Generalized “general/ inclusive applicable”
Empowerment ”Enable people to assert control over the factors
which affect their lives”

On the 8th of September 2006 we are planning to organize an international urban conference in Brussels about “Generalized Empowerment”. The conference aims to discuss and assess effective social, political, economic and cultural tools that catalyze empowerment and to deliberate on the conditionalities of generalized empowerment in the context of uneven (global) development in our cities (and in Brussels in particular). In annex of this appeal you will find the conference statement and how the conference day with respect to content is organized. The conference will be organized by a broad platform of organizations from Brussels and other cities. The production of the project is in hands of City Mine(d) vzw.

At the moment, we do an appeal for persons to write a position paper on the subject of generalized empowerment (language preferably in English, but can also be written in French, Dutch or Spanish). The paper should not be more than 500 words max –max. 5 pages or 2500 words. The position paper will be included in the conference book which each attendant will receive at the registration of the conference. In addition, the position papers will be send to the key-note speakers and the partner-organizers of the parallel sessions prior to the conference to enable them to acquire a more enriched and embedded approach on the conference theme. The writers of the best position papers will also be invited to present their ideas at the conference. If you are interested to write such a position paper, please contact or

In addition, we are inviting organizations to become co-organizer and to take the challenge up to program one of the parallel sessions of the international conference. The idea of the parallel sessions is to allow discussions and key-analyzes on generalized empowerment from a more specific or specialised perspective. Parallel sessions in mind are a session on the informal economy, on cultural practices, on local neighbourhood development, on copy left etc. Each organizing group will be responsible for two sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) each time 70 minutes. It would be fascinating if you could find synergies from your core-expertise with the key-questions raised in the specific parts of the conference (see annex program organization). If you are interested to organize such parallel sessions, please contact or

We are eager to make this conference a collective endeavor and are actively searching for synergies. If you think that your organization or yourself could contribute to complement or organize this conference, please contact us! Email: or

:: objetives
1. To initiate a participatory and bottom-to-up action research project in three cities (Brussels, London and Barcelona) on urban interventions which mediate for social, political, cultural and economic innovation in social fragmented spaces in the city

2. To generate a broad inclusive urban platform that links people from different European cosmopolitan cities active at different levels (local, metropolitan, national and European) and tied either to the government, civil society sector or the private sector.

3. To organize an international conference that discusses critically the relevance of a new-proposed paradigm, which is called ‘Generalized empowerment’, as catalyst for urban revitalization in areas characterized by uneven development and social fragmentation.

4. To publish a conference book, to maintain a conference website to disseminate the ideas of the conference.

5. To organize a variety of fringe activities (launch L-Atlas, Launch INI-mapas publication and exposition ReadyMades, party)

:: actions
1. To start up expertise groups in the three cities (Brussels, London and Barcelona) on urban intervention, uneven development and local urban development

2. To organize three workshops in every city where urban interventions are scrutinized from a specific, contextual to the city perspective. (Brussels, social and informal economy; London, participation and local democracy; Barcelona urban interventions and cultural industries)

3. To organize local conferences in the three cities and to publish a report for each city that summarizes and analyses in a broader context the learning process of the workshops.


1. The development of a comparative urban research project in collaboration with universities and research centers

2. The development of instruments to develop and consolidate intercity networks of experts in urban intervention

1. To organize an international conference in the Flagey building in Brussels on the 8th of September 2006 in Brussels.

2. To publish a qualitative website and reference book about the learning process and the output of the workshops, local conferences and international conference


Between March and June 2006 each workgroup organizes in each city focused around a specific topic three workshops. As already mentioned; these workshops aim to identify to develop catalyzing projects in cracks in the city that renegotiates regulations of social, economic and cultural power in the city and promotes inclusive networks of governance.

These three workshops focuses in each stage on another dimension:
Workshop 1 | workshop GE, urban vision
In the first workshop we confront the participants with the theoretical framework (that is generalized empowerment and the city as a collective resource). We will invite the participants to position urban interventions in this framework and within the contextual framework proper to each city.

Workshop 2 | urban interventions and "resources"
In the second workshop we aim to analyze how urban interventions mobilize their (economic, human and social capital) resources in the city.

Workshop 3 | urban interventions as incubator for social, cultural
and economic innovation

In the third workshop the participants will predominantly focus on the output and which leverage points they mobilize to initiate innovation given the paradoxes of uneven development in their city


In June the GE-project will organize a public event to present the output of the workshops and to enable a group of key-experts in the city to debate critically the current urban processes in the city.

