Maison du Peuple d’Europe

The Community House of Europe

For a civic and united Europe 


Creating a country within a country presupposes three things:

  • To sanctuarize existing collective matters by withdrawing them from the logic of predation and privatization.
  • To intentionally bring together territories and time in common.
  • To reconquer streets, neighborhoods, municipalities, fields, factories, workshops; to create communities of purpose and common basins.

Les dispositifs du pays dans un pays, ce sont les Bri-Co  (Bureau de Recherches et d’Investigation sur le Commun).

The history of the "Country within a Country"

This project began with the mobilization of certain findings from the Noir Jaune Blues survey.

This survey made a significant impact when released in January 2017 and highlighted the breakdown of social bonds. Implicit in the questions brought to light by this survey was the future of social cohesion in a global context of loss of meaning and democratic trust.
To accompany this transition democratically and socially means creating citizen public spaces at multiple levels, starting from the neighborhood level. It is through these citizen public spaces that citizens (visible and invisible), starting from the question of repair, will have a space where "I will do" joins "you will do" to result in a "we propose, imagine, claim, and refuse."

The role of the CHE is to contribute, through this project, to avoiding major social exclusion during the ongoing economic and societal transition. The project is based on the assumption that a process of democratization (or a return to democracy) requires bringing these forces closer together from the nearest place of residence of each citizen, namely neighborhoods composed of 5000-6000 inhabitants, including grassroots associations based in their territories.

Partner associations

Acteurs des Temps Présents, Brussels

Tout Autre Chose, Saint Gilles and Namur

Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien, Namur

La générale de Présence and Action Culturelles

La nationale du Centre d’Action laïque

Le Centre Régional d’Appui à la Cohésion Sociale (CRAcs-CBAI)

Municipal coordinators

Nonprofit organizations for social cohesion in the relevant neighborhoods.

Unfolding of a BRI-CO

Four phases are necessary for the smooth unfolding of the BRI-Co:

Preparation of the BRI-Co

One methodological specificity of BRI-Co is to introduce externality (the BRI-Co is not carried out by known local actors but by "third parties") and to avoid institutional connotations (BRI-Co takes place in vacant stores or unoccupied ground floors).

The preparatory phase includes identifying available resources in terms of accessible spaces and making contact and meeting with active associations in the area. After the BRI-Co event, the work will be presented, and local associations will resume their roles for the continuation of the work.

In the preliminary setup for a BRI-Co, organizing a walk is also crucial. This essential element allows for an understanding of the neighborhood's space and its surroundings, initiating the first connections with people in the area. This walk serves as an entry pass, and it's beneficial to have an emblematic person accompany it, acting as an ambassador for what follows.

At the end of the meetings and this initial collective initiative, a committee of perspective is formed. It will consist of involved individuals living in the neighborhood, local associations, and participants from previous BRI-Co events.

This committee of perspective defines the neighborhood boundaries, drafts and creates the public invitation document, and disseminates it through associations, shops, or cafes. This information is also distributed during an "all-boxes" operation, an essential moment in the preparatory setup.


Execution of the BRI-Co

A BRI-Co is intentionally a fleeting moment, lasting three or four days in a targeted space (a neighborhood not exceeding 5000 or 6000 inhabitants) and in a temporary location (subject to precarious occupation). A relatively modest setup is arranged in these places (a table, chairs, tea and coffee, a notebook, a microphone), but it unfolds into something more complex.

In BRI-Co events, hospitality is first and foremost an aesthetic in the literal sense, as local artists are invited to work on the walls and the storefront. Alongside this visual intervention (dynamic and changing over the days), there is a focus on the quality of the setup (tables with flowers are covered with tablecloths, the space is cleaned and made inviting) and on non-judgmental and non-instrumental hospitality (BRI-Co primarily aims to be a place of "knowing how to be"), turning a familiar place into something different. Moreover, great attention is paid to welcoming all components of the neighborhood, including invisible citizens. That's why BRI-Co events serve as an important function of a free popular canteen and take on a banquet function: a communal table where those with tighter budgets, in particular, can sit and invite their friends and neighbors. This is a crucial element in the social approach to the diversity of a neighborhood, as the meal repairs strained or nonexistent relationships between residents and serves as a link that can promise connection for the future. As you can imagine, a BRI-Co travels with all its equipment (from tables to forks, fridge, and stove) and relies on a set of skills that reinforce the ways of being.

