Buren Zonder Stigma
CITIES not only accelerates environmentally conscious behaviour, it essentially offers effective solutions for social inclusion


Date begun

Initiated by
CITIES Foundation

Supported by
Gemeente Amsterdam
CITIES Foundation designs and carries out sustainable, locally-rooted community projects. The Foundation is currently supported by the municipality of Amsterdam to empower communities living under the poverty line to afford more at the neighborhood level and ultimately lower the inequality divide.

Since 2015 CITIES has been incentivizing individuals to separate their plastic, paper, glass, and textiles. CITIES curates effective, local solutions to meet global environmental, social and economic challenges. The approach to date has been multi-faceted. It is proceeded through co-creation with the community due to 3 reasons: the solution has been created together with the community. It has revolved around the generation of a local currency valued on waste and it ultimately aims at the behavioral change. To play an active role in this solution is very simple. People create a free account, and they then receive a starting package with 12 transparent recycling bags and the information needed to start separating their waste. Once they have collected a full bag of either plastic, paper, textile or glass, they need to bring it to the standard recycling container at their street, take a picture of the bag and upload it to the web page. This action is rewarded with digital coins, which can be redeemed for discounts and benefits at over 40 local businesses in Amsterdam Noord, 30 in Amsterdam Oost and 15 in Amsterdam Center.

Previous Experience
Through community-based project development, CITIES firmly believes that the generation the positive impact is deeply entrenched in social factors and public awareness. That is why the ingenuity and innovation of CITIES work lies in its people-focused attitude.
The local community pilot took shape in 2015 in Vanderpekbuurt, Bloemenbuurt, and Overhoeks – three neighborhoods in Amsterdam Noord. While maintaining close contact with residents and local entrepreneurs, the CITIES team set a new social contract for waste separation through its most influential facet – the reward system. The system immediately started propagating multiple gains. Not only has the work accelerated environmentally conscious behavior and sustainable consumption but also, and very importantly, it has become a tool for social inclusion. The CITIES solution is enabling individuals from low-income families to enjoy discounts, thereby supporting the local economy, and reducing the social inequality divide. Consequently, a number of individuals who are unlikely to start recycling without an extra incentive have started separating, indicating a great success of the pilot. This turned attention to the next phase - further improvement: in 2017 the solution started expanding from the original focus area to the entire district of 94.000 residents.

New Scope
Amsterdam Noord is a peculiar district due to its demographics, which strongly interrelate with neighborhood recycling habits. According to Statistiek bij OIS, the Noord is one of the most socially and economically diverse districts within Amsterdam. Over the past years, the district has had one of the lowest income levels, the second lowest employment level and hence the second lowest number of households with income (excl.students). With regards to education, for the past years the Noord district has had the second lowest average score on the final tests for the basic education, and lastly, it has had the second lowest average score for social cohesion in the neighborhood by the district.
Furthermore, in Amsterdam Noord, only a very limited portion of the urban population separates waste. According to the Municipality statistics, Noord has a very low recycling rate per neighborhood. This provides a basis for the assumption that the population in Amsterdam Noord does not prioritize waste separation due to:
1. The fact that neighbors are more concerned with their basic livelihood;
2. The fact that neighbors perceive waste separation as a time costly and unrewarding activity;
3. The fact that neighbors lack awareness of environmental value and social gains of waste separation;

CITIES Foundation created a system, a simple and empowering method to help people under the poverty line afford more items and services at the neighborhood level, without facing stigmatization. Since the launch of the solution, more than 3000 members have joined. This has directly contributed to the generation of 2.100 euro value of rewards, as of October 2017. As seen in documentary made by SCHULDIG, people on welfare started collecting waste outside in the streets, keeping the neighborhood clean in order to redeem the rewards.
It is a positive solution where there are only winners! Many organizations and businesses are spreading the word about the CITIES solution in their community. In addition, a number of community houses have become places where people without smartphones or a mobile internet can show their separated bags of waste to receive coins. What really resonates in talks with different organizations is that they are happy to work together because they engage with a new group of neighborhood residents, a group that would not have a chance to buy their products or services otherwise. In this way, opening up the solution to multiple neighborhoods can strengthen social cohesion across different social classes.

The organizations and time when local residents can come by to exchange their separated bags for coins and get more information about the project:
- De Vrouwenbazaar (Van der Pek-neighborhood) on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 12:00
- The Bolder (De Banne) on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 15:00
- The Ark (De Banne) - TBC
- Buurtkamer Koekoeksnest (Vogelbuurt) - TBC
- Huis van de Wijk de Meeuw (Vogelbuurt / IJplein) on Wednesdays from 14:00 to 16:30
- Huis van de Wijk de Evenaar (Tuindorp Oostzaan) on Wednesdays from 14:00 to 16:00, and
- the CITIES Studio @ Chateau Amsterdam every Monday from 10:00 to 17:00

We are working to broaden our network further. Within next few weeks, new organizations will be approached. The goal is to activate important neighborhood organizations as a partner in each area.

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