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51. La Mina Transformation Plan

51.1. Short description

“La Mina”, a neighbourhood built on the outskirts of Barcelona in the 1970s and segregated from the rest of the city, was designed to house a population with minimal resources that had been living in various settlements of shantytowns in Barcelona. Historically, the neighbourhood has suffered from significant shortages in terms of services and facilities. It has also been one of the most marginalised and stigmatised areas of the city, facing serious social and urban problems. Administratively, it is part of the municipality of Sant Adrià del Besòs, which borders Barcelona; however, the neighbourhood is administered by the governments of both municipalities, representing both a challenge and an innovation.

At the end of the 1990s a series of factors converged, bringing about favourable conditions for improving the neighbourhood: an awareness of the pressing need to intervene in the social situation in the neighbourhood, linked with the presence of very active neighbourhood associations and the pressure resulting from urban reform in areas around la Mina through major projects such as the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures and the 22@ Barcelona Innovation District, among others. In 2000 the “Transformation Plan for the Neighbourhood of la Mina” (PTBM in Spanish) was launched, financed through the URBAN II programme with funding from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). La Mina was also part of a pilot project of the Local Social Capital programme of the European Social Funds.

The plan has various characteristics that explain its inclusion as a case study in the WILCO project, in particular, the comprehensive character of the intervention planned, which was innovative in comparison to other approaches that had been taken previously. “The objective is to transform the neighbourhood through an integrated and comprehensive intervention aimed at strengthening the community in the medium and long-term, leading to complete normality…” (La Mina Consortium 11, 2008). The essential link between urban transformation and social intervention was something completely new in local planning and based on the joint participation of professionals from diverse fields (architects, economists, educators and social workers).

51.2. Types of services and ways of addressing users

The La Mina Transformation Plan has included a whole set of social inclusion activities that have been aimed at improving the economic and social conditions of a very deprived population. Most of these activities have been classical labour market integration programmes, but some social micro-management interventions have been developed as well.

Labour market integration programmes have been boosted in the neighbourhood, and have included some innovations, specially linking more closely training schemes and real job opportunities, following training for specific jobs on the job model. The increase and reorientation of training activities seems to have had quite a positive impact as long as the economic boom in the 2000s increased the demand for labour. The employment crisis since 2008 has drastically reduced employment opportunities for a very underprivileged population. But, however successful and to some extent innovative these programmes may have been, there has been no significant change in the way users have been conceived and addressed.

The main field in which “users” have been treated differently from the traditional approach to the neighbourhood has been the participation process affecting the urban transformation programme. The PTBM participatory approach has led to changes in the way users are addressed, but has had different stages. In the beginning (2001), there was a willingness on the part of different stakeholders (social and neighbourhood organisations and governments) to make participation a central axis of the whole process. At this time, it was developed as a proposal of a participatory and community project which considered the interests and decisions of neighbours in the transformation of their neighbourhood. In the second stage, the project moved from looking for direct involvement of neighbours and sharing the projects with them through assemblies, to creating joint working groups (entities and technical representatives) and holding regular meetings and informative sessions. In a third step, which coincided with the change of regional government, this model of participation was weakened when the PTMB chose for hiring entities out of town for the management of labour and social services, instead of enhancing the associative link to neighbourhood.

51.3. Internal organisation and modes of working

The PTBM is characterised by a complex structure in which wide networks of social agents participate. The plan is managed by the La Mina Neighbourhood Consortium, which includes representatives from different levels of government: the two local governments, as well as the regional government. From the beginning, a network of citizens’ organisations has also been involved in different phases of the process and has played an active role in different areas. Regarding citizen participation, there is the La Mina Platform of Neighbours and Neighbourhood Organisations, which currently includes twelve organisations (although at one time it included twenty-four organisations) and the Neighbourhood Association of La Mina.

The participatory structure of the plan is organised around four broad areas, which has led to the establishment of ongoing work among different agents:

  • The plan for community development: neighbourhood residents, experts, politicians and representatives of organisations participate. It is structured through different administrative and participatory instruments. The transversal nature of the work stands out, as do the debate roundtables, sectorial work and technical support provided for neighbourhood participants. A model of participatory urbanism, which aims at encouraging the participation of neighbourhood residents in the design of projects through debate and proposals. What stands out in this model is the participatory instruments used (participatory workshops, sectorial meetings) as well as the technical support and information on projects provided to residents.
  • Technical support provided by two experts at the service of the Platform of Neighbours and Neighbourhood Organisations and the Neighbourhood Association.
  • An information and communication plan designed to provide information on the project and to improve the image of the neighbourhood. There are various communication channels, among them, a space on the local broadcaster Radio La Mina.

All these structures have led to a new way of working on problems in the neighbourhood and approaching change. What has been fundamental in this process is the change in the role of neighbourhood residents, who are playing an active role in the transformation of the neighbourhood. This is not only the result of the efforts of the municipal government, but also stems from the participatory and civic tradition of neighbourhood organisations and the neighbourhood association. The association had organised debates and protests and made programme proposals to improve the neighbourhood in the past. One of these was a proposal for increasing literacy.

51.4. The embeddedness of the project in the local welfare system

The impact of the plan has more to do with the neighbourhood than with the local welfare system of the city. A set of actions aimed exclusively at this neighbourhood is still required. There are diverse aspects of the plan that should be mentioned:

  • The participation and collective effort of different administrations on a local project that has led to greater transversality.
  • The comprehensive character of the plan and the relationship between urban conditions and social cohesion.
  • The organisational structure of the PTBM articulated through the consortium and the fundamental role that the participation of neighbourhood and civic agents has had. The plan has strengthened communication channels between the different agents during its different stages and has led to a more transversal and comprehensive effort.
  • The existence of a neighbourhood and civic network prior to the plan, which was maintained during the project. The members of this network have played a fundamental role in the elaboration of the plan (by encouraging debate, developing proposals, criticising and controlling policies) and in its development. In addition, they have played a role beyond the PTBM, strengthening democracy through educating and fostering the integration and participation of neighbourhood residents. In this sense, they have acted like schools for citizenship.
  • The involvement and the power of the intervention of the technical and professional services in the neighbourhood, with actions that have taken into account the needs of the sectors and neighbourhood groups
  • The emergence and promotion of innovative activities initiated by organisations and associations in the field of training and labour insertion, reconciling work and family life, local economic development and social and educational support (like literacy projects with grandchildren and grandparents, local radio as a space for education and debate, a gym for teenagers directed by an Olympic medallist, etc.).
  • Community attention to families and more needed groups, with interventions in the home and peri-domestic spaces. Specific socio-educational action in the relocation, with training and information activities on issues concerning the organisation of the household
  • The project has managed to open up the neighbourhood and connect it with the two adjacent municipalities (Barcelona and Sant Adrià del Besòs). One of the problematic issues in the neighbourhood was the “ghetto” that certain urban barriers had generated. The PTBM incorporated as a priority project the elimination of these barriers and the construction of a “rambla” surrounded by housing and other facilities along which a tram would run connecting the neighbourhood with these two municipalities.

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51. La Mina Transformation Plan