Community Engagement for Social Inclusion

Toolkit

ProstoRož

ProstoRož plans to cooperate with disadvantaged adults in Savsko naselje neighbourhood in Ljubljana. Savsko naselje is a modernist residential neighbourhood, built between 1945 and 1960 and is a part of Bežigrad district. The ethnic structure consists of Slovenes as well as residents of Bosnian, Croat and Serbian descent.

Local issues

Savsko naselje was one of the first residential neighbourhoods in Ljubljana constructed after World War II. At the beginning the neighbourhood was known for its high quality of living based on its proximity to the city centre, diverse network of public spaces and strong social bonds between the residents. In the past few decades the neighbourhood regressed in social, spatial and economic sense. Privatisation processes, which started during the economic transition in the 1990s, caused ownership issues of public spaces, absence of regular maintenance and degradation of public spaces. Many of the green areas have been changed into improvised parking lots to meet demand as the neighbourhood was originally designed for fewer cars. In addition, the majority of public services moved out of the neighbourhood causing the number of cultural associations to drop from 10 to just two. The absence of public services has resulted in a complete lack of trust in public institutions. Social bonds among the residents have also been broken. Approximately half of Ljubljana’s residents live in similar neighbourhoods built between 1945 and 1990 and are facing similar issues to those in Savsko naselje.

Current position

In 2013, we started an Integrated Urban Regeneration project in Savsko naselje, initiated by the Department of Urban Planning of Municipality of Ljubljana. It relied on the cooperation between the local residents and different organisations (MHP, V.I.B.E., Saprabolt! And prostoRož). Our goal was the renovation of public spaces, as well as the revitalisation of social bonds among the residents. Through organised and spontaneous community meetings we formed a programme for regeneration on several levels: social and cultural activities; sports; informal socialising; bottom-up spatial planning; and a traffic strategy for the neighbourhood. We provided a space for public debate where each resident was able to participate in discussions on topics that interested them. Over two years, several experts, municipal institutions and NGOs joined the process.

During the project we witnessed a lack of trust in public institutions on a local level, as the neighbourhood had been neglected by the local authorities in the past. Many of our actions were based on increasing the level of mutual trust and motivating the residents to actively engage in the community.

Part of the activities during the integrated urban renewal were focused on the community centre, which was built in the 1960s with the help of local residents. The building hosted local administration and cultural associations as well as various events in the small hall and a bar on the ground floor. The role of the community centre changed drastically in the 1990s, when the local administration moved out of the neighbourhood and the bar had to shut down. The only room that stayed in use was the hall, mostly occupied for various dance lessons, while the local residents lost their access to the building. We renovated one part of the community centre that now functions as the Library of Things, a new social service accessible to all residents that promotes social and environmental impacts of sharing economies (see best practice example).

The Library of Things also serves as a community living room. It hosts various events, from workshops and lectures to board game nights and birthday parties, which are mostly organised by the locals. Anyone can rent the space for free, as long as the activities held in the Library are free of charge. In the last few years the Library has already hosted different groups of disadvantaged adults, since the space is equally accessible to everyone without any financial risk.

After the official conclusion of the integrated urban renewal we maintained our presence in the neighbourhood through the Library of Things, which celebrated its fourth birthday in January 2019. We see an opportunity in COMENSI to increase the role of the Library based on four years’ experience, combined with the expertise of other community based projects across Europe. Our goal is to reach and engage a broader audience cooperating as participants as well as active content creators.