Community development: "Q8 supports, connects and assists"
Community development: "Q8 supports, connects and assists"
Whether it’s a block party or neighborhood initiatives, there is great solidarity among people even in this day and age. Yet to make their own "hood" livable and enjoyable for all people and/or support it, the hands of residents are often tied. The Q8 Project by the Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf (English: Protestant Foundation Alsterdorf) attempts to act as an intermediary and support citizens in their projects in several boroughs and quarters of Hamburg, Germany.
At this point, Q8 and the citizens are also actively involved in urban planning. For example, Altona is meant to become a quarter that suits all residents, whether that’s people with disabilities, the elderly or families with children.
In this interview with REHACARE.com, Karen Haubenreisser and Armin Oertel, the managers and community planners of Q8, explain what the Q8 Project is all about and what the future of this quarter in Hamburg looks like.
What is the objective of the Q8 Quarter Project?
Armin Oertel: The project aims to improve inclusive living options: How can people with high support needs due to age, illness or disability live well in their quarter and look after themselves? How can we utilize the existing resources in a better way? And what do we need in the quarter to make all of this possible? This includes ways to create inclusive living options or accessible and barrier-free public spaces for example.
How is Q8 set up?
Karen Haubenreisser: Q8’s function as an intermediary plays a pivotal role. Q8 is a neutral facilitator and works independently of interests or mandates of individuals. Q8 follows a process-oriented and open-ended approach. Q8 practically supports, connects and assists the stakeholders of the respective quarters – residents and institutions to develop new solutions for social issues.
Oertel: We know that the direct living environment is essential for people’s quality of life. As the Q8 administrator, the Ev. Stiftung Alsterdorf has dissolved central inpatient care facilities over the past 15 years and moved straight into Hamburg’s quarters and boroughs. This is why it only made sense for Q8 to also employ professional managers to tackle social issues and not to focus on any single target group but rather the collective community as the point of action.
Community development aimed at accessibility has only been an emphasis in recent years, yet quite a lot has happened in this relatively short amount of time. Still, it is only a drop in the bucket in Germany. In light of this, do you see Q8 as a pilot project for the entire city/country?
Haubenreisser: It is a lengthy social process to advance and promote inclusive living and accessibility. Since 2011, we have tried out several ideas in different quarters from which we – but also other communities and cities – can learn a great deal. This includes the work as an intermediary to bring the needs, ideas, resources, and people together. In doing so, Q8 transports knowledge, experiences, and suggestions from civil society into politics, administration and into the local economy – and vice versa to create win-win situations and develop new solutions.
Oertel: This means taking a gradual approach, accepting mistakes and establishing what the stakeholders want for their quarters. At the same time, we also specifically supported individual projects: new types of social services in the quarter, new types of inclusive participation and projects that help people to help themselves in everyday life. We believe that it is nearly impossible to create inclusive quarters using conventional urban planning. We want to try out alternatives. To do this, Q8 combines community-oriented approaches, community development and approaches of integrating inclusion into an overall strategy.
"Mitte Altona" (English: Center Altona), the second largest urban development project in Hamburg after the Hafencity project was planned with inclusion in mind. What is this project about?
Haubenreisser: The project tackles the question of how we can plan an inclusive urban quarter. How can this assist in addressing the social challenges of a big city? “Mitte Altona” is set up with 3,500 residences on the premises of a former freight yard right in the heart of Hamburg’s Altona district. If you plan on removing spatial obstacles, you also have to overcome the boundaries of the mind. That’s why Q8 has initiated and supported the Eine Mitte für Alle Forum (English: A Center for Everyone). Here, several hundred participants from different areas – ranging from members of civil society all the way to representatives from administration and politics – have worked together. The Forum subsequently published suggestions that have caused a change in thought in political processes as well as administrative actions but also triggered the involved institutions or housing cooperatives to rethink their processes.
What was the mission of the Eine Mitte für Alle Forum?
Oertel: Planning an inclusive quarter on a blank canvas was also uncharted waters for us. On location, the Forum facilitated collaboration in discussing accessibility, social infrastructure, local supply chains and inclusive living options that pertain to many people. Our Q8 district manager moderated and assisted this process. It is essential for the elderly or sick people as well as people with disabilities to live a great life in their residences and neighborhoods. If we, as a society, want to have a blended and balanced community in the new urban quarters, we must include and consider their requirements and needs right from the start.
What was "Mitte Altona" able to accomplish?
Haubenreisser: "Mitte Altona" was able to deliver very concrete results: approximately 97 percent of housing units are going to be accessible. One-third of all housing units comply with the DIN Standard §52 HBauO (German Building Ordinance) and 7 percent have been built according to DIN 8040-2. To make inclusion more binding, a control system was developed to register "integration projects" and accessibility and to monitor the target numbers as well as gather the building blocks for an inclusive infrastructure.
Oertel: We were surprised how successful people are with the Forum. During the process of developing an accessible public space, people relied on the expertise of the parties involved and collaborated in creating a guidance system specifically designed for "Mitte Altona", thus reaching a compromise between people with visual and mobility impairments.
Q8 not only champions structural changes but also supports individuals who need help to live an "inclusive" life in the quarter. How should we envision this?
Haubenreisser: Together with people eligible for German social integration support, the Qplus Project creates new types of assistance; their wishes are the starting point. Quarter guides support people with special assistance needs to shape their daily lives based on their own ideas – reflecting how they prefer to live, work or spend their spare time. The emphasis here is also a mixture of self-help, neighborhood, technical and professional support for people with special assistance needs. What can I do on my own, potentially with technical aid? How can family, friends, and neighbors support me? What kind of support is the community able to offer, for instance, clubs, initiatives or stores? What additional help from experts do I need? Plus, what am I personally able and willing to do to help other people? Incidentally, most often the issues focus on living and the living environment…
What exactly does that mean?
Oertel: I give you an example to illustrate this. After a serious illness, Ms. M. is in a wheelchair. She often feels lonely. With the help of the quarter guide, she figures out what’s important to her: she would like to both visit the free lunch at the senior center and a computer class plus she wants to spend more time outside her house. Until then, the 50-year-old was supported by an outpatient care service and an educational assistant yet she is still unable to leave her residence on her own. Thanks to the quarter guide, she finds 56-year-old Mr. T., who wants to get more involved with his neighborhood. This results in a friendship: they take walks along the Elbe River, visit the lunch room together or plan to go to the movies. At the quarter guide’s suggestion, the wheelchair gets a technical upgrade and becomes easier to push.
What does Q8 represent?
Haubenreisser: A cultural change is at least as important as the concrete, visible results in individual projects. We promote a culture of support, a place to meet and the chance to see contradictions, diversity, and conflicts as an inspiration to create new solutions. This also entails that people find the support they need in their community to be able to live independently in their urban quarter. That’s inclusion in action.