Vollenhove in the Picture
The L-Flat in Vollenhove, Zeist belongs to the biggest gallery flats in western Europe. About 2000 people from over 60 different nationalities inhabit the flat. The L-Flat was built in the sixties as a response to the enormous housing shortage after World War II and in 1968, the first people took their residence in the flat. Since it’s opening, problems have been signalled concerning vandalism, criminality and contamination of the environment by garbage. Due to the fast in- and outflow of inhabitants and its multi-culturality, social cohesion among inhabitants remains low. Especially the contamination of the environment due to garbage and underlying causes has triggered the municipality of Zeist to start an action research to tackle this issue together with inhabitants and other stakeholders. In order to give respondents space to express their main issues and identify underlying issues, the subject has been broadened from ‘garbage’ to ‘improving living quality’.
The Participatory Action Research project is an intensive 13-week cooperation between 7Senses and the municipality of Zeist, in which two 7Senses – action researchers participate and 6 municipality employees are ‘trained on the job’ in action research by 7Senses. In a multi-disciplinary team they performed Participatory Action Research in the L-Flat to boost community empowerment of residents and local organisations while at the same time work on their own personal and professional development.
|Project name||Vollenhove in the Picture|
|Start date||January 2018|
|Coordinators||Madelon Eelderink, Mariëlle Sluiter, Jorieke Vermeulen|
|Number of action researchers||Eight|
Each Participatory Action Research starts from a community issue, addressed by its problem owners at location. As such, we make sure the action research is based on local demand rather than donor demand. Together with these local stakeholders, we design the action research in a way that fits the local context, from the problem framing up to methodology and concept definitions.
For over 30 years, the L-Flat in Zeist suffers from contamination due to litter, where garbage is often thrown from balconies. This turns out to be one of the main annoyances of its residents. Presumably, factors such as low social cohesion, a large in- and outflux of inhabitants, quintes, low social economic status, a sense of unsafety and a bad image of the l-flat directly related to this problematique. This lowers the living quality of residents.
To improve the living quality of the L-Flat residents. By researching together with locals the influencing factors of living quality and facilitating the co-creation and implementation of a Community-specific Action Plan (CAP). The CAP will be focused on tackling the changeable influencing factors of living quality.
In what way can living quality of L-Flat residents be optimized, in such way that residents and other stakeholders can realize this among themselves?
Current situation. What are, according to residents and other stakeholders, causes and effects of impaired living quality?
Related projects. What is the effect of past projects to improve living quality and what projects are currently active?
Assets. What assets (talents, expertise, manpower, etc) are currently present in the L-Flat and among other stakeholders?
Social relations. How do social relations among residents and between residents and other stakeholders look like?
Desired situation. How does life in the L-Flat look like, according to residents and stakeholders, when living quality is optimal?
Solution and requirements. What is needed to reach optimal living quality for residents, and of these requirements are within their circle of influence to tackle?
Intrinsic motivation. Under which circumstances and under which conditions are residents and other stakeholders willing and able to improve living quality together?
Future. How can the continuance of the CAP to optimize living quality be sustained?
Interviews, seasonal diagrams, focus groups, photovoice, Appreciative Inquiry.
Litter, social cohesion, living quality, image
Each action research delivers direct outcomes for the local community on the addressed issue: we can share how many people have been reached, what their perspective is on the current and desired situation and what final Community Action Plan (CAP) they have co-created and implemented. In a later stage, local stakeholders will evaluate the impact of the CAP.
From informal conversations with residents, it turned out that the garbage issue -the motive and starting point of the Vollenhove in the Picture project from the perspective of the municipality- was from the perspective of residents by far not as prominently existent. They mentioned vandalism, a lack of social cohesion and others, which seemed more important to them than the garbage issue. We therefore shifted our preconceived idea of addressing the ‘garbage issue’ towards a broader ‘living quality’. As such, residents had more freedom to speak their most pressing issues within this broader system. The aim of our PAR-study became to improve this broader system of living quality as a whole, in which multiple issues can be addressed, reinforcing each other.
After analysis, we distillated the main themes out of all our data and found the relations between them as illustrated in the image below.
This action research delivered results on six main themes: Social cohesion, Feelings of] Safety, Image [of the L-Flat], Facilities, Garbage and Multi-stakeholder cooperation. Using results of our analysis, a simplified model of the interrelatedness of the elements of living quality was developed (see figure under tab ‘desired situation’, which was shared with the respondents along with more detailed models, including proposed solutions, per identified theme (for the sake of brevity not presented here).
