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.