Press release EU project RECOMS employs unusual science communication: Resilience is subject of research art in Brussels park

01/06/2021
gallery with art on walls and people inside

From June 7 to 11, 2021 in Brussels, 15 international doctoral students will use original methods to tell what they have achieved in the socio-ecological study areas of Green Space, Water in Urbanized Areas, Climate Change, Just Food Strategies, Environmental Injustice and Soft Mobility. All these themes are contained in the RECOMS project, a prestigious European Marie Sklodowska Curie training network. Partners from six European countries, including the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO), provide intensive training for 15 doctoral students from abroad on aspects of community strengthening and resilience. The project will be festively concluded with a so-called ConfEx (an interactive conference and an art exhibition in an appropriate outdoor setting).

ILVO supervises 2 RECOMS doctorates: on fair food strategies and on the cultural value of urban green spaces.

Two of the 15 PhD students ( (called "fellows" within this network) have been hosted and supervised by ILVO. Twice, the research has also led to the development of practically useful tools that have attracted the interest of Flemish policy organizations.

Researcher Sara Smaal (Netherlands) has developed a tool that can provide municipalities with useful data for a (local) debate on socially just food strategies. "Cities and municipalities still often seem to consider the drafting of a food strategy as the end point of a trajectory. A food strategy can actually also be a starting point of participation, open conversation and engagement."
The tool developed works as a kind of compass for local governments to take into account different aspects of social justice in both the development and implementation of a food strategy.

Researcher Nohemi Ramirez Aranda (Mexico) developed an app at ILVO that allows citizens to assess the cultural value of green open space. Quantifying ecosystem services in terms of their ecological and economic value is very technical, but those same green spaces often also have a cultural value, which is a lot harder to calculate. "Via a smart app I let citizens designate and evaluate their own favorite areas in their own city. In this way, cities and towns still obtain a way of mapping that cultural value."

ILVO is delighted with the societal impact of the RECOMS PhDs that originated in Flanders. International exchange is a central feature in a Marie Curie network. None of the fellows goes to work in their own country. The goal is precisely that they can take their international experience and apply it in their country.

Jeroen De Waegemaeker (ILVO, promoter of doctoral student Nohemi Ramirez Aranda): "That also applies to the two very practice-oriented tools that have been developed here in a Flemish context: Cities and municipalities are showing a lot of interest in both tools. The efficiency and impact of the RECOMS program increases even more when the fellows also start valorizing their approach and knowledge in their own country."

Abstract goals of RECOMS - 'resilience' and 'resourcefulness' - concretized in a CONFEX

Throughout their doctoral work and training, the 15 fellows of RECOMS were challenged to use visual and creative research methods and techniques in order to increase social engagement, knowledge transfer, and research impact around the theoretical concepts of resilience and resourcefulness.

After this training program, RECOMS hopes to deliver 15 young professionals with expertise in addressing socio-ecological challenges. "They will be armed to work with local communities to address major challenges of the 21st century and support them in their transition to a more sustainable future."

In this case, the ConfEx consists of a digital (due to covid), interactive CONFERENCE as wel as a physically accessible EXposition. The exhibition is installed in the Parckfarm, the base of operations of a local non-profit organization active in and around the Brussels park Turn and Taxi.

The RECOMS closing conference is moving away from the traditional approach. "We don't just offer scientific contributions. We tell inspiring stories, there are creative workshops, we bring policy makers together, there is debate."

Practical: Everyone welcome to the exhibition 'Spaces of Possibility' in Parckfarm

Jeroen De Waegemaker (ILVO): "This is how the RECOMS consortium enters into dialogue with the local community. The Parckfarm is a social and ecological non-profit organization that aims to reclaim public green space for its residents. It's a place that illustrates in practice how to tie community building and resilience together."

In the exhibition, the doctoral students have created 10 art objects in collaboration with the office of the Environment.

The research art is on display free of charge from Monday, June 7 (1 p.m.) to Friday, June 11 (7 p.m.) at Brussels Parckfarm, Avenue du Cinquantenaire, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean

This project was funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Program for Research and Innovation under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 765389.

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Jeroen De Waegemaeker

ILVO researcher

Greet Riebbels

ILVO Communication