People attending an engagement activity in Rotterdam
Image credit: Mark Bolk

Through deep engagement conducted both on-site and remotely, Happy City helped the City of Rotterdam understand the mobility and public space needs of marginalized groups in the city’s Bloemhof neighbourhood. Working directly with residents, we developed pragmatic walkability solutions.

Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible ways to boost wellbeing. In many cities, however, the benefits of walking are not equally distributed. People of colour, seniors, children and women — particularly those who are low income or living with mobility challenges — are more likely to face barriers to accessing safe, useful places to walk.

The City of Rotterdam invited Happy City and Humankind to gain knowledge on the mobility patterns of specific groups and facilitate innovative public co-creation in the neighbourhood of Bloemhof.

Our team spent weeks on-site, building trust with residents and analyzing the area’s built form. This process helped us identify a key issue: Residents were more concerned about the lack of destinations to gather within their community than they were about walking infrastructure. They were also frustrated with the lack of meaningful opportunities for them to shape their own spaces. Upon discovering this, we pivoted the project to develop an engagement strategy to help Rotterdam engage youth and other vulnerable populations through an extended co-creation process.

Most planning for the project took place remotely. Our team then spent extensive time in community hubs, building trusting connections with residents through engagement activities, workshops and co-learning opportunities that met residents’ needs. These activities culminated in a workshop that brought together community champions, City decision-makers and other key actors. Together we produced creative walkability interventions that worked for all.