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Stroom

Urban Living Lab in Mechelen

If we want to switch over to a more circular economy, it is crucial for the city to create as much support as possible for circular thinking among its citizens. That is why the city of Mechelen started an urban living lab, under the name 'Stroom'. The living lab started from the needs, wishes and interests of local residents to get to work in a concrete way and introduce circular consumption models in the neighbourhood.

In preparation for this campaign, we started a neighbourhood survey in the Bethaniënpolder-Auwegemvaart area. The inhabitants of this neighbourhood have a very diverse socio-economic and cultural background, and are an ideal reflection of the population of Mechelen.

We used a whole range of methods to reach as many people as possible, especially those who do not actively participate in a participation project. In cooperation with community work, the school and social organisations from the neighbourhood, we organised tailor-made workshops for different target groups (young people, mothers of non-Flemish origin, etc.). Also through home visits, an online survey, diary studies and festive activities, we made connections and were able to immerse ourselves in the social fabric of the neighbourhood.

In the research, we avoided as much difficult jargon around circularity as possible, but simply asked people how they wanted to make their daily lives easier, and their neighbourhood more enjoyable. We documented the wishes and needs of the residents on various themes: energy, water, clothing, food, housing, mobility, leisure, material consumption and waste.

In a second phase, we implemented some of the actions that received the most support. For example, we made two shared bicycles available to the neighbourhood. From this we drew lessons for a system that we can offer throughout the city. In a second action, we brought the Klusbib (tool library) closer to the citizens and promoted the use of existing tools over the purchase of new ones. We are looking for ways to get more people to borrow tools from the Klusbib than to buy them by testing home delivery and an extra depot in the Cityhub on the business park. In this way, we address the identified barriers to the sharing economy: people want to use things rather than own them if they are close by and easily accessible.

MOST IMPORTANT
RESULTS

  1. A group of volunteers from the research area took the reins themselves to start a neighbourhood vegetable garden, the Alfa Garden.
  2. Two pilot projects were set up around the sharing of cargo bikes and tools, in cooperation with Fietsatelier Mechelen (Ecoso vzw), the start-up Cargoroo, the Klusbib (Deelbaar Mechelen vzw) and the Ecokoeriers.
  3. Together with our partner Avansa in the Mechelen region, we made a Mechelen Bruist city map for Mechelen residents and tourists, on which all existing circular initiatives in the hospitality and trade sectors can be found. Many of them were not yet known to the local residents.
  4. At the request of a number of residents, a circular market was organised. This initiative is now being continued by the creative community of Marktenova.

MOST IMPORTANT
LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Attention to inclusion and diversity is an important condition for making the circular transition a reality. The neighbourhood of our project was chosen because it is representative for the whole of Mechelen (diversity in socio-economic background and origin). It was hopeful that - irrespective of background - there is interest in the sharing and repair economy and everyone wants to work on extending the life span of products.
  2. Residents from all backgrounds are ready for more use than ownership for specific products (e.g. cargo bikes, tools). Citizens are worried about food waste and are interested in local economies. Some also want to take matters into their own hands (e.g. with a neighbourhood kitchen garden), but others prefer a service model.
  3. People are willing to use products instead of buying them if there is an easily accessible, affordable and insured system available. This is certainly the case for expensive items (e.g. cargo bikes or specific work equipment), or things that are only used for a limited time (e.g. baby and children's stuff).
  4. Diversity of systems is important in order to provide an answer to everyone's needs. Residents sometimes choose a library system, sometimes a sharing system. This depends on the product group: a library system works for tools, toys and children's clothes, but not for other clothing, for example. Mutual sharing is the standard for food products.
150 people from Mechelen participated in research and pilots
240 (+100%) Active members of the Klusbib
20 civil society organisations and entrepreneurs involved for more circular entrepreneurship
2 new circular services arise from this project