Since February, I have been fortunate enough to work as an IVY volunteer for the Community Land Trust Brussels, in Belgium. CLTB is an innovative housing organisation that provides perpetually affordable and collaborative housing for people with limited incomes.
As well as being co-owners of the organisation itself, the residents play central roles in the development and management of the properties, as well as additional activities stretching beyond housing. The time here has given me the opportunity to develop hands-on experience with projects that have community members at the heart, which are developed in an inclusive, democratic and sensitive manner.
I have been working with the ‘community’ department of the CLTB, which involves liaising between members of the organisation, strengthening members’ engagement through various participative projects, and the provision of various neighbourhood-based activities. I have thus been communicating with residents, prospective buyers and partner organisations in order to develop projects which cater to the collective interest of the members. This has allowed me to learn new organisational strategies, as well as various subtle techniques on how best to communicate and develop projects with the public.
My main task has involved the planning and organisation of bicycle lessons for CLTB members. The project is located in a hangar at a future CLTB-housing site, which is temporarily being shared by various associations. It has therefore involved facilitating between participants, volunteer coaches and other organisations. In March, we held a co-creation workshop, which gave me a deeper insight into participation methods and how useful they can be in achieving realistic, efficient and fair goals.
My other activities include the production of a photography exhibition (marking the inauguration of a CLTB housing project), several ‘visual communication’ tasks - including website updating, the design of invitations for the inauguration, as well as the conception of several posters portraying the developments of CLTB housing projects. During the lockdown period, we have also been producing a newsletter-based platform that aims to support CLTB members in need.
I have enjoyed the variety of these tasks very much, which have expanded my awareness of some of the different ways communities can be supported. Once provided with a platform, it seems that many people become actively engaged in improving the surroundings of their community at large. I have also felt empowered by the experience, since it is now clear to me that is isn’t that difficult to develop synergies with associations, acquire government subsidies for projects, and utilise the energies of people to create projects together.
To conclude, I am extremely grateful for this experience, which was made possible thanks to IVY’s EU funds, as part of the Cohesion Policy, aiming to support local communities across the EU. I have gained insight into how communities can be actively engaged in an efficient an inclusive manner, as well as how CLTB housing projects develop. Since CLT’s are becoming more popular across Europe, I certainly recommend anyone interested to get involved. We do not know what the future holds, but CLT’s can ensure that there will be room for participative, affordable housing, with community members supporting one another collectively.