The Future of Place Management at the ATCM / World Towns Leadership Summit

BIDs Belgium had the pleasure to attend the Future of Place Management co-organized by the Association of Town & City Management. held in conjunction with the World Towns Leadership organised by the International Downtown Association, in July 2023.

The conference engaged delegates from the UK, Ireland, Sweden, South Africa, the US, Canada, and Belgium in diverse discussions around the topic of the Future of Place Managment.

David Downey – International Downtown Association / World Towns Leadership Summit

We started our journey in Piccadilly London kicking off the 3 day event which was also held in the city of Manchester. Enjoying both vibrant cities in the middle of Summer. With a roundtable on the Worlds Towns Leadership Summit hosted by David Downey of the Internationla Downtown Association. Starting with the ‘First of its Kind: Heart of London’s Evening and Night Time Strategy’ at the ‘Pre-Summit Post Pandemic Recovery Rountable’. Discussing opportunities and challenges, with insights from the Heart of London BID, Downtown NYC to Ipswich Central.

Following on to Manchester, we heard from the hosts and their BID, the iconic and established BID from Downtown New York, Camden and the award winning and inclusive Brixton BID that also happens to twin with Harlem NY. We delved deeper into discussions and the challenges of looking into the future.

Together, we covered many topics from the community engagement, socio-economic aspects, to the impact and opportunities of Tech/Ai. The change of workign habbits with home/work/offices and the subsequent impacts in the city with mixed use environments. Also mentioning the future of green/tech/jobs, greening of the cities and social dimensions and importance of place, safety and security (which is always a high priority for the majority of BIDs!). Also the circular economy to the importance of having a Just Transition and Climate Change.

Building on our exploration of significant challenges facing places in the next decade, such as AI, climate change and the impacts of pandemic on cities and the workplace to name a few. The Future of Place Management conversation shed light on how our industry can adapt to meet these challenges.

Rozina Spinnoy of BIDs Belgium presented and delved into the emergence of Climate Improvement Districts, emphasizing their potential role in fostering sustainability in urban centers. The urgency to achieve net-zero and resilient places underscored the need for innovative approaches. This sparked discussions on how various regions might approach climate improvement districts differently, influenced by existing public-private partnerships and the pivotal roles of property owners and local government. Rozina also emphasised the opportunity to seize the moment to move towards the transformation to a more regenerative culture for the variety of models of BIDs, with ‘redesigning and co-creating together’.

The variety of BIDs models have over the years have included and integrated aspects of sustainability into their districts. When BIDs Belgium researched other models back in 2016. We will be writing more about this in a separate post.

Alternative Camden and William Ginestier hightlighted the work of a project by Camden Town Unlimited. This initiative explores how digital technology and AI can amplify democratic participation beyond levy payers, sparking reflections on leveraging technology for enhanced community engagement and footfall. Ideas like using Minecraft as a planning tool for kids were considered, leading to some intriguing perspectives.

In the final session on establishing a global network for place management, Gianluca Rizzo presented the successful twinning scheme with the 125th Street Business Improvement District in Harlem – the Bond Across the Pond. There were discussions on the importance of strengthening bonds among us and engaging with the global place management community to share best practices and collectively tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

There were many presentations and insights into the the various aspects of town centre management and some inspiring BIDs over the 3 days. From the financial and office district of Philadelphia right through to the creative and inspiring Brixton BIDs. We hope to delve deeper into these on another moment, as well as focus on the community, social, creative and sustainability aspects that improvement districts have to offer.

A heartfelt appreciation to CityCo & Manchester BIDs and city of Manchester for hosting us a this gathering which was a resounding success. Also to Ojay McDonald and David Downey, for the invitation and organization. Along with the many speakers and fellow participants from around the globe, for the meaningful connections.

BIDs Belgium looks forward to more collaborations.

United Nations World Urban Forum #WUF11

BIDs Belgium had the pleasure to attend the eleventh UN World Urban Forum, held in Katowice, Poland between the 26th and 30th of June, 2022.