GE (sept 8, 2006)
:: what
On the 8th of September 2006 we are planning to organize an international urban conference in Brussels about “Generalized Empowerment”. The conference aims to discuss and assess effective social, political, economic and cultural tools that catalyze empowerment and to deliberate on the conditionality of generalized empowerment in the context of uneven (global) development in our cities (and in Brussels in particular). In annex of this appeal you will find the conference statement and how the conference day with respect to content is organized. The conference will be organized by a broad platform of organizations from Brussels and other cities.

:: program
Is inclusive urban action possible in an environment of uneven economic processes and social fragmentation? This urban forum sets off boldly with a positive answer on this question and proposes the principle of “generalized empowerment” as new development paradigm as catalyst for inclusive urban action in fragmented (parts of) cities.
The objective of the conference is to scrutinize and deliberate the feasibility, desirability and efficacy of such new paradigm in the context of Brussels and other European cities faced with social fragmentation.

To guide the deliberation process the conference is split up in three parts:

Part 1: Moment opname - etats de lieu – state of affairs
The first part aims to unveil the extra-local dynamics that drives processes of uneven development in cities today and wishes to discuss critically the concept of generalized empowerment within the framework of uneven development. What are the political-economic and cultural–social mechanisms that drive uneven development? Which sort of power configuration propels uneven development? What is generalized empowerment?
What sort of social capital does generalized empowerment mobilize? What are the constraints of generalized empowerment?

Part 2: Audit
The second part aims to identify effective social, political, economic and cultural development tools that catalyze empowerment and to assess the possibilities and constraints of these dynamics within the global-local context of the city today? What are the social drivers of these tools? What are the experiences in other cities?

Part 3: Re-connect part 1+2
The third part wishes to scrutinize, both in a theoretical and practical context (using the conclusions of part 1 and 2), whether generalized empowerment can be a catalyst for a `socially just` cosmopolitan urbanity and, if yes, at which scale/level we should assert Generalized empowerment. Different Formats
The urban forum will accommodate three different sorts of sessions:
1. Plenary sessions
Plenary sessions are sessions where the audience is invited to attend a presentation of an international keynote speaker. The preliminary programmed plenary sessions are [1] GE and uneven development, [2] GE and social movements, [3] GE and governance, [4] GE at which Level? Time for an international urban movement?
2. Parallel sessions
Parallel sessions are simultaneous sessions where each session scrutinizes the concept of GE from a distinctive perspective such as from a social-economic, cultural, local, European approach. Each parallel session is coordinated by a different group of organizations.
3. Picnic sessions – (20 tables of 15 persons in corridors and foyers)
The picnic session is the most decentralized module of the conference. At the time of the registration each participant will be assigned to a certain discussion table. In this way we will divide the audience into 20 different focus groups. Each focus group will have the chance to hear and discuss the activities of a particular urban organization and have a discussion on basis of a discussion text on the theoretical framework of GE. The session at each table will be prepared and guided by a moderator, discussant and an urban practitioner

8 international keynote speakers
24 expert speakers in parallel sessions
20 moderators in picnic sessions
20 discussants in picnic sessions that presents a position paper
20 practitioners in picnic sessions
Total 92 interveners

:: when
September 8, 2006

:: venue
Flagey Studio 1,2,3,4 and 5 (In negotiation)
Heilig Kruisplein
1050 Brussels


Chez Guagua
Chez guaGua is a modular media caravan that will follow up the workshop sessions in Brussels and will function as a black box to store and diffuse information. During the local conference in Brussels the caravan will function as portal for the audience to learn from the processes in Brussels and the other cities.

International launch and L-Atlas workshop
L-atlas is a website that enables urban interventions to showcase their network of partners and to connect with other initiatives in their city or projects with overlapping partners. L-atlas aims by means to visualise these hybrid networks to consolidate the mobilised social capital and to upscale it to a collective resource. The website will be programmed with interactive interfaces, will be inspired by social network software and be programmed in open source.
L`Atlas will use the momentum of the conference to launch their website-tool. Therefore, it will organize a workshop with all urban organization (see session 1 in the program) invited to participate in the conference. The workshop aims to discuss the applications of the web-tool, L-Atlas, and to find innovative ways to communicate and exchange ideas at a pan-European level. During the workshop the participants will also make a subjective geography of their organizations on a big canvas. Invited to the workshop: 20 urban organizations from Brussels, London, Barcelona and other European cities

b.Mapping project INI-Brussel
The mapping-INI project Brussels is a project where eight persons are asked to make a subjective map of urban interventions in Brussels. The project aims not to define the concept of urban interventions, but leave the definition open for the participants to load and enrich it from their own urban experiences. As the L-Atlas project the mapping project will use the conference as pivot to launch the results of the project.
The participants to the project are: Kobe Matthijs, Natalie Mertens Hassina Benchelabi Tiziano Lavoratornoui, Youssef Rival, Kathleen Mertens en Harisson.
Partnership: Recyclart, City Mine(d)

