Friday, 2 September 2016

16. blog post ENG

Social Innovation around us

Three in one: vanished cross, flowers on railing and children running across the street

In our blog we present social innovations which are a part of our close community. This one is specific – it has just started to evolve and it is in the stage of an initiative of a group of people. So it is more adventurous  - how a social innovation starts and what it has to go through is present real time just behind the corner. Let´s meet the guys: three people and a common interest in one locality; Ivo lives and works here, Markéta runs a laundry here and Míla is interested in the history of the place once guarded by a cross. They have launched a website titled: 

At the little cross. The corner of Lidicka and Luzanecka street in Brno. 
History, presence, prospects.

So, why to to bother at all? Patriot Ivo is quite sensitive about the traffic paradoxes of the place – cars are allowed to use the street along the houses even though there is a broad paralel street just a few meters up.  Not appropriate for the residential area, the traffic without bumpers or other  signage hazzards lives of children stepping carelessly right into the street directly from their homes. An old lady hobbling across the street is not spared either, not to mention a previously sullen kebab bistro guy who is not happy about the idea that his customer who is just about to give his delicious kebab a bite, will send the delicacy into the air scared by a sharp sound of car brakes (in the best case).  

Markéta the entrepreneur introduced the idea to bring some green into the place. Flower pots hanging on the railing next to the tram stop nearby lend the place a new meaning and invite passers by to stop by.

Míla the historian is interested in historical context there. What, for example, happened to the cross which marked the place in the past? She believes it is important to be aware of the historical roots before a change gets its way.   

And where is the innovation in that? To see the answer you would have to be at the corner of Lidická and Lužánecká on May the 18th, 19th and 20th, between the noon and modnight. You would see flowers in pots hanging on the tram stop railing, smiles on the faces of the passers by, would hear music and feel home. The street was closed for the cars and for three days pedestrians could be relieved, relax, stop by or just lazy around. Local pub serves as a base not only for Míla, Ivo and Markéta, but also for a local art group, neighbours and all being around. In Brno the 2016 Week for the City is held and that corner got cosy. For a while, at least, it will be owned more by people than by cars.

Would you like a recipe for such a cool event? Here it is in five steps:

1) Interconnect with those who live and work in the place, who know it and enjoy being there,
2) Think of the current situation and look for a way to improve what causes problems,
3) bring your initiative into a wider platform which is well known, officially recognised and accepted,
4) Activate the neighbours  and together try to learn about the place as much as possible
5) Give the process enough space and keep it evolving, step by step

We asked Ivo, Míla and Markéta for a chat. They agreed immediatelly so we met outside the local pub. Mila´s dog came too. Well – it was carried.

Ivo: „It started about two years ago by my being fed up with the fact that the place was so dangerous. This space was designed in the 60s of the last century and nowadays this conception is not satisfactory any more. I wanted to start communicate with the neighbours, so we made a barbeque party – locals who had lived there for years came and we had a chance to get to know each other; one lady even brought old maps of the place. Then I went around the local residents and asked them to sign a petition for increasing the safety of the place. I also got some politicians interested in our initiative – they like the idea of making this place safer and they welcome this opportunity to develop good practice for improving a disfunctional place in the city. I believe that it can be beautiful here and I feel great potential the place holds. The place should be friendly to all, not to be degraded only to an extra car-serving passage as it is now.

Markéta: My part is to take care of the flowers on the railing opposite the tram stop. It started as a low budget punk-like activity because we did not ask anybody for approval. On the Framework of the 2016 Week for the City event we invited the public to water the flowers as a way of expressing their support.

Ivo: Just following the flowers installation I could feel that something was different: people walking along the railing were smiling. They stopped by, read the information table with interest and took photos of the flowers.

Markéta: I did not know that for this few flower pots on a railing we need to have a permit. What makes the things worse, councillors do not know how to deal with such a situation – the flowers were put there just for enjoyment, with no intention to make money or so. The longer they deal with it, the more complicate it gets. Last time they wanted me to sign a liability statement which probably a director of a nuclear power plant would never need to sign.

Míla: I studied history and this place has attracted my attention. My goal is to bring the vanished cross back, even though it could only be symbolically, and by that to reconnect with genius loci of the place. Things weren´t always ideal – in the past a car ran over a 12-year-old girl. We have collected  pieces of information from the locals – it is believed that the old cross might be traced at a rectory nearby Brno where it was reportedly transported in the past. The point is that if there is not a platform for exchange, people do not have a possibility to share.

Ivo: I moved to Lidická in 2005 and I did not see it way then. Today, I feel that the place can be changed into a nook offering security and inviting people to enjoy their time there as well as neighbour to meet up. Thanks to our step by step policy, new people keep coming, each bringing another inspiration. By interconnection, a change is being realised, the kind we are even not able to oversee.

Ivo, Míla and Markéta´s attitude is greatly inspiring. If I was to describe this type of civic engagement, I would say it is a „lazy“ social innovation. Actually, the first adjective which came to my mind was „slow“ but this has already been taken by cooking enthusiasts. I feel that „lazy“ better encompasses the enjoyment from things happening in the meantime – music is played here, the space smells nicely, voices intermingle and the street chats introduce a new sound element, non present so far. If the iniciative gets completed, at the corner of Lidicka and Luzanecka it will be possible, one day, to stretch lazily and utter: ooh, how beautiful it is just to be around..

Text by Anna
Photo by Polina

This blog is a part of the project Empowering Youth To Become Social Innovators, realised under the Erasmus+ partnership programme. The project is coordinated by a Czech NGO DYNAMA, z.s., seated in Brno and an Estonian NGO Youth Club Active, seated in Tallinn. This project contributes to the development of non formal learning of the youth.

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