I2I partners visit Assen and Bremen

30 March 2023 - Published by Walter Wehus
How do you help a neighbourhood that has lost faith in the municipality? And how does climate change affect social isolation?

These were among the topics on the agenda when partners in From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) gathered in the Netherlands and Germany in March.

The purpose was to learn more about how the local partners are working with loneliness and social isolation. This was also the final time the partners met in real life, before the project ends with a digital conference later this year, on the first of June.

You can see more photos from the visit on Facebook.

A diverse neighbourhood

“I have been a resident of Pittelo for 25 years now. It’s been a great pleasure,” says Akke Amsing.

She describes the neighbourhood as diverse, where different cultures, the elderly and the young live side by side. But the area has also had its challenges. As part of the I2I project, Assen has reached out to residents and worked to redevelop the park and the community centre.

“Social design has been key for this”, says Eric Lanooy, policy advisor on public space maintenance in the City of Assen.

“It’s important to remember that social design is a process, not a project. It is difficult, and it takes time,” he says.

I2I partners on a bike ride to the Pitelo neighbourhood. Eric Lanooy to the right. (Photo: Jantina Mulder)

A good example

Working with the residents of the Pittelo neighbourhood, four things have been especially important for Lanooy and his colleagues:

  • Getting to know the situation in the neighbourhood.
  • Taking seriously the past problems that the residents may have had with the municipality.
  • To gain trust, and to be reliable and clear.
  • To look for the energy and the enthusiasm of the inhabitants.

The hard work looks to have paid off. During the visit, the I2I partners were taken on a cycling tour of the neighbourhood together with Assen mayor Marco Out and several aldermen. Stops were made both in the park, and at the local community centre, where residents had gathered to play a billiards tournament.

As Amsing says in the video, “I think Assen is a good example for many municipalities.”

I2I partners in Assen. Janine Rinsampessy from the City of Assen on stage. (Photo: Jantina Mulder)

Climate change and social isolation

The partner meeting continued across the border to Germany, where partner Diakonisches Werk Bremen could welcome everyone to the Stadtbibliothek library.

Dr. Jürgen Stein and his colleagues at the Diakonisches Werk have experimented with both digital and physical meetings and excursions during the project. During the visit, partners also saw examples of their work with the town library.

One of the main issues of the day was the impact climate change can have on social isolation, and how social services can adapt to these circumstances.

“There is a strong risk that the effects of climate change can increase social isolation and loneliness. An increase in heat and heavy rains make people stay more at home, feeling unwell and taking less initiative,” says Dr. Jürgen Stein in Diakonisches Werk Bremen.

Feeling the heat in Bremen.

Planning for heat

In addition, Stein mentions that institutions that work to mitigate loneliness must reduce their offerings or even close temporarily because of unsupportable conditions inside.

Also, many seniors don’t visit community centres when it’s hot outside. For next summer, some centres plan to offer more activities in the early morning hours before the temperature rises.

“We encourage institutions to look after their own buildings. They should plan for better shadowing for sunlight in the summer and put heat-adequate behaviour and nourishing on their agenda,” Stein says.