Upon entering the building of the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Nord de France on Friday 21 October 2016, one can immediately hear the soft murmur of people talking somewhere close. There is laughter, exclamations, passionate monologues. The enthusiasm and motivation are palpable. But what are people doing here?
Towards more openness and dialogue
They are gathered for the second plenary session of the Forum of the Eurometropolis. After the first positive experience in June, the ambition was to repeat the success by opening up the Forum for the general public and discussing even more topics with more participants. Not only the members of the FORUM of the Eurometropolis are present. Residents of the Eurometropolis have also shown up, armed with determination or an unshakable belief in participatory initiatives. “I’m glad I can share my ideas, put things in motion and make things happen”, explains a participant. Because that’s what this meeting is about: to leave the beaten track.
In the almost sacred environment of the open Forum, titles, ranks and hierarchy no longer exist. Everyone has the right to speak his or her mind, from the shy participant at the back of the room to the fervent talker in the front row or the embarrassed latecomer. Everyone has something he or she can contribute. At the start of the meeting, all participants decide on the themes that will be discussed, as was the case during the 3rd Hack the Eurometropolis session. So many topics are put forward (more than fifteen) that the time dedicated to each of them has to be cut in half. One theme is discussed at each table (transport, languages, regional marketing, heritage, etc.). Time for the participants to take their seats and start working.
Bees, butterflies and others
The session starts with what is called “cross-pollination”. This is the basic principle of the open Forum: every participant "pollinates” the others with his or her ideas and together, they gain new insights. Different profiles are visible around the tables: firstly, there are those who launch ideas, those who take notes and summarise the discussions around their table on sheets of paper that will serve as memos later. Secondly, there are the “bees”, who go from one table to another to contribute to the dialogue and bring new ideas. Finally, the “butterflies” remain standing close to the buffet, drink in hand, and are already establishing contact with other participants, writing down ideas on a piece of paper or exchanging telephone numbers. Regardless of their profile or their approach, all participants contribute to the success and the efficiency of the open forum.
With a view to a continuation of the exchange, the participants then post the summarising memo of their respective tables on the wall before discussing each topic again with the entire group. The aim is for everyone to receive the same information in order to continue the debate. Afterwards the participants can use small stickers to vote for the topics or the ideas they liked the most and choose their absolute favourite. A top 3 of the most popular topics is then made (see all the pictures here).
Little by little, this participatory approach opens the door for more dialogue. The results may not be visible immediately, but let's not forget that change is a matter of time and energy and requires patience and motivation. Citizens, let your voice be heard at the Forum!
There will be other Hack the Eurometropolis sessions and open forums, but the transition is only really possible if this phenomenon is given the chance to grow and if discussions like this are encouraged. A transition to what? Anything is possible. Maybe tomorrow’s good ideas aren’t born yet.