Immediate response and mediation in public spaces / Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain since 2005

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Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a city of 120,000 situated in Catalonia (Spain), has been implementing since 2005 a series of measures aimed at improving coexistence, titled “immediate intervention and mediation in public spaces”. The city has undergone deep social and economic transformation in the past 15 years, which has had obviously an impact on the social fabric. The city has been carrying for the past ten years a proactive policy to strengthen social cohesion based on mediation, training and sociological analysis.


“Immediate response and mediation in public spaces”


DISTRICT: all the districts of Santa Coloma (15 districts)
CITY: Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Barcelona, Spain
REGION: Autonomous region of Catalonia, Spain


The project was set up in 2005 (with previous projects dating back to the URBAN project in 1998).


Reinstating the city, streets and public spaces as areas of coexistence and good social relations


Current general context: a society that is continuously changing, perceptions conditioned by the media, new types of families, urban development and housing problems, poverty and social exclusion, globalisation, financial markets, new technologies, etc. All this creates individual and collective uncertainty in organisations and institutions (many levels and poor communication between them).

Local context: a very small, densely populated area measuring 7km2  with 120,029 inhabitants (density of 17,147 inhabitants per km2 ). Only 4km2  of the whole surface area of the commune is land that can be built on as the rest is protected.

The city is divided administratively into six districts and 15 neighbourhoods. The majority of the population lives in the south of the city (districts 5 and 6). The population of these neighbourhoods is very diverse: out of a total of 40,843 inhabitants in these neighbourhoods (34% of the city total population of the city), 26,278 were not born in Spain (21.89% of the total population). 55% of the city’s foreign population lives in the southern part of the city.

The people of Santa Coloma de Gramenet do not work in the city itself, but mostly in the metropolitan area. The commune has practically no industrial sites or sources of employment.

Santa Coloma is a modern city with an excellent network of roads into and out of the city. It is primarily a university town, however it was badly hit by the economic crisis and has an unemployment rate of 24% compared to 7.9% in 2006. The structure of the population has changed drastically since 2000, which in turn brought about rapid and significant changes to the social fabric.


The project aims to accept and understand changes to daily life, the immediate environment and the whole of society; to reconstruct the socialisation process; to build a new framework of values and peaceful coexistence for everyone; to make the interests, needs and uses of all the residents compatible.

The project aims to act anytime, anywhere, in response to any kind of situation that could directly or indirectly harm coexistence between neighbours. This action consists of mediation and other conflict management tools based on dialogue and negotiation.

The project also aims to act proactively in public areas and as a preventive measure, in order to strengthen citizenship and improve “community life”.

Finally, the project aims to identify how public spaces are used and by whom.


The whole population of Santa Coloma de Gramenet.


The project manages “community life” with a local strategy and “works constantly and sustainably to improve relations between people, and between these people and their environment”.

Criteria for the coexistence service

  • It is not “only” a question of management: the service is also designed to transform relations between residents
  • Based on the rule of law: everyone has rights and responsibilities
  • All the professionals and institutions that they represent share the same vision of the city
  • Flexibility of the team, which is geared more towards solving problems than towards a “civil servant” approach. Very adaptable.
  • Must respond swiftly: these are professionals engaged in action
  • Their area of work is very broad and they have long working hours
  • Optimum coordination with the local police force and other public services that work in the area

A working method based on analysis, action and participation

  • Analysis of the area: identify the areas that require special attention
  • Create an action plan using crisis management tools
  • Participation
  • Harmonious transformation
  • (Re)consider other possible approaches




The Mayor


The municipality of Barcelona provides some of the funding and part of the qualitative and quantitative follow-up.

The other partners are local associations (Fondo Comerç, Integramen and residents’ associations etc).


  • Head of Department: 70% of working hours
  • Project manager: 100% of working hours
  • Administrative support: 40% of working hours
  • Budget for the jobs cited above: €103,623.45 per annum

Mediation Team (independent firm):

  • 10 professionnals
  • Annual budget: €536,546.44

Total annual expenditure: €640,169.89


Setting up a system to analyse initiatives with impact indicators and to assess the results presents a great challenge. Yet given that the general and local contexts can be considered to pose a risk to peaceful coexistence for everyone, the citizen security survey may be cited as showing that Santa Coloma is currently one of the Spanish cities with the lowest number of crimes.

But despite this objective data, the residents have a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty. We intend to act on these particular feelings, perceptions and rumours by using all possible tools to improve coexistence.

The economic crisis distorted perceptions further. It also created new tense situations, mainly linked to budget cuts and to the perception that conditions in public spaces are deteriorating. Action also needs to be taken against the illegal occupation of empty flats, the majority of which are empty because they were seized by the banks. Conflicts that occur in public spaces and in apartment buildings often end up in the neighbouring public space too.

This new situation requires new strategies for integrated action, or else adapted existing strategies. One example is the new observation and analysis system for public spaces implemented by the Service for Coexistence (servicio de convivencia) through the information team. This system will make it possible in the future to create maps of where action has been taken to make it possible to measure and evaluate transformative action.


In addition to the system for monitoring and analysing public spaces, it is also important to mention the system of qualitative and quantitative evaluation indicators that the council of Santa Coloma de Gramenet implemented with Barcelona Council’s Quality Control Organisation.

The new system for evaluating how coexistence is managed must also be mentioned (through Barcelona’s Quality Control Organisation too). Thus in 2013 the population of Santa Coloma gave the mark 8.87 to the mediation team (presence and action).

The factors determining the success of the project concern the adaptability of the professional team and of the system for local analysis which is based on an observation and conflict prevention system. This system enables action to be taken in real time and on site,

and to detect and locate dynamics and positive leadership factors. One of the quality criteria is that the mediation team acts within 48 hours of a request for assistance in a conflict; requests can be made by residents, public services and other institutions alike.

Obstacles: the funding needed to keep running the project could be a key obstacle for the development and continuation of this project.


Both the municipal team and the population of Santa Coloma de Gramenet consider this project necessary in order to improve coexistence (according to satisfaction surveys).


This practice sheet was updated on 12 March 2014

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