Researcher Seline Westerhof examined resident initiatives and civil society organisations in Rotterdam-Zuid. Her findings show significant differences in the number of initiatives within the area's different neighbourhoods. The study also casts a critical eye on the impact of the focus that researchers and policymakers have on particular communities and neighbourhoods. Westerhof recently made this video production about her findings on Rotterdam-Zuid.
Divide in Rotterdam-South
She began her research by asking where resident initiatives are located and how they are set up. Through online searches, contact with local groups and physical exploration of neighbourhoods in Rotterdam-South, she was able to form a detailed picture of the various initiatives and their context. Her interviews with stakeholders, including playground board members and community centre volunteers, revealed important insights.
Researchers and policymakers focus on particular neighbourhoods
One of the study's most striking findings is significant differences between neighbourhoods in Rotterdam-South regarding the number of residents' initiatives and civil society organisations. This can be explained, for example, by the fact that rates of poverty and crime are higher on average in certain neighbourhoods, such as Feijenoord and Charlois. Researchers and policymakers often focus on these "problem areas," but this can lead to stigmatisation of these areas and neglect of other neighbourhoods, such as IJsselmonde and Hoogvliet, which actually need welfare issues and support for initiatives. In IJsselmonde and Hoogvliet, such problems as poverty and safety are also important issues for residents.
Fatigue and distrust towards researchers
An important aspect that emerged from the study is the impact of research on communities. Westerhof noted that in some neighbourhoods, such as Afrikaanderwijk, there is some fatigue and distrust toward researchers and their intentions. Residents do not feel heard and have little confidence in the improvements promised. In contrast, residents of neighbourhoods such as IJsselmonde and Hoogvliet received the researcher with open arms, happy that someone was finally willing to listen to them.
Valuable insights for the municipality and other parties
The insights from the research can be valuable for the municipality and other parties involved. Highlighting the differences between neighbourhoods and understanding the needs of communities is essential to establishing effective and sustainable interventions and support. Therefore, taking existing networks, ideas, and knowledge seriously is important. Occasionally, a municipal program can figuratively create barriers between people and networks, prompting individuals to start anew. Westerhof also stresses the importance of carefully approaching communities and building relationships of trust during the research process. Finally, she recommends paying attention to informal meeting places, such as community centres, playgrounds and cafes, to get in touch with different people.
Part of the SPRING project
This research is part of the Resilient Delta Initiative's SPRING project. The Resilient Delta Initiative (RDI) is part of Convergence, the collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus Medical Center and Delft University of Technology, and focuses on developing a resilient Rotterdam delta region. The RDI research project SPRING contributes to this by reducing disparities in health and well-being in the city. Read more about the SPRING Pilot.