Community Challenges

Do you wonder whether discussions on sustainability transitions include discussions on fairness? Can different communities and categories of people respond in the same way to what is required for sustainability transitions? For example, is public transport available for those living in less off areas? Who can afford to shop for quality nutritious food? What is meant by climate justice? Are marginalised people and those who are often ‘left behind’ included in discussions on sustainability transitions or represented in some way at the policy table? How can we measure how different communities' area affected in different ways by the enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies? Interested? Then join us in this postgraduate interdisciplinary summer school, where we will unpack equity and sustainability transitions.

With three workshops and various lectures from local and invited researchers we want to offer a space for scholars and students to exchange and create knowledge relating to the complex region of the Mediterranean. A special focus is set on migrant and diasporic communities and how here identity and memory constructions take place.

Do you think equal does not always mean equal? Or, to put it differently, that treating people the same can be a source of injustice? This is where the concept of equity comes in, meaning that people get what they need and deserve. Do you want to learn more about how to measure equity? Are you interested in different aspects of life where equality and equity – or the absence thereof – is often at stake? Think for example of cultural and other forms of diversity, of economic inequality or inequality in health. Interested? Then join us in this interdisciplinary course.


ENLIGHT challenge - how can cities develop sustainable eco-resilient housing?

These are challenges related to on campus sustainable housing (s) which aim to approach the question from both a multicultural and multiclimatic perspective, and to seek solutions for the major challenges of providing quality housing on campus.

The aim is to develop a living-lab on the issue of sustainable housing in order to question and experiment a the economic and social aspects of student housing. The focus will be on the creation, operation and collection of data on the issue of a sustainable habitat in our environment. The project brings together students, societal actors, local authorities and consumers in order to develop collective awareness and engagement around eco-resilient habitat. The lead researcher is Philippe Lagiere.

A wide set of societal and regional academy partners have expressed an interest in this student-led project:

  • Urban Forum, Nobatek project, INF4, Darwin (living space, urban agriculture and housing),
  • Social housing landlords
  • Social innovation Associations: Eturécup, AFEV (Kapseurs), Compagnons Batisseurs, BatiACTion
  • INRAE ​​ - wood industry sector, CRNS / I2M, Pôle PEP, wood cluster StartUps:
  • Bordeaux Métropole / CROUS / Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine,

Management of urban heat islands – role of micro forests in urban settings, education and understanding related to climate change and pollution, urban well-being.

This multidisciplinary experimental forest project, which is located on university ground which was formerly the Floirac Observatory. The project aims to monitor the responses of urban forests to climate change, as well as their impact on environmental health and well-being in the city, ecophysiology with prospects for land use planning. The research lead for this experimental forest project is Sylvain Delzon (Lab- UMR Bioegeco).

Objectives of the experimental forest

in situ monitoring of the experimental forest

analysis of biodiversity and ecosystem services

development in connection with the PPE pole of infrastructures for the forest

development for teaching and reception of schoolchildren and showcase and citizen science projects.

Partners: the local Regional academy group - Agir Ensemble – has engaged with the potential of this urban forest living-lab. A first working session planned at the end of May was unfortunately postponed to August due to extreme weather conditions. However partners have already proposed and are discussing projects based on the potential of this forest in the city. The emerging projects can be consulted here.

ENLIGHT the challenges that emerge include management of urban heat islands – monitoring (captors and sensors for this purpose), development of cool islands, impact study of micro forests.


The community foundation East Flanders supports various bottom up projects of social importance. We note that the majority of the projects applying for project support are driven by organisations and/or highly educated middle class citizens.

We would like to explore to what extent we as a community foundation can also support projects that are designed and driven by people from an intended target group. We think of projects driven by young people in challenging conditions, who are themselves taking initiatives to strengthen the resilience of themselves and their peers.


East Flanders is one of the 10 Belgian provinces with approximately 1.5 million inhabitants. It has Ghent as its provincial capital.
Recently, a community foundation was established for East Flanders. A community foundation brings people and resources together to support local projects. To raise funds, we mainly call on companies and individual donors. So it is about 'local philanthropy'. The scope of a community foundation goes beyond the financial support: we create a network of multiple stakeholders on a regional level: companies, project holders, sympathisers, municipalities etc. Various target groups and stakeholders come into contact with each other through the community foundation, which often leads to interesting collaborations resulting in new projects of social importance. Local fundraising also goes hand in hand with raising awareness and building support for the initiatives among the general public.

The ambition is to stimulate and support local projects in the entire province around the theme of “people and environment” (inclusion/welfare of vulnerable groups, social cohesion, biodiversity, sustainability, etc.).

