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(Self-)promotion supporting change in our cities: feedback from the URBACT Lisbon City Festival

2018-09-12 20.25.55The URBACT City Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, on 12-14 September 2018, was the third URBACT City Festival that had taken place and that I had attended. Back in 2015, the first City Festival in Riga promoted the launch for the new URBACT III Action Planning Networks and we facilitated a workshop on our capitalization work on Social Innovation in cities, together with François Jégou. The second City Festival, in 2017 in Tallinn, promoted the 97 labelled Good Practices and I facilitated two workshops including one citizens’ and stakeholders’ participation for environmental projects. This years’ festival was going back to the Riga one by celebrating the URBACT III APNs, where François Jégou and I diffused the outcomes of the REFILL network on Temporary Use.

URBACT is good at capitalising: at extracting what takes place in cities in order to make it visible to other but also at gratifying those making a positive change, and acting as drivers, at home and beyond, for a more sustainable society. My fanaticism for URBACT is not new. Each time URBACT surpasses itself and goes in unexpected directions. The first City festival was highly intense, diverse and rich, with a high focus on creativity. The second one was focusing on the experiences of the good practices – and their concrete work, networking, and learning from each other. This year, it was expected to be once again full of energy and key takeaways, while focusing on what we have achieved in the APN but also in the past 15 years of URBACT. How was going to feel like? Who were we going to meet and get inspired from? Who and what would surprise us? What would we take home? I must say, a few days before the opening cocktail, I was both excited and curious: what has URBACT imagined this time, in order to make change happen in our cities, throughout concrete actions, a network of like-minded practitioners and experts, serious and intense work, under the misleadingly relaxing name of “CITY FESTIVAL”? In the end, what I took away were some snapshots of the City, the URBACT world and methodology and some reflections about the future of cities.


2018-09-13 21.24.42To start with, the city Festival was totally embedded in nowadays’ reality of the Lisbon. The launch cocktail was organized at the São Jorge Castle, which can only remind us of our link with North Africa and our common culture. We were offered insights into local artistic movements and people, who seek to make a difference and bring about a new vision to their environments: a concert garbage collectors drums by Largo Residencia Glum, Cape Verde batuque rhythm with a platform for womens’ rights “Remedi Terra”, a poetic play without words by GTeatro, “If you can’t” read, look at the figure”. Traditions were also at the heart of our cultural bath with an intergenerational Fado collective Os Fidalgos da Penha. “Did you talk to the lady over there”?  a dozen of people asked me the question , referring to Teresa Ricou, 70, who since 1974 has focused on the social integration of youngsters by training them, notably converting a former orphanage into a circassian school at Chapito, created in 1981, where we had our closing event. All these are without mentioning the walkshops organised throughout the city during the two days on housing projects in Alcântara, on gender equal cities, on placemaking as a catalyst for improving public spaces,  the city heritage crisis, digital city futures, migration integration in Amadora, on revitalising the retail sector in Baixa-Chiado, on Semear na Terra in Oeiras, in the eco-neighbourhood Boavista Ambiente, on tackling urban poverty from the ground up in Marvila, … These supported our cultural, sociological, political and urbanistic discovery of the city at the same time as working hard on the present and future of our cities.


Atom citizen2018-09-13 13.43.56The URBACT City Festival, Summer Universities, National thematic seminars and all other kinds of URBACT events are there to network, to get to know each other – in informal and so-called “white” moments, to learn from other cities, on some specific issues, to get familiar with the programme but also to concretely co-construct solutions for our cities. This is also the moment when some projects were born: networks but also some tools and policies. I’d like to share an unexpected story. In May 2015, URBACT organised its first City festival. A part of it was geared towards creativity and ideation. During one of the activities (which was actually the outcomes of previous activities scattered along two days), a group of us created a “Citizen Atom”. The concept was to put citizens at the heart of local policies in empowering them. At the end of the festival, participants voted for their most preferred idea, our group came second on the podium. Life moved on. A year later, in 2016, I bumpt into Carlos de Sousa Santos, from the City of Braga, at the URBACT Summer University in Rotterdam: he showed me our Citizen Atom that he had taken forward as a concept for youth policies in his city. A year and a half later, in November 2017,  I saw him again at a meeting of the Boostino project in Paris: he was actually carrying out an Erasums + project on the Youth City developing his approach. Now, seeing him in Lisbon at the URBACT City Festival, he presented the full approach, integrated in his City strategy. This is the way a creative exercise organized by URBACT became a local policy. This makes unique people develop unique solutions for their cities.