The "intellectual logistics" of a BRI-Co are, of course, just as crucial. Once these welcoming conditions are in place, interviews take place, either individually or collectively, based on the preferences of those present. These interviews are conducted by the team in charge, which includes at least one person trained in listening—be it a sociologist, anthropologist, journalist, or simply a teacher. This is how proposals for repairs related to the neighborhood and social, political, institutional, economic, or environmental life of the region or country are gathered. The gathering and discussion of these repair proposals will be a specific moment at the end of the three days, deciding which proposals to implement promptly. The realization of suggestions and resolution of issues raised during the BRI-Co should happen as soon as possible. The ways of doing and acting are left to the participants. On their part, the BRI-Co facilitators will establish a reparations secretariat and take care of contacts or connections with other practices or projects that have already been implemented.

Evaluation of the BRI-Co

BRI-Co facilitators do not set specific objectives because they are uncertain about the follow-up to their action, and they don't promise to do the work on behalf of the residents.

It's a temporary action, and the organizers don't position themselves as a new, enduring intervention in the neighborhood.

However, they are obligated to provide feedback. The results obtained are considered a first collective work upon which to build other processes that can be precisely reappropriated. That's why they are communicated to the residents of the concerned neighborhood (through a new "all-boxes" operation) and to local associations capable of ensuring the follow-up of desired repairs.

The perspective committee provides feedback once the BRI-Co is complete and is enriched with new resources encountered during the event—individuals who the process has managed to bring together. With this expanded committee, negotiations take place on how to leave a trace and continue the process. Taking action is crucial, even essential, if one wants to continue engaging with an audience accustomed to disappointment and failure.

The goal is not to perform a vague sociocultural neighborhood work but to envision the conditions for regular involvement of neglected populations.

The challenge that BRI-Co attempts to address is to meet tacit expectations through concrete, visible achievements that change or strengthen daily neighborhood life. Beyond physical and visible repairs, it is also about "narrating" the BRI-Co, providing methodological elements, paths, anecdotes, or approaches that can make sense for other local situations.

In this context, the results and methodologies of BRI-Co are tested to compare and reinforce the outcomes of each, both in a specific sense and more generally to set an example for other BRI-Co events to build. The production and dissemination of information are essential here. It goes without saying that, in this perspective, the lack or difficulty in achieving a result is also a result in that it teaches through trials and errors.

Extrapolation of the Bri-Co

While locally, the expanded committee takes care of the follow-up to the BRI-Co results, it's important to establish a coordination secretariat capable of remotely supporting the processes that have taken place, preparing for those to come, and maintaining a permanent connection.

Networking repair initiatives and the local groups supporting them is essential if one wants to create a genuine common citizen space. The potential network of common neighborhood spaces could then be a starting point for creating another country within the current one.

The secretariat simply has the technical role of staying informed about the progress of actions and achievements. It needs this information to disseminate it to other neighborhoods that have already opened BRI-Co or are about to do so. It makes sense in networking initiatives and practices and in the resources and skills it can offer.
Some completed BRI-Co events
BRI-Co at Namur (quartier Bomel)

The first part of our BRI-Co project, which focused on involving grassroots groups, local realities, and citizen collectives developed in Saint Gilles, unfortunately experienced delays in Namur. 

La MPEVH a participé à la première formation – test- des Bri-Co, organisée par  d’autres organisations telles le CESEP (Centre Socialiste d’Education permanente), la Fédération des Services Sociaux et l’AADTP (Acteurs et Actrices des Temps Présents)organisant la logistique et les permanences.

This initial training took place on August 29, 30, and 31 at the Namur Cultural Center after the internal reorganization of the Namur regional CESEP FSE.

Cela semblait pour la MPEVH une très bonne occasion pour connaître les Bri-Co, leur contexte, et pour connaitre les autres acteurs mobilisés sur ce projet en Wallonie et à Bruxelles.
Pour rappel, un BRI-Co territorial se mène principalement avec des publics invisibilisés,  dans des quartiers laissés-pour-compte.

 On the other hand, a thematic BRI-Co is carried out with groups of people who are not usually considered as resources for the research conducted. Specific methodologies and special attention are mobilized to establish relationships as horizontally as possible between all BRI-Co actors, to build trust, and allow audacity. Therefore, the reception, the decoration of the place, the offering of food (simple but well-presented), the contribution of an artist and an artistic creation, and the posture and savoir-faire of the BRI-Co facilitators are particularly important.

A BRI-Co is an experience to live, and the proposed training was designed as a pseudo-immersion in a BRI-Co, implementing as many characteristics of the BRI-Co itself as possible (organization and decoration of the place, reception, sharing of simple but well-presented food, aesthetic dimension, horizontal relationships between trainers and participants). This immersion also included a debriefing and analysis.

