As part of the redevelopment of Noorderpark, a trust was founded with wider social objectives for locals, i.e. culture, sports, wellbeing and greening.
The park is located in the North of Amsterdam, which due to its negative reputation, used to be highly functionally separated and perceived as quite remote. Since the turn of the century, however, both the Northern city district and the Noorderpark gradually found their way onto the mental maps of residents and visitors. The redevelopment of Noorderpark occurred in the same timeframe. Amsterdam’s local government organized a competition to redesign the two separate green spaces into a lively city park. Funds for the renovation would be provided by the national government as part of a social policy agenda that focused on disadvantaged neighborhoods. The pavilions were an important part of the project developer’s vision, since he believed that physical interventions alone would not be enough to create a lively park. From his personal network, he contacted a local resident to run the activities in one of the pavilions. However, the focus on a single pavilion and a cultural program meant that a lot of these initiatives could not be facilitated. This led to the formation of a complementary organization with wider social objectives, i.e. culture, sports, wellbeing and greening. Inspired by community trusts in the UK, the organization was named ‘Noorderpark Trust’. The trust consists of a small management team and a board of residents from the surrounding neighborhoods. The team aims to remain small, it strives to be a connecting entity between local residents and SMEs in the area.
The organization is completely funded by subsidies. Gaining and keeping access to funding has been a continuous struggle for the Noorderpark trust, but a struggle it has successfully overcome on different occasions. It has become something the trust’s professional team has specialized in.
Evidence of success
The trust was awarded a triennial umbrella subsidy of € 135,000 a year for the costs for the services and activities in the Noorderpark by the municipality of Amsterdam. To make it easier and cheaper for residents and organizations to develop small-scale events in the Noorderpark: the umbrella permit was granted for 3 years. New structural funds were also found from a European EFRO subsidy, which was awarded within the Business Climate pillar of the Dutch EFRO program.
This EFRO assignment formed the inspiration to start a collective of local (prospective) entrepreneurs. Initially, the entrepreneurship collective focused on residents living on state benefits. However, the regulations were too confusing and subject to too much change, so other SMEs were targeted.
Potential for learning or transfer
The strength of the organization seem to lie in its strong, professional leadership and close ties to the local government. The Noorderpark trust as well as the entrepreneur collective exist by the grace of professional intermediaries. However, both the trust team as the social managers were professionals from outside the neighborhood who have been specifically recruited to further develop the initiative. They have specialized in gaining access to funds and mediating between local residents and policymakers. This has opened up a lot of opportunities to organize local activities. For the entrepreneurs, however, it has not managed to create a sense of ownership or commitment to the park in itself. The entrepreneur collective has definitely been a very positive network that assisted local entrepreneurs, but it seems a collective in name rather than in practice. Area-based collaborations tend to emerge bottom-up in places where stakeholders have a common purpose for their neighborhoods.