The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Collaborative team from DPU and IGP facilitate a participatory spatial intervention in Lebanon

8 January 2019

The intervention took place in Bar Elias alongside Catalytic Action and aimed to address vulnerability through infrastructure in the context of large scale displacement.

participatory spatial intervention

An interdisciplinary team from the Bartlett was in Lebanon to facilitate a participatory spatial intervention to address the vulnerabilities of refugee and host communities through infrastructures. The team was working in Bar Elias a city on the road between Beirut and Damascus, which has seen its population more than doubling in the past few years with the influx of Syrians. The city host Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians.

Through the workshop, we deployed participatory design and participatory research methods with a focus on incorporating a diversity lens to explore intra-communities inequalities around vulnerabilities and infrastructure. We did this in a town characterised by social tensions based on different intersecting dimensions of people’s identity, including nationality, gender, age, class, and legal status.

The process built a unique space in which people from different groups could jointly design an intervention to address their vulnerabilities while helping them to achieve their vision. Some Syrians expressed the empowering feeling of being heard on an equal basis by other residents and felt the process allowed them to give back to the city that hosted them. Some young people felt they could communicate as peers with elderly which felt younger by working with the mixed groups. Some women expressed that the process made them aware of their good ideas and capacities beyond their reproductive roles.

The initial phase of the process is captured in a video.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYr9dSr6tyo&feature=youtu.be


The video explains how residents analysed their context, discussed their aspirations and vision for the town and identified interventions. In the coming months, the UK Charity and design studio Catalytic Action entirely founded by Bartlett alumni will lead the implementation of the proposed interventions. While the research project funded the participatory engagement, we are fundraising to buy materials to build the interventions. You can contribute donating directly to Catalytic Action here:  http://www.catalyticaction.org/make-a-donation/ 

This participatory spatial intervention is a collaboration between the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) and the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) together with Catalytic Action as part of a Participatory Spatial Intervention within the British Academy Project: “Public services and vulnerability in the Lebanese context of large-scale displacement” funded by the Grand Challenges Research Fund. The team led by Dr Andrea Rigon (DPU) involved Catalytic Action founders Joana Dabaj, Riccardo Conti, Dr Hanna Baumann (IGP) and, Howayda Al-Harithy from the American University of Beirut and Ramona Abdallah from Catalytic Action.

The process started with the recruitment and training of citizens scientists, then during a SummerLab facilitated by Catalytic Action and Prof Camillo Boano, different public spaces were identified and analysed. The main entrance road of the town was chosen for the intervention because was used by all communities and had greater potential to address residents’ vulnerabilities. In December, residents provided their comments on a design of the intervention, which is now being finalized and will be implemented in the coming months.