Since a year Veronique and I are involved in SALT processes within the City of Vilvoorde in Belgium, next to Brussels (Vilvoorde has 44.000 habitants, it is the fastest growing city in Flanders, with 51% of the population with a migration background, 108 nationalities in total, 25% of the population is younger than 18).

So far we have been starting SALT processes in the different communities (7 in total) with a lot of success. We had about 15-20 sessions. Every community succeeded to agree upon a common dream and make their first steps, to learn from their actions through the SALT CLPC process. BUT … despite the early successes our next challenge will be to make these early seeds grow, build resilience and make them sustainable.  

Our challenges concretely are:

·        Forming the core team within each community (rooted leadership)

·        Grow the maturity of the collectives that emerge (group dynamics, diversity, personal transformation)

·        Bring the different individual communities together (transversal best practices)

·        Redefine the relationship with the City Council and create a new space for collaboration between the system and the collective and let it mature (democracy).

Last November there were elections here which makes that a new city council is in place since Jan 2019 for the next 6 years. And we are invited by the policy makers to support them in defining their Participation Policy for this period. Although there is a clear intention, it is also clear that they do not know how to navigate this. And the political system can be quite opportunistic. ;-) 

Veronique and I both feel that we need to work with a maturity model and a roadmap. Mutual trust is something that grows. Both ends have to make their steps to be able to climb higher. Intermediate anchoring will be necessary. We intend to take a blended approach that  is rooted in the SALT cycle but makes use of a more extensive toolkit. Our aim is to build a case out of our experience which can be applied to other citizen participation tracks. No guarantees for now, but it is in the experience that we learn and that the next steps will emerge.

In the meantime, we do want to tap into the collective wisdom of this community. So this is a call for:  

1.       Similar cases, their learnings and best practices. You can also share articles you might have read. (We are in contact with Grez-Doiceau but we do not have a Jean-Louis who lives in Vilvoorde ;-))

2.       Anyone interested in this initiative and who thinks he/she could contribute to the development of best practices around citizen participation is more than welcome to reach out to us. The focus will be on implementation as we are working hand’s on. We tend to do some collective intelligence work around this.  You can find me on linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomkoninckx/ or mail me tom.koninckx@gmail.com  

With gratitude for any input!

Warmly, Tom

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A little update: we had an excellent meeting with the City of Vilvoorde and their technology partner for Participation yesterday The technology partner is CitizenLab (https://www.citizenlab.co/) CitizenLab could clearly see how we are the missing link for their approach to market to anchor adoption. Our reflections around a maturity model as a growth (road) map for citizen participation got very much appreciated.  We will take our collaboration in Vilvoorde as a prototype and see where we can join forces later with CitizenLab.

But first we need to prove our impact in Vilvoorde and show our ability to guide them to the next level. This is a test case. And we are totally not there yet. It was already a bumpy road, and there are still many challenges ahead. 

Any reflections/resources that could support us to grow the impact of SALT within a city ecosystem with challenging stakeholders are welcome! We meet our stakeholders where they are. So we try to be agile and adaptive, while we work upon the acupuncture points of the ecosystem and connect the dots. It is a big opportunity to expose policy makers and business communities to the potential of SALT. 

Thanks, Tom 

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