CAMPAIGN: A FI VECIN BUN – AFI EUROPE

A FI VECIN BUN / BE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR

A FI vecin bun” is a word play that uses the name of the company “AFI” written as part of a saying that basically translates into “TO BE a good neighbour”. This headline of the program has two meanings: 1) a call for action inviting others to be good neighbours and 2) a statement of the company promising to the community that it will be a good neighbour.

OPPORTUNITY

In other countries in Europe, companies that get involved in community life are a natural part of the society and they are even regulated by law. In Romania, this is currently limited to voluntary individual initiatives by business representatives. We believe that community life must be a concern for any company. This is our vision and over time AFI Europe Romania has demonstrated that its role goes beyond business boundaries, by trying to be as close as possible to the people in the communities where we chose to develop our projects. Through the “A FI vecin bun” program, we wanted to set a standard for others in real estate, a field that strongly impacts the community life.

„A FI vecin bun” aimed to contribute to the development of the area through stimulating the community spirit. We wanted the citizens of Bucharest to rediscover the neighbourhood and the area where they live and enjoy everything it can offer. We could have done it directly. We could have designed a project ourselves and implement it. But the as Andrew Carnegie says: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”, we wanted to create a behavioral pattern for the future.

In partnership with the Bucharest Community Foundation, AFI Europe Romania encouraged NGOs and initiative groups to submit projects that can lead to the development of community spirit and urban revitalization in several neighbourhoods in the vicinity of AFI Tech Park, an office buildings campus currently under construction. The main beneficiaries of this project are the inhabitants of the targeted areas, but also the future tenants of the office campus, who will accommodate up to 7,500 employees (3,000 employees will move there starting June 2018).

RESEARCH AND PLANNING

AFI Europe Romania ran a development assessment qualitative research elaborated by Unlock Market Research regarding the companies’ decision to relocate and the factors involved in this decision. The core objective was to provide a deep understanding of the potential clients’ mindset and their needs from office buildings to uncover potential differentiating and relevant elements that AFI Tech Park could capitalize.

The study revealed that employees’ decision, not just CEO’s, is considered when evaluating an office building, as workforce is becoming increasingly a competitive advantage. In the meantime, employees are looking for a “work campus” feel rather than a “dry” work platform – spaces that allow people combine non-office and office life. Employees are seduced by places with spirit, where the heart of the community lies.

This qualitative study made in the last quarter of 2017 revealed also that the neighbourhood where the building is being developed (near Rahova) triggers mostly negative reactions and the surrounding / space around building were unappealing.

With these findings, we decided to get to work. We created the company’s first community fund of 70,000 lei. The process in the first year was planned as a pilot program, in order to test the interest for initiatives that can lead to the development of the community spirit. Also, the project was aimed to test the interest of different associations and civic groups from the area, in order to stimulate interventions that will generate added value and sustainability.

For transparency and credibility, we choose a reputable partner Bucharest Community Foundation to manage the contest. „A FI vecin bun” challenge was open to all NGOs and initiative groups, not politically affiliated. They had to submit initiatives that:

  • help places in the area to look better, be more functional and friendlier to the communities that live there;
  • stimulate and support the social life of the area in an inclusive way;
  • aim at animating public space and bringing the people together in neighbourhoods and contributing to strengthening community and neighbourhood identity;
  • address issues of better quality of life in the neighbourhood and involve as many members of the community as possible;
  • can be put into practice and respond to a need for the site and the surrounding community, but they also consider the environmental and social impact they have.

The competition had an independent jury, consisting of people with experience in areas related to social and civic involvement and urban regeneration. The members of the jury were elected from non-governmental organizations and multinational companies, but also from within the financing company: OANA PREDA, CEO of Ce-Re – Resource Center for Public Participation, ANA-MARIA ELIAN (ȚONI) urban planner Make Better, specializing in urban planning and regeneration, ANDREI MIHAIL PhD in Anthropology, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Political Sciences, SNSPA, CATALIN IORGULESCU, Vice-President, PR & Government Relations, ABSL, IULIA BORȘAN, Corporate Marketing Manager, AFI Europe Romania. Through their impartiality, diverse experience in areas related to the launched call, they ensured a selection process connected to the reality of the local community in the geographical area concerned.

IMPLEMENTATION

We started communication by creating a landing page on AFI’s website and a dedicated blog section http://www.afitechpark.ro/afivecinbun-en/. Soon, relevant media outlets became partners to our initiative (BIZ, wall-street, romaniapozitiva.ro, csrmedia.ro). Furthermore, following a tradition that says that when you move in a new neighbourhood you have to greet your neighbours with a gift, the most important journalists and bloggers received from us a “good neighbour” basket together with a personalized message about the campaign.

The phases of the contest were:

  1. Enrolment of the project ideas
  2. Preselection of project ideas according to the eligibility criteria, developed by the Bucharest Community Foundation
  3. Selection of best 5 project ideas
  4. Announcement of the selected projects
  5. Invitation to submit detailed plans
  6. Submission period of the detailed projects
  7. Judging of final projects
  8. Interviews with the applicants
  9. Announcement of the winners
  10. Implementation period

We also designed a coaching program for five finalist teams choosing the best trainers amongst influencers: Oana Bratila, Cristian China Birtha, Cristina Bazavan, Victor Kapra, Cosmin Tudoran. The influencers became real ambassadors for „A FI vecin bun” amplifying the word of mouth.

