Collectively taking care of urban green areas benefits citizens not only with more livable, beautiful and 're-greened' cities, it also encourages a sustainable lifestyle and makes happier communities, encouranging sense of belonging and participation. Noi Ortadini have been witnessing this for 1 year and a half, by restoring the urban biodiversity of a neighborhood in Matera, with circular economy practices and social inclusion at the intergenerational, multicultural and many other levels.
Our project is to regenerate an abandoned green area in a neighbourhood of Matera called Serra Venerdì.
We intend regeneration as both environmental and social, as the dwellers of Serra Venerdì have always been considered as villains and often marginalized by other richer and 'more cultured' citizens of Matera. Therefore with our project, we want to create a redemption opportunity for this neighbourhood, by valuing and highlighting its specificities, such as
- wide green spaces, beautiful view on a lake near Matera and on the mountains far away: a landscape value
- mutual aid and multigenerational contact, because of the way the houses are architecturally distributed (creating many common spaces and gardens), plus the fact that some old people have been planting some vegetables, along with children playing and young people socializing open air
- the lack of traffic, as no big street flanks the area
More concretely, our project is to keep carrying on with the constant work that we have been doing for one year and a half of cleaning up, planting trees and vegetables, organizing around one event per month with activities such as plogging, live music, language exchange clubs and practical do-it-yourself laboratories.
We feel that we fully share the values of the NEB:
- sustainability, because we encourage it by restoring urban biodiversity, encouraging a sustainable lifestyle and adopting circular economy (e.g. using waste from local beer, biologic food and wood production)
- aesthetics, because we aim at turning an abandoned space into one of the most beautiful in town
- inclusion, as we make our green area more accessible in many ways, creating sense of belonging
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
In terms of sustainability, so far we have covered a number of sustainability aspects, starting from fostering a more sustainable lifestyle, specifically as follows:
- during most of our events, we have hosted and encouraged open debates on daily actions that can help fight climate change, avoid pollution and live more healthily
- the members of our association are encouraged (and encourage others too) to reach Serra Venerdì on foot or by bike
- we designed and offered as a membership gift a calendar made from recycled paper, displaying the seasonal fruits and vegetables month by month
Moreover, we adopt circularity by using manure and compost coming from a biological Masseria (farmhouse) near Matera, plus the waste from beer production and our own compost to nourish the soil and make it fertile, naturally.
We also try to restore biodiversity by planting trees: so far we have planted 22 trees plus 1048 tree seeds with the help of expert agronomists, University Professors and a list of local cultivars provided by Public Administration, in order to reforest with high awareness.
We have the long-term view of regenerating the area where we operate with natural rhythm, step by step, seed by seed, matching the environmental awareness with responsibilization of the local dwellers like us towards caring about the environment and gaining more awareness of the geographical context where we live.
Also, our group now counts 38 members and has gathered the interest and support of the neighbourhood, including people of all ages, who not only care more about the green space now: they also want to give continuity to the project.
This sense of belonging, continuity and long-term vision is necessary to ensure the sustainability of our actions.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
One of the objectives of our actions so far has been turning the green area where we operate from an abandoned area into one of the most beautiful urban community gardens in town.
For many years it has been used to dump the waste coming from building companies, and sometimes from home livelihoods.
In the last year and a half we have been:
- cleaning and tidying up
- involving the neighbourhood's community and other active citizens from Matera and other Italian and European citizens in imagining and co-designing the area through participatory workshops
- the University of Basilicata to make proposals for a project based as much as possible on the social needs emerged
Such needs also include shadowed spots, more benches, tables and social spaces for picnics, accessible paths among the trees, events and workshops related to nature and culture for all ages.
Therefore, the products and services that we want to offer thanks to New European Bauhaus are strongly based on the experience that we want those products and services to deliver: an experience of exchange, sociability, inclusion, relaxation, artistic expression, enjoyment of the landscape and natural resources.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
As a newly born association for social advancement, Noi Ortadini aims to promote social inclusion, engagement, participation and empowerment through a wide range of activities. Some of our stakeholders and beneficiaries are:
- elder people
- young people at risk of exclusion (e.g. those who committed crimes and are involved in social services)
- disabled people
- international volunteers and students
- local dwellers who have had problems with law or who are excluded due to the prejudice that affects the neighborhood Serra Venerdì
In order to benefit these groups, we are establishing a network of people and organizations who come and help in horticulture, do-it-yourself workshops and participatory planning laboratories. Among the various activities, we have developed a calendar of learning activities, in which each member of the association can share their skills and knowledge with others. We struve to develop a community based on the principles of welcoming, hospitality and sharing.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
Starting from an abandoned place and a set of challenges, we have activated ourselves and a whole community in taking care of a common space. The dimensions of inclusion, sustainability and aesthetics have been integrated from the outset in our collective action. Indeed, we want to turn this place into a beautiful one, not only in terms of aesthetic objects and arrangement, but also in terms of beautiful and enriching cultural activities like poetry, music, poster art, games etc., involving as many people as possible in bringing their inspiration and ideas. We strive to involve people with fewer opportunities to give them a chance to experience an inclusive and stimulating environment. And we intend sustainability both as environmental and social, conveying the idea of co-designing a space that will be there for a long time and passing it on to future generations, fostering the well being of the present and future dwellers with the restoration of biodiversity and many other practices. We have received external confirmations that we have been able to mix these three dimensions into what they often define as "a beautiful project"!
