Virtual meeting platform: Understanding eco-social challenges in urban surrounding

We tackled several ecosocial challenges in urban environment: From RUB perspective issues of urban heat islands, flood risks, lack of bio diversity and lack of social infrastructure. From Zagreb perspective topics were: Traffic safety for children with disabilities Waste disposal in Roma community Food insecurity among youth in poverty Public infrastructure for homeless people

Virtual Place

Zoom platform


Start: 07.11.2022
End: 07.11.2022


14.00 – 14.10 INTRODUCTION 14.10 – 15.00 Presentation of ZAGREB challenges 15.00 – 15.10 Discussion 15.10 – 15.50 Presentation of Bochum Challenges 15.50 – 16.00 Discussion and Conclusion.

Total participants: 26 Total students: 23 Total Staff members: 3

TRAFFIC SAFETY FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES The central problem of our project is the insecurity and inadequacy of traffic that families and children with developmental disabilities are exposed to. During the day, they face numerous challenges and obstacles in their immediate and distant surroundings. The area of Donji grad is the smallest and most populated district in Zagreb, has a small pedestrian zone and is heavily trafficked. Because of this, families with children with disabilities have problems in everyday movement and traffic. The streets are narrow and uneven, which prevents children with physical disabilities from having enough space to move safely. Numerous stairs make it difficult to go to shops, stores, to go to the necessary therapies and reduce their mobility. The problem deepened even more with the earthquake that hit Zagreb, in which many roads, streets, and buildings were destroyed, leaving children with disabilities without access to certain parts of the city centre. Children and families do not receive the support and understanding they need, their needs are not taken into account enough, and they are often on the margins of society. From all of the above, we can see how our vulnerable families are excluded from the community and do not have the possibility of full participation in the community. This problem does not affect all residents in the community, but a certain group of people. It has a direct impact on children with disabilities and their families, for whom daily activities take much longer than other members of the community, they do not have access to certain services and facilities due to spatial inadequacy, they spend much more time due to environmental obstacles, they do not move safely in traffic due to narrow roads and insufficient awareness of citizens. This problem also affects people with disabilities, senior citizens and mothers with small children. For them, these problems are everyday and directly reduce their quality of life. Our vulnerable group is invisible in society, people are not familiar with or sensitized to their problems. If children with disabilities were given the opportunity to participate equally in the community, they would be able to realize their potential just like other children without disabilities. But in these conditions, they are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion, which is contrary to the values of our society, which advocates the equality and inclusion of all citizens. Donji grad is the center of Zagreb, the accessibility of that part of the city is important for all residents of Zagreb, not only members of that community. This problem has always existed, only recently has the problem been discussed more. During the construction of cities, streets and squares, the needs of children with developmental difficulties or people with disabilities were not taken into account. When planning public space and traffic, good connectivity was taken into account, but not environmental barriers that exclude certain groups of people. During the development of Donji grad, children with disabilities were not thought of, and that is why today we have such a situation, that is, numerous environmental obstacles in Donji grad. Although the problems of our vulnerable group have recently been recognized, the changes are minimal or non-existent. It is necessary to appeal to the public authorities in order to join them in the battle for the equality of all citizens. In many developed countries of Europe, many cities have gone through the process of restoration and reconstruction and adapted their streets, squares and facilities to everyone. It is possible to achieve something like this in Croatia, but it is necessary to combine the capacities, strengths and resources of the state, community and society. Even small changes such as a better understanding of the problem and greater attention when moving in traffic will help our vulnerable group on a daily basis and thus provide them with a sense of community. One of the key problems of our neighborhood is the fact that it is located on the urban part of the city of Zagreb, which is under protection, so any interventions or changes that are needed are much more difficult because they are regulated by special strict rules. Throughout history, the problem of children with developmental disabilities and people with disabilities was viewed from a medical point of view and disability was seen as a personal problem, but with the development and progress of society today it is increasingly seen as a public problem and the medical model has been replaced social model.

