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Tackling Social and Climate Challenges with Brussels’ Solutions

The latest ECN meeting took place in Brussels, as members of the network gathered together to discuss, learn, and exchange with a focus on “tackling social and climate challenges with Brussels’ solutions”. This time, we were joined by representatives from Antwerp, Barcelona, Bologna, Bratislava, Cascais, Gdańsk, Kyiv, Rzeszów, Tirana, Valongo, and Vienna.

The meeting began as all meetings in Brussels begin, on a beautiful sunny day! Thirty representatives from twelve European cities began to arrive and gathered on the 8th floor of the new Brucity (Brussels City Council) building and admired the view over the rooftops of the city. After kicking off the meeting in Brussels with a warm welcome and comprehensive introduction to the meeting’s focus points, it was off to the rooftop for an obligatory windswept group photograph!

The next day was dedicated to immersive visits around Brussels, showcasing sustainable initiatives that underscore “Climate, Green City and Participation”. The day began with a tour of Tivoli GreenCity, a pioneering eco-district that harmoniously combines innovative living spaces with sustainability. Emphasising green construction and energy efficiency, it fosters active community involvement and encourages citizen participation in its development. This district is also home to Greenbizz, a hub which offers a dynamic environment for sustainable businesses to grow, strengthening the local economy while creating jobs. Here, entrepreneurs can innovate as they strive to contribute to a greener economy and a more sustainable society. 

The group were able to gain a deeper understanding of some of the sustainable businesses which began in the Greenbizz hub:

Snappies introduces a practical solution which drastically cuts disposable nappy waste by providing nurseries with an efficient, cost-effective alternative. This initiative aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact of child care, by providing a nappy-washing service that enables municipal nurseries to use reusable nappies instead of disposable options. 

The FabLab is a hub for digital manufacturing innovation, offering public access to computer-controlled fabrication tools. Here, any citizen can learn digital design and fabrication, as the team empowers individuals to bring their ideas to life, fostering civic creativity. 

A short stroll over the road took us to the BE-HERE Business Centre where we were able to learn about the Babbeleir cargo bike, which has revolutionised public interaction in Brussels. This versatile cargo bike enables vibrant policy discussions and community activities to be hosted across the city, fostering face-to-face dialogues with citizens from all walks of life. 

Following lunch, the group split into two groups, with one group going on a guided walk of the L28 Park with visits to Permafungi, the Gare Maritime, and a CyCLO bike repair shop. 

The other group returned to Brucity for presentations on the GoodMove Pentagone mobility initiative, the city’s heat-network initiative, as well as the Troc&Brol project. 

The ECoD City Network’s meeting in Brussels was concluded on the following morning with insightful presentations on Brussels’ approach to climate challenges at the Old City Hall. These presentations provided an overview of the Citizens’ Assemblies of both the City and Region of Brussels, followed by a guided tour of the historic Brussels City Hall. As several member cities are also currently planning and conducting citizens’ assemblies, these presentations provided useful and detailed insights into how Brussels overcame some of the challenges associated with citizens’ assemblies. We learnt about how methods of citizen engagement were developed based on thorough evaluation of citizens’ experiences. 

With European cities being at the forefront of today’s social, climate, and environmental challenges, the ECoD City Network’s visit provided our members with insights into Brussels’ innovative and ambitious initiatives which face these challenges. These groundbreaking solutions have been developed by public authorities, entrepreneurs, and civic society. City specialists from across Europe were able to explore how Brussels formulates its public policies through close consultation with citizens and stakeholders across various sectors. Using real-life examples, Brussels’ stakeholders illustrated the tools and strategies used to transform the city while engaging both its citizens and other city-users. 

We want to thank our colleagues from Brussels for hosting us, presenting their projects, and helping to make the meeting happen. 🙌

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