Once again the European Union has been the driving force of social innovation, through the so-called Grundtvig Programme. Often underestimated in its innovative and cohesive potential, since 2000 the European Union has regularly funded projects devised at the national level which succeed in providing the adult population “with ways to improve their knowledge and skills, keeping them mentally fit and potentially more employable”. An honorable goal, but what does it have to do with the commons?
Simple. In 2011, the Grundtvig call for proposals ended with 56 winning multilateral projects, among which “The EU’rban Gardens Otesha project“, better known as EU’GO. It seems that the fashion and , more interestingly, the social value of the urban shared gardens has been finally recognized at a supranational level. The result is that out of the €337.330 budget required to carry out this project, exactly 75% was provided directly by the European Union. An astonishing result that reminds us the need to develop alternative ways to enhance and improve the human capital, while also tightening interpersonal relations in discrimination-free contexts.
In few words, EU’GO represented a bridge; a bridge that connected at once not only five countries – Italy, Germany, France, Spain and UK – but also all those local associations of citizens fully convinced that urban gardens might become propagation centers of best practices and of social inclusion, of education and of urban well-being. Social cohesion, cultural integration, sustainable development: these, thus, are the pivot themes of the EU’GO project, paying special attention to the most vulnerable segments of the society – immigrants, women, youth, disabled and elderly. The cities are meeting place par excellence. At least in theory. In fact, it was from the very reflection upon urban marginalization, isolation and discrimination that EU’GO took shape.
Transnational by nature and educational in its aims, EU’GO set an online platform in order to share the know-how and the skills developed (literally) on field in the so-called Otesha gardens. The latter, in the words of the promoters are “green spaces, innovative and active learning spaces that promote […] the collective creation of social, generational and intercultural bonds“. And so it is, in fact. Successful gardens blossomed like flowers and by word of mouth, an ever-increasing number of people devoted their time to the earth. Even indirectly, benefits were brought to the cause, by simply focusing the attention of the general public on the sustainable development issues and on the importance of social cohesion.
Too good to be true? Yes and No. Yes, because the project lasted two years only. A too short lapse of time, even to assess some results, if we consider that the effects on a community’s way of thinking can be ascertained only in the long run.
No, because notwithstanding, EU’GO might represent a starting point, a benchmark for the States’ policy-making and for active citizens. In the light of EXPO 2015 and the latter’s focus on nutrition, poor and developing countries, together with the developed ones in the need to rethink their relationship with the planet and their strategies to foster social inclusion, might then see in EU’GO a successful experiment.
Sviluppo sostenibile a braccetto con l’inclusione sociale: EU’GO!
Quando lo sviluppo sostenibile incontra l’inclusione sociale: il progetto EU’rban Gardens Otesha, finanziato dall’Unione Europea, ha riportato risultati sorprendenti. Risultati limitati dalla breve durata del progetto, ma che potrebbero rivelarsi un utile esempio per chiunque voglia rivedere il proprio rapporto con la terra e al contempo sviluppare strategie innovative volte alla coesione sociale.