Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.



Citizen Participation Mechanism

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

By opening the doors to empty buildings, GivRum helps cultural projects and creative businesses thrive. They work to create added value for landowners through the temporary use of empty buildings, to create better communities by involving users and stakeholders using the space day to day, and to develop concepts that showcase new forward thinking initiatives in urban development and give life, community, synergy, and economy to an area.

The challenges GivRum addressed were threefold: to demonstrate to the owners of empty buildings that they could bring value to the site and alleviate the responsibility of managing and maintaining the building; to build an active group of users, which over time could take over the organisation, financing, and operation of buildings; and to anchor the project as a social and cultural meeting place for the local area.

What has changed?

GivRum is based on the principle that adding value for landowners through the temporary use of empty buildings is a way to access spaces that the owners would otherwise not open. GivRum puts smart suits on activists and acts as a reliable intermediary – the organisation slips away once the community takes over and is self-sufficient. They sign temporary contracts with owners of derelict factories or buildings to activate unused spaces. Artists and creatives are invited to engage and rent space in the projects. Rents cover maintenance and other such expenses. Any profit is reinvested in the buildings, public activities and events. While the projects are temporary in nature, the cultural communities established move on to a new site where they remain a resilient community.

Today, GivRum works as a consultant and advisor for cities and private developers in transforming empty buildings and public spaces with means of community building. They have established themselves as an organisation that champions the perspective of civil society in city development. They have experienced that the engaging method they are working with is more and more legitimate at a political level. That said GivRum is still facing great challenges in terms of rigid regulations and governance that has a hard time handling the complexity of inviting a diverse group in on the decision-making.

Their body of work has grown to include workshops, research, and consultancy as well as conferences and festivals locally and internationally, such as Think Space and City Link. Through these conferences and festivals, they aim at spreading the word about the wonders of co-creation in the city so that more people are aware of the values being created when you join forces in developing cities. In order to take the next steps GivRum, as the grassroots movement that works with democratic city development, needs to be better at showing the results they are creating. Organisations like GivRum need to gather and learn from each other and organise themselves so that they become more visible for decision-makers The big question is how to do so without distancing themselves from the people they are working for?

How did it happen?

In the summer of 2010 GivRum began their first project – the transformation of a 2000m2 abandoned lacquer factory in Copenhagen into a creative working hub. GivRum signed a two-year contract with the owner to activate the buildings. Artists and creatives were invited to engage and take up space in the project. In doing this, a social-economic model was established that gave security to the owner. Rent paid by users covered maintenance and other such expenses. Any profit was reinvested in the buildings, public activities, and events.

The activities were based on cultural and social purposes, to create life in the space and surrounding area, and focused on the activation of the group over individuals to create life quickly. Instead of lacquer, the building was creating everything from motorcycles to skis and furniture, circus performances and growing vegetables — all as a tribute to art, knowledge and ideas, which would benefit the local area and the city as a whole. This resulted in a user-driven community – working continuously over a two-year period – that was entrusted with responsibility for the operation of the site. By the end of 2012 GivRum formally handed over the site to users, after negotiating a new three-year contract with the owners of the building.

After a five-year programme of activities, Prags Boulevard 43 cemented itself as a key player in Copenhagen’s cultural scene. Albeit the building was sold to an American investment firm to be used as storage, the existing cultural community established there have since moved to a new site in the north of Copenhagen where they remain a resilient community.