Pic: World Urban Forum #WUF11

Events at the International Congress Centre with receptions, events, celebrations and the many panels. Including the 10 years anniversary of the UN Habitat Global Public Space Programme, which was held in the Silesian Museum. Meeting and seeing many of our colleagues, friends and partners from around the globe. Especially good to meet new and old colleagues working across Public Space, Placemaking, Cities and Empowering Women and many more, after the absent period of events during the pandemic.

The theme for this year’s UN World Urban Forum was ‘Transforming our Cities for a better Urban Future,’ had an incredible number of overwhelming related topics with the rountables, panels and events to choose from.

Luisa Bravo and City Space Architecture panel

There is much to share from the many intiatives from our Empowering Women, Public Space and Climate Change partners of Luisa Bravo and City Space Architecture, with the stand in the Expo and many related events on Public Space. Including the launch session of the Public Space Academy, that was organized in conjuntion with Ove Arup Foudation. Another interesting session on the Public Spaces for All: Flipping the script on universal design, inclusion and accessibility, was held on the 27th June. A special issue of the Journal of Public SpaceUniversally Accessible Public Spaces for All’ Vol.7 no.2 (2022 ref City Space Architecture), has also been launched following on from the World Urban Forum. Please do check the website.

Auanda Roji-Adalima of Centre of African Public Spaces

Contacts from Placemaking US, Placemaking ‘X’ and Placemaking Europe, Placemaking India and Placemaking Mexico amongst many others in our network were present. It was also excellent to be in the launch of Placemaking Africa as part of the Centre on African Public Spaces, with their session and presentations from local and international partners, that included City Space Architecture and Placemaking ‘X’. An inspiring session, interactive session that seen the hard work of many realized in launching this initiative for Africa.

There was also a session from Brussels Region with Pascal Smet, State Secretary of Brussels Region (feature image), explaining the transformation of Brussels. As sharing in his social media and at the event: “From grey to green space; from demolition to renovation; from monofunctional to multifunctional: from empty to active roofs; from cars to people,” emphasising the ‘Cities for People’ aspect. The panel included . Sharing the initiatives around public space from Brussels and the work of the Region he represents.

Rozina Spinnoy, Director BIDs Belgium at WUF11

Please do check out social media and website of #WUF11 and our partner’s and colleagues website and social media links above to see more detailed information of the events. Also the offical World Urban Forum website.

The next World Urban Forum will take place in Cairo, Egypt and BIDS Belgium will be looking forward to attending!

AfterCovid. City Global Charter


The AfterCovid City Global Charter

BIDs Belgium’s supports the AfterCovid City Global Charter:

BIDs Belgium’s Founder/Director Rozina Spinnoy, had the pleasure to participate and contribute in the co-creation sessions led by Placemaking Europe together with Placemaking X. Fully supporting the promotion of the place-led development at human scale with this charter.

What is it?

The AfterCovid.City Global Charter, developed by some of the world’s leading urbanists, calls on city leaders – policymakers, placemakers, activists and advocates – to work together to shape the post-pandemic future, focusing on the role of public space for recovery.” – (AfterCovid.City)

Placemaking Europe and Placemaking X

Below excerpts are from our parters at Placemaking Europe and Placemaking X – website – Aftercovid.City website and charter

“Placemaking Europe and Placemaking X have invited the world’s leading urbanists to collaborate on the AfterCovid.City Global Charter. This document articulates the direction and clear steps our cities must take to shape a prosperous future after the Covid-19 pandemic and leverage the power of public space for recovery. It is aimed at urban leaders, global decision-makers and organisations working to improve our environment – socially, environmentally, economically and physically.”

“Placemaking Europe is a network of 500+ professionals – from mayors to developers and activists across a diversity of European countries promoting place-led development at the human scale, inspired by the interaction between buildings, streets and citizens.

Placemaking X is a global cooperative network of 100+ leaders and 1,300+ advocates from 80+ countries around the world who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities.” Aftercovid.City

Please check it out via the links and share it with your networks!