2018-09-13 10.41.52I must say, I ended the Festival with a mixed feeling: for the first time, I felt the urgency to act but also the concrete difficulties. Indeed, Paula Marques, Deputy Mayor of the City of Lisbon, welcomed us and launched the Festival by being clear about today’s situation: “In these times of fear, we need to fight the global system with participatory democracy”. Yet, how can you convince cities which are not in the “URBACT mood” to join? To be open to integrated approach? To dedicate time and energy to changing the way cities are made? To make their mandate meaningful? What tips can you give for civil servants to convince their elected representative to steer a new process? For elected representatives to change the tasks and ways of working of their city’s civil servants? Even for the cities already in URBACT: how can you cope with the fact that after two years and a half of co-creation of a Local Action Plan, a newly elected Mayor bypasses this work and goes in his/her own direction?

2018-09-14 17.09.53We then had a discussion with Magdalena Skiba, from the City of Gdansk, who was very optimistic. She could feel that co-creation was going on. That cities were increasingly connected and innovating. This had to go along with the efforts to keep on working together, but she could see and feel this was really happening. She could also the urge to feel the ownership of cities. She reminded of the feeling I had when working on the case of Gdansk: a mixed feeling of utopia feeling following More’s approach to it, the vision of Pawel Adamowicz, Gdansk’s Mayor: we can have a vision to make the world but do we need to impose it? Is it the best way to do it?

But also, Ania Rok, Master of Ceremony of the Festival made it clear: “the actors of change in cities have a rising role”. These actors being “us”: city officials, civil servants, stakeholders, private actors, civil society, just citizens. Yet, we need to be empowered at all levels of city governance. To get know each other, to be open to each other, to learn from each other, to be humble and transparent. To accept ours and others’ ego and cope with it.


Yet, that is one of the key messages the participants took away from the Festival and my concluding takeaway as well. Confident in knowing we do the right things, confident that we are not alone, confident that the transition we are supporting is not easy, confident that we can do it, and that altogether we can do it better. And cities at are the heart of this. There are many challenges ahead and we are responsible for it. We can act on it. We should act on it.

2018-09-13 11.18.27

Research and civil society: joining forces for addressing societal issues meaningfully

Interview with Lionel Larq , General Delegate of ALLISS , on 29 August 2018 in Paris, 9th .

I met Lionel Larqué in March 2018 when the Scientific Committee of the VILCO – a project which dealt with cooperation between public authorities and citizens in the context of a research and experimentation project funded by the Co-Create programme of Innoviris – which I contributed. His interventions prompted me to meet again to discuss his experience of collaboration between research and civil society and vice versa. Here are some notes of this discussion.

2018-08-29 20.45.18A trained oceanograph, Lionel Larqué has a PhD in physics and political science, and is an activist and actor of popular education since the 1980s. He was successively   : Federal Commissioner for Cultural affairs at the national Léo Lagrange Federation, Deputy Director of the French Association of Small Hustlers (2003 -2012), founder and leader of the Global Forum sciences and democracy (2007-2013), founder of the European Network YPSSI and coordinator  of “Youth, Science, Europe   During the French presidency of the European Union (2008), initiator and executive secretary of the Alliance Sciences Société ( since 2012), co-director of the book “Science, it looks us” (2013).

I was intrigued and quite in agreement with the comments you made at the VILCO Scientific Committee meeting. These were aimed at clarifying the research objectives we had, including the extent to which we worked together with the beneficiaries of our research – the citizens – by involving them in all the levels of project: agenda-setting, methodology development, research conduct and analysis. You were praising a real collective work beyond an approach dominated by knowledgeable experts and intermediaries. I wanted to explore this question further in order to discuss with you how we can do research differently while avoiding and overcoming conventional biases, whether we are researchers from academia or other sectors, independent of all our good will and of our good intentions.

I have reviewed your profile and if I understand correctly, your ambition is to strengthen the link between research and civil society, to provide a value and meaning to research for it not to be siloed and not searching for the sake of searching, but with a stronger societal vocation. From the side of civil society, it is about giving it the opportunity to do its own research (with his own agendas and his own research). I think that globally, we talk increasingly about the opening of research to the contributions of civil society (for example with the quadruple or even the quintuple helix). Not to mention the way it actually works, I’ll come back to it, I have the impression, but tell me if I’m wrong, that you insist less on the dimension of openness of the civil society to the scientific research?

