On 08.02.2022 Berlin Global Village hosted the digital roundtable “ Make Place! – Inclusive spatial concepts around global justice“. The occasion was the upcoming completion of the renovation work in the old building in summer 2022 and thus the completion of the construction works of the centrum. This marks the beginning of a new phase for Berlin Global Village (BGV) as a centrum But have we now created this place because we have dug a foundation, raised walls, laid pipes and about 50 developmental and migrant-diasporic organizations have moved in? What does it mean to create place that is more than a space?
The event brought together the Executive Director of In-Haus e.V. in Cologne, Elizaveta Khan, Dr. Friederike Landau-Donnelly, Assistant Professor for Cultural Geography at Radboud University, and Michael Küppers-Adebisi, Diversity and Community Building Officer at Berlin Global Village, to discuss this topic with participants. Michaela Kern, communications officer at BGV, facilitated.
Elizaveta Khan introduced the „In-Haus“. This comprises three rented houses in Cologne-Kalk. There, similar to BGV, rooms are made available for groups and events. Unlike BGV, there are also social work services. Khan reported on the In-Haus’s aspiration to enable as many people as possible to participate in as many things as possible, for example by providing support for projects and parts of the infrastructure for making applications and offering language courses.
She also emphasized the importance of mutual trust between users and employees, the reduction of pressure to perform within the premises and an awareness critical of racism. For example, the association offers child care and counseling in a wide variety of life situations, conducts workshops and educational offers, and carries out public relations work critical of racism through the project „InHaus-Medien“.
BGV and the In-Haus have in common their anti-racist and decolonial orientation as well as their centrum character. Elizaveta Khan’s contribution was also interesting because of the long existence of the In-Haus as an intercultural center: The In-Haus has now existed for 10 years – so she was able to give many examples from concrete practice.
Friederike Landau-Donnelly, who, among other things, researches conflicts in public spaces, emphasized in her input a productive way of dealing with conflicts within spaces: spaces in this context are the product of the negotiation of these very spaces. They are therefore distinct from spaces, which are conceived as a purely physical category. With the help of the right processes and resources, places can be warm and welcoming.
Michael Küppers-Adebisi spoke for BGV about the particular relevance of a decolonial and anti-racist orientation in the field of development aid. In this context, BGV actively tries to compensate for asymmetries caused by racist structures through internal measures. He referred to the room of migrant-diasporic organizations („MDO room“) on the 4th floor of the centrum, which is supported by all tenants in solidarity, and the Council for Diversity and Social Inclusion (RDSI).
Küppers-Adebisi cited further examples of the physical design of spaces in the new building: the kitchenettes, for example, which can be found on every floor, were planned from the outset as meeting spaces, in that they can be accessed directly from the elevator. The space on the first floor also creates an offer to the neighborhood, e.g. by the Ludothek or other external actors through the event rooms.
But how does one measure whether the negotiation of the spaces is successful? How does one determine if strategies for inclusion and openness are working? And how does one accomplish this despite finite resources, both financial and human?
Even as we tried to get to the bottom of these questions, the diverse approaches of the participants in the conversation emerged in interesting ways: Elizaveta Khan reported that against the background of social work, a strategy can be considered successful if the users of the premises come back several times. Dealing with these issues as a conflict situation in terms of agonistic conflict management can also indicate this. Agonism, Landau-Donelly explained stands in contrast to antagonism, where the conflict partner is attempted to be „defeated,“ and refers to a potentially positive way of dealing with legitimate and necessary conflict that respects the basic rules of freedom and equality.
The conversation always circled back to the people who use, negotiate and thus shape the spaces. With the approach that places only come into being through negotiation, and that conflict is necessary and even productive in this process under certain conditions, a responsible community speaks for a „good“ place. Berlin Global Village, as the operator of the centrum, sees its task as organizing this and involving people and organizations from the building, not only because of the limited resources. But also because this is what is special about the centrum, because „the cake always stays the same size, but maybe someone else will bring something to eat“ – says Landau-Donelly.