Brussels: How to help boost a Post-Corona City

On March 22nd 2016, I was due to present a revised socio-economic community based model of the Improvement Districts, but the 22nd of March was a tragic day for Brussels.  My talk on the Business Improvement Districts was cancelled. 

A few months after the initial attacks that already saw our City succumb to the military presence after the Paris attacks previously. During that time the City was traumatized and the streets were emptier than the usual hoard of shoppers, office workers and families wandering in the City. 

 “For me that was a significant moment in the history of the city”, recalled writer and journalist Derek Blyth. “I was interviewed twice during the day, the first time late morning for Sky news and then at the end of the afternoon for CNN in the US. So I went down twice to the Bourse, the first time the streets were chillingly deserted, but by 5pm there were crowds of young people on the steps of the Bourse. It struck me how quickly the city recovered (although the news reports went with the story that the city was traumatized). I wonder if it will be the same with the virus lockdown. At the moment we are still traumatized but I think life may quickly return.”

My talk was rescheduled. I spent 4 weeks preparing. I sent out emails, then reminders. I wanted to ensure I had the public administration, private sector and some civic society and local active citizens attending the launch event of BIDs Belgium. Sending individual emails and reminders. Then having to cancel due to the attacks and kick starting the process all over again for the following month April.

The first talk was at  Muntpunt, the Flemish Library in the centre of Brussels.  Many local associations were interested in and around Brussels. Other talks followed in the cultural venue of the Beursschouwburg in the fashionable area of the City with the then ‘Dansaert District’ association, not long after rebranding to Downtown Dansaert. Spending time talking to Carine Lauwers and Lieve Buyse running this association Also presenting at Sofitel Hotel, for the Louise district. 

Yet some associations were afraid of ‘losing’ their public city funding if they were seen to be collaborating with others and adopting a progressive ‘inclusive’ model in which we also spoke about the ‘social economy’. Understanding from a city or regional level that when it came to combining forces, it could only be the Government funded /public bodies representing them.

Some wanted to use it as a party specific political strategy. Some wanted to ‘own’ it without realizing it wasn’t anyone’s to own.  It was about taking a new path of a horizontal integrated approach, empowering the community to take ownership, creating the much needed  trust, to instil a sense of pride. Perhaps the City was not ready for this?

Now we face a different type of crisis, yet similar challenges in one respect will be and are being felt across the board. We have seen the relaxing of the restrictions with regards to some of the commercial zones for example.  The streets gathering small crowds, despite the attempts of stores to keep to the advised restrictions and rules. Some stores and businesses were allowed to open along with cultural institutions and museums. Yet some sectors such as hospitality only opening over the last days. 

This raises a fundamental question. Will some stores and businesses decide to stay closed?  Especially if the cost of opening outweighs the cost of closing. There requires overall to be coherent realistic guidelines and measures . Ensuring safety of the staff and the consumers. Everyone has to adapt.

Businesses, hospitality sector, schools, offices are working on the designing of the logistical processes needed. Whilst some may ‘redesign’ their processes and their physical spaces, to ensure social distancing and adapting to new ways of working. Perhaps some are questioning if they need office space as large as before? If the way we work has changed during the epidemic, then it will impact how we work post Covid19. Most that have the ability to work from home will continue to do so. Instead of the one / two days working from home – it will be one or two days in the office and rest at home.  There is much to consider

STORYTELLING

I have spent several years observing, working and contributing to a number of sectors. Continually learning. From my qualification of Design and utilising my transferable skills of my experience in Retail, Hospitality, Social Entrepreneurship, Education, Placemaking, Women’s Groups and Government. My work has taught me that we need to bridge the ‘knowledge gap’ with community capacity building. That we need a resilient, cohesive, positive approach that creates impact across our communities. We need to tap into the network of visionaries, entrepreneurs, creatives, cultural and artistic community who can co-design spaces, scenarios and new narratives.  Together with and for their neighbours. Not forgetting to include the many developers, landlords and investors. Those who are willing to go a step further to experiment, be flexible with new and innovative ideas. Without the ‘red tape’ of bureaucracy. Creating zones across our communities that can be  ‘bureaucracy free’ along with car free, pollution free streets. To be more inclusive, by redesigning our city, spaces to be more green, healthy and open. Appealing for families and shoppers by accommodating those with physical disabilities and those who are neurodiverse, amongst our colourful communities. All of this and more. Whilst we keep sharing, collaborating, creating and educating.  To fill the cracks that as Brussels citizens we have already proven do well with some of the inspiring community initiatives we have seen during the lockdown period. To be kind and showing empathy for each other, whilst utilising the city’s dynamism. Building on trust and creating inclusive ‘task-forces’.

