Ik Geef om de Jan Eef is an historic City Makers initiatives in Amsterdam that demonstrated the potential of citizens initiatives addressing public challenges.
This case study gives an impression of a group of residents initiating collective regeneration of a shopping street, which began with a tragedy: a local jeweller got shot in his own shop during a robbery in broad daylight. In that period the shopping street was a place “where you wouldn’t want to be on your own at night. But after the dark day in the history of the neighbourhood four residents, having known each other for a couple of years through the school of their children, decided they need to take action. Their idea was as simple as it was difficult: when institutions can’t deliver on their promises of improvement and entrepreneurs do not seem to be able to lift up the neighbourhood, “we need to do it ourselves.” The core group came up with the slogan ‘Ik Geef om de Jan Eef’ that needed to symbolise this distributed responsibility. The municipality was triggered by the initiative and started to cooperate with the group. Overall, the case of Ik Geef om de Jan Eef illustrates the possibility for collective action through making clear amongst a diverse group of stakeholders what the common resource is they share and how coordination can increase its value. Although the initiators and other involved actors presumably did not explicitly use the concept of a common resource and some of their connecting efforts might even have been unintentionally, it was their recognition of a shared sense of urgency that enabled them to bridge differences and mobilize others for joint action.
The municipality was an important financial partner of the initiative and created a sound basis for attracting complementary budgets. In a later phase the initiative and the municipality jointly experimented with letting go of regulation and enforcement for entrepreneurs.
Evidence of success
A large share of the success of Ik Geef om de Jan Eef can be ascribed to the way in which the initiative was able to bridge the differences between the various stakeholders. The collective in the making was open and light. It used playful actions to develop ownership over the street by the community. At the start it sparked a pioneering spirit and a sense of collectivity. There is freedom for everyone to bring up ideas and take action, and the collective is offering support for this in all kinds
More strategically it should be avoided to create a dependency of financial partners that endangers the sustainability of the initiative. Building partnerships and financial structures should be done with long-term interests in mind.
Potential for learning or transfer
Essential for the success of Ik Geef om de Jan Eef was the way in which it was an open initiative that was shaped by the participants through their contributions. The possibility to bring in own ideas and thereby co-decide on the course of the initiative was a crucial element for a shared sense of ownership to emerge. This also showed to be one of the pitfalls. When the initiative turned to further professionalisation and institutionalisation for qualitative improvement and safeguarding sustainability, this openness was partly sacrificed and the shared ownership over Ik Geef om de Jan Eef eroded.
For the initiators the mobilisation of a networked was a necessary step in realising their ambitions. It was not only a way to work towards shared ownership. The negative confirmation of this is found in the continuation campaign for the BID. The deterioration of the shared ownership that was caused by the professionalisation and centralisation, and thus by the decline of sense of ownership.