CEO, Dreamtown, Copenhagen, Denmark
Rasmus Bering is the CEO and Co-founder of Dreamtown. Rasmus started Dreamtown 10 years ago when he was living in a small slum community in Freetown where he experienced first hand the need for progressive youth led development focused on public space in informal settlements and slums. Besides Dreamtown Rasmus has worked for a number of international NGOs, including Plan International and Concern Worldwide.
Here we are talking about a year without public space, but for us it’s really a year with public space where we see the power of space.
Insight from "COVID-19 Challenges and Responses in Informal Settlements"
By improving public space, Dreamtown empowers youth in an array of soft skills in Africa. Over 60% of urban Africa live in informal settlements, and most confirmed COVID-19 cases took place in capital Sierra Leone in the area Western Area Urban (Freetown), revealing challenges include 1) awareness building, 2) access to sanitation and health, 3) livelihood support to meet basic needs, 4) gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies as both skyrocketed when schools closed. Rasmus thinks that public space can be part of the solution.
Dreamtown created over 20 safe public spaces with Urban Synergies Group in Freetown over the past two years with the intention to create cool hang out youth centres and creative hubs for the communities. These spaces turned out to be important resources during the current crisis, serving as access into communities, safe gathering places for young girls, distribution points for water, sanitizers, and education, and a safe place away from violence and to report crime. Dreamtown also created parks, urban gardens, and green spaces in Kampala in Uganda, intended to create vibrancy in slums. Amazingly, this has become a source of livelihood, satisfying basic needs for food during COVID-19. These two short but powerful examples showed how essential spatial access is during emergency, and the essence of multi-purpose spaces that allow flexible adaptations. Rasmus concluded by raising the concept of public space as nexus Space, where public spaces both can have a function in times of development, but also can have a function in times of humanitarian crisis.