This also takes me back to the last years and some of where my ‘Design’ and Branding knowledge was taking me when I first started the BIDs. Explaining then the need to bridge that ‘digital gap’ at many levels from those online with good websites to those on social media and the ‘power of instagram’. Some store owners explained they were driving sales through instagram and their social media.  Aiming their sales towards the cultural and diverse community of Brussels. Utilizing their knowledge and networks of their own multicultural / international staff. Certainly those store owners and ‘role model leaders’ that understood the richness of Brussels diversity and storytelling and how this contributes to the success and melting pot of this City. 

These leaders also kept ahead of the game with keeping abreast of the trends back then, both locally and internationally across a variety of relating sectors. Others developed their space into concept stores.  Enhancing the all important ‘customer experience’ to understanding omni-channeling marketing media and how this can create brand loyalty, etc. 

During this period I met a number of the shopping street associations.  I met several  boutique business owners, hotel managers.  We discussed the differences from each of the stores and their advertising, marketing and branding approaches, their approaches for the all important ‘customer experiences’, recognizing the advantages and disadvantages of each of their outlooks. 

Trying to convince some of them of the advantages of taking a collaborative approach and sharing, discussing their shared vision from the use of public spaces, with commerce, with local citizens who could help identify their shared priorities for the general community improvement. Not solely focusing on the economic impact, yet the socio-economic aspect. Well-being, sustainability and circular economy with understanding better the consumer behaviours and trends. Certainly now, this is crucial with the adaptations related as a result of the pandemic. 

Looking back to 4 years ago, there were also  ad-hoc ‘calls’ for projects to revitalize the city. Bringing the then Government funded public agency, collaborating with a local NGO. Resulting in a competition and ‘one off’ calls for approximately €30,000 for each project. 

Unfortunately these projects did not last 4 years and most of which have disappeared. Why not utilize funds, not for competitions?  To create a diverse group of multi-disciplinary task forces with expertise in various fields, to collectively and democratically vote to prioritize where that money is needed through collective discussion with businesses, creatives, and community projects. 

COMMUNITY, CREATIVITY & CHOCOLATE

We did many local experiments and sessions with visiting and meetings with Cities such as Gent and Mechelen. Inspired by the BIDs and placing strategies for socio-economic regeneration in their Cities. Having meetings with the many then Brussels Ministers. Also with my own municipality of Koekelberg. 

Working on pilots and local projects such as ‘Art & Chocolate’. A successful collaboration with the Belgian chocolatier Frederic Blondeel and an active local entrepreneur, in his 80’s. Jean Goessens who has a wealth of knowledge under his wings.  ‘Community, Creativity and Collaboration’ being at the heart of this project which brought together local creatives of all ages and colours to exhibit works at the Gallery space of Blondeel. 

A space that was unused and given as ‘community social responsibility’ by Blondeel for Jean and I.  Encouraging locals and tourists to visit and buy from both the attached retail outlet of Blondeel and paintings that were also for sale from the Gallery.  Encouraging that much needed ‘feel good’ factor for the local community each time we would  hold a vernissage, thanks to local sponsoring of  food and beverage outlets and the many volunteers that helped. A local cross-sector collaboration that created a positive impact and powerful story with our intergenerational, cross-cultural collaboration.  Including socio-economic, ‘healthy community’, resulting in further brand loyalty for Blondeel with a new clientele of the fairly new location at the point.  A joy to work on this project with my collaborator and valued friend Jean Goessens.  


THE FUTURE

We require to be more open and inclusive whilst looking at alternative models at a more systemic level. Knowing the local community of SME’s, Creatives, Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, they are all being hit hard. Working together across a variety of disciplines and sectors, with our Creative thinkers and the Tech communities. With collaboration and drive for designing more inclusive ‘healthy’ and sustainable communities at the heart, which I’ve always believed as being crucial. Interest arises again from some for this city. 

I contacted Carine Lauwers of the Boutique Atelier Unica recently. To ask how the District is impacted and how she envision the ‘post Corona City.

” Dansaert is going through rough times but we’re still standing and supporting each other. Making masks instead of dresses at this moment, but looking forward to start working on new projects. The benefits of the Unica masks go to the Streetnurses. They need extra money in these times!