BIDs Belgium partners with the New European Bauhaus!

BIDs Belgium is proud to announce we have been accepted as one of the community Partners with the New European Bauhaus initiative of the European Commission. Further emphasising the inclusive, collaborative approach of this ambitious and exciting initiative.

We are incredibly proud to join as Partners along with the following and many more in addition. RISE – Research Institute of Sweden ELISAVA,BEDA: The Bureau of European Design Associations, European Youth Forum,La Pinada Lab Faculty of Architecture, Lisbon University , Fundació Mies van der Rohe, etc

The Co-Design aspect of ‘The New European Bauhaus proposes to focus our conversations on the places we inhabit and on our relationship with natural environments, beyond the built space. It is a practical approach to discover beautiful, sustainable and inclusive ways of living and to use them to inspire our way forward.’

BIDs Belgium is excited with the potential scenarios that are possible with the New European Bauhaus. We thrive on the aspect of connecting and collaborating with multi-stakeholders and a variety of sectors. Engaging in events and initiatives to further stimulate the discussion around the possibilities of co-designing together. Combining some of methodologies we use for approaching projects, from futures, speculative design and design strategy amongst others. The experimentation aspect of what can be born out inter and multi-disciplinary collaborations, internationally and locally. This is the approach that we already deep dive into with our projects and are open to share. Continually posing questions on some of the challenges we face in our diverse, multicultural society and encouraging debate and pilot cases. With the core elements of taking the inclusive, human/empathetic approach.

‘What if?… How to?…’

We are incredibly excited at the possibilities The New Europe Bauhaus brings for further collaboration crossing cities, borders and disciplines.

‘With the approach of the New European Bauhaus to cross cut across a variety of sectors from Design, The New EuropeanTogether we can achieve so much more! We team up with inspiring networks, associations, and organisations who are committed to act as promoters and key interlocutors throughout the New European Bauhaus initiative.’

  • gathering a diversity of professionals from across disciplines to generate ideas
  • identifying inspirational projects, practices or concepts 
  • engaging with citizens to discuss and collect needs and expectations’ – New European Bauhaus

Thank you to The New European Bauhaus for accepting BIDs Belgium as one of their trusted Partners, we look forward to being beautiful and sustainable together!

Community Co-Design – Urban Street Design with Youth & Partners

Analogue to Digital Co-Design project with Dutch cultural partners Partners of G.C. Platoo, French cultural partners Achipel 19 and the Municipality of Koekelberg, Brussels. This project will also participate in the PlaceMake Earth initiative by Placemaking US and co.

Analogue to Digital has initiated a community participatory youth urban street design project, within our main organisation of the NGO BIDs Belgium and community partners.

Rue des Braves, is located in the municipality of Koekelberg in the North-West of Brussels. Rue des Brave (French) and Dapperenstraat (Dutch), has recently been approved by the Municipality of Koekelberg to be partially pedestrianized. Located in the leafy side of the municipality, which boasts the majestic Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Koekelberg, within Elisabeth Park. The street is located within a mixed area close to residential houses and apartments, a school complex and next to the community cultural centre.

The square at the top of the street has also been recently approved by Koekelberg municipality, to be renamed after the famous literary Brontë Sisters. The sisters came to Brussels in 1842 to study French. The square will be renamed to ‘Place des Soeurs Brontë. This contributes to the strategy of feminizing the street names of the municipality.

The co-designed participatory project will reach out to the local French and Dutch speaking primary schools. Collaborating with the local French and Dutch speaking cultural centres and also with collaboration from Koekelberg Municipality. Encouraging local youth and community to co-design during this experimental phase. Including outreach to adjoining municipalities for Special Needs Schools participation. Schools that previously participated in Analogue to Digital workshops. Diverse youth working together further contributes to the intrinsic values of inclusivity held by Analogue to Digital.

This initial project stage is experimental for the design of the street. The final urban design is due to commence in approximately 2 years time.  Together with the municipality and relevant Brussels Region urban authorities of Perspective and respective consultants assigned to the project for this final phase implementation. Yet there will be hope that our experimental phase will contribute to the final stages of this urban project.

