Planning Dinner: The Rotterdam Food Conference in the Blue City

By Mauricio Sosa

The Urban Strategies and planning specialization group from the UMD 14 hosted a conference on February 22 with a group of stakeholders that we reached during our intensive research. The project, inspired by the sustainable development goals from the United Nations, focused on the relationship between socio-spatial inequalities and the access to food in the city of Rotterdam. Our goal consisted into develop a strategic plan at the finalization of the specialization aimed to reverse those issues.

During this process we have worked over 10 weeks in numerous workshops and lectures with specialists on both planning and food security. We interviewed stakeholders from different backgrounds, and even performed a shopping challenge in which we assessed different consumer types according to the variety of options within different areas of the city. Finally, each build two scenarios for the future of Rotterdam based on the information we collected from primary and secondary sources. The main goal of the conference consisted in presenting them in order to validate our projections and establish a dialogue that will contribute to the strategy plan that we will develop until the finalization of our specialization period.

The USP group is formed by people from 13 different countries from different backgrounds: from architecture to law to engineering and environmental studies. The diversity among the group has provided an enriching experience for the entire group; of course issues had arisen, but ultimately all this voices had united into one common goal. This is why, the enormous challenge it represented has provided, to me at least, an experience that surpass other regular courses or modules. For the past weeks we worked throughout the day preparing the logistics for the event as well as the research and the content for the presentation. In order to achieve this goal, a variety of roles were assigned: ushers, designers, a master of ceremonies, registration table, moderators, a log keeper, network promotion and community manager, speakers, a time-keeper, 2 photographers and even one DJ.

The guests arrive in timely manner, to the Blue City, a center for circular economy projects, where we arrange the place for each team workshop. The event started with a presentation of our research, followed up by the scenarios from the four teams: resiliency, sustainability, ethnic and economic diversity. The information for these trends was extracted from policy documents, demographics and the perception of current issues by our stakeholders whom we had interviewed previously. Each team presented two scenarios based on current within the trends of three scales of the city: from metropolitan level to the municipality of Ijsselmonde, localized in the south east part of the city. Immediately, each one of the teams hosted a short activity with the stakeholders who were divided by groups of five persons.

After that, a small break took place, providing the guests the opportunity to know each other while the teams prepared a final assessment. This was followed by a plenary session, where discussion where open for the guests altogether. Issues such as hunger and social inclusion where debated among the students and lecturers with the stakeholders; providing a glimpse to a personal yet critical perspective invested in those issues outside the classrooms in IHS. We wrapped the event with an amazing dinner in Aloha (I mean it was only fair), where we finally get some rest after so much hard work. On the next days we will develop our final strategies; which I sincerely hope contributes not only to the vision of a better Rotterdam but achieves to spark some improvement in their community.

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  • Mauricio Sosa has a Master degree in philosophy by the National University from Mexico (UNAM) and currently takes part of the Urban Strategies and Planning Specialization at the Urban Management and Development master program. He has worked in Mexico as a consultant, performing research and project management for LabCDMX, part of the City Urban Management Agency and with the National Ministry of Higher Education.
  • Photography credit to Eric Juma. He is an Architect from Nairobi, Kenya with 6 years of field experience in design, project management and planning. Eric enjoys working on projects that an overreaching positive effects on the community and environment. Currently he is doing a Masters in Urban Planning specializing in Urban Strategic Planning.

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