Fundatia Parada – Implementare

We also designed a coaching program for five finalist teams choosing the best trainers amongst influencers: Oana Bratila, Cristian China Birtha, Cristina Bazavan, Victor Kapra, Cosmin Tudoran. The influencers became real ambassadors for „A FI vecin bun” amplifying the word of mouth.

THE TWO WINNERS OF “A FI VECIN BUN” COMMUNITY FUND WERE ANNOUNCED THROUGH A PRESS EVENT WHERE THE MAYOR OF DISTRICT 5 AND REPRESENTATIVES OF AFI EUROPE ROMANIA HANDED SYMBOLIC CHECKS TO PARADA FOUNDATION AND THE INITIATIVE GROUP “4 KIDS”.

Through AFFInities for a united community , Parada Foundation aimed to stimulate the development of harmonious relationships between individuals from different social classes, by creating communication bridges through art. With Parada Circus, a social circus whose artists are exclusively street children or youngsters, the public space will be animated through circus shows and juggling workshops. At the same time, in order to increase their integration, but also to create empathy and understanding from the local community, discussions will be organized between the artists and the spectators on issues of public perception on life on the streets, misconceptions and equality. The  Neighbors’ Day at the little tables of knowledge project was submitted by the initiative group 4 KIDS, formed by four neighbours from the same block of flats. Their goal was to do good in the community where they live. The winning idea was the organizing of The Neighbors’ Day, a day of celebration for the community near Filaret Park and vicinity, that takes place on the last Saturday of May. This day aims to become a tradition, embraced by many other neighbourhoods in the city. In order to stimulate and support the community life, the project also aims to organize monthly reunions of the neighbours, especially parents with children, around “The little tables of knowledge”, which include four educational tables on different topics, placed near playgrounds. The little tables will target children aged 4 to 9 years old and are destined to stimulate learning and knowledge through play. All phases of “A FI vecin bun” were communicated to the public through media relations, social media and direct mailing tactics.

EVALUATION

100

Press coverage in

500+

participants attended “Neighbors’ Day at the little tables of knowledge”

1,500,000

People reached

5/9

Five projects out of 9 selected for the final phase responded to the community needs in education, environment and social integration.

  • Press coverage about “A FI vecin bun” in over 100 media outlets (print, online, TV, social media)
  • 1,500,000 people were reached in social media and online, through the bloggers involved in the campaign
  • Nine ideas were submitted by NGOs and initiatives groups in the application phase. The five projects selected for the final phase responded to the community needs in education, environment and social integration. We were impressed by the involvement of neighbours or friends from the same block of flats who gathered in initiative groups in order to create a real impact in their community.
  • “A FI vecin bun” was among the initiatives for community change recognized at the CSR Awards Gala 2018.
  • 500+ participants attended the four editions of the “Neighbors’ Day at the little tables of knowledge” organized until now and the “AFFInities for a united community” circus shows organized by Parada Foundation
  • All entities involved spread positive WOM:

“THERE IS A REMARKABLE ENERGY IN MANY YOUNG PEOPLE TO SOLVE OUT BUCHAREST’S PROBLEMS, A HUGE, DYNAMIC AND SOMETIMES CHAOTIC CITY. FOR THIS ENERGY TO BE PUT TO WORK ALL THAT IS NEEDED IS A DIRECTION.”

Victor Kapra, after the meeting with his team

“I, PERSONALLY, HAVE NOT HEARD ABOUT SUCH A COMPETITION IN ROMANIA, TARGETING THE CLOSE VICINITY AND OPEN TO EVERYONE, EVEN FRIENDS FROM THE BLOCK WHO GATHER IN AN INITIATIVE GROUP WHO WANTED TO SUBMIT THEIR IDEA.”

Cristina Bazavan

“THIS CAMPAIGN SHOWED ME THAT PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO DO THINGS FOR THEIR CITY.”

Cosmin Tudoran

“WHY SUCH PROJECTS ARE IMPORTANT? BECAUSE THEY CAN BE “THE SEED” FOR FUTURE WIDER COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. IT’S ALL ABOUT BELIEVING THAT IT CAN BE DONE!”

Victor Kapra

The most important outcome was the decision of AFI Europe Romania to take the project out of the pilot phase and implement it in other communities where the company has plans to build not only office, but also retail and residential projects.

CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION
This campaign was if not a first, then one of the few in Romania targeting the close vicinity, which was also open to civic groups, meaning any group of friends or neighbours who identified a problem or a need in their neighbourhood and together worked to find a solution. The aim of this campaign was to stimulate the people living in the area of AFI Tech Park to become aware of what “community spirit” means and to identify solutions that can make their living in the neighbourhood more valuable.

The fact that one of the two winners is a civic group (formed by four block of flats neighbours) is one of the greatest assets of this campaign. It is a proof that people can unite and think about their needs as a group and about the common good. This project has shown us that there is great initiative and ambition from the people to do something in their cities. As evidence, all three initiative groups who participated were selected for the final stage and one of them was among the two winners.