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From complaint to strength: An effective method in poor neighbourhoods

Description and experiences of ‘Living Together, Being Together’ (Kooij, 2011)

In the current political culture social problems are more and more being transferred to the so-called ‘civil society’. The civil society is the community that is made by citizens themselves, by being active in associations, informal networks and doing volunteer work. Because of cuts in professional organisations more and more tasks come to lie in voluntary organisations. In poor neighbourhoods there are often complex problems, like poverty, unemployment, debts, domestic violence, social isolation, learning disadvantage, crime and psychological problems. Such problems reinforce each other and cause a negative spiral of problems. For the very reason that many residents in poor neighbourhoods are immigrants, they often don’t know how to get help for their problems in Dutch society. They don’t know how to reach, or have bad experiences with government and professional health care institutions. They get stuck in bureaucracy, get on a waiting list or they encounter incomprehension.

The Dutch foundation ‘Living Together, Being Together’ (Samenwonen-Samenleven, SW-SL) is a small social foundation that has developed an own method to help in such problems: Health new style in the civil society.

Existing strengths, like confidential advisors, voluntary organisations can be mapped, supported and strengthened. With this method, where the informal network plays a crucial role, problems in poor neighbourhood can be addressed constructively. This foundation was created in response to the assassination of the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. Different religious communities came together in response to this critical incident to talk about cohabitation and corporation with the Muslim part of the population. Thanks to this meeting SW-SL has developed and expanded in Amsterdam. SW-SL began there, bringing estranged neighbours in contact with each other organising joint activities and thereby connecting and building bridges…

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Henk de Roest

Marten van der Meulen

Protestant Theological University (PTHU)

 

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"Building bridges at the grassroots". Research report for the Dutch section of the Grundtvig CULTA project

 

There is extensive research being done with regard to the theme of interreligious dialogue. Yet, to our knowledge, empirical research in interreligious contacts at the grassroots level or intentionally created interreligious dialogue or interreligious celebrations of people in local multicultural and multireligious communities, stays somewhat behind. There is not much research material about bridging between groups from different ethnic backgrounds or from different countries. Local ‘bridge building’ refers to "activities intended to increase interpersonal contacts between diverse ethnic, faith and nationality groups" (Harris & Young 2009). The role that leaders of religious communities in the Netherlands play in connecting people to each other, i.e. "building bridges at the grassroots" is the topic of this research report. We did not do ethnographic research on bridge building activities as such, for example how they are managed, financed and run. By examining the role and the initiatives that religious leaders take, we aim at contributing to the concept of ‘bridge-building’. We show the range of groupings involved, the activities encompassed and some of their organizational features.

Before presenting our findings, we first provide some figures with regard to recent developments in the Dutch religious landscape. In terms of the basic resources needed for church vitality, i.e. members, leadership (professional and volunteers), money and time, the two major churches in The Netherlands, the Protestant Church in The Netherlands (PCN) and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) demonstrate an overall process of shrinking during the last four decades….

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Marten van der Meulen

Henk de Roest

Protestant Theological University (PTHU)