RI: SPG Zaanstad 1 Teacher's report
By Thomas Grolleman, Simon Steenhoek, Roos de Brouwer and Tijmen Willard
Welcome to our report on the market square of Wormerveer in the municipality of Zaanstad. During the last 5 months we have been researching several problems mostly concerning the loitering youth. Besides this we have also taken a critical note to the traffic situation specifically on the crossroad of the Noorderstraat and the Krommenieërweg. Our main focus however was the loitering youth on the market square. We did specific research on the effects of their presence and the opinion of residents and visitors to the market square. In this report you will find our findings on the issues regarding the market square and the intervention we therefore designed.
At the start of the project we were handed one central theme by the municipality which was the loitering youth that had been creating a lot of nuisance in the past. We however, being youth ourselves decided it was best to take a step back, which is what we did. We went to the location and we just observed, talked to people that were already dealing with the problems and had some interviews with residents around the square. By not immediately addressing the loitering youth as an ‘issue’, we were able to get close and actually have some interesting talks with them too. From this information we synthesised a rhythm analysis, which can be found in Appendix 1. From this rhythm analysis we concluded that the rhythms of the residents were actually not that different. The market square is busiest during the day and when the youth starts to appear on the market square in the afternoon. Nuisance is actually really low, seeing as local residents are also still out on the square a lot and the two groups get along nicely. Then in the evening, when most people have returned home youth is still hanging around, but they are not causing a lot of problems. The problems appear when the local youth goes home somewhere between 9 and 10 pm. Later in the night cars and scooters start appearing on the square, often also making a lot of noise. Due to this residents are disturbed in their sleep. These night owls are also accused of dealing in narcotics and other criminal activities. This is actually the real nuisance on the market square, but due to a hard time of investigation we were not actually able to experience this nuisance ourselves.
A different problem we noticed however was more related to the layout of the parking lot. The market square is very open with one main exit and entrance. This entrance however is located exactly at the crossroad of the Noorderstraat and the Krommenieërweg and therefore creates a jam of the system. Therefore we looked at the layout of the crossroads (Appendix 2) and the the intersections that these roads have with each other (Appendix 3). We also analyzed a new situation which moves the main entrance and exit of the parking lot south on the Krommenieërweg closer to the community centre the Lorzie and we deducted that this would significantly decrease the amount of intersections different traffic flows have with each other (they are halved). This was also presented at a community meeting on the 12th of december, 2016, in the community centre the ‘Lorzie’ where different working groups published all of their ideas to make improvements to the market square (photo’s can be found in Appendix 4).
At this meeting in december we also presented our analysis and problem definition concerning the loitering youth. We found that some residents accused the daily group of the incidents that happened in the night. Due to both groups being pretty anonymous they just regarded them as one single group even though there are big differences. Also the group of loiterers that were present during the daytime was not a single group like we perceived from the interviews with the residents. They were all small pockets of youth which all hang around on the market square, but they would not hang around together. We concluded that it was therefore really important not to generalize the whole group and that the few youth we did get to talk to was not representative of all the groups our research was concerned with.
From these facts we really found that the biggest issue was the problem of perception. It was mainly the view of the residents and the municipality that was unjustly negative on the loitering youth. This created frustration, not only with the loitering youth who felt accused of things they did not do, but also with residents who perceived the youth as problematic and criminal.
This is also the conclusion that we proposed earlier to Monica Briefjes on the 30th of November when we had a short meeting with her to discuss our findings and propose the next steps in the design stage for an intervention. What we concluded during that meeting is what you can read above and also what wa presented during the community meeting 2 weeks later on the 12th. Here we found some hard resistance in several opinions of local residents and volunteers at the Lorzie. They mostly confirmed our findings of the perception problem, seeing as they spoke a lot more negative of the youth than the residents we had been interviewing on the streets.
Design and Intervention
With these key points in mind we started upon designing a suitable intervention. One of the ideas we initially had was to make posters on which we would present a big picture of one of the loiterers together with a name and an interesting quote. By doing such a thing we hoped that we could give a face to the loiterers that were on the square and show the residents that they were just ‘normal’ people like them.
One of the biggest challenges for our intervention however was that it would be hard to raise support under the youth for an intervention. The main reason why is that the youth mainly comes to the market square to relax. We found that most of them were actually quite hard workers and had busy jobs or were still in school. The spare time they had left they would spend on the market square relaxing, catching up with friends and smoking cigarettes. To get someone to do something in their brake, something that sounds an awful lot like working, is quite hard, the municipality would probably agree.
This was a large barricade that we had to get by in order to make a successful intervention. The first intervention therefore seemed like a good plan seeing as it was a very passive intervention. It was however discouraged by the local youth coach, because of other reasons.
We however really wanted to have an intervention with the youth themselve, so we tried to create an intervention through the means of co-creation. We wanted to inspire the youth and try to come up with creative ideas for an intervention together. In order to do so it was necessary though to communicate with them. This was not easily possible seeing as we did not have any direct contacts and due to legal reasons the municipality could not supply us with those. The only way to approach them was to go over there and hope that they were there during their usual hours. Unfortunately the weather was getting colder, which also meant that the youth would not spend as much time on the square anymore. This made our options very limited, because they did not show up when we invested the time to visit the research area.
