The city of Brussels hosted the first RESPONSE meetings attended by 35 participants from RESPONSE city administrators and partners on March 7-8, 2022. The programme includes a series of workshops on replication roadmaps and stakeholder engagement, steering committee meetings, and a site visit at the Brussel PED area located in the Northern District.
During the first day, the participants were received at the Brussels city hall. RINA Consulting facilitated the workshop on replication roadmaps where the Fellow Cities (FC) of Gabrovo (Bulgaria), Brussels (Belgium), Botosani (Romania), Zaragosa (Spain) and Ptolemaida (Greece) [online] presented the progress and barriers encountered in developing their replication roadmaps. Common issues are about citizen engagement, institutional complexities, lack of financial resources, inefficient project management, lack of information about the innovative elements, and further aggravated by the COVID 19 pandemic. Lighthouse City (LC) representatives Hadrien Rouchette from Dijon (France) and Olena Zinchuk and Sini Lamoureux from Turku (Finland) were also present to guide the FCs on the roadblocks encountered and offered support in the development process.
After the workshop, the participants had the privilege to have a guided tour inside the city hall presenting the history of the city and how the iconic heritage building transformed to what it is today. Fabian Maingain, the Alderman of Smart City of Brussels, welcomed all the guest in a toast in support of the PED initiatives co-created by the European cities involved in the RESPONSE project. He also sent a message of solidarity from the project partners from the Ukrainian partner city of Severodonetsk who could not join the meeting.
On the second day, the participants attended the RESPONSE steering committee meeting and visited the future PED area of Brussels located in the city’s Northern District.
The participants were enthusiastic to learn about the different PED related initiatives being implemented by private, public and non-governmental organizations. The private-led initiative ZIN building is a multi-functional building currently under construction which will be energy neutral and strongly focused on material circularity. The so-called “Contrat de Quartier” (Neighborhood contract) is a unique city instrument by the Brussels Region that aims at improving the living environment in precarious neighborhoods with a fixed budget and schedule. One of these projects that is currently being implemented in the Northern District was presented by the City of Brussels. It includes the renovation of building stock, redevelopment of green spaces and local activities that promote social cohesion. One of these social cohesion projects was presented in greater detail by City Mine(d), a non-profit organization that is starting to mobilise the residents of a social housing estate in the area around energy communities. Chloé Verlinden from City Mine(d) shared her insights on a bottom-approach to raise awareness on energy questions. The walk ended in a lunch at local kitchen serving vegetarian staples.
The afternoon session was dedicated to a workshop on stakeholder and citizen engagement. The representatives from LC and other partners highlighted their initiatives in engaging the citizen and the whole local ecosystem. Focused group discussions were conducted to co-create solutions on the common barriers on engagement, as well as a reflection of the immediate steps that can be taken as soon as the participants went back home to their respective cities.