I need to first clarify that I do not address the opening of research from a methodological point of view as you do in an article of your blog. What interests me is the link between civil society and research and more specifically, How to equip non-industrial civil society so that it becomes a reliable partner in research?” and to see how we can act on the ground with a variety of stakeholders. My analysis is the result of twenty years of work on research policies. Research policies date back in developed countries, outside the USA, to the early 60s, it’s not old. At this time, the priority was to rebuild the country and strengthen the industry potential. Research and Development (R & D) is a concept that allowed the business world to structure its research departments and develop research adapted to the market economy and large companies. Research within the framework of civil society is precisely non-industrial. Since the 80s-90s, its place is increasingly important with the collapse of the job market, the ecological collapse, and we realise that the industry is not the only solution even for some analysts it is not at all. Civil society must therefore be interested in research because it is about its vitality, its ability to think and act on the world.

But in reality, the question of how civil society has opened and reopened itself to research is not in itself relevant. We have conducted a survey to identify to which extent civil society was involved in research projects. It turns out that this has always been the case and that we have a plethora of example. A significant part of scientific research is based on civil society but we do not see it: in health, education, agronomy etc. In the case of the emergence of fish farming in the nineteenth century, for example, the academic researchers were unable to grow trout eggs without them becoming necrotic. The solution came from the Vosges fishermen, who were not mentioned by the scientists. Gradually, the scientific world has constructed a narrative where it became, the guard of true knowledge monopoly and thus holds great power. This attitude led to some form of institutionalisation of “real” knowledge, and the profession of researchers.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to opening up research to cooperation with civil society actors, in the co- creation of research projects (whether in their agendas, data collection?, analysis, … )?

As I told you earlier, it has always existed. However, currently, the social and political situation is more favourable, because we need each other. Civil society members are better trained. Researchers also act in civil society. However, there are still institutional barriers.

Where it works best and where it is most natural and obvious, it is in natural sciences (ecological sciences, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, computer science …). On the other hand, it is, from my point of view, more difficult in the SHS contrary to what one might think.

Research is first and foremost the ability to ask questions, good if possible. The incubation of an idea takes time. In co- creation processes it is often denied: a researcher comes with their research question already established. It is rarely considered in scientific methodology. To establish a research question, we have three possibilities: in the academic silo according to his lab; in the context of a breakthrough; and in a historical phase and a particular cultural bath. For the latter, the soil is society, it is a dialectical struggle between the actors of research and civil society. However, civil society is not aware of its richness in today’s debates.

Coming back to the VILCO project, how can collaboration between public authorities and civil society be improved?

If we consider the citizens who work with municipalities, we must see who plays what role and when. Each has their own quality, function. It must also be remembered that a local authority, an institution that innovates does not exist. There can only be changes in spaces of freedom. Innovation comes only from places and times where it is unplanned. Innovation comes from the vitality of the actors of civil society which imply a change in the institution, which allows it to make it live in the long term. It acts in response. It is a receptacle for creating conditions to institute other relationships, to incorporate new values ​​and new principles.

Civil society has a destiny to change things, it is its playing field. Institutions are late compared to what happens in civil society, that is the rule of the game.

Finally, how do you see the ability to change practices, how to make things happen?

We must let the vocations burst. Make sense of everyone’s game (researcher, civil society, political actor, public actor …). We often lack analysis by acting at certain times or thinking that our action will have no impact: maybe there will be no immediate change but at a particular political moment, it will evolve. It always evolves, even if we do not always understand in what sense or how it has evolved. Activists are extremely sequential, thinking that a proposal ‘a’ results in action ‘b’ for results ‘c’. Yet, societal transformations rarely have a causal explanation. A movement here often leads to changes in unanticipated places. Disturbing is also to acting at various levels.

Activists are always frustrated but, in fact, things change all the time. Agendas are not synchronous. You have to be able to take a step back and look at things more analytically.





How can cities set-up an adequate governance model for all stakeholders to jointly implement their local policies?

The case of Integrated Actions Plans of the URBACT MAPs network, output from the Transnational Meeting of 12-13 December 2017 in Szombathely, Hungary.