A post Corona City should preserve what has improved through the lockdown (cleaner air, safer streets, a calmer rhythm of life..). Changing what will no longer work (omnipresent cars, overgrowth of international unethical chains..), and support what has already begun to germinate with the cooperative initiatives and local eco-products.”

It’s been frustrating that as a result of the impact on the economy and our communities 4 years ago, no structural and sustainable initiatives created long lasting change. An anticipatory, proactive approach to consider unexpected external factors and bridge the gaps in innovation, technology and the designing of processes and strategies should have been seriously considered for the Brussels community, with the Brussels community. Building on the creative, culture, arts and heritage of the past to create collective new futures with ‘Brussels urban narratives’ with it’s colourful people. 

We must better utilize and break down the silos,  between the many design and creative institutions that receive public funds, moving on from the ‘aesthetic’ to the strategic.  Working together for Brussels of tomorrow if we are to achieve  the European Cultural Capital in 2030.  Installing pride via the intrinsic value of design, creativity mixed with technology can create a vision for Brussels.  In educating, collaborating and advising across all sectors, to learn from the past in the challenging times of today and to anticipate for tomorrow. 

The fragmented over-populated political structures must take new shapes and forms.  Looking from the short term gains to  some foresight and vision with leaders open to take the city further into the coming decades in a sustainable and climate resilient way.  Governance structures remodelled into not only participatory models, yet also with anticipatory governance. Collaboration and a systemic vision looking beyond the cultural, linguistic and political divides. 

Can we focus on the variety of ecosystems working alongside the ‘ego-system’ and break those much needed ‘silos’ of working together for a shared vision creating a long term positive impact for our City? Can there ever be diverse, inclusive, multi-sector civic/public/private, etc., ‘taskforce’ who work together in an anticipatory/participatory way for the greater good? Can we build on the much needed ‘Trust’ and preserve the positive initiatives that have arisen? Is Brussels ready now?


Written By: Rozina Spinnoy

With Thanks to Derek Blyth and Carine Lauwers

‘Pocket Forest’ Climate Challenge – Earth Day – Mentoring Youth in Slovenia

Earlier this year, Analogue to Digital our BIDs Belgium related programme, was approached by the European funded project of the ‘DoIT Challenge’. As we have a focus on both the creative and digital aspect with ‘STEAM’ and social impact aspect for youth. Sharing the project we had contributed with collaborating and mentoring youth from Slovenia with their ‘Pocket Forest’ project. An inspiring initiative with 3 youth from Slovenia representing their ‘Breathtaking Group’.

The mentoring method and plan was mutually agreed and included both email and the main weekly video calls. Feedback during the week when necessary to the local mentor was important. Discussing on weekly basis with the children to assess would aspects of their ideas could be further developed in order to participate in the ‘DoIT challenge’ competition, whereby other children from all over Europe would be entering the ‘competition’ with their respective projects.

The ‘Breathtaking Team’ had produced their descriptive / brief:

Name of Group: Breathtaking Team

Age: 10-13

‘SENSITIVE JACKET’

We have tackled the problem of overpoluted areas. We found that a lot of people are living in extremely unhealthy conditions and we hoped to create a simple, yet innovative and most of all practical solution.

We have first outlined what we wanted the machine to do in the first place. So we decided to go with a toxic gas detection system and an alarm system that were linked. Than we added the gas mask to keep you safe from the toxic gasses. We still need to finish and also include design part.

Breathtaking Team

Along with initial photographs below and above attached to descriptive above (photos by Kernikova archive).

We participated in the numerous video calls over the last months, with the local Mentor / Teacher Eva Pondrk and Petra Vanic from Rampa Lab, Kersnikova. Introduced via the DoIT Challenge and Viola de Vecchi. Eva would translate between English and Slovak each week starting from Feb until April. Pre lockdown and Covid 19 times, the children would gather together and video call from the one location.  The project introducing me to 3 inspiring school children Ajda Velkavrh, Maks Pavsek and Samo Medic. They were working on a project initially named the ‘Sensitive Jacket’. (show pic below). With the purpose to have a portable device on a the jacket that could measure air quality. An already smart project that incorporated the societal challenge of air quality by these three children.

The mentoring aspect suggested and agreed upon, would include various topics that would further develop the project from  descriptive text and initial images supplied.  Topic from the branding, marketing, visual design and identity, also working on understanding the critical and design thinking skills. With understanding the collaborative process with working as a team together.  Explaining the design process from concept development, design development through to the completion. Emphasising the critical thinking throughout the pilot of testing. Conveying throughout the importance of ’empathy’ with the user and the human centric approach. Giving thought to the business aspect to think about the what the possibilities for the mobile air quality device could be? Could this be placed on clothing only? Perhaps it could be fixed on a bicycle or scooter or a wheelchair? Overall working with the ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘business’ aspect.

