Sustainable Neighbourhoods Programme

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The Sustainable neighbourhoods programme is a project which supports neighbourhoods in Brussels in their efforts to become more sustainable, more livable and collective. While each neighbourhood initiative develops its own dynamics, the sustainable neighbourhoods programme helps to interconnect all initiatives and enhance their collective impact [1].


The scheme of the sustainable neighbourhoods programme was developed in 2008 by Brussels Environment with the aim to strengthen local solutions against global environemtal issues. The project is based on the idea that solutions for environmental issues include changes in the social structures of local neighbourhoods. Those include a greater sense of community and solidarity while collectively changing how food is produced, mobility patterns are transformed, public spaces of collaboration are revived etc. [1] Today it involves 30 neighbourhoods and is partly run by ECOLISE member 21 Solutions [2].


The sustainable neighborhoods programme creates networks of collaboration between different actors, built around the neighbourhood initiatives. That includes the mobilization of inhabitants of the neighbourhoods and the invovement of local partners, such as schools, district governments, schools, cultural centers and others. Key ways to achieve their vision are creating a common framework, professional support for the projects and participative funding.

Creating a common framework

A big strength of the sustainable neighbourhoods programme is to enable each neighbourhood initiative to create their own dynamics while still maintaining a common framework. To achieve that key phases for projects were defined which are mobilizing, reviewing what is already there, developing projects of collective interest and evaluating. Each project is managed by a core group (or groupe pilote), who sets their vision and pace to walk through the phases [1].

Professional support

Each neighbourhood, which participates in the sustainable neighbourhoods programme, is supported by a professional coach, who is expert in sustainable development and commmunity participation. The relation between the coach and the neighbourhood lasts at least 18 month. During that time the active neighbourhood inhabitants receive support with the definition of a collective vision and the implementation of concrete activities [2]. By advising and stimulating the project the coach transfers useful knowledge, which will be used to continue the project after the period of support [1].

Participative funding

Neighborhood actors can apply for funding and support for their projects once a year. Projects that are supported are e.g. neighbourhood composts, repair cafés or vegetable gardens. The funding of the projects is decided by the Brussels' citizens themselves in a process called Participative budgeting [2]. Every year the budgeting processes are revised by an assembly of interested citizens to adapt the process to the needs of the programme's participants. The assembly defines criteria for the selection of new projects, based on which the the council of sustainable neighbourhoods will distribute the funding. This procedure makes the distribution of funding democratic, transparent and able to adapt to changing needs [3].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Bruxelles environnement, 2019, Appel à Projets Quartiers Durables, accessed 09.10.2019, <>.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 21solution, n.d., support for sustainable neighborhoods for citizens, accessed 09.10.2019, <>.
  3. Inspirons le quartier, n.d., Le budget participatif, accessed 09.10.2019,>.