The cities of the MAPs network who took part in the meeting in Szombathely were quite stressed about the design of the governance model to ensure an adequate implementation of their Integrated Action Plans (IAP)[1]. How can we ensure that everybody will take part in it? How can we ensure that responsibilities are well allocated? The City administration should let go! (vs. the City administration should be in strong control of the process) We are engaging the ULG members but they do not want to co-create, merely to react on proposals! We want to be sure that our governance model is relevant and effective! Continue reading

Ouvrir la recherche académique à d’autres pratiques méthodologiques

P1060490Le projet VILCO s’intéresse aux manières d’améliorer la collaboration entre pouvoirs locaux et collectifs citoyens pour augmenter la résilience des dynamiques locales en faveur de l’environnement. Il est financé pendant trois ans par l’Institut Bruxellois pour la Recherche et l’Innovation, Innoviris[1], dans le cadre de l’action « Co-create » qui depuis 2015 finance des projets  de  recherche appliquée  ou de développement expérimental. L’objectif de « Co-create » est de « soutenir l’innovation via des processus de co-création » (Innoviris 2014)(p.2). Au fur et à mesure des années, Innoviris a changé son approche sur l’apport de la recherche académique dans les projets. En 2015,  l’accent était porté sur le concept de « co-création » et la recherche associée aux modalités des Livings Labs : « Cela signifie que la plateforme expérimentale ne doit pas uniquement être un espace/terrain pour réaliser l’étude mais bien un espace de recherche participative en co-création. » (Innoviris 2014)(p.8). En 2016, il inscrivait la recherche participative dans la dimension de « Recherche et Innovation Responsable (RRI) » (Innoviris 2015) (p. 3). En 2017, il se référait à la « Recherche Action Participative » (RAP) (Innoviris 2016) (p.3).

Bien que les premiers projets, Co-create 2015, aient tous été portés par des centres de recherche (académique ou non), des projets du Co-create 2016, dont le projet VILCO, sont portés par des acteurs de terrain.

Comment dès lors mener un projet de recherche-action-expérimentation sans que celui-ci soit porté par un centre de recherche? Quelle est la valeur ajoutée d’une telle approche ? Quels sont les apprentissages pour une approche académique « classique » ?

La spécificité de la recherche dans un projet de transition sociétale

Le projet VILCO traite de questions de gouvernance pour augmenter la résilience urbaine. Or, l’évolution de la gouvernance passe aussi par des compétences et rôles émergents de l’université et de la recherche dans la quête de solutions aux problèmes sociétaux. Les modes de gouvernances actuels, intègrent en effet un réseau de plus en plus complexe d’acteurs qui peuvent contribuer au développement d’innovations techniques ou sociétales. C’est ce que les modèles « triple hélice », « quadruple hélice », jusqu’à « quintuple hélice » proposent comme analyse des relations entre des gouvernements, des industries et des universités, mais aussi les médias et la culture ainsi que l’environnement naturel de la société (Carayannis, Barth, and Campbell 2012). Dans le cadre d’une Société de l’information, l’université a alors un potentiel élevé pour générer de nouveaux formats institutionnels et sociaux pour la production, le transfert et l’application de la connaissance(The Triple Helix Research Group 2015).

Ce rôle, l’université peut le jouer en allant au-delà de ses fonctions premières et secondaires d’enseignement et de recherche. Par la « troisième mission de l’université » elle développe une vocation économique de transfert de technologies, et devient entrepreneuriale: l’innovation n’est plus alors cantonnée aux entreprises, mais peut aussi être produite, transférée et appliquée par les universités(The Triple Helix Research Group 2015; McCormick et al. 2014).

P1060484En complément, une nouvelle mission émergerait, qui permettrait à l’université non seulement de contribuer  à l’évolution de la société, mais de la transformer en la co-créant. Celle de « co-création de la durabilité », englobant un champ varié de paradigmes de recherche tels que, par exemple: la recherche action et participative, la transdisciplinarité, ou bien les livings labs. Les frontières entre l’université et a « ville » disparaissent alors pour proposer de nouvelles solutions systématiques (McCormick et al. 2014).

On peut voir en Belgique et ailleurs une montée en puissance de projets de recherche-action participative, à travers le travail de plateforme tel LPTransition, de spin offs tel DRIFT aux Pays-Bas, d’instituts pluridisciplinaires tel l’IGEAT (ULB), des projets Co-Create d’Innoviris… Cependant, ceux-ci restent des projets de recherche dans le sens classique du terme : ces projets visent à augmenter le corpus de recherche scientifique et leur vocation principale est de contribuer au monde académique. Il existe encore, et notamment pour les questions de résilience urbaine, encore une grande distance entre la recherche scientifique et le travail sur le terrain. Trop souvent encore, le vocabulaire employé n’est pas le même et la réalité des deux mondes n’est pas forcément comprise par les acteurs dans le jeu.

