Fundamental Human Needs for City Transformation
In the UNDP “Butterfly Effect” study, we are working on the transformation of two of Ukraine's coal mining cities, Myrnohrad and Chervonohrad, which the government has assigned to be pilot cities facing mine closures in the near future.
We have already written about different economic transformation potentials in the cities in Step 1 of our blog. Although economic oportunities are vital, people also choose to stay in their city for a variety of reasons, such as connections in the community, fantastic green surroundings and quality public services. In Step 4 out of 7 of the “Butterfly Effect” project, we look more closely at the needs locals value and hope to see developed in their city, then we create personas to help us find patterns and solutions.
We base our study on the Manfred Max-Neef model of human-scale development’s nine fundamental human needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. “If we are looking for transforming the wellbeing of the city, not just replacing a coal mine with, for example, a factory, it means creating the space – a city where all nine fundamental needs would be met for its citizens”, comments Oksana Udovyk, Head of Experimentation of the Accelerator Lab and initiator of the project.
We have asked approximately 200 locals about those needs using different listening channels (see more in Step 2 of our blog) and built a graph representing the current states in Myrnohrad and Chervonohrad:
The graph gives us a generalized overview of the situation in both cities. We see that people in Myrnohrad are unhappy about leisure opportunities and security or protection. People of Chervonognrad are concerned with their level of participation in the city's decision-making processes. We can start on these needs in addition to the economical components, but we want to go even deeper. We will be exploring specific transformational potentials in the cities and converting them into actionable insights, as well as discovering locals’ meta-narratives and representing them in personas.
Actionable insights are understanding into how human needs can be satisfied. In our study, actionable insights are how to make cities more livable. We were able to draw up insights by listening to people using deep listening, or a diverse collection of tools gathering qualitative and quantitative information (see Step 2). We believe that combination of those different channels allows us to identify better leverage points to transform the system.
For example, throughout our study we heard about the importance of reconstructing a swimming pool in Myrnohrad. This need could be easily checked off in a single survey or a traditional focus group among other needs, such as the desire for new roads and water pipes. From this perspective, we cannot determine the leverage points - places where small changes could produce the greatest shifts - among all those needs. With deep listening, we can perceive a leverage point when a need emerges in different channels. For Myrnohrad, children were building swimming pools in Minecraft, people were talking with nostalgia about the swimming pool in interviews, data research showed local travel to the swimming pool in nearby cities and nature data showed polluted local water bodies. The appearance of swimming pools in several channels indicates that the city’s currently outdated swimming pool holds significant value for locals and could be an important leverage point for system transformation.
Actionable insights are not structured into traditional development categories such as policy change or investment attraction activities. They vary in shape and size and may seem random. “I had to stop my natural desire of structuring things in analytical categories and agree that reality is very complex and often cannot be simplified into categories”, commented Udovyk. Rather than creating central planning categories or selecting one “unicorn” solution, we focused on identifying locally relevant intervention points (e.g., the swimming pool) to start interacting with the complex system we want to change – in this case, cities. According to system thinking and complexity science, this approach would allow learning by doing. Simply, as we start working with identified solutions, we will learn more about what needs to be done or changed.
According to Gorka Espiau Idoiaga, Director of the Agirre Lehendakaria Centre and mentor of the “Butterfly Effect”, true transformation depends on the K-factor (K – Kultura-culture in the Basque Language). The K-factor reflects the system of beliefs and values that define a society: our origins, who we are, the way we think, what moves us and the reasons why. “If society does not believe the change is possible – probably it is impossible”, says Itziar Moreno, Project Director of the Agirre Lehendakaria Center. Based on actionable insights, we can offer certain solutions – but only after understanding how people think, the K-factors reflected in their meta-narratives of life.
To discover meta-narratives, we followed the logic of the iceberg. The top of the iceberg contains people’s public voice, which are quotes we analyzed using a matrix. The middle of the iceberg contains hidden discourse. The deep part of the iceberg contains the meta-narrative, or the conditionality of actions that take place (mental models) (see fig).
Examples of narratives around climate change issues.
To represent different meta-narratives that we heard during the deep listening process (Step 2), we have created personas. Personas are a tool often used in design thinking where generalized images of users are created to help the researcher find patterns and solutions. In our project we have created eight ethnographic personalities (not archetypes) based on different perceptions. As aggregates of voices, they are not necessarily true to any specific entity, but they determine the general attitudes internal and external stakeholders bear to change. Our set of personas allows us to combine common ideas about the needs and opportunities of both cities. Following the creation of personas, we will present the meta-narratives of people who will need to work with us to begin transformation in Myrnohrad and Chervonohrad.
