Last week I was talking to one of my friends back home in Colorado about our class and the work we are doing in Borgo Bello. After I finished explaining, he asked, “How are you going to make sure this will work? What proof do you have that you project will be effective?” I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about this myself. I know that we can’t fix all of the problems that exist in Borgo Bello in 16 weeks, but I have always hoped that we can fix at least some of them. But how? In the article, “Jane Jacobs and the Theory of Placemaking in Debates of Sustainable Urbanism,” the author mentioned many critics who “asserted that [Jane Jacob’s] lack of formal education in urban planning disqualified her as a relevant critic of the discipline.” So if Jane Jacobs isn’t qualified, what makes 9 students qualified?
In my experience, working directly with the community or group you are impacting is the more effective way to bring about positive change. You have to seek out what they need and want and how to best incorporate it with the culture. Jane Jacobs references this approach as well, calling it “human-oriented planning.” Others call this placemaking.
When I answered my friend’s question, I told him that we would be working directly with community members. We have already met the puppet master and the head of the Borgo Bello Association. We would observe the community, ask questions, listen to their requests, and try to best to make even the smallest difference. I believe that we can’t make a difference alone. We don’t live int he neighborhood and as a class have only spent 3 hours there observing. While Ray and Viviana are city planner, I believe that the true experts that the first article mentioned above requires are the Borgo Bello community members. It is the teachers and the parents of the children. It can be the children themselves. These people know more than anyone else about what their community needs and our job is to simply fulfill these needs.
The article, “What is Placemaking?” defines it as “both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region. It has the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.” If done correctly, we have the opportunity to make a huge impact on an amazing community and that is powerful.