Expert article
Project
A Place to Be-Come Seraing, Belgium
Edit 02 October 2023
by Francesca Ansaloni UIA Expert

APTBC impacts according to project partners - ZOOM IN

Seraing - A Place to Be-Come project
APTBC impacts - infographic
The project A Place to Be-Come has recently closed. Ahead of the final event, all the project partners have shared their ideas about what the project’s main impacts have been, namely to inhabitants, local practices and their role as actors. For this zoom-in their ideas are presented in the form of an infographic. To hear the partners experiences in their own words, click on the text enclosed in circles in the infographic.

To analyse the impact of the project, partners were asked to organise their responses in three categories, by thinking on how the project has affected 1) their own way of working, including their cooperation and learning; 2) the way inhabitants perceive and use the services and amenities (parks, community hubs, day-shelter…) that the project has realised; and 3) the way and the extent practices have changed and possibly improved, for example for local stakeholders, residents and municipal services.

The interactive infographic can be seen (and listened to) here.

I would like to express all my gratitude and appreciation to A Place To Be-Come partners who have accepted to take the time to discuss with me and, especially to whose who accepted to "give voice" (literally!) to their thoughts on project's impacts:

  • Julien Bebronne and Lauranne Liegeois, Association pour le Redéploiment Economique du Bassin Sérésien (Arebs) [project management]

  • Laure Gathon Association pour le Redéploiment Economique du Bassin Sérésien (Arebs) [communication]

  • Isabelle Dalimier, University of Liège, Urban and Environmental Engineering Research Unit (LEMA) [community projects, La Ruche]

  • Tania Noel, University of Liège, Psychology and Neuroscience of Cognition Research Unit (PsyNCog) [psychosocial interventions, monitoring and evaluation]

  • Florian Bodart, Centre Public d’Action Sociale (CPAS) Seraing [social services, socio-professional reintegration]

  • Georges Abts, Melanie Wolter, Natagora asbl [nature-based trainings, workshops, green areas management]

  • Aura Hernandez, Nunaat (former Psykolab) [soft skills development, psychosocial interventions]

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During the past four years, partners have learnt to cooperate, adjust mutually step by step - not without effort - toward common goals. As Tania Noel says, this was not obvious from the beginning and it took some time to build an internal cohesion. This process of collective learning taught the team that some of the initial ambitions needed to be reassessed against actual constraints in order to implement actions that correspond to local needs. This was key, for example, with regard to citizens participation in Seraing, where the divide between intent and some contextual hindrances were significant. In particular, as explained in previous journals, citizens participation was not common practice in Seraing when the project started in 2019. This does not mean that a demand for more engagement was absent, but very few citizens were used to think in terms of participation and mainly through grassroots associations. This reality challenged the project's ambitions at the beginning, but the effort put into it and the positive reaction of citizens, local organisations and some municipal services have encouraged the emergence of a - still budding but thriving - culture of civic action.

It has been important to have the opportunity to gain perspective about citizens participation in Seraing…this helped us to better set our expectations and adjust actions accordingly (Aura Hernandez)

We have learnt that we cannot just settle with preparing the ground for participation. We need to encourage it actively and feed it with initiatives that are concrete and relevant for citizens (Lauranne Liegeois)

Moreover, their collaboration on the field showed them that having the opportunity to experiment and test new practices is not only useful and productive to improve one’s interventions but also in the perspective of building and conceiving future actions based on solid knowledge and experience.

This kind of funding is interesting because it gives municipalities the opportunity of testing new practices on the field. such practices might not always achieve the expected results but if they are thoroughly thought out they offer some important lessons that can be generalised and give insights on how to improve future actions (Tania Noel)

The experience of the UIA project has given us the opportunity to test new practices and adjust our actions by monitoring and assessing them relentlessly (Julien Bebronne)

Finally, experimenting actions that showed positive outcomes in the short term - like in the parks and green areas - had two effects: on the one hand, it motivated partners and strengthened their cohesion; on the other hand, it increased partners and local stakeholders’ trust in the project, thus triggering a multiplier effect of engagement and support.

