Kwartiermaken, creating space for otherness - Doortje Kal

A good society is more than just a private affair - Jef van Eijken, Hans van Ewijk, Harrie Staatsen (ed.)

Background In their book Arbeidsrehabilitatie in een vernieuwde geestelijke gezondheidszorg , Jaap van Weeghel and Jacques Zeelen (1990) introduce the concept of kwartiermaken. They define this concept as the efforts aimed at visualizing, making accessible and, if needed, adapting social work situations. In my opinion this concept also applies to other situations. It is about making (work- or other) places suitable not just for the individual client, but likewise setting out a collective environment strategy for the humanization of work or of society as a whole.

When I started working in 1990 at a well-functioning day activity centre (DAC), I could immediately step into this conceptual framework: kwartiermaken as a collective environment strategy, for the humanization of society. After all, the many visitors at the DAC underlined with their arrival the inhospitality of society. Together with the prevention worker at the time, Kees Onderwater of Riagg , we visited the boards of city districts to lobby (both financially and politically) for what we called ‘categorical community work’, community work for people with psychiatric disabilities. In short, the aim of this project was (in the terminology of that time):

‘promoting an infrastructure that enables participation in living, working, knowing, and well-being of people with a psychiatric disability. The project is aimed at the social integration of people who all too often lead a marginalized existence. It targets precisely that area where the influence of organized mental health care fails, and where community involvement is required. (…) It is not a normalization process in which patients are adjusted to society. But it is a matter of accepting and revaluing the ‘being different’, of creating inclusive space in society, of a focus on survival of vulnerable people.’ (Brochure Psychiatrie Opbouwwerk Samenleving, 1991)

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