La formation BRI-Co test a été menée à bien les 29, 30 et 31 août, de 9.30 à 16.30 au Centre Culturel de Namur.
Les formateurs étaient Myriam Van der Brempt, Paul Hermant, Anissa Ayadi.

During the walk, Anne Fournier served as a guide in the neighborhood, familiarizing herself with the BRI-Co methodology and becoming a key player in the BRI-Co in Namur.

Après la formation Anne s’est mobilisée et a pris en charge l’organisation du BRI-CO.
Le 23 septembre nous avons organisée une marche avec les partenaires.
La nature de la rencontre du 23 septembre était une sorte de repérage pour trouver un local idéal pour le BRI-Co.

We believed it was important to compose the message together and think about the March flyers. The group that participated in the exploration of associations in the Bomel neighborhood and potential locations considered the possibility of having an informal meeting on October 13 with a meal prepared by Pietro at his campsite, located between Brussels and Namur, in Neerijse, in Flemish Brabant but close to the language border.

Cela nous a permis, à Anne et Pietro Emili de travailler sur le terrain. En collaboration avec nos partenaires namurois, nous avons contacté les associations suivantes, pour commencer à composer le premier comité de regard :
• RSUN – Relais Social Urbain Namurois (CPAS de Namur)
• Une main tendue ASBL
• Resto du Cœur ASBL
• Maison Médicale de Bomel
• Abri de Nuit de la Ville de Namur
• Réseau Wallon de Lutte contre la Pauvreté
• LST -Lutte Solidarité Travail (?)
• Mundo Namur (+ autre association hébergée)
• Abattoirs de Bomel
• + d’autres se qui se sont ajoutées par la suite
Nous avons envoyé une lettre aux associations pour les inviter à une réunion en leur signalant que le quartier de Bomel est un quartier mixte, tant du point de vue de ses habitants que de ceux qui le fréquentent, le traversent pour y travailler, profitent de ses lieux de culture, de formation, de commerces… Nous avions planifié de faire le BRI-Co les 3, 4, 5 et 6 avril dans le quartier de Bomel, à une adresse à déterminer. Le 15 mars nous avons convié les associations de ce quartier à une séance d’information apéritive au Plan B, aux Abattoirs de Bomel, à partir de 16 heures.

On March 15, 2019, there was a meeting for the BRI-Co in Bomel.

On March 15, 2019, there was a meeting for the BRI-Co in Bomel. We defined the neighborhood's perimeter, organized the distribution of tasks for distributing leaflets (2500 leaflets - about 2500 households in the neighborhood, including Germinal cité). The new leaflet was composed to be more impactful and clear, with less text, and the dates and location prominently displayed.

We selected four places that could potentially be suitable for BRI-Co. However, when we tried to book one of these places, we realized that none of them were available. But thanks to Anne, the BRI-Co's venue was found.

This allowed the BRI-Co to be set up on April 24, 25, and 26 at 35 Rue Adolphe Bastin. The perspective committee meeting was organized on Saturday, April 27 at 1 PM.

Le samedi 27, un nouveau comité de regard élargi a été convoqué.
Parmi les points négatifs du BRI-Co de Bomel, les membres de ce nouveau comité ont estimé que seulement 15-20 personnes sont passées, dont une partie est seulement venue en coup de vent. C’est trop peu au vu de l’investissement réalisé et le tract n’a pas bien fonctionné. Aucune personne âgée n’est venue.
Certes, rue Bastin pas n’est pas un endroit central, il y a donc moins de passage. La mise en place assez vite en raison du fait que les endroits choisis au début ne se sont pas révélé disponibles et un endroit alternatif a du être recherché à la hâte. La chance nous a souris avec le local qu’on a utilisé dans la rue Bastin.
Faudrait-il placer les futurs BRI-Co dans un lieu de lutte ? Cependant, il semble que s’il n’y a pas de mouvement citoyen, rien de précis ne se passe..
Les associations qui étaient dans le territoire de Bomel auraient pu relayer d’avantage l’initiative mais il fallait mieux le préciser et le demander.
Pour la suite, il faudrait prévoir une fiche récapitulative de ce qu’est le Brico et de qui fait quoi.
Après l’ analyse sur les points positifs et négatifs, le comité de regard élargi a pris connaissance de la liste des réparations proposées (lien vers ci-dessous===) par les citoyens du BRI-Co de Bomel :