For inhabitants, some limits have been reported in the APRTBC project and will be discussed in the next and final journal, however some relevant impacts can be mentioned.

The first and most relevant to inhabitants experience of the project is the improvement of parks and green areas, which boosted citizens attendance and promoted greater appreciation by local residents. This outcome generated positive side effects: local stakeholders, notably from municipal services, increased their trust in sustainable management of green areas thus becoming more keen on cooperating; the image of the neighbourhood has improved in the eyes of residents; a greater awareness on the benefits of greenery on health and social cohesion has been reached; curiosity about the new approach has increased and skepticism has disappeared, as Pascal Wollwert (former trainee and now municipal agent) confirmed.

Even if many things are still to be done, the perception that the residents have of their parks and the relationship they have built with those areas have improved significantly between the first and the third year of the project (Tania Noel)

The project has offered citizens a new image of the city. It has built new meaningful links not only between the municipal services and local actors but also among municipal services that were not cooperating before (Laure Gathon)

Another very important impact of the project was the community building that resulted from the creation of a temporary hub (La Ruche) and its more recent relocation into La Maison du Peuple. As Isabelle Dalimier, who supported the process, affirmed, La Ruche was a space of real empowerment and constructive dialogue that has provided local residents with the opportunity to engage and collaborate with each other.

From the second round of the call for projects, the meetings of the community at the creative station laid the foundations for a true team work, which is still functioning despite its ups and downs (Isabelle Dalimier)

The community that was born at La Ruche is not just a community of project but also a community of mutual assistance where people help each other with their projects (Lauranne Liegeois)

People in their neighbourhood can be source of initiative. Especially if you open up a space for them to act and express their capacities, they can engage and propose new projects with a lot of energy and motivation (Julien Bebronne)

Last but not least, the employment by the municipality of Seraing of one trainee was an unexpected achievement: at the end of the training Pascal Wollwert not only was employed as a municipal agent but became also a trainer for newly engaged trainees. This result was tightly linked to skills development and professional reintegration, which have been two important outcomes of the nature-based trainings designed for a selected group of unemployed residents.

Sustainable green area management has really played a relevant role in how parks are maintained now and the hiring of one the trainees at the municipality is a great legacy of the project (Aura Hernandez)

The greatest impacts were on local practices, or on the way local actors have changed their modes of working, collaborating and understanding some issues and citizens have modified their perspective, their use of urban amenities and services, their understanding of civic action.

First, the project has helped a lot with the creation of links, connections and partnerships from scratch or by strengthening existing but weak relationships. These new or reinforced links at the local level have made it possible to think, plan and realise new projects and define common strategies.

At the CPAS, the project has helped us meet new actors and build new relationships, thanks to the first assessments and mapping. We are now working towards maintaining and reinforcing these links (Florian Bodart)

The project’s approach and practices have been a great source of inspiration for our work at the CPAS. For example, many of our new initiatives are being designed as calls for projects (Florian Bodart)

Another important result, as APTBC partners recognised, is that the method of work, based on knowledge building and continuous monitoring, has encouraged such practice and the chance to transfer it to local stakeholders thus promoting change at the institutional level.

We have showed that some effective and innovative methods to make green areas spaces that bring quality to residents’ lives exist, and not necessarily big investments are the solution, nor coercive measures (Tania Noel)

Impacts are visible in this change of attitude where you allow yourself of doing otherwise with respect to your habitual practice, while adapting to everyone’s speed and aiming to the sustainability of your action in the long term (Julien Bebronne)

Sustainable management of local parks has emerged as a new interesting and relevant practice, not only because it has demonstrated to be feasible, but also because it has proved to be working on the ground, thanks to the enhanced attendance, the greater respect of green areas after their transformation and their improved aesthetics.

The outcomes of the project in the parks can show local authorities the effect of an engaging campaign of communication and the importance of the overall quality of green areas for citizens’ perception (Aura Hernandez)

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