Culture, Heritage and Diversity

 

Better and Inclusive Neighbourhoods for All on Tenerife Island (Spain)

 

In January 2012 Tenerife’s public authorities, civil society leaders and community representatives launched a civil participation initiative with a view to fostering social cohesion and community bonds in a culturally diverse neighbourhood of El Fraile in the Arona municipality in the South of the Island. The idea was born from the cooperation between the project Juntos en la misma direction (Together in the same direction) and the European initiative Puzzled by Policy conducted by the La Laguna University with the aim to incite urban dwellers to participate in shaping migration policies. The El Fraile neighbourhood was chosen due to its longstanding and vibrant migration history and the need to re-consider its human and cultural diversity as a resource rather than equating it with problems and conflicts. The initiative quickly earned the interest of representatives of the local school, church and the mosque, associations of neighbours, mayors, women or immigrants from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Uruguay and Columbia, as well as public authorities such as the Arona Municipal Council, the Department of External Affairs and the Immigration Observatory of Tenerife.

 

Between January and June 2012 nine meetings were held in different venues in El Fraile, such as the local mosque, parish, public school, youth house or the premises of community associations. At the very first meeting the participants sketched a map of their neighbourhood in order to identify and facilitate understanding of the existing social actors dealing with integration matters. The attendees also shared their aspirations and concerns regarding living together in El Fraile, its resources and potential development. At subsequent meetings the participants came up with the name for their initiative – El Fraile para todos (El Fraile for all) – and set goals to be achieved. These goals include, for instance, improving the image of the neighbourhood and contributing to its transformation into a leader in diversity management; strengthening partnerships between neighbours and social actors; encouraging the neighbours to participate in cleaning up the area; strengthening social bonds within the neighbourhood; creating a friendly and participatory environment and promoting accessibility by removing language barriers. To achieve these goals, five working groups were established to focus on different thematic areas, such as environment, communication and relations, translation and linguistic exchange, mediation and intergroup cooperation. Each group designed an action plan featuring specific goals. In June the five groups presented their action plans to the Social Participation Board of the Juntos en la misma direction project.

 

According to Ms Eva Luz Cabrera, Municipal Council for Citizen Participation, the initiative has the full potential to be extended to all other neighbourhoods of the municipality since there is growing demand for similar projects. The first step in this direction is to create citizen working groups which would mainstream their ideas to newly-formed participatory councils. “It is essential to convey the message that each and every person living in the neighbourhood has a crucial role to play to enrich, build and design a place for living together in unity, respect, cleanliness and in compliance with common values. We need to rely on citizen involvement and participation to build more cohesive and sustainable cities”.

 

Christina Baglai