c. Exposition “Readymades”
Readymades are tools for using public space differently. They are the work of young artists who have designed them especially to make them easy and inexpensive to reproduce and to have a maximum visual impact on a space. At the same time Readymades are functional: they clear away everyday obstacles to using public space, such as rain or traffic.
The tools can be used to raise awareness, open up a debate to a broader public, or celebrate the change in an area. For local groups, Readymades can contribute to the attractiveness and quality of activities in public space. Their playful character can also urge people to use the space. Moreover, they can be used in different places throughout Europe, and therefore can work as a trans-national connector.
In the corridors and halls of the conference-building City Mine(d) will expose the readymades and will invite other organizations to expose similar tools. Examples of readymades are Guagua, a caravan which is converted to an Internet media-centre, a system to create a labyrinth on public spaces, etc…

d. Party
On the evening of the conference a party will be organized in one of the cultural centers in Brussels to thank all participants

a. International launch and L-Atlas workshop
To be announced
b. Mapping project INI-Brussels
To be announced
c. Exposition “Readymades”
To be announced
d. Party
To be announced

a. International launch and L-Atlas workshop
To be announced
b. Mapping project INI-Brussels
To be announced
c. Exposition “Readymades”
To be announced
d. Party
To be announced

:: Ge- research project»
In each city a reporter will follow and analyze the learning process occurring in the workshops and at the local conference. At the same time they follow also the processes in the other city. They have also a function to actively diffuse the info between cities.

Responsibilities of each reporter:
»Theoretical coaching of the local workshops
»To write an article about the local context, how urban interventions in this context intervene and to identify points of leverage for social, economic and cultural innovation
»To present results in local conferences
» To be present in local conferences in other cities
»Contribute to the organization of the parallel sessions of the international conference
»Contribute to local and final publication

On the basis of the three articles written by the reporters in June we will ask reaction from twenty experts: 10 from Brussels, 5 from London and 5 from Barcelona. These 20 position texts will be presented in the picnic sessions of the conference and be published in the conference publication.

Local conference publication
During the conference we will publish a report which will entail an introduction to the GE-paradigm, reports of the three reporters and critical texts from external experts. De content will also be published on the website–

The local publication:
» The first part entails a general introduction to the city-specific paradox (Brussels –social economy; London –participation and local democracy and Barcelona urban artistic networks)
» The second part of the publication focuses on the central topic of the GE project, that is generalized empowerment and city as a collective resource.
» The last part entails the article of the local reporter

International conference publication
The conference-book will contain the conference statement, the program, the research papers of several keynote speakers, and the position texts of the twenty discussants of the conference. The conference statement will be translated in English, French, Netherlands, Catalan, and Spanish. All other texts will be available in the original language and in English.

Book publication
To consolidate the know-how build up during the workshops, local conferences and international conference we plan to publish a book on Generalized empowerment and the best urban practices to promote this development paradigm. We are currently contacting well-known publishers to gain their interest in the project.

Bruxel glocal conference » 02.2003

Seismograph workshop » 04.2005

Meeting reporters » 03.2006


City Mine(d) is a production house for social-artistic projects in and for the city. The projects anticipate the interchange of social, cultural and economic potential in the city and aim to build new symbiotic coalitions for development and inter-communication for a sustainable urban environment. City Mine(d) locates its projects mostly in deprived areas of the city.

The NGO, City Mine(d) , is from its beginning a professional organization with a staff of six persons. City Mine(d) is still a young organization, it has been established in 1997.
Nevertheless, it has already initiated successfully more than sixty projects in deprived areas in the city. The sphere of action is yet confined to Brussels. Although recently, City Mine(d) tries to establish itself as an international actor for urban development.

Spatial and institutional renovation and innovation’ is the motto and the common denominator for City Mine(d) ’s urban interventions. Responding to a desire from a local community to engage in a collective action for urban renewal –and not to a problem- is the detonator of a City Mine(d) intervention. City Mine(d) ’s agenda is threefold:
(1) Strategic locating the project to engender the largest leverage;
(2) Defining `the project’;
(3) –last but not least- the forging of a network that is able to create the project and to become a vital player in the decision-making over the shaping of the future of the city. The tripartite of the agenda interacts, takes part simultaneously and is an intertwined process pivotal for urban sustainable development.

