"HACK the EUROMETROPOLIS #2": continued citizen dynamics!

“Someone hacked the Eurometropolis.  A virus has infected everything and nothing is left.  All settings have been deleted.  It is us, the citizens, who hold the key to the future.  What should our Eurometropolis look like? “

This premise was the starting point of the 2nd edition of “Hack the Eurometropolis”, which took place on Tuesday 16 February at the Negundo in Tournai.  Following the success of the first edition in late November 2015, about fifty Flemish, Walloon and French participants continued the debate and exchanged ideas on the future of the Eurometropolis.  The 2nd edition had only one motto:  think ahead!

Along the lines of the World Café, the participants were subdivided into groups of four people who didn't know each other.  Each group sat around a table and tried to find an answer to the question:  what should the ideal Eurometropolis look like?  The first contact was rather hesitant, but very soon the participants got to know each other and engaged into a constructive dialogue.   Greener, more inclusive or more welcoming :  everyone gave his or her own description of the Eurometropolis # 2, giving free reign to their imagination.  Afterwards all the ideas were written on post-its and affixed to a wall in order to share them with the entire group.

In a kind of participatory game of musical chairs, three persons were then requested to move to another table to discuss another theme with new discussion partners.  The fourth person served as a liaison and provided input for the discussions based on the ideas exchanged earlier.  As a result, more detailed proposals were put forward and general ideas were further elaborated.  Each group identified three major themes which they considered important.  Education, a collaborative economy based on solidarity, bilingualism and mobility were among the most popular.

The session then continued in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere:  another change of tables took place and this time, the participants were asked to think of feasible actions that could be undertaken in the next few weeks in order to install the new Eurometropolis.  Time to concretise ideas!  All traces of hesitation and reticence were gone.  Everyone shared the same ambition: to create, innovate and learn.  “We should think of an event that brings people together!”,  was a suggestion made by one group. “Why don't we create a cross-border information platform?”, asked another.  “Cross-border exchanges for students and apprentices!” exclaimed a third enthusiastically.  All these ideas were collected and structured by means of post-its.  The intention was not to reinvent things that had already been done, but to make use of existing resources to go one step further.

After everyone had been given the opportunity to vote for their favourite ideas, the most popular themes were selected and 4 large discussion groups were formed in order to think about the ways in which these ideas could be turned into reality: 

The group “collaborative economy”, for example, discussed a local exchange system at the level of the Eurometropolis and the possibility to once again offer certain services free of charge.  

The group “language, our neighbour’s culture and citizenship education” referred to "Bla Bla School” and “Bla Bla Family” and came up with the idea of a kind of speed-dating event in order to give families on both sides of the border the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas.  

The group “mobility” discussed carpooling, the promotion of the bicycle and the development of bike paths, and put forward the idea of “cycling highways” leading to city centres. 

Finally, the group “Hospitality and exchange” thought of a hospitality concept:  an ambassador welcomes Walloon, Flemish and French visitors at a given place in the region and shows them its hidden treasures, at the same time infecting them with the “Eurometropolitan virus”.  The guests in turn become the hosts of a new group, etc.  

Although it will certainly take some time to turn the ideas put forward into reality, the seeds for the Eurometropolis of the future have been planted.  It is now our job to further develop them.  “Hack the Eurometropolis#2” has given us the chance to mobilise and innovate, but the work is far from done!  We must become “contagious” and mobilise as many citizens as possible for a possible "Hack the Eurometropolis #3" to enter into deeper debate:  the ball is in your court!

Photos : Marie-Hélène Elleboudt