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. 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.
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, 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.