The corona crisis has had a huge impact on the daily lives of Rotterdammers. How resilient are the residents of Rotterdam's neighbourhoods in the face of this crisis?
In the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020, various initiatives quickly surfaced in the Bospolder-Tussendijken neighbourhoods to help local residents in need. The Resilient BoTu 2028 neighbourhood development programme has been running in these neighbourhoods for two years. The aim of this programme is to make the neighbourhoods more resilient, among other things by better connecting formal and informal social networks and working with methods of community building.
How do residents and local entrepreneurs in these neighbourhoods react to the consequences of the COVID-19 virus? What requests for help have cropped up during this crisis situation? What kind of local initiatives have emerged to answer these requests? Who acts on these answers? And what is the relation with already existing initiatives and the programme Resilient BoTu 2028?
To answers to these questions, we began doing telephone interviews using the snowball method in the month of April 2020. We spoke to 67 initiators and were able to collect extensive qualitative data which we intend to analyse further with the help of graduate student of Sociology from the Erasmus University.
Merwe-Vierhavens Story café
The initial analyses of interviews show that a large number of new initiatives to support local residents have emerged. These were mainly started by active local residents and local organisations, often in an informal context. It is striking that local residents and local informal social initiatives acted quickly and enacted effectively. They anticipated action from the municipality and formal organisations. For a long time, the assistance provided by the municipality and formal organisations was inaccessible because social workers and civil servants were absent and counters and meeting places were closed. Nevertheless, a few employees from the municipality and professional aid organisations quickly took action on their own accord. They supported the initiatives with financial resources, providing them the visibility that they needed and by connecting initiatives with each other. Individuals worked together beyond the boundaries of their own organisation. Some even adapted their work to meet changing demands in the neighbourhood.
Many of those involved indicated that previous cooperation in the district had led to the creation of active and well-connected social networks. This turned out to be crucial in order to act quickly in the crisis situation. The corona crisis strengthened the existing network of initiators but did greatly add to it.
The first acute requests for help were those related to material assistance, such as laptops for children's home schooling and groceries. Later requests that emerged were related to the prevention of loneliness and the inclusion of young people who were causing a nuisance in the neighbourhood. The initiatives were mostly aimed at families and the supply was greater than the demand. It could also be possible that residents in need remained invisible. Personal contact is often crucial in signalling requests for help.
There is a clear desire to guarantee cooperation between local residents, the government and community initiatives in the future. This is difficult because energy and commitment from volunteers are exhausted. Financial resources are needed to make cooperation sustainable.
Jade Corsica and Alida Adriaan talk about the pop-up supermarket Yess! during the Merwe-Vierhavens Story café
How do we use the results?
Because the initiatives serve as inspiration for many, a website has been created where all the initiatives are presented in the form of short stories. In addition, we will process the results in the Monitor Resilience BoTu, a long-term monitoring initiative with which we will follow and evaluate the programme Resilience BoTu 2028.
While many initiatives cropped up during the first lockdown in Bospolder-Tussendijken, is this a special occurrence? What happened in other districts? Together with researchers from Erasmus University and the Knowledge Workshop Liveable Neighbourhoods, we organised a workshop in which we interpreted the first results with neighbourhood networkers, initiators and area administrators and compared them to three other Rotterdam neighbourhoods: Hoogvliet, Agniesebuurt and Kleiwegkwartier. A second workshop is planned with the aim of learning from the initiators' experiences at the administrative level. We will question what went well and what can we improve to emerge stronger from a crisis as per the 'bounce back stronger' principle?