We arrived early at the Soma conference centre, demosite in CITyFiED lingo on February 27. The stakeholder meeting was to commence at 17:30 after working hours, so that a maximum number of people could attend, just before dinner time.
The meeting had been postponed for quite a while, on advice from our Soma partners, as they had judged that the tense circumstances prevailing there, needed a cautious approach. People living in the lodgings are overwhelmingly employees of the power plant, which has been privatized. Anxiety about unemployment and dislodgement is very extremely high among the tenants here, which naturally explains the delicate situation regarding any sort of meeting on the grounds.
We presented our Project to around 40 people, including participants from Manisa Municipality who now have the responsibility for the district heating system. We explained the various technical interventions, the benefits for the home energy economy and comfort aspects. How participation meant playing a pioneering role, active engagement in self- management of energy matters and sharing common visions with people from other parts of Europe, visions of a more ecological, more climate-friendly, more participative planet. Interventions in demosites from Vallodolid and Lund were explained .
People did not ask many questions at the beginning but especially the discussion on district heating sparked many questions. Inevitably, discussion shifted somewhat towards things that were in peoples’ minds, their worries, anxieties and grievances.
So the stakeholder meeting at Soma put in relief, one of the more important aspects of the aspired for "smart city". It made us think once again that smart cities are also made by people, real people who have a much wider scope of interests and demands than the technical measures, gadgetry and solutions we offer for the spaces that they live and work. The imperative to find a "language", a suitable means of communication to understand each other presents itself vividly. It is a challenge that needs to be confronted head on, with caution and care. The "language" may not present us with much cross-culturality, but gives us the possibilities and means of communicating as well learning from those whose lives we believe are going to be improving.
Baha Kuban, Demir Enerji
16 March 2014