Pakhuis de Zwijger – the role of the bridge builder.

Urban Books #39: Bridges to local economies

Held on June 14th | 19.30 hs | Kleine Zaal | 


Who is a bridge builder? Is he a social entrepreneur, a place maker (kwartiermaker), a group therapist or maybe even a piggy in the middle? And which role does he play in a sustainable future of our cities? In this Urban Books presentation at Pakhuis de Zwijger* (Amsterdam) Adrian Hill & Eric Haas presented our book “Bridges to Local Economies” and focused the event on defining the role of a bridgemaker, determining who fulfils this role and finding out what makes the bridge maker important. Following a local initiative (Plantage Lab – Amsterdam), we mapped stakeholders, visualised their emotions and put them in the bigger picture. 

Contents of the talk

Complexity is nothing new for cities. However, in the past decade there has been an acceptance that much of the challenge lies in social complexity, and more inclusive as well as open forms of planning are required. Local economies are increasingly seen as a delicate yet powerful leverage point for jobs, resource management, crime, social cohesion, quality of life and many other themes.

As Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, noted in the preface of Bridges to Local Economies, “…we need to be creating new, place-based economies and livelihoods, and that in order to do so, we need to think like entrepreneurs…”. The challenge is that entrepreneurship outside of the business sector, and economy outside of big government, is vague and abstract.

How do we do this? More specifically – who is doing this? In the book the authors consider this to be the role of the the bridge-builder, a relatively new but poorly understood and rarely appreciated position in the eco-system of contemporary urbanism. Through the presentation and the book, we illustrate the need for the bridge-builder, and explored bridge-building competencies, while presenting a range of tools and resources that can be used for building bridges.

We hope to continue the conversation with friends at the Pakhuis and open up a larger reflection on this role generally.