Citizenship in Brussels’ lockdown

Saturday 7:10 rushing to the metro: today we host the Brussels’ CIMULACT workshop. The same workshop takes place also in Milan today and last week it was in Copenhagen. These 3 workshops are the first of a series of workshops that will take place in the coming couple of months in 30 countries involving about 1200 citizens to build visions about the future they want…

7:15 the metro is closed: strange? A Saturday morning it should be already open. Walking back home. Jumping in the car. Listening to the radio: “…maximum terrorist alert declared during the night for the Brussels Capital Region. Metro closed. Large public gathering cancelled. Extraordinary meeting of government in the morning!

“…Mmmmh! This will not help to get citizens in a day of workshop inventing the future…”

The purpose of all these workshops across Europe is to test a citizen participative approach to orient the European research and innovation agenda. CIMULACT is a H2020 project to help defining the next H2020 framework.

8:30 Arriving at the Halles des Tanneurs, a meeting place, organic market and theatre in the centre of Brussels. Installing the workshop. Welcoming the first participants. 1, 3, 7, 12…

Phone calls: “is the workshop maintained?”;

“I am waiting for the bus as metro is closed”;

“I will be late, my train was cancelled, is it still ok if I arrive around late?”


9:00 Waiting 5-10 minutes more… 28 participants: let’s start!

CIMULACT stands for ‘Citizen and Multi-Actor Consultation on Horizon 2020’. The purpose of the project is to imagine desirable futures visions and scenarios and link the emerging societal needs with expected progress of science and related impact on technology, society and environment. This is a first attempt to have a citizens-led Responsible Research and Innovation…


9:30 the workshop target is achieved with 36 citizens present: these are great news (and already quite amazing) within such an unexpected lockdown on a Saturday morning! At the tables the most diverse mix citizens from all ages and socio-professional backgrounds are talking. They remember how society was 40 years ago. They exchange their expectations and fears for the coming next 40 years.

“…Within 40 years I will not be there anymore but I came here because I liked the idea of imaging the future thinking to my grand children…”;

“…I hope to blossom starting to work as a midwife, talking to parents seeing birth like me as a natural and sharing process…”.

The atmosphere is rather good. Tables decided to stop talking about what happened last week in Paris and this morning in Brussels at least for a day. A day to detach from the present and imagine the future they want.

10:30 All the participants leave the present to travel in time through an imaginary journey… a calming and relaxing walk in the future of 2050…

11:30 The police phones: the government decided the evacuation of all public spaces in the Brussels Capital Region. The CIMULACT workshop has to stop now! Everybody should leave the place…

“…I have a question, asked one participant, when do we start again?…”;

“…you mean we have to stop ? But I like to go on with what we are doing: it’s not very often that I have the chance to discuss about our future…”;

“…yes but we are sorry: it’s an evacuation order from the police. We have to leave. We don’t see how…”;

“…unless we all go to our office: SDS is at the 4th floor. It’s a private space. It must be safe…”

“…it’s ok for me to come: where is your office? Is it far away?…”,

“… not that far but not really close either…”

“…I have 4 free seats in my car…”;

“…I will be there before you with my bicycle…”;

“…if everybody is coming, why not going also?…”;

“…do you know if the tram 94 is working?…”

Giving the address. Packing all the material from the tables. Going out:.

“…gosh, it’s snowing!…”.

Christophe : « I have a very old truck but I can take 6 people with me ! I can take the elder participants ! »

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Running up to Place Poulaert. Catching the tram. Running down Dautzenberg street to SDS offices: 12 participants are already there, waiting in front of the door!


Climbing the stairs. Letting everybody in. Door bell rings. Opening the entrance door. More people arrive. Organizing the tables. Making some coffee. Opening the entrance door again. People sits at tables.

“…Where is my group?…”;

“can we have the cards and material?…”.

Wet coats piling-up. Doorbell ringing again.

“what was our mini-storylines about when we had to stop?…”


12:05 everybody is back at visioning work. 34 participants our of 36 arrived by tram, car, bicycle, foot… They didn’t want to stop the workshop. We run all the CIMULACT program until the end of the afternoon. 6 visions emerged focussing education, democracy, sustainability…

“…we have to invent the future. We cannot let it half finished!…”


This is certainly an insignificant story. Nearly nothing. It’s maybe not acceptable to talking about it in these mourning times. But in such a terrible period, any bits of good new is worth to share. Any evidence of citizenship, of collective engagement, of willingness to go on, even if tiny, is important.

And anyway, this is the best that I can share with you from Brussels this weekend…