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Citizen Power in Rotterdam

Posted on December 19, 2016
By Jim Diers

Today's workshop took me to Rotterdam, another city with many inspiring examples of burgerkracht (citizen power). Here, Joop Hofman and I facilitated a workshop for 80 community workers.

This city is home to the Opzoomeren movement through which the residents of 1700 streets have self organized to improve their physical environment, to support one another, and to sponsor all sorts of community activities. The residents of each street met to develop an agreement regarding their shared etiquette.

For example, Rotterdam's diverse neighbors might teach one another Dutch, plant street trees and gardens, establish a community center, care for one another's children and elders, prevent crime, and organize a minimum of four block parties or other shared activities each year.

Following the workshop, the participants walked the nearby streets to discover the dreams of the residents and to identify community resources that could be mobilized to realize those dreams. 

Here is an example (to the left) of one of the signs that were posted on streets where neighbours had come up with agreements together.

Here are some english translations of some of the agreements that we saw:

1) We say hello to one another and we welcome new neighbors.

2) We care for the front of our house so that it is clean.

3) We are taking part in all kinds of street activities.

4) We help each other raise our children.

5) We keep our neighborhood clean and safe.

Participants also committed to actions that would enable them to work in ways that are less siloed and more strength-based and community-driven.

Lastly- just look at this beautiful garden! It was one of the many other community projects we saw in Rotterdam.

Jim Diers, Cities Deepening Community

Jim Diers

By Jim Diers

Jim Diers has a passion for getting people engaged with their communities and in the decisions that affect their lives. His work in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods was recognized with an Innovations Award from the Kennedy School of Government. He was appointed the first director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods in 1988 where he served under three mayors over the next 14 years creating what some would say is a miracle of neighbors where he put his passion to work for a direct-action neighborhood association, a community development corporation, a community foundation, and the nation’s largest health care cooperative. He teaches courses at the University of Washington and serves on the faculty of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Jim travels internationally to deliver speeches and present workshop on neighbours and neighbourhoods. His book, Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way, is available in both English and Chinese editions.

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