On 24.11.2021, the city of Mechelen was the host for the second real-life interregional partner meeting. The first since the beginning of Covid. What a joy to finally be able to meet up again in person.
The local stakeholder meeting, which was held in the Impact Factory, brought together around 50 participants from 6 countries. After the introduction, we continued to inspirational presentations and discussions.
First up was Stijn Anthoons, introducing us to the project ‘The Impact Factory’. A Public-Private partnership with the goal of creating a vibrant hub within the inner city to host circular entrepreneurs. Two existing buildings, amongst which an old industrial laundry called the Potterij, will be renovated for this project. The start of renovation is planned for 2023. Hoping to open the first part in 2024 and the second part in 2025.
In the meanwhile, the Potterij is used as a temporary location for circular experimentation. One example is Labo Leegstand, our second subject of the day. Labo Leegstand or the Vancancy lab is an urban living lab on modular, reusable and deconstructible construction methods, executed by Miss Miyagi. We visited the lab, that now gives room to the ‘de Klusbib’. The Klusbib is a library run by a citizen organisation called Deelbaar Mechelen (Shareable Mechelen), where citizens of Mechelen can lend small and big tools to use for everything from small shores to renovations around the house or garden. Besides, the box in the box construction houses Deel-IT, another project of Deelbaar Mechelen in which laptops are refurbished in order to close the digital gap or to be used by youth living in vulnerable situations.
The third speaker, Sara Verhoeven from Ko-LAB, explained the importance of hacker/makerspaces within the city. Giving space, equipment, education, inspiration and possibilities to citizens to experiment with science, techniques, arts, and artisans, such as 3D printing or programming. An interesting discussion about different approaches to this concept – top-down or bottom-up - was the result. A good way of broadening our perspective on citizen involvement within the deployment of circular economy.
Ci-Lab was the last project we talked about before lunch. Ci-Lab is a circular textile lab. A collective of 3 circular entrepreneurs focussing on the reuse of textiles. Within a year and a half, they grew from mere ideas to a collective with one FTE employee, collaborating with several major brands in Belgium and the Netherlands, while using deadstock, residual textiles or recalled fashion items. The interested participants could visit the lab before lunch, to feel the vibes of the lab.
After lunch, we gave the floor to Klimaan. A citizen cooperative, investing in green energy and other climate actions. They presented the collaboration between Klimaan and the City of Mechelen within the project Citizens of Mechelen Circular and Cooperative (MechCiCo). Thanks to the help of the volunteers of Klimaan, the city could make an inventory of the construction materials present in the former library for urban mining purposes. The former library has been sold to a real estate developer to be renovated into a housing district. During the process of the sale, however, the city gave space to creative entrepreneurs and Klimaan to use them for experimentation and research/creative work. Klimaan researched which investments in energy or water consumption reducing measures can be made that have returned within a relatively short time span. While coming up with 70 technical sheets, they placed two rainwater cubitainers and replaced the present lights with LED lights because of the very rapid return on investment of these two “small” investments. Finally, Bart from Klimaan explained the online tool Impact Schatter they developed to help citizens in their choice whether it is better to invest in an energy-friendly household appliance versus using an older version longer and hence have a lower material footprint. A very interesting tool based on life cycle analysis data, which makes it easier for consumers to know how to do right for the environment and their wallet.
After these inspiring presentations, the whole group left for a city walk in Mechelen, and a visit to ‘Het Predikheren’, one of its public hotspots. The newly renovated Predikheren convent - now home to the library of Mechelen has been shortlisted in 2021 as the best library in the world. After that, we reunited for a lovely meal, networking and casual conversation in ‘Het Bestek’. There was even a nightcap in ‘de Gouden Vis’ for those who wanted to explore Belgian’s beer culture at its finest.
Overall, the colleagues of Mechelen found this to be a very successful local stakeholder meeting.