In Scandic Hotel, located near a well known building of Renoma shopping center in Wrocław, Day 1 came to an end. The lectures and presentations listed on the agenda of the regional conference on Friendly City Planning were ticked off. All participants showed up and remained until the end at full strength, which is an expected consequence of the chosen meeting formula. Speakers’ talks interwoven with film presentations kept the audience away from weariness and let everybody stay focused and intellectually efficient – quite a feat in a nine-hour concentration need.
Parallel to the lectures a workshop session was held next door for children from the Primary School No 67. A group of lively and impetuous nine-year-olds fervently cut and glued paper building models of their own concepts. The models then were put together and created a city model called by their your constructors Ekonowo, a City of Great Events. The teachers presented the Ekonowo model to the conference adult participants.
In their presentations the speakers brought up unpopular topics that are outside the mainstream of city governance. They referred to changes in urban paradigm connected with growing social consciousness and more and more explicit bottom-up pressure on city authorities by self-organized citizen groups. The aspects of social exclusion and prevention thereof was discussed. The necessity of educating the society from early school years was also stressed. Sustainable development defined as reasonable exploitation of natural environment together with actions for high quality environment, as self-efficiency, as pro-health behaviors and finally networking is not only possible but necessary.
Examples presented in the films serve as conclusive evidence that low-cost activities (powered with high social energy) can bring spectacular benefits to whole communities. In Poland such initiatives are stimulated by the EU grants. In such countries as the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark or the United Kingdom, it is the bottom-up initiative, with local authorities to assist in ecological project.
Public administration is to provide high quality public space which is a priority to the demanding inhabitants. They know what they want and they can effectively enforce their right in this respect from the democratically elected representatives. The lectures were accompanied by a poster display which showed in a nutshell the essence of the films. The posters are available on www.ekologiakonstruktywnie.pl, tab “Best practices”.
The summary by Maciej Borsa was an uplifting conclusion that seemingly in Poland the complaining went out of fashion. When people see that they can only count on their own resources and skills because the speed of administrative decision-making processes cannot catch up with the needs, they organize themselves and change their surroundings. This optimism was shared by all conference participants at the dinner table and hopefully taken to hotel rooms of the hospitable Scandic Hotel.
Is it really the case that in Poland we are done with the romantic philosophy and open to “positivist” thinking where work at the grass roots will no longer be treated as a utopian idea?
This material has been published thanks to the financial support of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management. The sole responsibility for its contents lies with Collegium Mazovia.