Instead of addressing your neighbours/partners (institutions, NGOs, offices or housing associations) individually or answering queries concerning the availability of your equipment or facilities, you can join platforms which organise mutual exchanges. If such a platform does not exist in your location, your institution may initiate it and receive relevant funding. You can follow the example of Spółdzielnia Kultury (Culture Cooperative) in Warsaw or ‘Exchanger – a community-based exchange system’ (www.wymiennik.org). When creating new tools, make them available under an open licence (Creative Commons). This will make it possible for others to use them, adjusting them to local needs.
Participation in local politics
Getting to know you neighbours and local challenges better may motivate you to remain vigilant about the decisions taken in your district and city. Permanent presence of representatives of institutions at district and city council meetings (as part of their professional duties), as well as entering into partnerships with residents and grassroots movements strengthens the image of an institution as truly caring about and engaged in local wellbeing. The voice of institutions as entities enjoying prestige and social trust is stronger and more impactful. Authentic engagement strengthened by the experience of working together may help raise unpopular perspectives, marginalised by the discourse, especially where nature is concerned. Nature should have its representation and influence on decisions taken. The Whanganui river in New Zealand became a legal person, as did the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers in India.
‘Open Jazdów’ in Warsaw (www.jazdow.pl) is a special example of a long-term process of social and democratic management by multiple partners. This model is about inclusivity, multi-party negotiations, making people aware of the needs of various groups creating a socially, environmentally, artistically and politically common space. This inspirational initiative began as organised opposition against the plan to destroy wooden Finnish houses in the centre of Warsaw. Thanks to perseverance, strategic and visionary thinking, it is a working example of the co-management of a place, of a substantive and artistic programme and the development of the management process itself. Currently, the estate has numerous equal hosts: families residing in the houses, NGOs renting the houses to carry out their activity, informal groups, a branch of a cultural centre, a formal manager of the area as well as municipal bodies.
A tool that can be used for neighbourly substantive cooperation on the institution’s programme (or its fragment) is, for example, the programme council. As its members, you can appoint people representing neighbourhood institutions, local business, the public, local authorities, local community, and nature. It would be good to jointly agree on the principles, scope and impact of its operation at the founding meeting. All parties will be able to determine to what extent (in terms of time and content) they can engage and fulfil their mutual obligations. Remember about regular evaluation so as to modify the way the council works to meet changing conditions and needs.