During stage 3, Insights Sharing & Solution Identification, the most suitable solution(s) were prioritized and -using Appreciative Inquiry- participants further elaborated upon the strengths of the community, and connected those with the prioritized solution(s). Participants then drew their ideal situation on a large piece of paper. Solutions included to ‘pimp the park’, to furnish empty container spaces as meeting spaces, a girls house and moped storage, to arrange a youth centre for boys, to establish a bee garden and to make pictograms indicating not to litter. During Action Plan Co-creation and Formalization & Transferal, these solutions were further concretized for stakeholders to work on during the Monitoring stage. The following table summarizes all current and desired situations from the perspective of involved stakeholders, along with corresponding proposed solutions.
|Theme||Current situation||Desired situation||Assets||Solutions prioritized by stakeholders||Status||Also contributes to theme (s):|
|Social Cohesion||Little contact between stakeholders||More contact between stakeholders||Empty container spaces||Use empty container spaces as meeting spaces, girls house and moped storage||Realized||Feeling safe (people get to know each other)|
|Feelings of Safety||Residents feel unsafe due to delinquencies, vandalism and theft.||Feeling safe||Camera’s are placed recently, reduced delinquencies, vandalism and theft.||Improve social cohesion, more camera’s, more lampposts||Sleeping||Social cohesion (people dare to speak to each other)|
|Image||L-Flat has a bad image||Good image, people proud to live in the L-Flat||Many residents experience living in the L-Flat as positive||Improve the image of the L-Flat in the media||Running||Pride leads to better maintainance, more social cohesion and less likelihood to litter|
|Facilities inside||Bad isolation and maintainance, bad access for disabled, garbage, suicide jumps||L-Flat better isolated and maintained better access for disabled, less garbage||Since recently renovated, key-locked entrances||‘Dating’ with housing corporation, plans for better isolation||Sleeping||Improved living quality as a whole, pride.|
|High energy bill, unsustainable energy use||L-Flat to be the first flat in the Netherlands to be fully energized by solar panels, lower to no energybill||Lots of space for solar panels nearby||Place solar panels at the top of a nearby building with a large rooftop||Sleeping||Image|
|Facilities outside||youth hanging at entrances, causing nuisance||Place for youngsters outside L-Flat||Beautiful view, lots of nature, a lot of facilities nearby||Youth centre for teenage boys||Realized||Feeling safe|
|Play facilities outdated||New play facilities||Nice park opposite the flat||‘Pimp the park’||Realized||Social cohesion|
|Lack of green||More nature||Space for green in and around the park||Bee garden||Realized||Social cohesion|
|Cooperation with partners||There is a lack of unity, communication and cooperation between involved organisations, forwarding crisis situations to others & bureaucracy||Improved cooperation, easier findability and access to the right organizations||Recently a barrio service point has opened. Cooperation between police and housing corporation is good.||Improve contact between involved organisations, gain trust, elucidate interests||Running||All themes, and debt issues|
|Garbage – Litter||People throw litter off the balcony. Dangerous, stinks and gives vermin.||No litter thrown off balconies, clean environment||Biga cleans every week.||Pictograms ‘do not throw garbage off balcony’, camera’s||Running||Feeling safe (a cleaner environment)|
|Garbage – Containers||Many people put their trashbags next to containers because they dont have a waste pass.||Less trash next to containers.||Big containers. Boa investigates who put trasbags near containers, punishment. No trashbags on galery anymore.||Make waste pass easy accessible and cheap.||Running||Feeling safe|
By the time of writing (sept 2019), some of these initiatives have been successfully realized, others are still running and some are currently inactive.
Stakeholders improving the outside of the L-Flat (theme: facilities)
Positive messages about the L-flat in the media (Theme: image of the L-Flat)
Children establishing a bee garden (Theme: “pimp the park”) delivering another positive message in the media (Theme: Image of the L-Flat)
Teenage boys realized their own youth centre (Themes: Facilities, feelings of safety)
Girls realizing a ‘Girls House’ (Themes: Facilities, Social Cohesion)
Impact has not been measured yet.
Coordinator & Action Researcher
Coordinator & Action Researcher
Coordinator & Action Researcher
Alfons van Dort
Sustainable Development Goals