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Ik Ben Zoho

Urban Management & Development students take city matters in their own hands

Urban Management & Development master (UMD10) students Alexandra Tsatsou, Barbara Zamora Auza and Carlo Capra decided to take city matters in their own hands by starting the Ik Ben Zoho initiative. The young urban professionals got inspired while conducting an analysis of the issues and potential of the Zoho area in Rotterdam as part of the Zoho Action Planning workshop. They discovered that "one of issues in the area was the lack of community feeling, especially a lack of integration and communication between local residents and the creative industry professionals operating in the Zoho/Agniesebuurt area. These two communities were separated and not taking advantage of the potential benefits of their coexistence".

What is Ik Ben Zoho?

Ik Ben Zoho aims to stimulate the development of a community feeling within the Zoho / Agniesebuurt area, by stimulating greater interactions among the residents, between residents and workers, and improving the coordination between the local actors of the on-going projects being developed in the area. With this initiative these young empowered students want to increase the communication and collaboration among the various actors operating in the area, both on the virtual and the physical level using two tools:

  1. By stimulating discussions, ideas exchange and communication on a virtual platform based on a Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/ikbenzoho).
  2. By developing a “buurt magazine” based on the discussions in the IkBenZoho Facebook group, to be freely distributed and promoted in the Zoho/Agniesebuurt area. The magazine was produced in a form that enables us to also use it as a public space intervention by hanging on the neighbourhood walls.

"The concept behind Ik Ben Zoho Magazine is that it should be the both the mean and the result to achieve the goal of integration among residents and professionals. We seek for residents interested in collaborating with professionals of the graphic design field in order to develop and implement a quarterly publication in 2014-2015 and promote the integration of the area"

Ik ben ZoHo: Open ZoHo Day

Interview with the founders:

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves. Who are Barbara Zamora Auza, Alexandra Tsatsou and Carlo Capra?
I am Barbara and I am from Bolivia. I ended up here because I did my bachelor in economics and I worked for a non-profit organization related to projects in urban areas. That is how my interest to do a master related with cities grew, and I chose the Urban Management and Development (UMD) master at IHS.
I am Alexandra and I am from Greece. At first I moved to the Netherlands to work as an architect, but after working here for 2 years, I decided to widen my academic background.  I chose to do the UMD because it is also connected with cities and urbanism, what was mostly the field in which I worked.
I am Carlo and I am from Italy. I have a background in economics, but I like to apply my skills to cities, because I feel like it is a topic that is very connected to the everyday life of people. I decided to come to the Netherlands because I wanted to continue studying in a European environment as I felt that it is more close to my views, so that is how I ended up in Rotterdam.

2. In the project description you mention that you wanted to base the magazine on the discussions in the Ik Ben Zoho Facebook group. What kind of discussions did you aim to start?
We wanted to have discussions about the neighbourhood and what is happening there. For example, there was a girl who wanted to implement an exchange economy in the neighborhood. This is to stimulate free exchange of help and knowledge between the people. So she wanted to know if people are interested to join this community of self-help.

3. Did you have any support? Or was just the 3 of you making your way to the success of the project?
Mostly it was the three of us. However, some of the teachers from this Action Planning workshop helped us by putting us in contact with key people.
During our workshop we had to speak with many important actors from the neighborhood such as people from a social housing company, the municipality, etc.  We had to interview them during for the workshop assignment, so when it finished and we started with Ik Ben Zoho, we already had many contacts in the area. 

4. How did you fund your project?
It is self-finance!
Which is an issue about the sustainability of the project, but we are working on finding different sources to continue the existence of the project. We felt that we want to showcase that this is a project which is feasible with limited funding. We think that most important factors are time, availability and passion, rather than money.
This is really inspiring for all the young urban professionals.
For our second edition we have other ideas on how to fund it. We are thinking about crowd funding.
Yes, we felt that instead of sitting around and waiting for funding, we want to show that we have something that is interesting and it is working, and try to take action ourselves for alternative financing.

5. The design of your materials is impressive? Who is your designer?
Our designer is Bart Van Haren, a Zomerhofkwartier resident who was happy to be involved in this initiative. We did give him some guidelines for the design, technicalities mainly such as the size, but the creative part was entirely his idea.
The interesting thing he came up with was that in order to see the full titles of Zomerhof and Ik Ben Zoho, 2 posters had to be placed next to each other – one in Dutch and one in English. Since our aim is connect people, we really liked the way he put it in the design of the magazine.

6. Who helped you with the translation?
Some of the participants provided their text in Dutch, and this was somehow easier to translate it to English, but some of them provided the texts in English, so there the designer also helped us. IHS staff also helped us with the translation. But in general, there were many ways to do it.
7. So even the poster inspired community actions?
Yes, definitely.

8. Can you share with us what was the biggest obstacle on your way?
It took us more time than we had planned, because we had to combine with the assignments we had at IHS. And of course arranging meetings with people and meetings themselves took some time.
Yes, time was sort of an obstacle. And also some technical issues with the printing of the magazine. Since we are not managers of the magazine, we are just coordinators; we had the task to stimulate peoples’ interest to provide their content in a spontaneous way.

9. Can you think of the funniest moment during your work on the project?
Well, when the poster arrived, we noticed that the Facebook group was the wrong one. Since we had already 500 copies, we had to be really creative on how to fix it.
Yes, we had some manual intervention.
I guess this was also a small obstacle. We were waiting for the poster to arrive, and it was supposed to be with us in the day of our presentation in the Community Center meeting, but it arrived on the next day. So these, were some small things that went wrong. However, in spite of the obstacles, we have already started working on the second issue!

10. Can you give a piece of advice to all the young urban professionals?
I feel that it is important not just to focus on what you are doing in class, but to look a bit outside the window, and search for opportunities to build a connection with the place in which you are living and working that goes beyond going to the supermarket. Try to have a different level of interaction with your city. Get engaged with your cities!
It is really possible to apply what you learn in the field. The only thing that you need is motivation and to really believe in what you are doing! The rest just comes with the flow. To succeed with a project, you really need to believe in it. If you do, the rest of the people also will!
I would say that you have to be active. It is only then that other people also get active towards you. If the Zoho residents were not active and responding to what we are doing, the project would not work for us, but also the other way around – it would not work for them.

We hope that Ik Ben Zoho can continue to exist after us. We want either the new UMD students, or anyone who is passionate about cities, to keep working on this initiative.

Check out their blog: city-shakers.blogspot.nl/2014/05/making-impact-through-minimal-urban.html

All the information and materials for the Ik Ben Zoho project were entirely produced and provided by the founders of the initiative Alexandra Tsatsou, Barbara Zamora Auza and Carlo Capra.