  • Very difficult to transition from the neighborhood to the city, to Herbatte Boulevard, as the pedestrian bridge elevator has never worked, and the stairs are impractical; the station is closed, making it unclear how to cross in the evening, resulting in a very long detour.
  • Mobility on foot is very complicated, and the same goes for cyclists. There's a lot of dust, and it's very challenging to park your bike. Insecurity regarding traffic, no bike lanes, sidewalks not suitable for strollers, and the train station elevators are often out of order (a problem for strollers). There used to be a passage under the station, but it was closed by SNCB. Many students also have to cross.
  • The people feel good there but face too much precarity and unsanitary housing. More neighborhood meetings are requested, with many single mothers with children.
  •  Buildings with unoccupied floors: connect them and turn them into floors with housing
  • Proposing to owners to renovate precarious housing due to housing problems in Namur.
  • Too much coming and going in the neighborhood, insecurity, insufficient lighting, especially for women and girls.
  •  The neighborhood is too dirty with litter, cans, and dog feces. Suggestions include surface sorting bins like in Barcelona to address the issue of waste disposal for vulnerable and elderly individuals who may not be able to keep their waste at home.
  • Too many parked cars stored all day, haphazardly.
  •  Not enough local shops and short circuits.
  •  In the evening, women and girls fear the dark bottleneck at the bottom of the train station escalators, like after going to the cinema.
  • Night shelter next to Carrefour.
  • Drogue très présente ici, vendue ouvertement dans le quartier, centre d’approvisionnement pour la ville, dont autour des Abattoirs.
    – Petite cabane à côté des Abattoirs : demande à la Ville pour qu’elle soit rénovée, les Abattoirs l’ont fermée, projet avec l’ITN pour la réhabiliter.
  • There's a sense of fear but no real aggressions reported.
Human relationships
  • People fear drug presence in the parks, and there's a lack of mutual assistance. The Hplr app for the neighborhood is not widely adopted, being a technological application requiring a certain socio-economic level, with only 68 members.
  •  The Abattoirs site is considered intangible heritage in Bomel and needs further development and more resources, especially in terms of know-how.
  •  In Germinal and Bomel, the social cohesion service wanted to create a neighborhood social network, but the current status of the project is unknown.
  •  Les 3 Portes ont ouvert un potager collectif sur le dessus du quartier.
  •  The 3 Portes have opened a collective garden on the top of the neighborhood. The Abattoirs also have a project to create a collective garden in containers in the public space, connecting different audiences in the neighborhood.
  • Petit village où il a beaucoup de commérages.
    – Proposition : des balades guidées des plantes (Clarisse).
    – Aménagement des plantations des Abattoirs : associer les gens (mais ce sont des plantations de la Ville).
  • Demande de sports collectifs : foot, pétanque aux Abattoirs.
    – Eté à Bomel : goals de foot, pétanque disco, danseurs de hip-hop, cuisiniers, skate pour les gens pas inscrits aux stages mais qui peuvent venir dans l’espace public. Il faudrait du matériel fixe. Pour les faire connaître, flyers dans les boîtes-aux-lettres. Mais il faudrait des bénévoles.
  • Demande d’un atelier de cuisine du monde.
    – Pourquoi pas des panneaux extérieurs pour présenter le programme des Abattoirs ?
    – Pas de panneaux communaux « expression libre » sur le quartier.
    – 3 mosquées : les Albanais, les Turcs et les Marocains ne se parlent pas entre eux. Pas beaucoup d’intégration dans le quartier (plus d’intégration à l’école). Peu d’intégration des femmes aussi. Seulement un groupe dans la mosquée pour les femmes, tous les 15 jours. Un groupe de femmes aussi aux Abattoirs : l’atelier des voisines. Objectif : en matinée une fois par mois, avec une artiste qui anime, échange et mobilisation des femmes.
    – Comité de quartier de Bomel s’est beaucoup battu pour la réhabilitation des Abattoirs + comité de quartier de Germinal.
  •  The Bomel neighborhood committee has fought a lot for the rehabilitation of the Abattoirs, along with the Germinal neighborhood committee.
  •  Lacking trash bins in the streets.
  • People acknowledge that the cultural center brings incredible richness to the neighborhood. The demolished walls allow better visibility, attracting people, along with the amenities and the playground. It becomes a public square.

Le Comité de regard élargi a pris alors en considération les suites possibles.
– La possibilité d’organiser une réunion du comité de quartier et on fait intervenir la commune pour apporter des solutions.
– La mise en place d’un Assemblée citoyenne ou tirage au sort.
– Autre….
– Ce Comité de regard a enfin a proposé de convoquer une réunion conviviale ouverte à toutes les associations du comité de regard et à  tous les gens qui sont passés par le BRI-Co pendant l’un des 3 jours+ les associations du comité de regard aux Abattoirs. …..
Le processus continue …. si 6000 est le nombre d’habitants maximum à impliquer par « BRICo », le but est d’atteindre 800 quartiers pour couvrir le territoire de Wallonie et Bruxelles.