Further ideas for developing this with thoughts on how the project could interact with the public and public space post Covid-19 and lockdowns being possibilities leading to the final sessions of project and mentoring were discussed. Suggestions of how the jacket could be on a mannequin placed in a public space wearing the ‘Pocket Forest’ jacket with the air quality measurement device were further options. The Breathtaking Team would each conduct a survey/questionnaire for the passing public. Ideas of how the group could ‘test’ the product while cycling around a park or asking friends/family to do the same and gathering the all important feedback. Thinking also about the price level the product could be positioned at, if considered to be a local enterprise and entrepreneurship collective project between the group.

Each week we focussed on a one of the topics with further developing the storytelling and narrative of their project. For example with experimenting with logo designs where each one of the three would come up with a design and narrative, then collectively coming together to agree on the chosen logo. Working together on also developing the overall look of the leaflet and brochure, with each child contributing to the design. Therefore, not deciding on only one design but collating all the finished designs.

Overall this project was a positive experience for us all. Engaging and further developing a project that creates a positive impact, teaching the children about the all important critical thinking skills, collaboration and team work, mixing the ‘analogue and digital’ with the creativity and digital skills, all whilst tackling a global societal challenge, with a little international collaboration along the way.

This project is also shared within the ‘Placemaking X’ Earth Day challenge. A very apt project for our parent association of BIDs Belgium to share for Earth Day. With permission from the children in Slovenia to share this on a global platform, is only a positive encouragement with all the hard work and perseverance for them all.

A pleasure to work with Ajda Velkavrh, Maks Pavsek and Samo Medic. With thanks to Eva Pondrk for her patience in translating and collaboration on this. Ada, Maks and Samo, who would initially gather together at Rampa Lab on a weekly basis and until the recent Covid period of lockdown struck, then each one video calling  in from their home to here in Brussels to discuss the final steps.  Indeed we would love for this project to live on also.

If you are interested to find out more about the project please check out the links to the PDF’s Pocket forest LETAK (2) Pocket Forest BROSURA (1) and don’t hesitate to contact us about this via rsp@bids-belgium.com

Feedback from Eva Pondrk:

During the project, the participants actively and critically thought about how, in what way and to whom they could help. There were many ideas, but they were able to come together into one – a jacket that will help people living in polluted areas. We went from sketch to circuit, and also thought about portability of the product to reach as wide an audience as possible. The group of three acted very homogeneously and together made decisions regarding advertising and marketing, such as the logo image and accompanying text. After the logo was made, a great idea came up: to change the name from ‘Sensitive jacket’ to ‘Pocket Forest’, since the circuit is portable and can easily be put in your pocket. When creating brochures and leaflets, they had complete freedom for creativity and their ideas, so they made multiple versions and they all look great. In addition to all this, they added a personal note (what the project means to them) and they also learned how to use some digital tools (when making logos, brochures and leaflets, and a sample of a process). I think everyone is happy with everything they have achieved and I hope Pocket Forest lives on.

This article was originally shared on our related programme of Analogue to Digital. 

Written By: Rozina Spinnoy

‘Silo’ Busting in Place-making with the Academy of Urbanism


In late February of this year, I participated and contributed in a conference at Dundee University held by the Academy of Urbanism.  Mixing work and pleasure is always a welcome opportunity with travelling to Scotland. 

Connecting to like minded professionals and community for our shared vision on ‘Integrative Place-making – Addressing the ‘silos with collaborative approaches.’ An excellent mix of key notes, presentations and workshops in the afternoon. Bringing together a mixed audience involved and working in urbanism / placemaking at a variety of levels including the all important students. Below I share a brief overview of the day. Sharing which cities participated and by whom they were represented. Presenting on topics relating to each of their city projects sharing some inspiring images along the way.

Professors Husam AlWaer & Kevin Murray

Excellent oganization with attendees from public, private, civic society organisations.  Well presented, co-ordinated and organized by Prof. Husam AlWaer from Dundee University and the partners from the AoU including Prof. Kevin Murray from Kevin Murray Associates

Despite all that has been going on over the last months/years with Brexit, it was good to see close relationship between Scotland and the European cities represented growing stronger. Helped along with experiencing the Scottish hospitality. With the international and home crowd that made up the day’s key notes and experts from a variety of ‘best practice’ cities and professionals. Cities presented included Utrecht, Aarhuus, Edinburgh, Zurich, Porto. With input from a variety of experts along the way. 