Encouraging this community initiative, whereby youth utilise both creative and digital methods with critical thinking of elements that are important to consider when designing a safe and inclusive street for the community. In line with Analogue toDigital methodology, from drawing, painting, clay-making to gaming / Minecraft and digital tools. Building from the 2D world to the 4D. From the concept ideation, to the furniture design, planters and various creative place-making options. Encouraging youth to think about the forms, shapes, colours with tactical urbanism, accessibility for young, old and those with disabilities, for both the furniture design and overall design options.

Also encouraging the education and importance bio-diversity and aspects of nature with green spaces for the environment and well-being in the City. Benefits of creative place-making and collaboration, can also encourage diverse youth to further install the ‘sense of place’, identity and sense of belonging within the community. Also emphasising respect to the environment.

The project hopes to commence in early Spring. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, it will be initiated online with youth working on this creative project within schools and homes. Teachers and Parents may also co-create with the children. Until a time post-covid, where youth can visit the location and potentially co-create, paint, pieces of furniture, the street and elements, with community builders. Placing and co-designing potentially for the Summer period where community can enjoy the fruits of their labour.

In line with our projects, this project will also be educating and linking to the Sustainable Development Goals – SDG’s. Emphasising the value of contributing to the creation of sustainable, resilient and inclusive communities.

This article is copied from the original post by Analogue to Digital. We will keep you updated of the project as we go along. If you would like to know more please contact:

Written by Rozina Spinnoy.

New European Bauhaus – EU Commission Launch

It’s been eagerly awaited – the launch of the New European Bauhaus by the European Commission President von der Leyen during her State of the Union Address during 2020.

In January 2021 the Design phase was launched of this ambitious and exciting new initiative. Bringing together the cross sector of the cultural, economic and environmental aspects together. The aim is to help the European Green Deal with combining the Design, Accessibility, Sustainability and investments together. Read more about it here directly from the European Commission website.

Image: New European Bauhaus

The project of the New European Bauhaus, is totally in line with the BIDs Belgium objectives of projects we initiate, along with our sister organisation of the the Belgium Design Council. We are continually advocating for co-designing solutions together for our global societal challenges. Taking both a system thinking approach for local and international projects. Testing and piloting at local level, with a view to sharing open source with some of the projects.

With ‘designing inclusive communities’ at the heart with our collaborative approach. Bridging the gaps as well as filling the gaps. Projects with Designers, Artists, active Citizens both young and old.

The BIDs concept and the community improvement districts concept with our approach of experimentation, partnering with the eco-system of multi-stakeholders and incorporating design strategy and thinking, we believe is in line with the New European Bauhaus initiative of the European Commission. We are excited about the co-design aspect of this and hope you are too.

Find out more details via the European Commission website.

‘Let’s be Beautiful, Sustainable, Together’ – New European Bauhaus

Futures & Design Thinking with Oslo Multi-Stakeholders

BIDs Belgium co-facilitated an online Futures and Design Thinking workshop with Nabolagshager and Toyen Unlimited. This session was in the context of the JPI Urban Europe ‘Placecity’ project with a variety of partners, including Oslo and Vienna.

Futures and Design Thinking workshop with Nabolagshager and Toyen Unlimited. This session was in the context of the JPI Urban Europe ‘Placecity’ project with a variety of partners, including Oslo and Vienna.

The session brought together Policy makers/ Administration, NGO, Private sector and active Citizens to imagine the future of Oslo with posing a number of questions. Taking the Futures tool of the Futures Triangle by Sohail Innayatullah. Looking the three corresponding corners of the pull, pushes and weights. Working together in each of the 3 ‘digital rooms’ on the interactive digital moodboard tools.

Our ‘Placecity’ consortium Partners of Placemaking Europe also shared an article here. BIDs Belgium explains more in a video explaining the project in the video below:

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


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. 


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.  


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


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

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. 


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. 


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.


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.  


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.


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