We design our neighbourhood

Envisioning our city in a participatory way

In collaboration with the environmental organization Mamagea, whose mission is to upgrade the social and urban environment, we co-organized a participatory workshop, which aimed to capture the imagination of the residents - as well as of the visitors - of Thessaloniki about the city. The Garden of Music in Thessaloniki's Nea Paralia was filled with the creations of the participants, describing the collective vision of citizens for the changes they want to see in their neighbourhoods.

The process was very simple and resembled a game: At the beginning ice-braking exercises were carried out and then people were split into small groups. They were given a white piece of cardboard showing the boundaries of the urban area of Thessaloniki, which they were asked to fill with drawings, suggestions and interventions. Each group then briefly presented their work to the others. Some of the proposals were indicatively the following: more greenery, increase of public and vital spaces, regional tram in the neighbourhoods, accessible pavements, pedestrian zones, new squares, swimming in the Thermaic gulf.

Some interventions were quite realistic and feasible, others more daring and unfeasible (at least for the time being). In any case, the workshop aimed not only to formulate proposals for a sustainable future, which could at some point be taken into account by decision-makers, but also something else, perhaps even more important: to empower citizens and mobilize them to demand an improvement in the quality of life in cities.

The workshop "We design our neighbourhood - Envisioning our city in a participatory way" took place in a very beloved place of the residents and visitors of Thessaloniki, Nea Paralia, and specifically in the Garden of Music.
The workshop aimed to capture in a direct and concrete way the vision of citizens about the changes they want for their neighbourhoods, but also to empower and mobilize them in order to improve the quality of life in cities.
The design and implementation was carried out in collaboration with Mamagea, an environmental organization with a mission to upgrade the social and urban environment. At the event was handed out our joint publication "Towards a participatory future: urban experiments", which describes the process of a 2021 project of similar nature, the Dentri Project.
The participants formed a circle and got to know each other, telling stories of everyday life from their neighbourhood, what they like there and especially what they don't like. Identifying the problems, however, was only the first step. What came next was the formulation of proposals, which together constitute a collective vision for the city.
At first, the team that implemented the workshop distributed white canvas-maps showing the boundaries of Thessaloniki.
Then they asked the participants to map out the changes they want to see in their neighbourhoods and throughout the city.
The participants were split into small groups and worked with the materials at their disposal: coloured cardboard, markers, sticky notes, scissors, and glue.
Each group then presented their output to the others, in which is captured the citizens' imaginary for the place where they live, through realistic or not so realistic proposals.
More greenery, more public and vital spaces, regional tram in the neighbourhoods, accessible pavements, pedestrian zones, new squares, swimming in the Thermaic gulf, were some of the proposals.
From the left Agapi Tsambazi from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Thessaloniki Office, and Periclis Hatzinakos, Naya Tselepi and Dominiki Vayati from the environmental organization Mamagea.
The result of the workshop, namely the "neighbourhood maps", but also the pieces of paper with the various proposals, constituted a collective "collage" that was exhibited on-site, as an installation of active presence and opinion of the citizens of Thessaloniki.
All those who participated said they were leaving the workshop with the hope of a sustainable future. On the other hand, the work of the institutions that organized the event is to continuously strive and influence to implement interventions such as those proposed.
A few days after the workshop we received a pleasant visit at our headquarters: Periclis Hatzinakos (left) and Dominiki Vayati handed over to our director Michalis Goudis (right) one of the neighbourhood maps, which now decorates the wall of our office!