Unlocking possibilities of the IFRC chalet as a community tool-house
Summary of the IFRC Park workshop on community
It is important that the IFRC Park brings added value to the existing ties of community activities and the network of parks in the neighbourhood. For example, if there is a buvette (snack bar) activity, it should not bring too much competition to the local cafés which are already struggling post-covid, but rather provide something different, which works in harmony with local businesses. The workshop indicated that ‘trust’ would be an important ingredient to make this work.
The chalet as community tool-house
The chalet - and the willingness of the IFRC to open it to community use - is definitely an important distinguishing element for the IFRC Park in comparison to the ones around. It is small, but as participants propose, a modular renovation and interior design could help make it have multiple uses. It could accommodate meetings of local associations, serve as a community buvette during the summer, be a place which can be booked for intercommunity mediation, and a workshop space for repairing and upcycling.
It is also a place which gives a strong orientation to the part of the IFRC gardens which faces the Place du Petit-Saconnex. The space around it, if well designed, could invite visitors to read a book under the shade of old trees, facilitate film screenings and outdoor meetings or family friendly events and special activities for teenagers.
Can the chalet be “extended”?
The IFRC chalet is not a big space. Climate in Switzerland being unpredictable, outdoor events, even in the summer, are always at risk of being interrupted by rain - or very high temperatures. Proposals have emerged to develop extensions of the chalet that would accommodate these conditions.
Typically, extensions include equipment and installations which protect from the sun and rain (big umbrellas, pergolas or a simple covering). A participant also proposed building a wintergarden or a veranda somewhere close to the chalet to create additional space that is usable in winter time.
An external box with material (urban furniture, tools, games etc.) could also be a way to extend the use of the chalet. It could be locked with a code that is communicated to different users.
Governing the chalet?
The chalet, if it is community-led, needs a good governance structure and management system so it is not a logistical issue for the IFRC. IN this light, two models were discussed.
A call for projects
The IFRC could periodically call for neighbourhood projects and select the association or group which will be allowed to use the chalet as the main user. Groups can also make a common proposal of shared use.
An app for booking the chalet
A second proposal was to have some criteria for associations and groups to book the chalet. Once the groups are accepted by the IFRC, they get access to an online booking system. The space is thus shared and all participants can book after having signed a trust contract and vowed to leave the space tidy.
Trust as Key Factor
Fears of incivilities and bad management from members of the community were expressed in the workshop. At the same time, the fact that there would be zero risk was also understood as being unrealistic. What emerged was that the question of trust is most important. Can trust be built within different user groups and between users and the IFRC? It was pointed out that the aura of the red cross and red crescent movement fosters respect and would help in such an endeavour. And ultimately, as a participant observed, there will always be some situations where things get out of hand once in a while. The question is : do we want to trust, and keep trusting and build community ties in the neighbourhood or let the fear of a violation not allow this possibility at all?