Community resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: five insights from the Bospolder and Tussendijken districts
‘Never waste a good crisis'. The Municipality of Rotterdam wants to turn Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu) in Rotterdam-West, into a 'resilient neighbourhood'. During the first lockdown, a number of initiatives popped up here to help residents in need through the crisis.
Commissioned by the municipality, Veldacademie is conducting a long-term monitor of community resilience in the Bospolder and Tussendijken districts of Rotterdam. In 2018, the municipality launched the Resilient BoTu 2028 program together with residents and other parties. Central to the approach is working from the strength of the neighborhood and its residents, strengthening social networks and connecting formal and informal actors. The sudden arrival of the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown called on the neighborhood community to show its resilience.
Numerous new initiatives arise
The consequences of the corona crisis on the daily life of Rotterdam are huge, especially in neighbourhoods like Bospolder-Tussendijken. The requests for help from neighbourhood residents multiplied and became more urgent at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. Numerous initiatives soon emerged to help local residents in need, including the delivery of food parcels and meals, a roadside assistance centre, food parcels and meals, a giveaway shop and the provision of 1,000 laptops for home-based education. What factors facilitate this way of acting in practice?
To find an answer to this question, Veldacademie collected data on initiatives and acts of cooperation in the neighbourhood at the beginning of the first lockdown. They spoke with over fifty residents, initiators, entrepreneurs and officials about the changes in the neighbourhood during a time of crisis. Five important insights emerged:
- Existing networks
A strong network is essential for a community to be resilient and that can be used in times of crisis. Previous instances of cooperation ensured an existing relationship of trust through which people knew each other's strengths and could make use of them.
- Cooperation between informal and formal actors
It was primarily existing initiators who started social initiatives within an informal context. These initiatives came about quickly and effectively because informal actors worked together with formal actors. Joining forces made the actions of these initiatives more effective.
- Flexibility in roles
During the lockdown, various actors showed flexibility in the roles they played in the neighbourhood. For example, they took on new responsibilities in order to meet the changing demand. This ensured low-threshold and rapid access to financial resources and logistical support, among other things. In particular, a strong sense of necessity stimulated this role change.
- Location-specific policies
The crisis policy in BoTu followed the national policy of the government, which in several cases limited the district's ability to act in a resilient manner. In compliance with the corona measures, meeting places were closed, places that are of special importance in this neighbourhood.For example, the market in Bospolder-Tussendijken provides access to affordable food and a community centre simultaneously provides access to reliable information.
Effective communication is essential for tackling challenges in times of crisis. It provides access to networks and information needed to make resilient action possible. In Bospolder-Tussendijken, a community platform was set up during the crisis for informal and formal actors so that they could easily coordinate supply and demand.
What do these insights mean for the future?
Whether and to what extent the insights from the corona crisis will lead to structural changes will become clear in the future. To this end, the Resilience Monitor in BoTu, part of the 10-year programme Resilience BoTu 2028, will continue to follow the development of community resilience in the years to come. The full report can be read here.