From 24 to 26 October 2019, Liège took action for the climate. And the Smart City Institute answered the call! More than 70 participants were mobilised during this Climathon organised by Climate KIC and Venturelab. The objective: to develop projects aimed at making Liège a greener, more sustainable and pleasant city to live in by tackling the climate challenges that directly affect it.
To achieve this, three key themes were proposed to the participants: mobility, urban agriculture and sustainable construction. During almost 50 hours, no less than 11 projects were set up, 4 of which were finally rewarded.
Our institute (the SCI) was present as an expert to coach and challenge the different groups
in their approach, thanks to our researchers Audrey Lebas, Hélène Bleus and Nicolas Ancion. The HEC Liège students of our "Sustainability and Smart Territories
" seminar were also mobilised during these 3 days.
An occasion for us to focus on the essential points raised by our researchers about this type of approach, which aims at stimulating and soliciting collective intelligence in order to respond to urban issues.
Climathon VS hackathon
But first, what is a climathon? And what is the difference with a hackathon? The climathon, like the hackathon, is an event that aims to encourage the creative resolution of predefined problems in a defined and generally very short period of time
(Source: "Smart City Practical Guide: How to make the citizen an actor of his territory
") . With the specificity for the climathon, as its name indicates (contraction of the words "climate" and "marathon"), to tackle the climate issue.
The climathon is therefore part of the hackathon movement, which, in the context o smart and sustainable cities, allows the development of innovative solutions for a territory, through the mobilisation of citizens.
What our team retains from the Climathon
Strong involvement of the younger generation
Hélène Bleus : « During these 3 days of co-creation, we exchanged most of our ideas with students, thus a young audience. In our opinion, bringing together the young generation through this kind of event is very important.»
Indeed, rethinking the city means responding to societal issues and the needs of today's citizens, while ensuring that they make sense for future generations
. Moreover, the climate walks organised throughout Belgium
this year show that young people are really aware of the climate crisis. The issue of sustainable and smart cities, and especially the climate issue, are therefore logically challenges that affect the youngest, and on which it is crucial for them to work today.
« This climathon is finally a great opportunity for these young people to challenge themselves by confronting existing problems and realities of the field. It allows them to think about it, together, through an enriching human experience, and to develop, why not, entrepreneurial paths. »
As explained in our Smart City Practical Guide #2 dedicated to citizen participation, the Hackathon is indeed an approach that often appeals more to a young audience. However, collective intelligence is a process which is particularly rich when the whole population is represented: Guaranteeing a mix of actors will lead to even richer reflection and exchanges!
Beyond the expected result of providing solutions to the city's climate challenges, the climathon - like a hackathon, after all - offers many other advantages. Through discussions and exchanges, this experience :
- has made it possible to initiate a collaboration between the different actors present (citizens/city/professional coaches),
- encouraged an awareness and a better knowledge of the realities on the ground
- allowed knowledge exchange between participants, but also allowed them to measure their level of knowledge and to develop new ones.
- and finally, has helped to stimulate citizen engagement
After the climathon : what's next for the projects?
Calling on citizens to develop ideas is the main objective of this kind of event. But what follow-up is given to the projects they develop? Audrey Lebas: "Through our Practical Guide 2, we make those who wish to organise this type of event aware of the importance of the follow-up and support given to projects once the event is over. Here, the most important aspect of this climathon is to offer the winners the opportunity to develop their idea into a real entrepreneurial project, via their incubation at the VentureLab. This is a real added value to boost new startups ! »
The winning projects, detailed below, were selected, among other things, on the basis of their incubation potential:
- Sega (construction) – a platform that connects owners of brownfield sites with groups of interested stakeholders, to promote the rehabilitation of these unused spaces in an ecological manner and thus foster social mix.
- Collect & connect (special price - construction) - a platform for the resale of second-hand building materials, which ensures their prior reconditioning and certification.
- Urb’n’bee (urban agriculture) - a project to bring together private owners who have a usable space and people with time to cultivate it.
- Cities on move (mobility) - positive competition between companies via a "green mobility" label, in order to promote alternative modes of transport to their employees.
« There are of course other types of support. In the case of the Citizens of Wallonia hackathon, for example, the various partners offer the winners financial support, assistance and coaching, training and visibility. Regardless of the form it takes, follow-up is in our view a crucial point. Without following up the project, we run the risk of disappointing the citizens and losing not only their involvement but also the trust they have in this type of approach and its organisers (the cities in most cases)
Think globally, act locally
« During the event, we were able to greet, via Skype, another team located in Milan, where another climathon was being organised at the same time » explains Nicolas Ancion. The initiative comes from KIC Climate, an international association that supports local players in the effective organisation of this type of event all over the world. In 2018, nearly 113 cities have joined the movement by organising their own climathon. "This ClimathonLiège has therefore helped to place the city of Liège on the world map of the climathon and sends out a positive signal: Liège is also part of the struggle for the climate, through the mobilisation of certain companies and local players. »
In short, the climathon was:
- A humanly rich experience, because it creates social links through meetings and exchanges.
- A great atmosphere, highly motivated students, constructive exchanges with involved experts.
- A positive experience for the City of Liège, represented by Gilles Forêt, alderman in charge of the Ecological Transition, Mobility, Cleanliness and Digital for the city, since it was able to hear what emerged from these workshops, and thus become aware of the needs of its citizens.