Skip to content

Wetopia’s 3 superpowers.

Imagine a place. For example: the Marolles neigbourhood in Brussels. Imagine a group of people that share this place, but don’t know each other. For example: girls from very diverse backgrounds. Imagine a need. For example: safe public spaces for girls in the city. And then: get to work. Do!

That’s what we for example did with “Girls make the City”, an initiative of Wetopia and ZijKant. After all, research shows that from the age of 9,  girls disappear from public spaces. Why? Because that space is often not designed for girls. Or, because boys and men claim and occupy public space. You can think of a few more reasons like that. But what do you do about it?

In Wetopia, we use the image of the umbrella. Politicians and other policymakers think they have to protect us from a deluge of problems. We in turn are too happy to take shelter under that umbrella and expect our politicians to always manage to open that umbrella for us at the right time. But the umbrella leaks because, like it or not, they cannot solve all our problems. 

In Wetopia, we turn that umbrella around. So it becomes a boat in which we take a seat and are able to row together. Nothing stops us from making policy from our own role, or in other words, to change things. Whether we are citizens, activists, artists, scientists, civil servants or entrepreneurs. Everyone can help shape society, starting in his or her neighbourhood. So this is how it happens in Wetopia, where 3 superpowers help to determine success.

Superpower 1: Us.

There is no discussion about the need for more “us”. But how do you do that when there are so many different “us’s”: different ages, sex and gender, education, background, wealth… Let’s be clear right away: differences are good; differences are a strength. In Wetopia, we create more “us” by forging new alliances. We bring together people who rarely or never meet. In Marseille, for example, during “Le Tour de tous les Possibles”, we brought together young detainees from Les Baumettes prison with students from a business school next door. Different? Yes, yet they are the same age and share the same city. In Cape Town, we brought together city representatives and entrepreneurs with illegal occupiers during “Wetopia Academy”. In Brussels, for “Girls make the City” in the Marolles, we gathered different groups of girls: from students from a prestigious Flemish school, to French-speaking girls from youth centers to queer roller-skaters. So we create a new “us” by making the best use of differences. That is a superpower.

Superpower 2: Place.

Everything takes place somewhere. In a place. That can be a city, a neighbourhood, a school, a park or an organisation. Every place is a living system that is constantly moving, constantly changing. Every place has its own history, its own atmosphere, offers specific ever-changing possibilities. That is why in Wetopia we always start from the potential of each place to tackle bigger challenges. In Ostend’s Vuurtoren neighbourhood, for example, that was the climate issue. In Mathare in Nairobi, it was energy solutions for slum dwellers. I remember well how a group of secondary school pupils in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest township, listed the positive aspects of their neighbourhood. And especially with how much love and enthusiasm they looked at their hometown. Their pride showed the almost inexhaustible potential of Khayelitsha. So that potential is a force to be harnessed. It is a superpower.

Superpower 3: Doing.

Talking is what you do to each other. Doing is what you do with each other. I know: you can also do something on your own. But how does the saying go again? “Alone you go faster. Together you go further.” That’s right. Together, with all our differences, we are better, more creative, more efficient. That’s why in Wetopia, people don’t just talk, they mostly do. One of the added benefits of this is that everyone is included, not just the smooth talkers. With interventions in the city, the neighbourhood, or wherever, we build more “us” and create more opportunities. That could be a “Wall of Truth” in the Marolles. That could be a collective program by girls to reclaim public space. That could be the collaboration of a major art museum with a township. We make the natural move from participation to entitlement. We lay claim to our place in the city and our role in society. And we do. That is also a superpower.

Every Wetopia intervention uses these 3 superpowers: the power of “us”, the power of place and the power of doing. Where Wetopia emerges, different residents and users create new alliances and engage with the potential of the place, which no one knows better than themselves. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Wetopia interventions aim to create " us " between people who do not always know each other but share the same place or neighbourhood. Starting from the love for and thus the potential of that place, we work together on social challenges and challenging questions. 

%d bloggers like this: