Community groups evaluated the visioning scenarios

Validation Workshop_Mix

As the third round of community group interactions, the Validation Workshop was organised in late March in the Istanbul Planning Agency premises. The purpose of this event was to check whether the urban plans which we digitally translated from those created by the community groups at the previous workshop, represent their visions.

Representatives from community groups have been seated in round table formation and were assisted by city planners in addition to the facilitators this time. They were provided with the previous plans they came up with in the preceding workshop, the scenarios generated based on these plans and other supporting layers of maps presenting information about the locations, current land use and the disaster risk vulnerabilities of the (planning) area. They, then, compared their plans to those generated through GIS environment scenarios and revised them wherever they deemed necessary. This comparison allowed them to see some missing components in the neighbourhoods they previously imagined that were, in fact, essential for the future urban settings and the community life there. Meanwhile metropolitan and local municipality representatives have been walking around the tables, observing and participating the discussions.

Community members of Büyükçekmece had already demonstrated great disaster awareness and interest in previous future visioning discussions. However, having this workshop following the devastating Türkiye and Syria earthquakes in February contributed a great deal to the discussions. The immensity of the tragedy, all the setbacks and wrongdoings following one after another, rapid reveal of unpreparedness of various stakeholders and all the preventive measures that had not been taken have put people of İstanbul in much more of a vigilant position than ever, especially the residents of Büyükçekmece. The hypothetical discussions during community meetings have suddenly turned into a cruel reality leaving everyone with a sense of “that could be me or someone I love”. Therefore, during the workshop everyone had a lot to say and everyone was all ears paying full attention to each other. 

The debates got particularly heated when the group representatives got up to present their idealised urban plans together with their worries and concerns to the authorities. While the community members vent off the anxiety of a potentially very similar disaster on the horizon, they were all making excellent points suggesting scientific and evidence-based precautions. This time it was the authorities who were all ears giving utmost attention and consideration to very well-prepared presentations. 

This highly interactive, participatory environment was certainly very much productive for all parties. As the community members have been feeling empowered and confident with the power of the voice they were given, the local authorities have come to realise they still had a lot to learn from these experts-by-experience.