Cependant, en dépit de la nécessité et la valeur ajoutée de la science, de son ouverture à de nouveaux types de paradigmes de recherche mêlant les méthodes utilisées (R. B. Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner 2007) nous avons vu l’émergence d’autres types de recherche dans les décennies passées. Que celles-ci soient due à l’émergence d’expertise hors institutions, de nouveaux medias et réseaux sociaux, de la possibilité de développer ses connaissances de manière virtuellement illimitée, chacun devient peu à peu à même capable de faire de la recherche, empirique du moins. C’est notamment le travail que les acteurs de terrain mènent, le plus souvent à travers des rapports, analyses, exercices de capitalisation, communications auprès des spécialistes ou du grand public.

L’apport des sciences et de la théorie

Les sciences sociales sont une des manières de penser et rechercher des phénomènes sociaux. Cependant, la science est un processus pour penser et poser des questions, non un ensemble de connaissances.  C’est une des nombreuses méthodes pour acquérir de la connaissance et comprendre le monde social (Hoover and Donovan 2011). Et il s’agit du paradigme dominant dans lequel la recherche en sciences sociales sont menées.

La science établit une série de règles et de formes d’enquête qui sont créés par des individus qui veulent des réponses fiables. Elle s’intéresse à la manière dont les questions sont formulées et auxquelles on leur répond La science n’est ni la technologie, ni la superstition, ni l’intuition, ou la croyance, bien qu’ils soient tous les manières d’avancer une connaissance. La science possède un certain nombre de suppositions ou valeurs, notamment que l’explication doit être vérifiée par l’observation (Hoover and Donovan 2011). D’autres éléments de la science comprennent, le fait qu’elle soit :

  • transmissible dans sa méthodologie pour d’autres chercheurs ;
  • générale et puisse être appliquée à plusieurs cas plutôt qu’à un seul ;
  • parcimonieuse en proposant des explications simples ;
  • explicatif et que de la connaissance puisse être déduite logiquement ; et,
  • déterministe, hors d’un chaos total.

P1060476Les théories quant à elles sont des « déclaration ou séries de déclarations qui permettent d’organiser, expliquer et prédire la connaissance. Une théorie [en sciences politiques] consiste en des généralisations combinées avec un ensemble de déclarations, définition de concepts et un engagement pour une approche méthodologique particulière. La fonction principale d’une théorie est d’expliquer des faits singuliers et des occurrences, mais peut-être et de manière plus important d’expliquer des généralisations empiriques »  (J. B. Johnson and Reynolds 2005)(p.33). Les théories sont dont des séries de propositions liées entre elles pour essayer de prédire ou expliquer. Elles spécifient la relation entre des événements ou phénomènes et les conditions à travers lesquelles elles existent.

C’est pourquoi, dans la recherche scientifique, la théorie devrait mener l’enquête et seulement avec son utilisation, en tant que cadre permettant d’analyser le réel selon un certain prisme, elle peut expliquer des phénomènes et relations. Une théorie permet donc de (Hoover and Donovan 2011) (p. 37) :

  • Proposer un modèle pour l’interprétation des données ;
  • Lier les études les unes aux autres ;
  • Proposer un cadre dans lequel les concepts et variables obtiennent des significations valables ; et,
  • Permet d’interprète le sens plus large des résultats.

En quoi VILCO innove-t-il dans son approche de recherche ?

Sur cette base, le projet VILCO, lui, propose une nouvelle approche : rapprocher le monde académique et le monde de l’action, en

  • utilisant les cadres théoriques pour comprendre et mieux appréhender les questions de recherche/le travail de terrain ;
  • nourrir la recherche académique de travail du terrain perçu et cherché par les acteurs de terrain ;
  • propose des solutions qui permettent d’améliorer la résilience urbaine, et donc d’opérationnaliser les cadres théoriques et analytiques existants pour expérimenter des solutions dans le cadre du projet ;
  • multiplier les expériences et solutions possibles.

Concernant ce dernier point, c’est pour cela que le projet VILCO se nourrira d’une multitude de cadres théoriques permettant de comprendre et expliquer notre question de recherche. En effet, par ce biais, nous pourront tester un nombre d’hypothèses plus variées et éparses, couvrant plusieurs champs d’analyse.  A ce stade, nous comptons, de manière purement indicative, nous inspirer de :

  • L’administration publique :
    • Les interactions entre administration publique et les citoyens (T. Bovaird et al. 2016; Stéphane Moyson, van de Walle, and Groeneveld 2016)
    • Le policy learning (S. Moyson 2016; Sabatier and Weible 2007)
    • Des approches de politiques publiques (Tony Bovaird 2007; Denhardt 1999),
  • Les études de sciences et technologies :
    • L’institutionnalisation des innovations sociales (Bauler and Pel 2014);
    • La transition des administrations (Roorda et al. 2014; Brousseau, Dedeurwaerdere, and Siebenhüner 2012; Marsden 2013),
    • La gouvernance réflexive (Voß, Bauknecht, and Kemp 2006)
  • D’autres écoles développant des approches sur :
    • la participation citoyenne (Bifulco 2013; Hurard 2011).
    • La gouvernance participative (Coenen 2008; Torfing et al. 2012)

Dans la mesure du possible, des représentants des différents courants participeront à une revue critique de notre projet. Nous proposons ainsi de donner une application sociétale directe de leur recherche mais aussi de les inspirer dans la quête de nouvelle recherche académique.

