On Monday, October 22, 2018, I attended a community redevelopment planning session at the Spanish Court Hotel, invited by my friend and fellow blogger Emma Lewis. The vision workshop had been organised by the Golden Triangle Neighbourhood Association (GTNA) who had brought in experts from the Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies at EAFIT University. Emma writes about this HERE.
Emma had invited me because she knows of the sustainable redevelopment planning that I had been engaged in under the USAID funded BRACED project in Naggo Head, Portmore, Catherine. Though not a resident of the upscale “Golden Triangle” I accepted the invitation and RSVP’d. Having participated in the Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF) held in March of this year at the University of Technology, Jamaica as a pre-conference workshop facilitator and a presenter at the conference, I was kind of frustrated by the methodology being employed by planners across the region, that was not inclusive and participatory. Though I went to the workshop being put on the the GTNA to observe their planning process and gain new knowledge, I had my reservations about whether it would be inclusive and participatory. I was pleasantly surprised!!!
My presentation at the CUF was about social cohesion & inclusion as a vehicle for social transformation and sustainable development. Traditionally, we have approached the development of communities in silos, creating social enclaves – maintaining an “us” and “they” model of development. I proposed that social cohesion and inclusion was not about residents within a particular community but about how those residents in a particular community can thrive in relation to the communities surrounding it. This sort of model will blur the lines of the TWO Jamaicas that exist but we are sometimes reserved about discussing.
The affluent Golden Triangle is bordered by a few low income communities. Though not represented at the workshop, members of those communities were invited to participate in the visioning workshop (SOCIAL COHESION) and even in their absence, ideas of how resources (Schools, Green Spaces, Trees) can be harnessed to benefit those communities came pouring in. The recognition that taxi operators who use the shade of trees in the area, while they wait on call to provide service, needed a rest stop and how they could partner with those taxi drivers; How the schools could support education goals of the surrounding communities by making their campuses accessible for learning and recreational activities; the development of economic models (social enterprises) that support the economic activities and livelihoods of those surrounding communities among many other brilliant ideas, were all lessons in how, as a nation, we can achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11 – The creation of inclusive and sustainable cities and communities.
What was even more heartwarming was that the process was citizen-driven and participatory (bringing together private and public sector stakeholders). Sustainable Development does not happen in silos and must be people-driven. I believe that the GTNA has a model that can be replicated across socio-economic borders and the PIOJ can look toward this model as an example for how the sustainable development goals can be localised.