MORNING PLANERY, KEYNOTES & PANELS

The introduction for the day from Prof. Husam AlWaer and Prof. Kevin Murray explaining the order of the day and posing some questions and statements; “If we can reconcile the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) with the national and local level programmes at city, town, and neighbourhood scales? If we can break down the silos of the different disciplines from research & innovation, community health, urban design, community engagement?”

Stephen Willacy – Aarhus City Architect

The first presentation came from Aarhus and Stephen Willacy the City Architect from Aarhus. Explaining the variety of creative and culturally inclusive public projects and intiatives from when the City was the European City of Culture in 2017. Explaining the scoring by percentage the ‘temperature’ of the city from the cultural life, public spaces, student life and liveability factor from it’s residents. Going through a variety of slides showing the amazing public spaces, architecture and urban planning of the city which contributes to the social fabric of the city. Bringing together young, the old and families together in the public spaces, both in the inside and outside of the buildings, such as the central Library. An example of a progressive city co-designed with the people, for the people and achieving sustainable and inclusive public spaces. 

Charles Landry – Creative Bureaucracy

Following on, were the wise words and global vision from Charles Landry, an international adviser on the future of cities and the founder of the Creative Bureaucracy movement. A movement that has grown from the Berlin gathering to the global movement reaching as far as South Africa. Presenting an overview from the many aspects we should consider. Suggesting how the ‘future bureaucrat’ ideally requires to be more agile and be more open than closed. Stating the need for changing mindsets and to be more emotionally intelligent, whilst possessing generic and technical skills. He emphasised one of the most important aspects in order to break the silos is to work collaboratively. Plenty of thought provoking aspects to the way the urban life and society is moving and changing at a fast pace. Stating the need to consider all aspects when looking at the global view with taking local action. 

Irene Beautyman – Programme Manager, Improvement Service

Irene Beautyman from Improvement Service also gave plenty to ponder over with ‘We are all Bridge Builders Health and Place’. Having worked on the Scottish public health reform and the six public health priorities, taking a whole systems approach.  Working from the national planning framework, local development plans and the planning permissions.

Prof. Husam AlWaer & Robert Huxfort host the panel with Irene Beautyman, Stephen Willacy & Charles Landry

Robert Huxford, Director of the Urban Design Group hosted the panel discussion on the morning sessions. With a brief outline from Prof. Husam for the different starting points of the 5 workshops to be held in the afternoon sessions. The first ‘Intergrating movement and place’, second on ‘Designing across generations for age-friendly places’, third on Placemaking for climate resilience’, fourth on ‘Distinctive, liveable neighbourhoods and towns’, which I had the pleasure to co-facilitate with Stephen Proctor, which I’ll come back to this later. The fifth workshops was ‘Transforming our professional culture, skills, and place impacts.’ 

Daisy Narayanan – Director of Urbanism, Sustrans

The plans for Edinburgh becoming a more accessible, liveable, walkable and healthy city were presented by Director of Urbanism for Sustrans, Daisy Narayanan. Sharing her personal story and interest stemming back to her home county of India. An array of projects around the Capital, which have seen some areas being transformed and contribute to become pedestrianized.  The zones or ‘catalyst areas’ as described by Daisy around Edinburgh, that are currently being improved; Haymarket, New Town – Princes Street, Innovation Mile / Teviot Place, Waverly-Carlton Road/Waverly Bridge, etc. Stating that ‘Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when, they are created by everybody.’

Stephen Proctor – Director, Proctor
and Matthew Architects

The penultimate presentation goes from the city to the architectural practice of Protor and Matthews, with Stephen Proctor explaining the variety of residential projects across the UK, looking at the different housing types and taking the local environment and context into consideration. Some of the public spaces for some of the clusters of housing, which also considers creating car free zones for intergenerational members of community, creating that all important ‘inclusive’ aspect. Whilst explaining the careful consideration given to the overall context and history of each project, in order to the contribute to the all important narrative.

