Acknowledging the context, assessing needs, mapping communities.

Understanding the complex and stratified nature of the neighborhood is essential to exploit its potential as an educational environment.

The first module of Edu-City training scheme focus on:

Two key methodologies are presented here. First, Urban Reconnaissance provides a set of exercises to disentangle the multiple elements that affect the creation of an urban identity, and can be used to identify the most relevant keys to look at the territory and to think how to change it. Second, stakeholder mapping provides tools for understanding the social ecosystem active on the territory, analysing their potential contributions and benefits deriving from a project and to define proper strategies of engagement and networking.

Furthermore, the body and spatiality exercise suggest an approach inspired by meditation techniques for establishing a mental and physical state of harmony with the territory object of our attention, disclosing wider sensorial attention to the context.

Key Questions

  1. What are we going to carry on out project?
  2. What historical processes and heritage have defined its identity as a neighbourhood?
  3. Which are the more important / less visible aspects marking such an identity?
  4. Which issues and demands the project needs to address?
  5. Who will / should be affected by its outcomes?
  6. Which are the key stakeholders active on this territory?

Step 1:
Situating the project

Where are we going to carry on our project?

The identification of a territory for a situated learning experience can derive from different factors, among which two are the typical triggers:

In both cases, the first step is thoroughly analysing the context in order to disentangle the complexity of factors that produce a local identity or neighbourhood. The object of a neighbourhood analysis is never just about its spatial determinants, nor its social structures, but rather the complex relations intersecting the social and spatial dimensions. For this purpose we suggest using Urban Reconnaissance methodology developed by ogino:knauss and Tesserae as the initial activity for understanding the place where we are going to intervene.

Urban Reconnaissance Platform

Questions addressed:

Urban Reconnaissance is a cognitive approach defined by the ogino:knauss collective and developed by Tesserae as a methodological device for the holistic investigation of the urbanisation process. It is presented as an online platform designed with an UX interface that allows users to navigate the diverse elements that determine an urban identity through different perspectives.

EX takes the form of a collection of sixty-four different definitions of the word “city”, each based on a different concept or disciplinary approach, each accompanied by a related exercise for a spatial/conceptual exploration according to that specific perspective. In the interactive web device the sixty-four keywords are arranged and displayed as a circle encompassing the urban field, delineating a cognitive territory open to exploration and discussion. The definitions are linked each other in the text and in the website, allowing the reader/explorer to circumnavigate and intersect the multiplicity of connections between morphological, cultural, economical, political, psychological (etcetera…) factors influencing urban life, determining its form and defining its discourse.

The sixty-four keywords serve as the starting point for as many exercises challenging the user to observe, assess and represent the urban context from a specific perspective, and to single out particular elements, rhythms or systems concurring in the production of the overall urban identity. Finally, each chapter is accompanied by notes, images and graphic suggestions deriving form previous explorations.

The platform includes a blog, documenting the results of explorations and workshops done using the method, and a downloadable manual on how to design and manage an urban reconnaissance workshop

Step 2:
Reaching out the social ecosystem

In order to understand local dynamics it is essential to create a clear picture of who are the key actors present on a territory, and assess their potential contribution to a project, the advantages they could get out of it and the power imbalances between them. Here we present some tools that can be used for gathering information and design a strategy for engagement and networking.

First, the stakeholder mapping template is used to collect a general picture of the stakeholder ecosystem, positioning them according to their nature (public, private, academic, civic) and their centrality to the process or partnership.

Secondly, the Analysis template is used to assess the characteristics and power of the key actors, and to evaluate their potential contribution or benefit.

Finally, the circles of participation tools provide a means to visualise the actual or required level of participation into the project and define specific strategies to reach out and communicate with them.

Stakeholder Mapping

Questions addressed:

In order to understand local dynamics it is essential to create a clear picture of who are the key actors present on a territory, and assess their potential contribution to a project, the advantages they could get out of it and the power imbalances between them. There are several methods and tools for stakeholder mapping. The tool we present here is a simple template used by Tesserae and adapted from the URBACT methodology. It consists of a target shaped template divided in four quadrants, each quadrant referring to one typology of actors referring to the Quadruple Helix Model of Social Innovation: public, private, research and community (or in other wordings, policy, industry, science, society).

The three concentric circles represent instead the grade of centrality or involvement of the actors into the process / context. The participants of the lab use post-it to position the different actors in the sector (or between the sectors) that represent their position in the local stakeholder ecosystem. The stakeholder mapping exercise may be carried out within the project team, among the partners of a partnership to map actors and competences missing or that need to be involved, or in participative sessions within the local community to map known resources. The stakeholder map can be updated at different stages of the process and screenshots can be archived to represent the evolution of a stakeholder ecosystem during a period. The physical elaboration of the map can be complemented or substituted by online collaborative tools, as i.e. a Miro board or similar.

Stakeholder Analysis Matrix

Questions addressed:

The aim of the exercise is to:

  1. collectively identify key stakeholders and assess their contributions and significance to the project / context;
  2. examine power and powerlessness in the stakeholder ecosystem (real and perceived), in order to visualise the dynamism of empowering certain actors and how to proceed in building partnerships and relations.


Circles of Participation

Dividing your collaborators into different participation circles can ensure that everyone is informed and involved to the level that suits them best. The circles of participation is a tool that can be used to categorise individuals into different groups based on their level of involvement in the project. This tool can be particularly useful when working with a diverse group of collaborators who have different levels of interest and availability. It is divided by:

  1. Motor group: It consists of the project coordinators and the key players who are responsible for the project's success. This group is responsible for the overall project direction, decision-making, and implementation. They are the primary source of information about the project and are responsible for keeping the other circles informed of the project's progress.
  2. Collaborators: Identifies the individuals who are actively involved in the project's implementation. This group is responsible for carrying out different tasks, and can be carried out by people with different skills, expanding the knowledge field that the project covers. They are also responsible for communicating with the next circle of participation, the supportive group.
  3. Guests: Is formed by individuals who are interested in the project and want to contribute in some way. They may not have the time or resources to be actively involved in the project, but they are willing to provide support in other ways, such as through fundraising or spreading the word about the project to their network. This group can be a valuable source of feedback and ideas for the core and active groups.
  4. Supporters: The supportive group consists of individuals who are interested in the project and do not have the time or resources to be actively involved. This group may include community members, stakeholders, or individuals with a general interest in the project's objectives. They can be kept informed of the project's progress through regular updates and communications from the other circles of participation.

Using the circles of participation tool can also be useful for the communication of the project to a community as an act of transparency and can make people feel like they have options for their collaboration, regarding if the individuals around it can be more or less active depending on their wishes and needs. By dividing collaborators into different participation circles, the project team can create a diverse community, build support, and achieve project success.

Body and Spatiality

Questions addressed

The objective of this exercise is to situate ourselves within our bodies and within the space by activating our five senses. This is fundamental before any theoretical or physical task (for example an urban exploration) in order to provide a sharper nuance to our steps, our hearing, our gaze and our perception of the “other”.

There are different approaches to this exercise. We propose a light guided meditation that invites participants to relax and acknowledge our bodies, our surroundings and the presence of others. Ideally it should be done in an open space, not directly after eating in order to avoid discomfort in the stomach with certain breathing techniques, and facilitated by one or maximum two people familiar with body and spatial awareness facilitation techniques.