Right to Reyeroord #1 - Making Space

Exploring institutional boundaries in providing youth with (a) space in their neighbourhood

(Action) research

The main research question in this project was how to provide citizens with their Right to the City; i.e., how to actually empower and emancipate them, beyond mentioning this in reports and academic publications.

  • We studied how engagement, empowerment and emancipation were covered in current initiatives to engage citizens in city-making in Reyeroord.
  • We made an overview of international and relevant initiatives to support citizens’ Right to the City.
  • We organised working sessions to try and bring the Right to the City in practice in a concrete case: creating space for youth in Reyeroord, literally a place where they can go, but also a positive presence within the neighbourhood and a feeling of being represented within the formal (governmental) system.

(Co-creative) design

IIn this process we used creative methods to support stakeholders in developing and communicating what they consider urgencies and what relevant interventions could be [link boekje]. We hold a strong belief that acts of collaborative ‘designing’ contribute to establishing and organizing ‘publics’ – groups organized around shared concerns (cf., Le Dantec (2016). Designing Publics).

Urgency and Vision – Design and future-driven workshop

We stimulated participants to paint a visual representation of their preferred future for young people: how could they be more regarded as valuable citizens in their own right. Strikingly, they did not only envisage the need for a physical space for youth – their own place to chill, engage in music, dance, etc. – but a “space to be there” – to not automatically be labelled as a nuisance or (potential) criminals – and “space in representation” – to be represented in policy – as well. This simple technique and these archetypical images helped stakeholders to find common ground and to see challenges regarding youth in a more systemic perspective. While discussing the outcomes of the design-session, participants were struck by the fact that, despite sharing similar ideas among all stakeholders regarding urgencies and visions for a number of years, no progress had been made to realise them.

Relationships and barriers – Systemic constellation: revising current roles and responsibilities

To further explore and experience relative positions of stakeholders and accompanying tensions and barriers, and to find starting points to redraw institutional positions and roles to do justice to the urban complexity and to take citizens’ Right to the City seriously, we used the systemic constellation method. Based on their current position and task, all participants were assigned a place in the room, relative to one another. Participants were invited to reflect on their assigned positions. Subsequently, they were asked to move to a position where they would be able to perform most optimally with regard to Reyeroord’s youth’s Right to the City and, supported by cards of potential resources (people and actions), to speculate on roles or resources they would need in order to be able to function positively and effectively in their preferred position. Interestingly, most participants tended to gravitate towards the centre of the diagram, indicating and arguing that they would like to be closer to formal and informal local organisations and to listen better to and to work more effectively and closely with the various parties and stakeholders involved. While local formal and informal organisations plead for Right-to-the-City-informed ambitions to increase citizen autonomy and empowerment, representatives of formal institutions used hackneyed New Public Governance-discourse of better executing – and if necessary, adjusting – policies concerning youth; listening more closely to youth and youth workers; facilitating dialogue between municipality and local initiatives and organisations; facilitating co-creation; and taking those involved more seriously. At the same time, besides practical barriers in terms of resources, such as time and budget, middle and lower-level officials mentioned structural limitations, such as lack of ‘mandate’ and path dependencies in the form of strict policies, programmes, orders, responsibilities and agreements expressed in KPI’s, that would leave hardly any room for flexibility, customization and innovation.

Art for and by youth

Led by street artist Ricardo van Zwol and teacher Silvia, students of the Veenoordschool made mood boards and designs for a graffiti piece Ricardo was subsequently going to paint at the entrance of their future Youth Hub. It should represent their associations with the theme of Right to the City – Space for youth.

Together with foresight and design studio Pantopicon we designed an intervention to enable both civil servants and citizens to empathise with what the position of a civil servant, as well as of a citizen, could look like in the future with regard to citizens’ Right to the City. This intervention consisted of 6 descriptions of possible future job profiles, printed on large cardboard boards with a hole for one’s head to stick through, to test how such a new job description suits them. The new roles each symbolise a different form of ‘creating space:’

  • Hellsider: creates space for mutual understanding;
  • Raver: creates space for initiative;
  • Complimenter: creates space for recognition;
  • Joker: creates space for criticism;
  • Mixmaster: creates space for polyphony;
  • Bulldozer: creates space for innovation.

The boards with the six new roles, along with an explanation panel, were posted at the town hall, where civil servants were given the opportunity to apply via cards.


In this project we worked in close collaboration with:

This project was funded by:


  • Documentary Recht op Reyeroord (in Dutch)
  • Rapport Recht op Reyeroord - ruimte voor lokaal initiatief (in Dutch)
  • Rijshouwer, E. & Leclercq, E. (2023). Recht op Reyeroord. Als de gemeente wel luistert, maar niet levert. Sociale Vraagstukken.
  • Rijshouwer, E., Leclercq, E., Hill, R., Fransen, J. & Engelbert, J. (in progress). Exploring the role of government to support citizens’ Right to the City
  • Leclercq, E. & Rijshouwer, E. (in progress). Citizen’s engagement in the Resilient Delta: How to meaningfully, respectfully and reciprocally integrate citizen’s knowledge in academic research projects.