Project Wanzleben

Family Town

Shrinking towns mean not only vacant property, but also the thinning out of relationships. When fewer people use the town, meet less frequently, and tasks can no longer be allocated, then the social fabric is torn apart. In the long term, towns become deserted. This loss is felt particularly harshly when only the elderly remain in ageing towns because their children and grandchildren have moved away. The caring role once taken on by families can no longer be fulfilled. Attempts to stabilise the social network in shrinking towns are therefore of international relevance. The town of Wanzleben will contribute its experience in this field to the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010.

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Wanzleben, with a population of 5,200, is a small town in the historic agricultural region known as the Börde. It is no longer the district capital and has therefore lost jobs, inhabitants, and significance. They have to cope with a process of shrinkage—but have the necessary social capital. Because the town is home to plant research and cultivation, it traditionally has a high proportion of educated and active residents. Informal structures for mutual help and communication are sound, and their erosion due to out-migration has been kept to a minimum. The town has forty-five associations ranging from cultural associations, the Volkssolidarität (people’s solidarity), the disabled people’s association, and even a friends of the voluntary fire brigade group.

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Wanzleben, as one of the IBA laboratories, is experimenting with a model to stabilise its thinning urban society with an unconventional, intergenerational “family policy.” Family policy does not mean strengthening the family in the classic sense but transferring the family system to a modern urban society. Social responsibilities will increasingly be taken on by selected families, friends, or the public—both through civic involvement and informally. One approach in Wanzleben is to strengthen the awareness of this neighbourly help and to encourage its appreciation by the general public. In the IBA process, Wanzleben poses the question of how a local community should be organised in order to fulfil the tasks of welfare, socialization, and communality.

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An important stimulus for public debate in the town took place with an activity at the Christmas market in December 2004. Groups of people were sought out who said of themselves: “We are family.” Group photos were taken of these “families by choice.” Afterwards, subjects such as “associations and clubs as family” and “neighbours as family” were discussed. Wanzleben went to work with a project entitled “Urban Family Fields,” to make “Family Town” the central focus of political and social interest.

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In April 2009, a group named “Familienbündnis” (family alliance) was formed by the associations and active citizens of Wanzleben. It started with the questions: How can we jointly take over the caregiving tasks that can no longer be provided by the community? How do we look after our community? How do we prevent Wanzleben from becoming a dormitory town? How do we improve our quality of life?

Sixty children and young people from all types of schools participated in a competition to choose elements for a campaign about the future Wanzleben. From this, a song was written that became the town administration’s official telephone dialling tone. A city map showing a family-friendly Wanzleben from children’s and young people’s point of view was displayed in public. Events such as a “family fair” (May 2008) and “family days” every September gave the local associations the chance to present themselves.

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The people concerned come to an understanding as to which tasks have already been dealt ones and which ones have not. The objective is to publicise what is already on offer and to add what is missing. This includes educational and entertainment events as well as social services.

A brochure and Web site in the form of a “family directory” are to be compiled giving every resident of Wanzleben the possibility of quickly finding the support required. As an immediate objective, the alliance is trying to reinstall a welfare service that seeks out those in need in their homes.

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Another issue was the organisation of school transport. In order to strengthen school solidarity, the alliance organised the secondary schools in Wanzleben to have a common midday break for all pupils, the so-called “Mittagsband.” Activities such as the open-air cinema once a year in August, raft-building, or a Wanzleben soapbox derby keep up public interest.

A supporting measure to accompany the IBA project is the park along the “grüne Bande” (green belt) on the banks of the Sarre, with attractions for children, young people, and adults. The family league supported the BurgKrümel e. V. club’s idea of developing a concept for a “generation playground.” The IBA project in Wanzleben is strategically set to be a long-term project that will outlast the IBA Urban Redevelopment 2010.

Tina Veihelmann, 2010

More pictures of Wanzleben

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Info: Wanzleben

Population
(Municipal Area 2010)
1989: 14.650
2009: 13.005
2025: 10.625 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 162,62 qkm

IBA-Stadt-Monitor
www.wanzleben.de
IBA-Website of Wanzleben