Open spaces are considered a lifeline for urban residents’ health and wellbeing and yet their importance is often overlooked. Parks and playgrounds have a significant impact on everyone in the neighbourhood, but they are particularly important for the development and wellbeing of children and young people. In Lebanon, as in many other countries, the experience of Covid-related restrictions has highlighted the critical role of public spaces to maintain one’s physical and mental wellbeing. The urgency of the country’s economic crisis and its effects on jobs, wages, food security, and electricity provision, however, means that the importance of public spaces has been largely overlooked by the government due to other pressing priorities.
El Mina, a coastal town adjacent to Tripoli in North Lebanon, has a coastline and corniche street with a beautiful view of the sea. Yet the city’s waterfront offers very few playground spaces where families can take their children. A new collaborative project between the IGP-led RELIEF Centre and CatalyticAction aims to address this deficit by creating good quality public spaces designed specifically to enhance children’s experience of the city. The project is a participatory spatial intervention (PSI) designed and built following the rollout of IGP’s prosperity index data collection in the city of El Mina. The intervention, like the data collection itself, was designed with the support of El Mina citizen scientists, as well as with input from stakeholders and members of the public.
The PSI is a continuation of IGP’s research agenda for prosperity, but also a reminder of the vital importance of ensuring that research leads to tangible contributions to people’s quality of life. In this case, the contribution in question is primarily intended to benefit a part of society that urgently needs it – children and young people, many of whom are experiencing the compounded pressures of economic crisis, shortages of essentials, and a recent history of recurrent lockdowns over the past two years, often with heavy effects on development and mental health.
The public space was officially inaugurated in April 2022 with an event attended by a number of local community leaders, including representatives from the municipality and the Ministry of Social Affairs.
A full report of the findings from the RELIEF Centre-CatalyticAction El Mina prosperity study will be published shortly, so please continue to keep an eye on this space for more on this story.
Images: CatalyticAction, Youssef Itani
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