On February 24, 2023, the SIRENE Expert Hub convened for the first time to identify challenges related to capacity-building in the broader context of social innovation in eco-friendly and age-friendly environments.
The meeting, which was organized and hosted by ISRAA in collaboration with the project consortium, aimed to foster health, well-being, and participation among people as they age. Oscar Zanutto, Head of the European Project Department at ISRAA, opened the meeting and described the Expert Hub’s general purpose and the first workshop.
Carina Dantas, CEO of SHINE2Europe, introduced the SIRENE project, while Willeke van Staalduinen, CEO for Politics and Health at AFEdemy, provided major insights into the concept of Age-Friendly Environments.
Dr. Matteo Zallio, Fellow Researcher at the University of Cambridge, led the workshop and introduced the topic and co-design methodology.
Age-Friendly Environments (AFE) are scarce worldwide, despite their potential to promote health and well-being and enable people to participate as they age. AFE combines physical environment, social environment, and municipal services to create inclusive, accessible, equitable, safe, and secure environments that prevent impairments, diseases, and functional decline. To create inclusive designs, it is necessary to understand people’s diversity and points of exclusion, including physical, sensory, and cognitive variations in culture, capabilities, needs, and aspirations. The evolution of design has progressed from setting accessibility standards for buildings in 1961 to Design for All in 2004, a process that aims to enable all people to participate equally in every aspect of society.
Despite the numerous high-quality standards in Europe to create more inclusive spaces and technologies, there is still a lack of awareness about the benefits of designing inclusively and the actual value it provides.
Europe is already well-equipped with a massive number of high-quality standards to create more inclusive spaces and technologies, that should be interpreted as a universal human right. Yet, this still isn’t happening, owing to various reasons, among which there are poor awareness of the benefits of designing inclusively and lack of understanding of its actual value. To help people thrive by living in better age-friendly environments that guarantee inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, a capacity-building framework is needed.
In this context, a problem is any situation in which we are trying to reach a goal and we must find a mean to reach that goal. To develop a capacity-building framework for Age-Friendly Environments, the chosen method to understand the problem and break it down into subproblems was abstraction laddering, which is a template for considering a given challenge statement at different levels of focus. By moving up and down the ladder asking “WHY?” and “HOW?” respectively, the scope of the inquiry was expanded.
Around 30 participants highlighted diverse aspects to define the reason why there should be a capacity-building framework to boost the creation of Age-Friendly Environments. Such environments are key to facilitate improvements in the quality of life of citizens and to better empower and represent them and their needs. To fill the knowledge gap on ageing and AFE by raising awareness on these topics among industries, policymakers, private actors (i.e., building owners) and citizens in general, it is crucial to improve capacity-building in this area.
To develop a capacity-building framework, the experts suggested the implementation of informed decision-making processes, where inclusive representation of key stakeholders is guaranteed. Other means to consider are accessible and inclusive communication campaigns to raise awareness and training initiatives. Furthermore, it is crucial to develop sustainable and innovative solutions, to be then tested through pilots. Finally, effective capacity-building for the creation of AFE cannot transcend political support, which has the potential to drive investments, involve stakeholders and nurture citizens’ trust on institutions. Ultimately, we cannot ignore financial institutions as key actors to drive banks and private sector’s investments on AFE.
The next co-creation session by the SIRENE Expert Hub will take place on the 28th of April where we will take on further these considerations into building a social innovation framework.
For any information about the project or how to join the Expert Hub, present the best practices as well as the solutions from your country or region, do not hesitate to contact us at info@sireneproject. eu
Watch the full recording below or on our YouTube channel!