Moving back to mainland Europe and specifically the Netherlands, with Kees Verschoor, the Urban Planning Strategist of the City of Utrecht.  Explaining ‘How to develop a healthy city’ with an overview of the development strategy of the city. With Utrecht being next to Copenhagen as the 2nd bicycle city in world with having 100,000 bikes roaming through the city every single day. Looking at the health across the city with the differences in life expectancy which is influenced by a number of factors and only becomes more apparent in certain neighbourhoods of a city. Taking a comprehensive approach, which included an interesting visual mapping of the ‘people – economy – urban planning’ and a barcode toolkit. Creating healthy urban living for all, with connecting all the dots. 


AFTERNOON WORKSHOP – ‘DESIGNING FOR DISTINCTIVE, LIVEABLE NEIGHBOURHOODS & TOWNS’

Stephen Proctor and Rozina Spinnoy – Co-facilitators of the ‘Designing for distinctive, liveable neighbourhoods and towns’ at Dundee University / AoU conf.
Rozina Spinnoy – Inspiration from the Futures Workshop – FTA – taken by Prof. Sohail Innayatullah/Riel Miller 2018

As mentioned earlier, I had the pleasure to contribute with co-facilitating the session on ‘Designing for distinctive, liveable neighbourhoods and towns’. Co-facilitating with Stephen Proctor of Proctor and Matthews Architects.  Stephen and I had never met before, yet had the opportunity to connect a good 2/3 weeks before the conference to share our views on the approach to the workshop.  I was pleased to lead in the facilitation process and methodology with some of my previous facilitation experiences. Thinking back to when I had also been on the other side as a participant, in workshop during the European Commission’s FTA – Futures in the Making conference in 2018. I had the pleasure to participate in this workshop which was co- facilitated by two globally renowned experts in Futures, Unesco Chairs, Prof. Riel Miller and Prof. Sohail Innayatullah. With a keen interest and combining some of my experience on Design Strategy, along with more knowledge on Futures and Scenarios, I decided to take Prof. Innayahtullah’s Future Triangle, as a basis for the workshop that I prepared.

Futures Triangle by Professor Sohail Innayatvllah (2008)

The Futures Triangle (above) is a futures method by Sohail Innayatullah. There are three dimensions to the triangle which relate to each of the three angles. Each have possibilities with images corresponding to each angle. The pulls of the future with desired images of the future, the pushes of the present such as trends of the moment which influence the future. Then finally weights and barriers of the past. Using this method we encouraged much discussion with brainstorming within the groups on each of these dimensions. A valuable paper to read to gain further understanding on this and futures thinking is ‘Six pillars: futures thinking on transforming’.

Each group focussing on the desired image of the future for their chosen city, town or neighbourhood, with the weights of the past and pulls of the future with the trends. With adding some role play, not quite having the props I had use of in the FTA workshop, yet impactful all the same. The mix of the participants were from public policy, private sector, architects, urban experts to students, each taking up the role of the other, with choosing persona’s from the pentagonist to the antagonist.  It was good to have the role play and having the participants step into the shoes of the other encouraging the ’empathy’ factor.

Also, to have the participants use live examples of neighbourhoods, towns and cities of where they are from in each of their groups. Collectively deciding which area would be their area of focus and together discussing what the are plausible scenarios of this area, considering their knowledge of the challenges at a local level and awareness of the global challenges we face. Identifying the ‘DNA’ of the area and how this could contribute to the desired future(s). 

Futures Triangle outcomes on Dundee City by Work group 1 participants

Using the Future’s Triangle tool combined with the role play and methodology used created a lively interactive session. The interaction within the groups resulted in the all important ‘fun’ aspect that makes it all the more engaging for the participants. It brought about many interesting outcomes from each group to ponder over beyond the workshop. Especially with one from each group knowing the history, narrative and context of the chosen neighbourhood or city.

One group took the example of our host city of Dundee. Establishing assets of the city such as it’s striking V&A museum, the diverse multi-cultural communities and need to link this to the social fabric of the city.

V&A Dundee

Challenging the perceptions of the ‘openness’ of the cultural aspects of the city should become accessible to all, knowing the challenges of the ‘silos’ and the industrial past of the city.  The mixed group of academics, professionals and students, which also included Prof. Dr. Adel Alzahrani who joined us as one of many participants. Travelling from the Middle East for the day long conference. Together with his group discussing how the serene waterfront should be exploited and reconnect to the ‘power’ areas of the city. Discussing how the city should optimise and build on the student retention with it’s many local and international students. Whilst making the most of the natural environment and settings of this city, which as been emerging since it’s cultural injection of the being a Unesco City of Design and with it’s striking V&A Museum. Building on the narrative as a City of Design & Culture and distancing from the negative image of the past.  With sharing the tools and methodology enabled the participants to step out of their comfort zones with the role play. Also enabling them to see the value of experimentation with input from interdisciplinary teams. Working towards not one given vision, yet a variety of desired futures, with taking different perspectives, challenges and drivers into account. Stephen and I were pleased to have positive feedback from this workshop.

