Expert article
Project
A Place to Be-Come Seraing, Belgium
Edit 13 April 2023
by Francesca Ansaloni UIA Expert

A pilot project's legacy

Seraing - A Place to Be-Come project
La Maison du Peuple © Arebs
'La Ruche à projets' has stopped being the APTBC temporary creative hub in central Seraing. However, it will not close its doors and its role as a community hub is preserved and will expand elsewhere. Projects will be relocated to the newly renovated La Maison du Peuple, as it was planned from the start.

In the previous article about the APTBC project, we explored how a temporary community hub called La Ruche à projets was created in the neighbourhood of Seraing-centre. The previous article discussed how the hub would continue to support the community and also expand their reach while moving to the nearby neighbourhood in a newly renovated space, La Maison du Peuple' . The objective of La Ruche was to test the model that could be later adapted en connaissance de cause and transferred into a space that would permanently become central Seraing’s creative station. A place where the community can meet and create new collective projects for the neighbourhood and the city.

In this article we discover what it means to transition from a temporary to a permanent hub, the challenges faced, what opportunities might arise and what approach the APTBC project has been prioritising.

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The experimentation at La Ruche, highlighted there are three key elements for a community to grow and thrive: one is the space where encounters can happen in an inclusive, hospitable and comfortable way; the other two are placed on the human side, as it takes at least a group of motivated people willing to participate and commit to the project and one engaged community manager to support and guide the process.

With respect to the human dimension of the APTBC project, two main challenges have been identified. The first refers to the identification of a new community manager, who will take the lead during this transition period and continue once the APTBC is achieved to ensure a smooth shift from the current management. This position has recently been granted funding by the Walloon Region and has been advertised to be filled. The second challenge comes from the risk that the momentum generated in the last year by the small community born at La Ruche is somehow lost in the passage.

In this context, the management team has taken some measures to face the above-mentioned challenges.

First, they kept La Ruche à projets open while La Maison du Peuple was undergoing its final renovation phase. La Ruche was expected to close at the end of 2022, but with some delays on the construction site of the future creative station, it was decided to give the opportunity to leaders of ongoing projects to maintain their activity and keep their community alive, thus avoiding the interruption the continuity of collective moments.

Second, the committed project leaders have been asked to take on the organisation and hosting the participatory activities at the creative station’s opening event. This gives them the opportunity to get familiar with the new space, take the time to make it comfortable for them and new comers and show the neighbourhood’s residents how a common and shared space can be developed. Third, they chose to launch a new call for projects for future project leaders to develop activities in the new premises. This will help to continue existing actions and integrate the community.

The call for projects is important also for another reason. The Prevention Service of the City of Seraing has different teams of prevention social workers operating in the neighbourhoods that have been identified as the most in need of intervention on the basis of the Social Cohesion and Security reports.[1] One of these teams is active in the neighbourhood of Seraing-centre, where La Ruche à projets is located, and another one is based in the Molinay neighbourhood, where La Maison du Peuple stands and is about to open. The Molinay team has recently had to leave its headquarters in the neighbourhood and the opening of La Maison du Peuple is an excellent occasion to relocate. It gives the team a brand new space to use and it encourages the development of relationships and potential partnerships with current and future project leaders. The new creative station will allow the team of social workers to gradually undertake the coherent transition from the self-management model of La Ruche to the institutional model of La Maison du Peuple, as it is expected by the City of Seraing. This new approach will allow the management responsibility to fall under the Prevention Service which will also be operationally and politically responsible for the future of the community hub. Their current mission involves organising events and bringing people together around social activities (an approach very much in line with the hub’s). They also have access to a deep knowledge of the neighbourhood, its local activities and associations.

La Maison du Peuple
The entrance of La Maison du Peuple © Arebs

The prevention team that is dedicated to the Seraing-centre neighbourhood, where La Ruche à projets is situated, is allowing the use of the “temporary” hub. This offers the chance for project leaders (who would like to pursue their activities in the area) to do so with their support. La Ruche would host the social workers’ new headquarters supporting the continuation and fostering of relationships and encounters within the neighbourhood and  the other creative station at La Maison du Peuple. According to the APTBC project, the temporary hub at La Ruche helps to boost a collective momentum while waiting for La Maison du Peuple to be renovated in order to host the permanent hub. Its continuation in the central area of Seraing was not planned but it is an event that can bring a lot of positive effects in the future, especially as a reference point for social projects within a neighbourhood that is undergoing huge transformations. In close proximity to La Ruche, in fact, a major urban development plan is being implemented, Gastronomia[2], which includes a food market, co-working spaces and housing. It is a project that is expected to attract investors, new residents and city users. If many think that the neighbourhood does not provide the conditions for a gentrification process to start, at least in the short-medium term, developing projects for and with the less advantaged residents can be protected and valued from the outset.


[1] Diagnostic Local de Sécurité and Diagnostic de Cohésion Sociale, in the original designation.

[2] https://eriges.be/projets/chantiers-en-cours/gastronomia/# (in French)

At La Ruche, a self-management model was set up. The community managers from the project partner Lema, after a long and challenging work over the course of 2021 and half 2022, had succeeded in gathering and motivating a group of people from Seraing to share a space, values and goals. This prolonged effort and the adoption of an iterative approach have facilitated the groups ability to embrace a sustainable self-management model where everyone could carry on their actions while respecting others on the basis of a common agreement.

Now, with the transition and the end of the project approaching, they are moving from a self-management model to an institutional model of management with a janitor, cleaning staff and the assignment of management to a municipal office (the Prevention Service). The new model needs to explore the possibilities of self-financing with the aim of supporting the sustainability of the project while ensuring its affordability and inclusivity.

What remains is the name of the creative station. As we reported previously, La Maison du Peuple has a long history linked to the promotion of social bonds and civic engagement. This is why the group working on the definition of its future model is determined to keep the historical links, which correspond to the built structure and past uses.

La Maison du Peuple on Facebook
La Maison du Peuple's new logo on Facebbok

The institutionalisation of management will have to find answers to new challenges along the way in order to transform a temporary project into a permanent one. As the Arebs team suggests, the first lesson learnt from the experience of La Ruche is that the best approach to such a stake is to learn by doing. The management policy of La Ruche, which has been improved over time, might prove exemplary both as an output and as a process for the transition. With prototyping as modus operandi, every new issue is dealt with operationally and a solution is found on a case-by-case basis.

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