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Linking sustainable practices throughout Europe

[EXP] Open Space on food and local development: a multi-stakeholder meeting initiated by the Ceinture Aliment-Terre Liègeoise (Belgium).

Rural topic(s): Civic dialogue, Civic engagement, local governance and dialogue

Type: Innovative experience

Date of writing: February 16, 2015

Author(s) of this page: Pierre-Yves Guiheneuf

Organization(s): CATL (Ceinture aliment-terre liégeoise)


In 2013 and 2014, the CATL organisation organised a collective consultation on food, involving nearly 150 people. The Open Space method helped reveal and structure participants’ ideas.



This project follows informal discussions between local stakeholders in and around Liège who were involved in sustainable development or transition.


Parcelles pour Maraîchage– juin 2013 - Photo : Michel Tonneau sur www.catl.be

The Ceinture Aliment-Terre Liégeoise (CATL) resulted from stakeholders who were involved in projects to transform the local food production system coming together: organisations (Barricade, Liège en Transition), researchers and consultants specialising in sustainable development (Tr@me, Propage, Agès, Exposant D), a cooperative selling farm products (Point Ferme), a body incorporating regional authorities (Groupement Régional Économique des vallées de l’Ourthe et de l’Amblève) and the local action group (GAL) ‘Pays des Condruses’.


Forum Ouvert – nov.2013 - Photo : Maud Dan sur www.catl.be

At its launch (November 2013), the CATL organised an open space which brought together around 150 citizens.

An Open Space is a meeting during which participants themselves establish the agenda by defining the themes they wish to work on, then splitting into sub-groups to share their analyses and develop proposals. The forum starts with a plenary assembly during which participants sit in a circle. After having explained the rules and introduced the issue, the organiser asks participants to suggest themes to be discussed around the issue of the day. The agenda thus emerges spontaneously. Workshop leaders pin their proposal on the ‘deal wall’, which the rest of the group will sign up for at a later stage. The workshops take place simultaneously and the results of the discussions are reported back to the other groups during a plenary session. This developmental stage may be followed by a meeting where the whole group ranks the ideas by priority in order to draft a strategic plan.

During this first Open Space, 42 workshops were organised on questions relating to food: production methods, short circuits, access to funds, access to seeds, transmission of knowledge, (de)pollution of soils, role of local institutions and economic actors … An action plan was developed and 14 thematic groups were created.

Fete de la Transistion –débat sur l’agriculture locale – juin 2013 - Photo - www.catl.be

In June 2014, a new working day once again brought together 150 participants. The two-fold objective of this day was partly to take stock of the dynamic underway, and partly to jointly construct practical projects, by connecting with existing initiatives. Speakers therefore presented initiatives which are currently underway and others positioned this initiative in an international context.

During this second day, nine thematic workshops were created on issues relating to models of production and commercialisation.

Results and prospects

This experiment is very recent and it is still too early to evaluate it and draw conclusions.


This experiment appears to be promising due to its method: an Open Space which allows several working areas to be identified, following by a project development phase. For the time being, participation seems to be consistent.




Daniel Wathelet, CATL. daniel.wathelet (a) gmail.com



Scale of intervention : Regional

Keywords: local community initiative, citizen participation, local food systems, local supply chain, transition, land access, peri-urban agriculture, rural-urban relationship, food

Places: Belgium

Actors: multi-stakeholders, group / platform

Methods: workshop, Open Space