The East Flanders Community Foundation is organised into five regions. One of these regions is Ghent, where we annually support 10 to 20 specific projects that strengthen the resilience of young people. Every year the community foundation organizes a call for projects. Citizens, actual associations and non-profit organisations can submit their project. We work with a matching fund principle: selected projects first do their own crowdfunding, under the guidance of the community foundation. Afterwards, the collected amount is doubled by the community foundation (up to a maximum of 5,000 euros). The doubling is made possible by our major donors, companies that participate as partners. The size of the financial support for a project is in the order of 10,000 euros.


Research question

The calls for projects often attract organisations or (highly) educated individuals, who are very motivated to improve the quality of life or future opportunities of certain target groups through their project. As community foundation, we find it very important to support such projects. We focus on organisations that do not receive structural subsidies: smaller or starting initiatives or projects that fall through the cracks and cannot be subsidised for a specific reason.

Many projects start from a specific question from a target group and take shape via a co-creative process in which the target group itself is involved. We try to focus on projects that involve target groups actively in the project process. Nevertheless, we note that the majority of the projects applying for project support are driven by organisations and/or highly educated middle class citizens.

We would like to explore to what extent we as a community foundation can also support projects that are designed and driven by people from an intended target group. We think of projects driven by young people in challenging conditions, who are themselves taking initiatives to strengthen the resilience of themselves and their peers.

We need to ask ourselves whether our current methodology, procedures and call criteria are adapted to this type of target groups and projects. And if not, we would like to investigate how we can adapt our procedures to also trigger projects driven by a target group:

  • How can we trigger young people to set up initiatives/projects that improve their situation and the situation of their peers?
  • How can we, as a community foundation, adapt our processes and criteria to these projects/project submitters?

The objective: Ghent climate-robust by 2030

Climate change makes Ghent vulnerable to more and more intense heat waves, more extreme showers and longer droughts. That is also felt today. We must prepare our city for these change: keep them pleasant, liveable, healthy and safe for our residents, institutions and businesses. We have set an ambitious goal from the City: by 2030 we want to be climate-robust. One of the objectives is to make the underground of Ghent work like a sponge. A rain shower that occurs once every 20 years may not cause damage to buildings, roads or other urban infrastructure in Ghent, now and in the future.

Water and greenery needs more space in the city

Source measures are the most effective and most beneficial in the long term to intervene proactive on the consequences of climate change. This means that we must limit paving to the functional minimum, provide space for greenery and retain rainwater on site in winter as much as possible. are asking for more space for water and greenery at plot level, street level and neighbourhood le These measures are very drastic in a city where the competition for space is very high and many different societal challenges have to be tackled simultaneously.

For example, we aim to pave the public domain by 15% less during the integral redevelopment. However, it is not easy for designers to balance the spatial questions linked to all kinds of societal challenges. We also set the bar high for new urban development projects. Keeping maximum precipitation in place requires at least 7% of the draining surface. Here too, this will require a creative design of the environment and the buildings in order to balance space for water and greenery.

Ghent is working on the implementation of the vision memorandum 'Water in the City', which was drawn up together with De Vlaamse Waterweg (a Flemish agency responsible for rivers and canals. A number of thematic projects from 'Water in the City' contribute to climate adaptation, such as drawing up an integrated plan for the public domain with a vision on the integration of green and water elements that contribute to the sponge effect of the city and the drawing up of a rainwater plan, with a clear, coherent and future-oriented vision on (rain)water in the city.

Ghent is also finalising a 'drought action plan' that will give guidance on how to act fast and effec1 in order to tackle drought issues related to climate change.

For a long time, the debate on the sustainability of European Union Free Trade Agreements concentrated on the stand-alone ‘trade and sustainability’ chapter of these agreements. The critique centred around the fact that while the wording in these chapters is commendable, the promises made by the contracting parties are not binding nor enforceable. This leads to the observations that these chapters solely pay lip service to sustainability issues, effectively ‘greenwashing’ or ‘fairwashing’ the agreement as a whole. More recently, this stand-alone approach to sustainability is being strengthened with propositions to include separate chapters on sustainable food.

In the meantime, the discourse of civil society is gradually shifting towards mainstreaming sustainability concerns throughout the agreement, i.e. not limiting these elements to a separate chapter. While the enforceability of the ‘trade and sustainability’ chapters remains a contentious and much-debated topic, questions arise on whether trade agreements as a whole need a rethink. In addition, reflective questions are posed as to what extend trade policy is a good instrument for furthering the sustainability agenda.