WASTE DISPOSAL IN ROMA COMMUNITY The problem we are focusing on in this project is the problem of inadequate waste disposal in Roma community. We chose this problem because we believe that this problem is currently relevant, not only in the city district Pešćenica-Žitnjak, but also in the entire city of Zagreb. The problem arose 20 to 30 years ago, when Zagreb began to build and expand unplanned, and to this day the problem is getting bigger and more visible. In 1992, Željka Šiljković wrote a scientific article about the problem of waste disposal in the city of Zagreb, and from this we can conclude that this problem has been present in the city of Zagreb for a long time. The collection and rehabilitation of waste today, in times of urbanization, represents an ever-increasing problem, the solution of which depends on the quality of the environment and the health of people. (Šiljković, 1992). The first problem we identified with inadequate waste disposal is that there are many questions that people ask, and the authorities do not have adequate and logical answers and solutions. Politicians who participate in the management of the city of Zagreb created a waste disposal plan, but the implementation is full of difficulties and complications (an example of this is the new bags for mixed waste, which are mandatory to buy, but are very expensive and many cannot afford to buy them). The plan created by the City of Zagreb is theoretically logical, but difficult to implement. Garbage is thrown on the streets, not even in garbage cans, other people put garbage in their yards, in their houses and rooms where they live, and some just throw it in nature. Regardless of the places where people throw garbage, whether it is in nature or anywhere else except in strictly designated places, it is a big problem for the quality of life of citizens. This problem is really noticeable and visible just by walking or driving through Roma neighborhood, so it is a big aesthetic problem. In addition to aesthetic problems, there are also larger consequences such as air pollution, destruction of green areas and health problems. It is very important to note that this problem affects the entire population, both those who dispose of waste properly and those who do not. In the same way, inadequate disposal of waste leads to conflicts between citizens and cooperation between citizens can become difficult. There are many sources of problems that can be categorized into individual, institutional, social and political. Among the individual causes, we can count the lack of knowledge about adequate waste disposal, the lack of financial resources, the lack of interest of citizens, and the lack of information among citizens. Institutional causes of the problem can be the preoccupation of city regional offices with other tasks and problems, as well as poor cooperation and communication between citizens and institutions. Among the political causes of inadequate waste disposal, we can include the lack of motivation and lack of interest on the part of the city government, as well as the lack of financial and material resources. Social causes of inadequate waste disposal can be social exclusion, stigmatization, the media, and many others.

FOOD INSECURITY AMONG YOUTH IN POVERTY The central problem is food insecurity, that is, hunger and consumption of low-quality food among young people at risk of poverty in Zagreb neighbourhood Prečko. A healthy diet refers to the consumption of nutritionally rich foods. People at risk of poverty cannot afford high-quality food rich in different macro- and micronutrients. These people can often afford only the cheapest food (most often it is food rich in carbohydrates and/or unhealthy fats). As far as healthy and organic food is concerned, poor people generally cannot afford even the cheapest healthy food. Such an unhealthy diet has numerous consequences for humans, so nutritionists and other experts warn of obesity, malnutrition, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes as just some of the possible consequences of unhealthy eating.