Workshop Panel Summary – Moderated by Prof. Kevin Murray

Outcomes and findings from all five workshops, were summarised in a panel discussion moderated by Kevin Murray. Each session using different facilitation, yet all 5 workshops engaging with the multi-sector participants and discussing topics from climate resilience to transforming our work cultures.


AFTERNOON PLANERY, KEYNOTES & PANELS

The afternoon sessions seen the Planery sessions with Charles Landry giving an overview with the ‘Rapporteurs feedback’.  Again Charles giving an exemplary summary of this with his usual charismatic way, with the panel of Aarhus, Edinburgh, Utrecht and Stephen Proctor sharing a Q&A session and interacting with the audience. 

Pedro Baganha, City Councillor, Porto


Yet the day was not over as yet, with a feast of the second sessions of key notes on their way. Pedro Baganha, the Porto City Councillor spoke about ‘Planning and managing the urban renewal of Porto’.  I was lucky enough to be in the beautiful city of Porto only 2 weeks prior for an Urban Design Governance workshop, in which the plan for the city over last years had been explained. Pedro shared his insights and the harsh realities from the poverty to the innovation from the recent years, to Porto becoming the tourist attraction it is today.  


CONFERENCE CONCLUDING REMARKS

Professors Husam AlWaer and Kevin Murray – AoU

Concluding remarks from Prof. Kevin Murray explaining some thoughts from the day. With looking at 21st century challenges including Governance and how there is a need to include adaptive and progressive leadership models, that should directly feed into the needs of the societal challenges we are facing. Stating the importance of the partnerships and having integrated solutions working collectively that take years to build. The need for taking an interdisiplinary approach and with considering cultural sensitivities. He went on to conclude that ‘Creative Bureaucracy’ should be built upon principles and values and not on rules and restrictions. Concluding with the need to have more empathy and to think of the inclusive aspects of those that are the most vulnerable in our communities, with those with disabilities. Poignant remarks to end the day with this ‘human’ aspect to creating a more sharing and caring communities.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

I share some of my key takeaways from my experience of the conference, workshop and with connecting with many of the experts I met. In order to reconcile the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) with the national and local level programmes at city, town, and neighbourhood scales, we need to connect, collaborate and act with coherent strategies to achieve the shared vision of our desired future(s). Connecting from Government administration and policy level to our eco-system of change makers, ‘actors’ and citizens. Finding new ways of working together ‘on and off-line’ during this existential speed of change during this era of digital transformation, demographic changes of our cities and impact of climate change. To think about transforming the way we do just about everything from designing our cities to redesigning our democracies. To consider how we would imagine ‘designing inclusive communities’ of the future. With taking the global vision and targets of the SDG’s as a base and implement together with multi-stake holder, cross-sector, interdisciplinary diverse groups. The need to take the human-centric approach and ‘re-design’ our processes of Governance. Connecting with inclusive participatory processes that allow for every actor / stake holder to have a ‘voice’ in order to achieve and work towards the social justice of ‘equal cities’ and to build upon the resilience. Ideally not in a one off sessions, yet engaging citizens throughout the whole process, in order to achieve safe, sustainable healthy communities. To break the ‘silos’ that exist, with learning from each other and the many best practices we have around Europe and beyond. Having conferences, debates and discussions such as this one, certainly helps in breaking the silos and having the all important empathy to build towards a greater collaboration between people, communities and cities.

A big thank you to the Academy of Urbanism and Dundee University. In particular to Prof. Husam AlWaer and Prof. Kevin Murray for the invitation to participate and contribute in this conference. Also thank you to all the students right through to the professional experts/speakers for connecting and sharing. Not forgetting Stephen Proctor and all the participants from the workshop we co-facilitated together.

Top photo (thanks to Adel Alzahrani)l-r: Charles Landry, Stephen Willacy, Pedro Baganha, Rozina Spinnoy, Husam AlWaer, Adel Alzahrani
Below photo l-r: Stephen Proctor, Stephen Willacy, Husam AlWaer, Rozina Spinnoy

INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES AND PUBLIC SPACES

BIDs launches a collaborative initiative

BIDs Belgium will delve deeper into the ‘Inclusive Communities’ programme with some key partners from home and abroad.  Further developing the the inclusive principles of Universal Design and combining this with Gender Equal Cities and Communities. 