Actionable Insights from Myrnohrad
Food: By looking at the big data and talking to people, we found out that the agricultural and gastronomy sectors are actively developing in Myrnohrad. The sectors rely on the activities of large agribusinesses and smaller initiatives of the food cluster (Step 1). This area seems to be a promising entrance point to system transformation.
Digital: From a number of different listening channels (Step 2), we discovered a low level of digitalization of the public and other city services, combined with low level of digital literacy and a low level of awareness of opportunities digitalization can bring. At the same time, the city is proud of the number of robotics and IT initiatives for the youth. For example, activists from the organization “Shidne Pole” focus on active citizen education and lead a number of LEGO and robotics workshops for children. These initiatives could be the base ground for the wider digital literacy education and digitalization in general.
Women: We have seen great potential in women empowerment and further reskilling in the city (Step 2, Forum Theatre). If the current reskilling assistance would focus not only on miners, who are usually men, and instead be redirected to and include women, the aftereffects will be more powerful.
Public space: The city has a central park, stadium and square with wrought iron sculptures, but in general the city lacks community gathering spaces. Locals highlight the ATB supermarket as one of the main gathering places. Instead of safe community spaces, the city has dangerous areas with insufficiently lit houses near the mounds which, according to residents, attract belligerent youths. In Minecraft, children built numerous brightly lit parks and water bodies where people could meet (Step 2). In our interviews, youth were asking for places to meet and mingle, and older generations desired safe green spaces. At the same time, listening led us to the activist project tepla.trasa, a small public space created by the activists in the previously “dangerous zone” of the city. The zone now includes a street workout place, cinema, disco space and more. The activists’ work gives us something to expand and build upon, such as adding a green component.
Abandoned houses: The city surprised us with the number of abandoned houses, which were the main concerns of the citizens in several listening channels. The abandoned houses are not only at the edges of the city - a least two can be spotted in the middle of the city center, just in front of the city administration building. Parents expressed concern about their children’s safety as well as the children learning “bad habits” around the houses. The abandoned houses could be repurposed in ways which address the community’s needs.
Sport: The Motocross Championship of Ukraine, founded by motocross champion Valery Dotsenko, is held in Myrnohrad. About 80 athletes from different cities of Ukraine take part in the competitions, and thousands of spectators from Myrnohrad and nearby cities gather to see the sporting event. Street Workout station in the tepla.trasa space attracts a number of youth to exercise. The central part of Myrnohrad holds a huge swimming pool where swimmers used to prepare for the Olympic championships, but the pool is no longer in operation. Nostalgic citizens remember the times when the pool was working.
The popularity and fondness for a variety of sports show the importance of this field to the city. We heard about swimming pools in particular on all listening channels. Children dreamed about the pool in the Minecraft game, middle-aged people talked about going to swim in other cities and older people remembered the old pool with a smile. The swimming pool seems to be one of the key entrance points to the system transformation.
Art: Artist Roman Minin, born in Myrnohrad, has painted murals all over the city. His fusion of intricate Byzantine and chunky modern geometric shapes appears to speak to the country’s social, developmental and political climates. Several of his artworks feature the transformation of miners, highlighting the inevitability of change and adaptability to it. In addition, Myrnohrad has a square with wrought iron sculptures featuring the work of local activists. Locals are proud of the art and eagerly talk about them when asked about good points of the city. Art could be another leverage point for city transformation.
Actionable Insights from Chervonohrad
Entrepreneurship: A clear entrepreneurial spirit is pronounced everywhere in Chervonohrad, from the coal mine sector to churches. The former manager of the “Nadiya” coal mine converted it into a small self-city with its own bakery, recreation areas, garment factory, mill and other initiatives. Scenes from forum theatre give evidence to the residents’ proactive ambitions, where people see opportunities for business development based off of the imminent mine closure. During the interviews, every other citizen talked about business ideas that could contribute to the development of the city.
Developed and promising areas of activity are the following: textile industry, agro-industry and production of metal structures, represented by large and successful local companies (Step 1).
The church: Churches are so prevalent in Chervonohrad that it is possible to find them on both sides of the street and next to each other. Churches have become a driver of the city's development in the last years, holding social bakeries, youth summer camps which include entrepreneurship classes and so on. The great influence of the church on public opinion shows its impact on society. Success of any development project would increase by including churches to the planning, designing and implementation stages.
