Amsterdam’s famous Bijlmerbajes prison closed last year and has now reopened as an incubator for new businesses, particularly those that work with refugees.
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With more than 9,000 square meters of available space, the new Lola Lik cultural hub is encouraging everyone in the city of Amsterdam to get involved. Located in the main building of Amsterdam’s former Bijlmerbajes prison, the hub is next to the Wenckebachweg refugee center. The name of the creative space is a play on the Dutch word Lik, which means prison as well as lick of paint. Thus citizens and refugees are being invited to add their own personal touch by getting involved in a variety of ways.
Social enterprises, artists, craftspeople, vocational trainers and event organizers are already working together to help accelerate the integration of refugees through education, entrepreneurship and work. So far, a kick-boxing school, language school, sewing workshop, screen printing studio, museum and cinema are available, as well as a restaurant that is open to the public.
Smart cities recognize the value of diversity and projects ranging from real-time language translation apps to on-demand home delivery of specific cuisines are making the most of incoming skills and knowledge while providing new ways for locals and newcomers to connect. How could similar creative approaches be used to help alleviate the housing crises faced by both locals and refugees?