In Transition: Two Community Projects in Brussels

In All, Europe, Social, Cultural, Political, UDIN (All), Urban Inspiration by World Unwrapped

Organization Name: Transition Network

A Saturday afternoon in Brussels and there are many things to do. There is the Christmas market, a few different flea markets, and of course many green spaces to enjoy. In the midst of all this, just behind the Christmas Market’s ferris wheel in Saint Catherine, there is a free market. A market where you can bring things to give away, and take what you need. It happens once a month, with a break during winter, and is organized by the Transition Network in Brussels.

This market is for a community of people who have things to give and are in need of certain things as well. Clothes, books, shoes, bags, games. Families, young adults, elderly alike come to this small Free Market (Marche Gratuit) as a place of exchange and sharing of resources. As soon as you put something down on one of the tarps, someone will pick it up because they can use it. The purpose of this free market is to take money out of the equation when it comes to need and exchange.

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You can give and receive without the exchange of money. Everyone has something they can give and something they need, Marche Gratuit is a place for this to happen. One of the goals of Transition Network is to have many of these small Free Markets in communities all over Brussels. As long as they stay community-based and small they are sustainable. There is a sense of community when you see the same people every month and know that one day they may have something you need and visa versa. This is one of the community-based, sustainable projects of Transition Network.

Transition Network is inherently human-centered and environmentally-friendly. They create initiatives that help people, do not make a large impact on the earth, and do not require money. This type of community model not only builds trust among and within communities, it is also an example of resource sharing and cooperation. Another project that does this is an urban garden in a street in the city centre that used to have a lot of prostitution.

IMG_5314IMG_5311One way the city of Brussels deals with prostitution is by putting road blocks disallowing cars to drive slowly and proposition women. They did this same sort of thing in a neighborhood in the city centre. Instead of leaving this road block plain mounds of concrete, Transition Network decided to create an urban garden, Alhambra Garden, for the residents and community there. Alhambra Garden is kept up by ten families in the neighborhood along with Transition Network.IMG_5312

Each family gets its own plot in the garden and decides what they’d like to grow whether it be strawberries, cauliflower, or herbs. The families help with the upkeep of the garden and in turn get to grow some of their own food. Additionally, a few times a month Transition Network volunteers have an afternoon where they work on the community garden together. This week it was a Saturday and they spent the afternoon building supports for tomato vines that they will plant next year as well as hanging flags around the garden to add some decoration for the winter months.IMG_5310

Both of these projects are on a small-scale, which is one reason why they work and are sustainable. Their purpose is to build and support communities. Their purpose is to create resources and positive actions even in a negative situation. Transition Network initiatives are great examples of the type of urbanism that strengthens communities and can be adopted around the world.

[Photos of urban garden by Paul Bossu]
To learn more about the purpose and work of Transition Network.