An intervention with co-creation of the youth was thus not going to happen, so we had to find a different intervention. This eventually led to the idea to go and loiter around the market square ourselves, seeing as we are also still young. So that is exactly what we did. We hanged around close to the shopping visitors and the residents (Appendix 5). We created two different situations. In the first we dressed up very sloppy with hats and hoods. In the second case we were very neat with a shirt, tie and jacket. We also had signs with: “Wij zijn hangjongeren”, “Wij hangen hier” and “Hangt u mee?” This loosely translates to we are loiters, we are hanging here and are you hanging out with us?
The reactions we had were generally speaking quite positive. People said they did not have any problems with the youth and that they should dress as they want. The youth did not bother them, so they were totally okay with it. Also when asked about the size of the group seeing as we were hanging with just two people and the youth would often hang around with groups of seven to fifteen. This was also answered as in that it did not bother them and youth should be able to be there.
There were however some remarks. Some people, mainly women responded that they were okay with it, however they did not like it when it was dark, because it enlarged their feeling of unsafety. Furthermore we also frequently received the answer that people were fine with the loitering youth as long as they cleaned up the mess they left behind and as long as they behave themselves. From this can be concluded that for most people the behaviour of loitering youth is key in how they perceive them and that the group in Wormerveer is perceived generally well. These are however results conducted only in the last months of a project started almost half a year ago when the issues regarding the youth might have been worse. We therefore recommend more research on this topic should be done.
Reflection on Key lessons
REFLECTION ON KEY LESSONS (300 words)
● It is very important to tell about what you have learned and how this will contribute you to become a Responsible Practitioner.
Roos: For me personally I have learned most out of working together in a team of people from different disciplines. This worked out positively for me since I had never created my own visualizations of research. This seemed unnecessary to me before since it is not applicable to my bachelor, however this minor and especially the SPG regarding the loitering youth in Wormerveer showed to me it is useful. Furthermore this research has been the first where I as a university student had to go into the ‘field’. I had never before observed a place this closely and engaged with the problem in real life instead of behind my laptop from reading literature. I enjoyed the solution finding for this problem since it has never been obvious what to do. All the residents and people involved within this project have helped us a lot and showed interest in our ideas and possible solutions. This made the student project group an interesting project to work on and I have learned skills that I would have never learned without this research.
Thomas: I would never have thought that I would do a project in a village like Wormerveer. For me it was very interesting to hear stories from people that I would never meet in my normal life. These people have other problems to deal with in their daily lives and therefore also other complains. This project helped me in understanding these people and knowing how to approach them. Besides this I liked the fact that I was able to use the lessons that I had learned in class in the SPG. Co-creation was something where we as a group did think about and we tried to use this. Unfortunately, the youth coach advised us to not do it and instead of that we did the intervention as explained in the paper.
Simon: During the minor i’ve learned several things. First, i have more knowledge about the technical aspect of innovations. At my study in Rotterdam the most of the time only the political aspects of different cases are enlightened. In this minor, most cases were enlightened from different directions, especially the risk-analysis that we have done during the courses were very interesting. Furthermore, the lessons about the possibilities of all innovations were really nice. This was a way of thinking that I was completely unfamiliar with and therefore broadened my way of thinking about the future.
Also the SPG that i did in Wormerveer (Zaandam 1) was amazing. Within my study in Rotterdam, i have learned to write recommendations for different municipalities. At the SPG we did the same and that made it very valuable for my skills concern doing research. The research itself made my interview, presenting and writing skills better. But the most valuable lesson i experienced was that creativity is very important to collect data. I learned that getting out of your comfort-zone (As a researcher) is neccesary to get the data you desparately need. First, I sat with the youth to talk to them and after that we were the loitering youth themselves. These are examples of something you would never do by yourself, and by doing them, you get out of your comfort-zone and get in unusual situations to get unusual data you would otherwise never get.
Tijmen: During the SPG and the courses of the minor I really enjoyed the multidisciplinary aspect. To go out of the bubble that is called ‘Delft’ was really enjoyable and helped me develop my soft skills a lot better. I doubt whether there has been any point in my life that I have written as many texts as during the last five months. The minor and the SPG also challenged me to think different. In the beginning I was usually very cynical on the new methods presented and disregarded them as stupid, but I have to admit I changed my mind on that. The forward looking aspect really appealed to me and I will for sure consider doing more with sustainability and responsible innovation in the future.
Appendix 1: Rhythm analysis
9 am situation
1 pm situatuation
5 pm situation
1 am situation
Appendix 2: Traffic situation
Current crossroad layout
Appendix 3: Intersection analysis
Old situation in which 23 out of 40 possible intersections interfere.
Proposed situation in which just 11 out of 21 intersections interfere.