Tourism: Chervonohrad has all the prerequisites for the development of tourism, as it borders Poland and the European Union, is located close to Lviv and has interesting historical sites. The city has a large number of green areas, alleys, parks and churches. In addition to the grandiosity of church buildings, the Potockih Palace (Christinopolskij Palace), an architectural monument which was abandoned after a fire and many years of dormancy, is a historical site that can be restored. Location and existing cultural supports provide ample opportunities for entrepreneurship in the tourism cluster development.
Media: Media cluster initiative creates conditions for community involvement in city governance and transparency of city authorities. Chervonohrad City, Neo Radio Chervonohrad, Echo Chervonohrad, the News of Prubyzia newspaper and Byznet TV station are a selection of the media we have seen working in activism spaces.
Although the pilot cities have similar problems with a common challenge - coal mining and mine closures - each city has its own perceptions of its unique situation.
In-depth listening to the people in these cities reveals a wide range of opinions, views and interpretation of the past, current and future situation in the city. The complexity of the contexts requires us to avoid targeting the average. We instead segment the narratives, which sometimes contradict but are nonetheless valid among the communities.
Based on all the data obtained, eight ethnographic figures were developed for the pilot cities of Myrnohrad and Chervonohrad.
5 Personas of Myrnohrad
"STRONG MASTER" Persona
He is convinced that there should be an authoritative person - a leader who will take full responsibility, solve all problems in the city and protect citizens from injustice. This is a task for the leader, because the leader has many resources and influence. He believes there are few smart and authoritative leaders right now.
Many Myrnohrad residents believe that a strong figure, such as an oligarch, mayor, or head of a local mine, will decide the consequences of closing production.
Several generations of men from his family consistently worked in the mine, as he does now. He does not even want to hear about the closure of mines and does not believe that they will be closed. He believes that neither he nor the city will be able to live normally without the mine, and there are simply no other opportunities. He does not see any positive changes in connection with the closure of mines and he is frightened by the thought of it.
“GIVE ME A SOLUTION” Persona
He sees no alternative but mines but has long heard of their closure. He is not ready to actively influence the development of the city and he is sure that someone else will solve everything. He is ready to consider the alternative that will be offered to him, and there should be a decent salary and benefits.
He worries about his own life and that of his relatives, as he lives near the occupied territory. He is not ready to create new opportunities in the city, because he does not see any prospects. He sees a constant outflow of population, rising crime rates, and complete decline of the standard of living. He does not see a strategy for the development of the city by the state and is ready to leave the city at any moment.
An important factor influencing the pace and lifestyle of people in Myrnohrad is the location of the city near the occupation zone in the Donetsk region. Militaristic aggression at the border makes the situation in the city less stable and creates an anxious mood in citizens.
She is ready to personally participate and create initiatives for the development of the city. She travels often, sees different cities and countries, and understands that you can live better. She offers real solutions: creation of industrial parks, development of small and medium business, repair of the hospital, improvement of material and technical bases, repair of the swimming pool, construction of a functional recreation park, cleaning of local reservoirs, creation of a waste sorting and processing station and road repairs.
3 Personas in Chervonohrad
A local activist who has his own vision of the city's development and is convinced that in order to act, you need the powers of deputies or their assistants. This provides an opportunity to influence the community. The closure of mines will lead to an outflow of the working population abroad, which will also negatively affect government officials and their impact on the local population.
He constantly monitors the outflow of young people, because there are no prospects in the city. Poland is open to young people, and there are no places in Chervonohrad where you can earn decent money, “especially by working with your head, not your hands, for twelve hours”. Earning in Europe is the easiest and most affordable alternative, and waiting for changes in the city is long and hopeless.
“ENTREPRENEUR, DEPENDENT ON MINERS” Persona
For her, the main problem in the city is the delay in wages for the population, who mostly work in mines. She believes too many businesses are tied to mine income. Roughly speaking, “everything works only when miners are paid.” This already causes problems in trade and other areas, and the budget does not receive funds.
Text: Oksana Udovyk, UNDP Ukraine Accelerators Lab,
Alisa Bankovska, SYNCHROPROSTIR NGO
This portion of the study was possible by the fantastic work of our partners and volunteers:
Kateryna Ivanchenko at the Centre for Innovations Development (CID), Denis Shilenko and Natalia Tishkova at Mriia: Power for Change, Anna Chekhman, Vladislava Kryzhna, Natalia Titiyova, Anastasia Bezpalko, Daria Kondratieva
Ameesh Arya, Inna Kolomatska, Iuliia Rozhdestvenskaia, Michelle Nagava, Olena Kryzhanivska, Olga Kurylenko, Phillippa Elizabeth Tichotova, Tarini Goyal, Tatiana Davtyan, Victor Oladoja, Yuliana Petriv-Shaw