Although we haven't still gathered structured and quantitative feedback, we did gather qualitative one which suggested that we are in the right track to:
- give young people of Matera a valid reason to be proud of their city and stay here to study and work, avoiding brain drain and encouraging entrepreneurship and sense of initiative;
- contribute to the valid reasons to come back and live in Matera, Basilicata and Southern Italy, which overall suffers from strong depopulation;
- be a virtuous example that encourages inhabitants from Serra Venerdì to take more and more care about the neighborhood and valorize social relations in open spaces, regaining sense of belonging thanks to the good sides and collaborative cultural and social actions that we carry out
- convey the values of sustainability and sense of belonging to nature, perceiving the ecosystem as something we do belong to
- make us all feel part of a common vision and mission: making Matera and Serra Venerdì more sustainable and inclusive
- inspire other similar projects in Basilicata
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
We have carried out 3 participatory laboratories to co-design the green space:
- With the local inhabitants to start imagining, co-designing and understanding our needs
- With the University, to launch a call for the design of a more structured urban regeneration project
- With the local administration (municipality) to choose the endemic trees to plant and evaluate the feasibility of our ideas and projects
More generally, everytime an organization, person or group of people visits us, we ask them to share ideas, suggestions and opinions that can enlarge our views for the green space.
Some of the organizations we cooperated with so far are:
- Coalizione Civica, a collective of citizens proposing public-private-people partnerships
- Cooperativa sociale l'abbraccio, involving young orphans
- Basilicata Link, welcoming European volunteers
- Tolbà, working with migrant people
- StartApp, involving young people who committed small crimes into social actions
...and many others!
By involving both local dwellers and visitors, we generated an a exchange of ideas and good practices, other than making it be perceived as a true collective action where everyone is involved in the process.
By involving the local administration and university, we gained recognition and praise for them and established a respectful and trustworthy dialogue which paved the way to a possible partnership.
The organizations which took part in co-designing and carrying out activities with us said that our space and project acts as a perfect 'crossroad' for organizations that want to carry out open air activities and contribute to addressing social issues.
Last but not least, members of Noi Ortadini often repeat how empowered they feel thanks to this project which is able to take the best out of our attitudes, skills, professionalities.
In relation with the global environmental challenges, we fight climate change by raising awareness, sensitizing and adopting game-based methods to enact practices that help avoid food waste, wrong waste management, biodiversity loss, lack of urban green social spaces. For example, we use manure and compost coming from a biological Masseria (farmhouse) near Matera, plus the waste from beer production and our own compost to nourish the soil and make it fertile, naturally; and we also try to restore biodiversity by planting endemic trees. As for the social challenges, we fight social prejudices, exclusion, inaccessibility and brain drain. In general, we contribute to create urban environments that foster the well being of local communities and make them/us more knowledgeable about important issues such as climate change and sustainable urban planning.
Our group was born first from action and then it was transformed into an organisation and a long-term "project". Our approach is quite grassroots: we prefer slow pace to fast growth, and we demonstrate things with facts before speaking and promoting. Plus, we are not yet another project in which a space is regenerated by expert people external to a space and neighbourhood, who often happen to have a communication gap and involvement of the local community, and who often do not go forward after the closure of the project. On the contrary, we are outside the logic of the only-project-making organisations, as we aim at giving as much continuity as possible to our actions, and this is also demonstrated by the fact that at least every Saturday (often also other days of the week) for a year and a half now we have seen each other on site to carry out activities of urban regeneration and social inclusion. We are and want to be less project-based and more action-based. Plus, we empower the local dwellers and accompany them with tools and methods, and with the desire to collaborate and continue developing this "regeneraction".
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
The potential for transferring the learning obtained through the experience has already been partly expressed through the involvement of a group of citizens of another district of the city of Matera, with whom we are undertaking a path of information and training with respect to the management of a green space and with whom we are undertaking a path with the municipal administration through which we can build a regulation that allows a shared management between civil society and public administration. This is an important point, because thanks to our action other informal groups, associations and institutions of any kind in the future will be able to participate in the management of shared common goods much more easily thanks to the existence of a regulation that precisely regulates such contracts.
The potential of our action also lies in the example that we give every day to the young people of the city of Matera who come to visit our space, telling our story and inspiring them to take action for their dreams and ideals.
In this last period we are working on the establishment of workshops that can allow anyone to make progress on some projects through the design, the creation of a strategy, and proper communication.