Covid-19 and social resilience in vulnerable neighbourhoods: Experiences from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany

  • van Lanen, S. (Speaker)
  • Simon Allemeersch (Contributor)
  • Evelyne Deceur (Contributor)
  • Klasien Horstman (Contributor)
  • Mare Knibbe (Contributor)
  • Griet Roets (Contributor)
  • Ceren Sezer (Contributor)

    Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


    Almost a year has passed since the introduction of physical distancing measures in European countries. Since then, the efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus and to enable a slow return to a ‘new normal’ have transformed everyday life for urban citizens around Europe. The negative consequences of the pandemic and these measures are distributed unequally, with particular effects for economically, socially and medically vulnerable neighbourhoods. Physical distancing measures limit the opening or functioning of public facilities, which are essential vehicles for resilience, social networks, informal social exchange, care, assistance and participation. Nonetheless, the past year has also seen creative and innovative initiatives aiming to sustain and expand vital social networks and supportive activities. The transformation of everyday life thus reshuffled the activities in social neighbourhood spaces.

    In this project, we assess how Covid-19’s spatial transformations mediate resilience and participation in vulnerable neighbourhoods. Our goal is to provide input and advise on the organisation of social spaces to sustain and support resilience. In particular, we look at the impact of the corona-measures on the physical and social spaces in vulnerable neighbourhoods in the cities of Aachen (DE), Ghent (BE), Groningen (NL), and Maastricht (NL). In these neighbourhoods, we employed focus groups and interviews with inhabitants, social professionals, and policymakers. These discussed the transformation of public and private spaces. This includes their negative and positive experiences of resilience, the different roles of inhabitants and institutional stakeholders in supporting resilience, and their experiences of organising neighbourhood activities in the corona pandemic context. A comparative analysis of these qualitative data reveals differences and similarities between different urban and national contexts.

    This presentation will highlight critical issues for communities and institutional actors to support and maintain social resilience during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. Preliminary analysis reveals that neighbourhood resilience can be sustained by goal-based projects, supporting and consolidating newly emerging networks, and re-evaluating urban spaces. Key challenges include how to maintain energy and motivation amidst continuous uncertainty multiple vulnerabilities.
    Event titleSpaces of possibility: Communities and places in times of social and environmental uncertainty: RECOMS international confex
    Event typeConference
    LocationBrussels, BelgiumShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • Covid-19
    • resilience
    • vulnerable neighbourhoods