination of how to develop housing projects with a high degree of participation.

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    Röstånga Tillsammans Malmö
    In 2009 a group of engaged locals in the region of "Röstånga" in south of Sweden, decided to do something to turn around the negative development in their community. Together the villagers have since bought and developed a museum, a restaurant, a micro-brewery, a community bus and housing. The organisational setup keeps the profit in the community, creating employment, sustainable development and contributing to the local, circular economy.

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    ØsterGRO Copenhagen
    With 600 m2 and 90 tonnes of soil on a large roof top, ØsterGro is a real urban roof farm with plenty of organic vegetables, urban bees and chickens providing eggs and honey for 40 local families. The farm is organised as a community supported agriculture. The latest addition is a greenhouse restaurant on the roof top serving food from the roof top itself or from local producers.

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    GivRum Copenhagen
    GivRum is a non-profit organisation that works to promote userdriven urban development by engaging citizens in building their own city. The goal is to empower citizens through knowledge sharing, cultural collaboration and community building. Each of the projects is oriented towards helping emerging creative communities to become catalysts for positive, sustainable and democratic city development.

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    Civic Systems Lab London
    Civic Systems Lab is a laboratory that designs and test methods, strategies and systems to grow the civic economy at regional, city and local level. This economy, which is built on the ideas and models of innovative citizen-led initiatives, is creating new systems in areas ranging from energy to food, and housing to play. It's changing the appearance and economies of places across the UK and around the world. Civic Systems Lab is working in partnership with local councils, housing associations and other institutions to re-organise our local systems to create equality of opportunity for all people.

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    Homebaked Liverpool
    The Homebaked Bakery Co-operative was incorporated in June 2012 by a group of local residents passionate about the possibilities of re-opening an old bakery in community ownership, and creating a successful enterprise with social as well as financial value. Homebaked aims to support the local Liverpool community to "take matters into their own hands" regarding the future of their neighbourhood. They also founded the Homebaked Community Land Trust, a membership organisation that allows local people to collectively buy, develop and manage land and buildings.

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    Oranssi Ry Helsinki
    Oranssi ry ("Orange group") is a Finnish organisation created to renovate and repair old houses as reasonably priced rental apartments for young people. The key concept is participation of residents in planning, renovation and practical maintenance. The aim is to encourage and support young people to find their independence by providing low-cost housing and create steady, lively and socially united housing communities.

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    Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative Rotterdam
    The Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative's mission is to develop Rotterdam South as a social, economical and cultural stronger and more sustainable area. It provides an organizational structure in which revenues and benefits can go directly to its members, local stores, organisations and inhabitants. Through strategic organization the skills and resources present in the area are used efficiently.

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