Capitaliser sur l’expérience de VILCO

Le projet VILCO a débuté il y a un an. Adopter une nouvelle approche pour la recherche-action-expérimentation est un travail de longue haleine qui nécessite un réajustement constant entre partenaires de cette co-création.  Nous sommes loin d’un projet de recherche classique avec gouvernance clairement établie dès le départ, où chacun des partenaires prend la responsabilité de ses tâches et les mène à bien – y compris avec les autres partenaires – selon un mandat clairement établi et validé par tous en amont. Ici, la co-création prend un sens plus personnel, engagé et émotionnel que dans le cadre d’un projet où la réflexion théorique et analytique prend le dessus. De plus, les différentes lunettes portées par chacun rend les échanges plus complexes car le point d’entrée est différent : dans un projet académique, le point d’entrée est l’école, la manière de penser des acteurs pour ensuite avancer conjointement sur le projet. Dans le projet VILCO, le point d’entrée est la thématique de travail, et le retour sur les écoles de pensée des uns est des autres en est rendu pus difficile.

P1060529Cependant, le projet VILCO est ancré dans le terrain. Il vise à être directement opérationnalisable et agit directement sur la base de la recherche qu’il effectue. La littérature nourrit l’action dans un souci de mise en œuvre immédiate et d’efficacité. Le projet bénéficie de la recherche de longue haleine précédente,  et cherche à apporter sa pierre à cet édifice. De plus, au vu des profils des partenaires, les avancées du projet se font au-delà du projet lui-même : que ce soit dans les apprentissages qui nourrissent le projet ou dans la manière dont le projet peut agir sur le terrain, les réseaux et activités diverses (professionnelles, personnelles, associatives, etc.) des partenaires bénéficient au projet et l’enrichissent de manière continue. Le projet s’en retrouve dès lors d’autant plus co-créé au sein d’une communauté multiple et large, allant au-delà des frontières géographiques,  thématiques et conceptuelles initialement envisagées.

Un des grands défis sera, tout au long du projet, de pouvoir nourrir le corpus de recherche – au sens large – de ses apprentissages, innovants par rapport à ce qui a été réalisé jusque-là. Des passerelles entre les différents mondes de la recherche seront plus que jamais nécessaires.


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———. 2015. ‘Co-Create Pour Une Résilience Urbaine En Région de Bruxelles-Capitale: Modalités de l’appel à Projets’.

———. 2016. ‘Co-Create Pour Une Résilience Urbaine En Région de Bruxelles-Capitale: Modalités de l’appel à Projets 2017’.

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[1] Innoviris finance des projets de recherche scientifique menés par des entreprises et organismes de recherche implantés sur le sol bruxellois.

“Social innovation is a systemic change in the way we do things

… yet, we need to go beyond labelling: the wider the definition of social innovation the wider we can experiment”, stated by Fabio Sgaragli during the BoostInno network’s Summit in Paris on the 6-7-8 November 2017. Three days of intense visits and work showed a wide range of concrete projects of what social innovation is and can be. Fair enough, the network started by going through dozens of definitions before identifying that the concrete projects are more than a definition. As Piotr Wolkowinski, Lead Expert of the project, stated “what is important is the story telling. But the story needs to be interesting”. And indeed, over these three days, we went through very varied socially innovative projects from Paris and other cities of the network rich in learning and exemplification.

La Louve

La Louve FoodCoop in Paris

“Classical economy does not bring us the answers to what we need” (Antoinette Guhl, Deputy Mayor of Paris). Such answers are found in responsible consumption (La Louve food cooperative) or reduction of food waste Continue reading

Picture 4 Citizens getting their reward from recycling ©Tropa Verde

How do URBACT Good Practices strive towards more sustainability together with citizens and other stakeholders?