Questions in need of answers in this regard:

  • Where lie the sustainability ‘blind spots’ in trade agreements (ecological, social, gender…)?
  • How can these blind spots be addressed?
  • How best to make contracting parties accountable to their promises?
  • What are the biggest blockers to mainstream sustainability issues in trade agreements?
  • Will a more democratic process of negotiating trade agreements lead to more sustainable results?
  • How to reinvigorate, strengthen and empower the CSO dialogue platforms?
  • How do you assess the new generation of EU trade agreements?
  • Can the EU promote its vision on sustainable development through trade agreements?
  • Is the EU asking enough from its trading partners?
  • Is international trade a friend or enemy of sustainable development?

Today, education is often locked up in a building. This is strange because there is a lot to learn outside of those specially designed buildings. So let's reframe this and see what opportunities there are to learn in the city. Where did we learn as a child? By walking around, playing, just doing things, start a small business, make friends, argue, build camps, organize parties or sport competitions. Let's dream!

We have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofWe have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofculture, shops, sports, heritage, nature and all this in a very authentic setting.

On the other hand: the city as a powerful learning environment is not new. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children in order for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Even though we are tired of hearing this saying, the meaning behind it has never been so strong and so topical during de covid 19 epidemic. More than ever, we need each other to take care of children and youngsters. More than ever it is up to families, employers, childcare, schools, youthwork, sports, schools, communities to join forces, show understanding and support each other as one strong learning team.

The city as a powerful learning environment connects education with (voluntary) work or local business, with the neighborhood and with forms of research.

Some important findings from the speed you up project we did:

  • Connect with young people: what do they like, what gives them energy, what moves them? Intrinsic motivation is key because this leads to better chances of success. This links nicely to well-being because it is about success experience and internal motivation to learn and face challenges.
  • Participation of young people from the very beginning of the school career, of projects. They too have clear ideas, manners and are the future of our city.
  • Is a cooperation between different educational levels = bringing together different skills = equivalence
  • Is working in multidisciplinary teams of students, young people , teachers, researchers, local residents, professionals, local stakeholders
  • Contributes to solutions for needs and signals from a neighbourhood, a city.
  • Is related to competences, skills, talents of young people (broader than cognitive skills).
  • Opens the school gate to the neighbourhood and let the neighbourhood in the school (Community School, Broad Learning and Living Environment). Living labs, hubs etc.

From our experiences it often appears that teachers and pupils are enthusiastic about the projects which propagate the idea of a broad learning and living environment. What is often lacking are time and space to actually integrate these projects into the educational practice (another way of learning, learning by doing, start projects…)

Teachers and students and partners are often enthusiastic about the projects and see the added value, but:

  • To establish that principals, teachers, pupils are indeed convinced that a different way of learning and a different place of learning is highly necessary. This observation, this support, can be a clearer signal to the policy and hopefully give the time and space to effectively approach things differently.
  • This is about modular, more flexible, alternating individual and group learning with a coach. Certainly in Secondary Education, we must move towards more hybrid and modular forms of learning for young people, which would benefit from this better in terms of learning than now strictly linear and the same for everyone at the same time. We would like to link this to the digital and distance learning experiences during the covid 19 epidemic.
  • Working together, indeed, requires extra time to get to know each other, to make expectations and commitments clear. For example: social-artistic projects work with what they get from the children and young people in the classroom and therefore do not have a predetermined end goal. Teachers ask almost immediately what the result will be. It takes a lot of preparation to harmonise the two and to speak the same language.
  • We need an engaged policy, in which a more flexible approach can be taken to a timetable of lessons, in which work can be done more across subjects and school walls, in which there is also a clear link with the competences and skills to be acquired, in which teachers have less to deal with in terms of administrative tasks, ...

In this challenge you can start from two frameworks.

  1. The first: a school that wants to open the doors to the city: the students go to the city and the city enters the school. We call this a community school.
  2. A second is more radical and abandons the idea of a school as an exclusive learning place. Where in the city can you see learning opportunities? Can innovative ideas be conceived from this framework? What do you learn on the street? In the shop? From each other? From work? …

The expectations for students who take up this challenge are very diverse and open, so surprise us! Start from this challenge: how can we shape our city into a powerful learning environment? How can we create different strong teams throughout the city by optimally deploying the diversity and versatility of know-how and inspiring places and allowing them to interact with each other?

We look forward to the creative proposals that will arise from this. And don't forget Pippi Langkous said: “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”― Astrid Lindgren.

International human rights standards require states to guarantee women's access to quality care throughout pregnancy. Human rights mechanisms have also clarified that states must ensure adequate standards of care and respect for women's rights, dignity and autonomy during childbirth and in maternal health care settings.

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