Low-quality nutrition has direct consequences for children and young people at risk of poverty, as evidenced by the fact that in the Republic of Croatia, the number of children who do not have a full and complete meal a day is growing. The problem is present at the national level, so starting in 2023, one free school meal is provided for all students in primary schools in order to enable all children to have at least that one meal guaranteed every day. This initiative includes all primary schools in the Republic of Croatia, including both primary schools in Prečko. The scope of this problem also includes the rather poor supply of quality, organic and affordable food and groceries at the local market in Prečko. As a result, people have to rely on retail chains and larger stores to offer quality and organic food. It is also a fact that people at risk of poverty, as well as poor people, cannot afford some household appliances. This certainly affects the preparation and storage of food, where if people do not own a stove, oven, refrigerator or freezer, they cannot independently prepare nutritionally rich and healthy meals, nor can they store leftovers for the next period. The cause of this problem is the fact that the cost of living in cities is very high, and Zagreb is no exception. Low monthly incomes combined with high living costs as well as rising inflation lead to food insecurity. The average Croatian household had a monthly income of 840 euros before the crisis. In addition to the economic aspect, the cause of the problem is insufficient information about the availability of healthy and affordable food in the area of the Prečko district. Going out into the field, it was determined that some residents of the Prečko neighborhood are not at all familiar with the work of the Prečko Eco Park, where they can plant their own fruits and vegetables for free. Such planting represents a long-term profitable process from which citizens could derive many benefits - above all, healthy, affordable and organic food and groceries. In addition to the lack of information about the possibilities and options within Prečko, the cause is also insufficient awareness of the importance of a healthy diet. The intake of all macronutrients, the focus on vitamins and minerals, and the choice of organic food are not in the focus of people at risk of poverty for the reason that they are not sufficiently informed about what is right and healthy, but also because of the financial cost. The vicious circle of poverty stands out as another cause. This concept refers to the fact that poverty is very difficult to end and that as soon as a child is born in a poor family, he has fewer opportunities than peers born in richer families, which means that he will continue to live in worse conditions and the cycle will continue. In addition to all that, it should be noted that the Government is weakly involved in solving this pressing problem, generally little care is given to the importance of a healthy diet. By implementing the project from January 2023, every elementary school child will be entitled to one free school meal at school. However, with the introduction of that project, additional problems came to light, such as inadequately equipped kitchens, too few employed cooks, and cleaners who cannot cope with the increased volume of work. All this has resulted in the fact that even that one free meal in some schools is reduced to a sandwich, hot dogs or some other unhealthy variant. As for dynamics, this is a chronically present problem. However, it should be noted that since 2020, that is, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, under the influence of the economic crisis, inflation and the pandemic itself, there has been a continuous increase in food and grocery prices. As a result, people at risk of poverty cannot afford even low-quality food, which indicates the variability of the problem. Considering the stability of the problem, unhealthy eating is consistently and chronically present among people at risk of poverty, which testifies that the problem is indeed stable and rooted. It should also be pointed out that different special needs that people may have in their diet (for example, allergies to eggs, gluten, etc.) make it even more difficult to deal with this problem.

PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE The entire project deals with environmental factors as one of five groups of factors (along with health factors, psychological factors, formal and informal social support factors, legal and economic factors, and educational and digital factors) that contribute to the social exclusion of the homeless. The chosen problem that this project deals with is related to ensuring the satisfaction of existential life needs. Existential life needs are also called basic or basic human/life needs and define a person as a human, natural and social being. Existential needs primarily include physiological needs such as food, water, clothing, accommodation, medicine and the like. In addition to physiological needs, access to energy sources and safety, that is, insecurity in the physical space through which every individual, including the homeless, moves. The satisfaction of higher-level needs, such as the need for love and belonging, are not possible without the satisfaction of existential needs, that is, lower-level needs. Homeless people struggle to survive and meet the basic needs of life. They collect bottles to earn some money, dig through garbage for food or bottles, walk around in torn clothes, gather around the Central Railway Station to sleep in carriages or heated rooms, hide in remote areas like carriages because they feel unsafe and other residents of the local community feel unsafe in places where the homeless gather. This problem was noticed by the homeless themselves, other residents of the local community and citizens, and various experts, but not enough by the authorities. About 40,000 inhabitants live in this city district, and there are more homeless people than in other parts of the city, so a large part of the district is occupied with this problem. This problem also creates new problems, such as a greater concentration of people in the same space, which was particularly a problem during the pandemic, then the destruction of property, dirty spaces, and the like. It is evident from all this that the homeless people are directly affected by this problem, and the rest of the population indirectly. This chronic problem is growing and spreading quickly, and it is slow to solve. The potential for solving it and changing it exists, but it requires a long period of time, and there are more and more homeless people, especially since the great migrant crisis. The causes of this problem are diverse. There is no single classification of causes, but it is important to recognize individual causes, social, political and institutional, in order to design a quality plan and project with the aim of solving or reducing this problem. The individual causes of this problem are financial, economic, unemployment of the homeless and educational. Social causes primarily relate to the social exclusion of the homeless and the family image/situation and social support network, but also to the negative attitude of society towards the homeless. The political causes are manifested in the insufficient interest of the authorities in solving this problem and in the absence of a good model and initiatives. The institutional causes of this problem relate to poor cooperation between institutions, poor cooperation between the Center for Social Welfare and voluntary associations, disagreement in recognizing the needs of the Center, homeless people and associations, insufficient education of the experts themselves on this issue, lack of accommodation capacity, lack of control over resources.


UNIC CityLabs


Social inclusion | Green transition

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Organizing unic universities

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