(1) Creation of a design object
To have a firm footing in the community the project starts already in an early stage with a social-artistic intervention. The high quality, almost smooth design of the artistic intervention serves to change the perception and the image of the place. This symbolic aspect enables residents to feel better about their environment and gives them opportunities to identify themselves positively with the place. The artistic intervention is also a strong visual statement that attracts attention and invites local, regional and extra-regional actors to get involved in the collective action process for urban development.

The artistic intervention deliberately has an alien character, which means it is not the cultural expression of the locality, of a certain interest group or ethnic minority. A single group cannot appropriate the intervention. In contrast, the artistic intervention serves to bridge the gap between these fragmented groups. The intervention acts as a sounding board for actors to express their ambitions and desires for the locality where the project is embedded. In this way actors engage and take interest in the project. As such the intervention works as a connector for collective action.

The formal or ‘artistic’ content of the intervention is the sole responsibility of a team of artists. Their benefit of being in the project is the realization of their work of art. As a consequence, the artistic aspects are not discussed with the residents, and can therefore be perceived as rather provocative. Yet, this helps to provoke a discussion and to generate suggestions from residents and visitors to ameliorate the site or locality. The provocative aspect is also justified by the fact that it is only a temporary intervention – which does not at all mean the project is short-termed-, destined to identify opportunities for future improvement.

Besides its alien and provocative character, a communication strategy is developed to promote the intervention as a symbol for change. Due to its qualities, the artistic intervention has the capacity to gain national press coverage. The media attention allows the local community to re-identify and take pride in their local area. They learn to see the community from a different perspective. The project encourages also visitors, to get acquainted with the community and the locality where the project is located. In brief, the intervention is not only addressing the local community, but that it involves visitors as well – be it for work or leisure time activities. Their role is crucial in shaping the future of the city. Other means of communications consist of leaflets, posters, word of mouth, and direct mail to organizations.

The realization of the intervention serves as a catalyst, bringing together different actors. Independently, those actors would have no impact on (or often even no interests in) the fortunes of a local community. It is by providing them an intervention serving their own goods (ranging from citizenship over public image to the realization of an artwork), that different actors can be involved, and so ad to the development of the urban environment.

(2) Forging of networks
A city can only be a commercial, intellectual and cultural crossroads by taking in account the divers- and not always compatible- needs and aspirations, views and priorities of residents and visitors, consumers and producers, creators and spectators.

The participation model was often synonym to getting a consensus in terms of a greatest common divider. Due to the many and divers actors involved in the urban fabric this search for consensus became to time intensive or required to many concessions. Moreover, due to the different incompatible needs vital actors pulled out and the realization of the project became often impossible. That is why City Mine(d) started experimenting with different layers of consensus on the nature of the collective action itself. The negotiation process aims to achieve an overlapping consensus between the different involved actors. In this way the collective action ends up with a multi-layered good. Some groups of actors aim for a better image in the neighbourhood, others for jobs, and still others for renovation subsidies for their own house. Although the different groups do not chare a common interest, they know if they want to achieve their goal alone the probability of success will be very low. They have self-interest to organize them collectively. The ultimate goal is to make the coalition a catalyst for effective, participatory, innovative and progressive urban change.

First of all City Mine(d) focuses –in the first stage- on a core-group of actors pivotal to urban change. These partners are considered crucial in the shaping of wider processes of urban integration. By implicating them in a development project, the project is able to become the leverage for a wider development scheme. Every actor is involved for his expertise. In that way, the partnership can capitalize upon the expertise and complementarities of the members, in order to make the outcome more than just the sum of the input of the partners. Another important aspect of forging the network, is keeping an eye on the private gain different partners derive from being in the partnership. This can be for example personal status, status of the group represented or legitimacy as a local actor. Finally, actors from different geographical scales should be implicated, in order to have a sustainable and a well-balanced partnership that has an eye for a wider urban agenda. Based on this variety of expertise, a facilitator can shape a partnership from an informal group to a development coalition and a network.

The first act of this coalition will be the realization of the artistic intervention. This allows a visible result that is a motivation for the partnership, and creates a dynamic in which residents can be integrated step by step.

The stakeholder-based partnership and the network developed around the project create new synergies that can integrate a locality in a wider urban process.

1. Coordination groups international conference

Participants workshops –20 organizations
Brussels workgroup:

2. Research group
Ana Betancour
Alex Lofus
Baudouin Massaert
10 Brussels experts
5 London experts
5 Barcelonese experts


City Mine(d) Brussels:

Post: Zaterdagplein 13 - 1000
Office: Karthuizerstraat 43 - 1000
Tel: 0032 2 779 59 00
Fax: 0032 2 513 48 04