Striving towards sustainability together

The occurrences and types of events and catastrophes related to climate change (environmental , biodiversity, human, social or societal concerns) have been constantly increasing for more than a century and especially in the last decades. Although these are mostly observed at meta level, it is a local level that both public authorities and citizens should act to implement and undertake concrete actions for a wide societal change. Some URBACT Good Practices understood it quite well and are developing not only sustainable strategies that are local and concrete, but also participatory ones: this is what Manchester (UK), Santiago de Compostela (ES), Milan (IT) and Tallinn (EE) addressed during the “Together for sustainability panel” of the URBACT City Festival held in Tallinn, Estonia on 5 October 2017.

The incremental integration of citizens in sustainable policies

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Faider_Fêtes de voisins

Being a citizen professional or a professional citizen?

Two years ago, I launched a citizen initiative in a park close to where I live. My motivations were to act as a responsible and engaged citizen – as I had been working on this field for quite some time – and to experiment moving from a passive attitude to an active one: the park seemed to be abandoned from the City Council, it looked really dodgy and I became scared of going there to throw away my compost. After having read the book on the Incredible edible, I thought to myself that I could maybe become an actor of change. That was the beginning of a personal transformation, learning about what makes citizen activism possible and pushing city administrations to evolve. Continue reading

Que pensent les acteurs publics et les initiative citoyennes des moyens d’améliorer leur collaboration ?

La collaboration entre autorités publiques et initiatives citoyennes ne fonctionne pas bien. Pourtant, elle peut s’améliorer. D’entrée de jeu, le ton de l’atelier « gouvernance » organisé par l’équipe du projet VILCO dans cadre des Rencontres des initiatives citoyennes durables à Bruxelles du 13 mai 2017 au BEL est donné.

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

C’est à travers des dynamiques locales que les autorités publiques, régionales et communales, et les initiatives citoyennes établissent des modalités de coopération qui cherchent à augmenter la résilience de la ville. Malgré le score sévère du premier baromètre, les participants présents ont d’abord présenté de nombreux exemples de modalités de collaboration qui fonctionnent. Continue reading


Exploring the conditions for shared urban spaces with high human value

This was the topic of the first Forum Camping organised by Yes We Camp , as a deep immersion at les Grands Voisins in Paris from 14th to 15th June 2017, day and night. Project holders, makers, artists, researchers, experts, public institutions from all around France and beyond exchanged on what makes a space move from being “public” to being “common”.

How come some spaces bring about a sense of legitimacy, welcoming feeling and invitation? Which systems can combining freedom and trust, to provide space where we are allowed to test, expand and open ourselves to others? What are the ingredients enabling to learn from one another and reduce the boundaries between social groups? These were some of the questions that guided our exchanges during those two days Continue reading

How can city administrations better cooperate with citizens?: A case for in-house intermediaries*

European, regional and local public administrations are increasingly facing budget cuts. Yet, these concern mostly their internal budgets and affect in particular their human resources: the pool of employees decreases whereas the amount of work remains the same or increases. This is particularly the case with the rise of citizens’ initiatives, transition processes and movements, and new (co-creation and participatory) governance methods, be they top-down – inscribed in strategies – or bottom-up – led by spontaneous grassroots movements. At the same time, the financial package available for contracting increases: it is not so much for questions of legitimacy or transparency that authorities contract more and more some tasks of public service delivery. Rather, it is due to the fact that certain tasks cannot be carried out internally: either because of a lack of internal capacity or the fact that these (new) tasks are not inscribed (yet) in new strategies and cannot be managed by someone from the administration. What are some of the consequences of contracting service providers for such projects? Continue reading

Saillans'City Council building ©Marcelline Bonneau

What can cities learn from the participatory democracy experience of Saillans?

In 2014, a group of citizens of Saillans – 1 200 inhabitants in Drôme, France – concerned about acting directly for their city, and in the light of increased well-being, presented themselves, apolitically, for the mayorship of the city. They won the elections and paved the way for a new type of city governance. They particularly sought to address two main caveats in the traditional way city councils and city governance in general work: on the one hand the Mayor and the deputy mayors’ appropriation of all the city power;  on the other, the low participants of inhabitants,  merely asked to express themselves through elections once every 6 years.

The city governance focuses on three main pillars: Continue reading

Les membres des paniers bio sont-ils tous des « bobos » ?