This participatory project will involve different user groups of initially two pilot municipalities in Brussels. Using service design methodologies and participatory mapping of zones that the Municipalities will work on renovating in the near future. Feeding into the redesigning of areas to enhance mobility and social inclusion. 

Quality of public spaces and trends show there are many affordable, accessible ways to create more safer and secure zones. Especially for those who are vulnerable, such as those with limited abilities, the elderly, young women and youth as a whole. Whilst finding ways to create more sustainable urban mobility plans in our neighbourhoods and communities. 

BIDs Belgium will share more on the studies related to how we all move about in our cities in due course. Along with the progress of our partners cities, municipalities and organisations who will join us for the exciting journey in our dynamic initiative. 

Written by: Rozina Spinnoy 

URBAN MAESTRO LAUNCH

BIDs BELGIUM ATTENDS URBAN MAESTRO launch


UN Habitat HQ – Dr. Shipra Narang Suri

BIDs Belgium attended the launch of the an exciting new project ‘Urban Maestro’ at the Brussels United Nations offices in mid February. A cooperative project between the European Commission and UN Habitat. With partners of Perspective Brussels and UCL.

The project is to work together to discover with strategy, research, tools and methods that can further assist on the ‘Urban Design Governance’ that can better shape and cities and human settlements.

Each of the partner gave presentations to the mixed crowd on the 14th of February 2019. EU policy makers, Networks and NGO’s filled the room and listened intently to the intentions to build on the knowledge of not only the partners, yet the wider community involved Urbanism, Cities and those managing the built environment.

Here at BIDs Belgium, we are incredibly excited to see how this project evolves. Especially as we value the importance of Design not only on the practical level, yet very much within the process of how we manage our spaces across Cities and extended territories.

EU BIDs Network – Berlin

Some of our fellow European BID countries gathered at the Association of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DHIK) in Berlin, Germany in 22nd February 2019. BIDs in Sweden, Go Southampton, Newcastle BIDs, colleagues from the Netherlands all gathered with the BIDs led by DHIK in Germany.

The purpose of the meeting was to see if and how we collectively move forward in forming the European BIDs Network and to see if there was a growing interested in this.

Back in 2016 when we first launched BIDs Belgium, we had a vision of also further cementing the relations with our fellow European BID countries. Especially having met some of them at the World Towns Leadership Summit in Edinburgh in 2016. We moved forward with talking to our partners in Improvement Districts Scotland and others about this collaboration. Also reaching out to the Chambers of Industry and Commerce in Germany (DHIK). Then realising they had also been working on bringing together various countries that attended this meeting. Especially as that DHIK had also been for a few years hosting the European BIDs Awards.

It was excellent to meet the group and discuss the variety of BIDs models that exist in and around Europe. From the national Governments that support, to the ones like BIDs Belgium and BIDs in Sweden that do not have the compulsory Tax. Going around the table with some of us presenting our models and projects. For us, it was important to convey the different aspects of our Improvement Districts model, that takes a ‘holistic’ approach focussing also on the Social Economy and socio/economic impact. Sharing our projects that also worked in the community collaborative models, that is also inclusive of Health, Education and Civic Society. Also the link we have with being the Belgian lead and working closely with the European Placemaking Network. 

Our presentation was received well and it opened up a few discussions on the integrated system approach. Also, what seemed to come across from the discussions was how BIDs need to stay as BIDs. We debated the narrative of BIDs, as well as the abbreviation of BIDs standing for ‘Business’ Improvement Districts. At BIDs Belgium we have often spoken about the Business being changed to ‘Belgium’ Improvement Districts. As we don’t strictly deal with just businesses. Also, as there are no compulsory Taxes here (nor in Sweden). Our partners in Scotland were in the transition phase of changing BIDs Scotland to Improvement Districts Scotland, under the new leadership there. Conveying also the ‘Community’ aspects and BIDs are about everything from Placemaking to building on the Community. Reflecting very much the direction that BIDs Belgium was built on. Also other BIDs across the UK / London are also working in an innovative way with linking Entrepreneurship, Community and building on the local eco-systems with proven socio-economic impact. 

The conclusion very much being that we see the opportunity of creating a European network for the BIDs to exchange and build on. BIDs Belgium is looking forward to the next gathering. 

 

 

UN Humanitarian Hackathon in Brussels

The Future of BIDs Models