The non-profit organization Quatorze leads the WE-CO project that aims to mobilize civil society around architectural projects, contributing to fight against urban poverty, thanks to collaborative building with the beneficiaries and through a cross-cultural and festive event.
As part of this campaign, Quatorze has contributed, since September 2013, to the improvement of living conditions of a slum located in Montreuil, in France.
32 people live on this piece of land and during the six years of occupation, 17 barracks were built by the inhabitants. With its partners, volunteers and beneficiary families, the association has co-designed and co-built a common kitchen, a removable workshop to host evening classes and two sanitary blocks with showers and toilets.
After this edition, a new project was developed in a slum located in the town of Triel-sur-Seine, transferring the know-how accumulated in the 2 years of mediation.
The new project was developed in 2015 in a slum located in Triel-sur-Seine. Since 2007 this piece of land has been home to 46 families - 91 adults and 101 children.
Coming mostly from south-western Romania and discriminated against in their country, these families emigrated to France to find work, housing and a better future.
Despite social actions, the families are living in precarious conditions. Without proper access to water or electricity, they stay in rough shacks and caravans. Without access to sanitation, they use the surrounding land as a toilet.
Therefore, the main objective was to co-design and co-build a response to the health precariousness that would be properly appropriated by the beneficiary families.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
This project was broken down into 4 phases.
The first was the spatial and social mapping of the slum, then the co-design of a response, with the contribution of the inhabitants through a participatory process, then co-construction and finally tackling aspects relating to the use and maintenance of the sanitary devices.
The project team conducted 6 workshops dedicated to co-design the sanitary facilities with the locals. The mediators visited the site regularly. To this extent, the workshops were part of the routine of the inhabitants and mediators benefited from greater participation.
Prototyping and prefabrication of sanitary facilities was done in the studio of Quatorze over 2 weeks.
The building on site took place on the 4th and 5th of July. 35 volunteers were mobilized. On Saturday night, the beneficiary families cooked and volunteers discovered the specialties of their country of origin. The dinner evolved into a dancing and intercultural party.
The participation of beneficiaries, from design plans to building, is standard of WE-CO. Communication allows building relationships of trust with the locals, to better understand the environment and identify their needs.
Thereafter, co-designing allows for providing an appropriate response to their situation and the co-building site reinforces the dynamics of appropriation of the facilities.
As the opinion of the occupants of slums is rarely taken into account, their involvement is an innovative element.
WE-CO offers the opportunity to engage in a concrete way on a social site that meets the needs of disadvantaged populations. This humane and constructive approach helps to uplift people and promotes a meeting of diversity.
In short, the 2015 WE-CO edition consists in one building site providing a practical solution to an indecent housing situation. Three associations invested in this urgent project out of solidarity.
4 foundations supported this initiative, there were seven months of mediation, 30 dry toilets were built and assembled on site, 35 volunteers mobilized, 50 people involved in the process of self-construction and there were 191 beneficiaries.
It is important to note the efficiency of the building on the female members in the slum.
The comfort in using the sanitary blocks, especially in terms of privacy, made it possible to significantly reduce cases of urinary tract infections (cystitis).
Women, who previously limited their needs (which is a cause of cystitis), are now secure in their privacy, and take the time to wash after urinating (hygiene is a second factor in the occurrence of cystitis).
The involvement of beneficiary families was progressive. Since the people were completely unaccustomed to giving their opinions, and since sanitation is an intimacy-related subject, communication was not facilitated. Less than a dozen people attended the first workshop.
However, over the weeks, the discomfort gradually gave way to interest and motivation. At the last workshop, there were over thirty participants.
Beneficiary participation is essential because it enables the launch of a dynamic of appropriation of the structures and ensures proper servicing and maintenance of toilets in the future.
The presence of involved local organizations is a prerequisite to any WE-CO action. Indeed, it is necessary that these emergency and solidarity projects are located in spaces where social monitoring is already assured.
This support is essential both upstream for the mediation and downstream to monitor the use and maintenance of the new equipment/ facilities.
The force and the magic created by the event is the most powerful energy to empower people, and it has to be used in the whole process to create a good environment full of empathy.