Panier bio de la productrice Cécile Anciant-Grigoryev, Piegros la Clastte, France ©Marcelline Bonneau

Panier bio de la productrice Cécile Anciant-Grigoryev, Piegros la Clastte, France ©Marcelline Bonneau

En réponse aux pressions économiques, sociales et environnementales du système alimentaire actuel, de nouvelles formes d’achat en vente directe de produits alimentaires auprès du producteur émergent depuis les 15 dernières années. Ces systèmes en circuit court proposent un rapprochement de la consommation alimentaire vers la production, tout recréant un lien personnel, direct et de confiance, entre le consommateur et le producteur (Herault-Fournier, Merle, Prigent-Simonin 2012).  Ces alternatives prônent une production plus respectueuse de l’environnement, du producteur, dans un souci de développement de l’économie locale, et d’un rapport à taille humaine (Maréchal 2008). Elles proposent de diversifier les points de vente et d’achats de produits alimentaires, et par là-même les choix de produits. Les paniers bio sont un de ces systèmes qui permet à des clients de bénéficier de produits, bio et de saison,  provenant directement d’un producteur, de proximité, ou avec un minimum d’intermédiaires. L’origine des produits y est clairement identifiée et transparente et différentes formules d’abonnement et de choix de paniers sont disponibles (Bioguide 2013).

Les membres des paniers bio sont des « bobos ».  Continue reading

Graines à partager Incroyables Comestibles Cabourg

Goodwill as a vector of social innovations

tod-cover-for-web-pagesPam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson’s book on the Incredible Edible was my holiday book last summer. The wealth and details accounting for stages, encountered difficulties and envisaged solutions soon appeared to be a crucial case to analyse and try and understand the dynamics behind citizens’ movements which seek to improve the world.

Throughout the world, the Incredible Edible movement  represents groups of citizens planting in towns and in walking areas, giving free access to herbs and plants to all. These are sometimes rich and beautiful gardens, inviting walker to help themselves, sometimes they seems abandoned. Some people complain about the fact that planting next to the road or in wheels is unpretty and worst for health than products from (conventional) agriculture.  All in all, it launches debate and acts for (re) action. Continue reading

It’s always cold and snowy in Central and Eastern Europe…

KRK snow_2

Rynek in Cracow, Poland © Marcelline Bonneau

Just look at some TV news on any Central or Eastern European-related event broadcasted in Western Europe during the summer (whether it relates to financial issues, to market or stock of a given product, to youth or elderly people…) : you will always see people in padded coats, wearing fur hats and clapping their hands (carefully wrapped in thick woolen gloves), breathing white frozen air … As if these images extracted from the news’ stock were reflecting the piping hot and sunny reality of these countries in summer….

What about social innovation developments in those countries? Can we actually observe that there are indeed some striking differences between East and West or do we have more similarities than differences? Aren’t we biased by what already seems a long distance, and related gap, between the different parts of Europe? Continue reading

Upscaling social innovation or the process of maintaining grassroots initiatives


The Spiral of Innovation ©R. Murray, J. Caulier-Grice, and G. Mulgan.

“Upscaling social innovation” is the main concern of all those dealing with the need to operate a transition towards a more sustainable society. How do we ensure that social innovations are maintained and do not fade in time? How can they be supported in their expansion? Should they grow? Should they be replicated? How can new initiatives emerge while learning from the others, but without reinventing the wheel? Continue reading

What is your “Sustainable city”? (at SPF Justice)

I recently led a workshop on “Sustainable city” at SPF Justice (the Federal Ministry of Justice in Belgium) as part of its “Day of Sustainable Development”. This workshop was a mixture of a lecture on the concepts and concrete examples relate to “sustainable city”; interaction and discussion; as well as a role game on “what sustainable city are you”.

The participants came up with their own understanding of this concept, and “sustainable city” to them in particular meant:

SustCity_1 Continue reading

Social innovation is also a ‘process’ worth researching

On the 8 July, we were at the out centered French Business School ESSEC talking about Social innovation and civic engagement. More precisely, the aim of the Mid-Term Conference of the FP7-funded project ITSSOIN , which we attended, was to present intermediary results on the way it was seeking to investigating the impact of the Third Sector and civic engagement on society (going beyond their economic benefits or the natural virtue of caring for others).

ITSSOIN_WP-Sustainable-cities_V21 Continue reading

Cities using their purchasing power to facilitate social innovation

Gdańsk 2030 Plus Strategy© Żaneta Kucharska and Jacek Zabłotny, UMG

Some cities are developing new approaches to ensure that resources are available to experiment with new solutions to their problems. They are using their buying power to orientate, speed up, amplify and sometimes systematise the development of these social innovations. The experiments show that social innovation is not only for wealthy communities, which can free up the necessary time, financial resources, human resources and interest, but is accessible to all cities that want to take risks and experiment.

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