The Early History of BelgEco version 21.09.21
17 April 2020: The idea of a GEN Belgium started as a joke from departing Managing Director of GEN Europe Genny Carraro during a job interview of GEN activist Robert Hall for Deputy Director of ECOLISE. At that time, Belgium was the only country in Western Europe without an organization connected to GEN Europe
2 May 2020: Robert exchanges emails with Monique Wijn, GEN NL who identifies among others ‘Samenhuizen’ and Habitat et Participation (HeP) as newly discovered Belgian partners for the WESEEN Erasmus+ application
3-5 May 2020: Robert writes to Samenhuizen and HeP about the idea of a GEN Belgium. Roland Kums responded positively for Samenhuizen on 4 May and Aline Celis responded positively from HeP to the idea.
6 May-30 May 2020: Robert engages Théo Ghnassia to create a website for the future GEN Belgium. Initial domain ideas are not available and the most simple terms which are common in Dutch, French and English are used to make a unique word and domain: belg + eco + net, BelgEco.net. Theo creates a logo of two geckos in Belgian national colours and a simple website on www.belgeco.net in four languages to be clear about the inclusive ambitions for the network.
18 May 2020: Robert arrives in Belgium from Sweden
5 June 2020: Robert makes an online presentation of the idea of a GEN Belgium to Aline Celis and Thierry de Bie of HeP and Sabrine Vanslembrouck of Samenhuizen.
During June and on into July a number of volunteers are identified to help with BelgEco’s start, particularly Sara Van Beckhoven and Clementine Olivier.
1 July 2020: The Board of Samenhuizen decides to support the creation of BelgEco and appoints chairman Luk Jonckheere to be the main contact for Samenhuizen.
3 July 2020: HeP General Assembly decides to support the creation of BelgEco, and Thierry De Bie is made the primary contact person for HeP.
Throughout August and September there are a series of work meetings and emails to hammer out the statues of a Belgian ASBL VZW. Clementine Olivier, BelgEco volunteer and Maxime Fabry, HeP’s legal council work out the details of the statutes.
30 September 2020: The first-ever physical meeting of some 10 persons is held at Samenhuizen’s offices. Thought to be the constituting meeting, details of the statutes and registration were discussed. About half of the participants are new volunteers. It is decided then that the interim council consists of Thierry, Luk and Robert.
1 October 2020: BelgEco, in collaboration with ECOLISE and the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, received a 3-month Erasmus+ intern, Lina Ristovska from North Macedonia. She, with Robert as supervisor and Clementine as social mentor, conducted a national inventory of eco-communities of Belgium. This work was crucial to identify communities and to open up a dialogue with them on a new national network.
During October-December the three in the interim council have meetings and email exchanges to get the documents in a good order for registration. Statutes were translated to be in Dutch, French and German. It was discovered that nowhere in Belgium an NGO can be registered in the 3 languages, thus Brussels was decided to be the seat where the NGO could be registered in two languages, with a legal name in three languages.
17 November the three council members met for a constituting meeting that was to be recognised as the legal starting point of BelgEco.
In early December the first submission to the Tribunal Court for Enterprise Registrations in Brussels was made.
The first submission was rejected for clerical errors and after 3 more submissions in Jan-March 2021, Samenhuizen’s Sabrine Vanslembrouck helped the Council to get the submissions in perfect order in april.
28 January 2021: BelgEco makes its first-ever public event, completely online with presentations from the three council members in Dutch, French and English. It was an opportunity to meet other enthusiasts for discussion and questions. There is a great interest with around 90 participants. While not perfect, it was a start of gathering Belgians in and interested in community to join in. This event started the collection of persons interested in the network.
6 February 2021: BelgEco joins the GEN Europe National Network meeting with Robert Hall and Lina Ristovska
20 April 2021: Le Réseau belge des éco-communautés – Belgisch netwerk van ecologische gemeenschappen – Belgische Öko-Gemeinschaften Netzwerk also known as BelgEco asbl/vzw was finally approved by the court, published in the official records and given a id number, 0766.903.873.
5 May 2021: Triodos Belgium, having received the Belgian registration number of BelgEco, opens the BelgEco account for transactions.
7 May 2021: BelgEco succeeds to get its Erasmus+ organisational ID: E10275313 and joins a number of Erasmus+ applications for training opportunities together with GEN members.
11 May 2021: The first transaction, a membership fee arrives in the BelgEco account.
July – August 2021: Preparations for a big summer meeting, that was planned for the middle of summer but pushed back until September. Some attempts were made to gain membership fees. Roland Kums becomes more active in BelgEco helping with fixing Google Forms. Sabrine becomes active in the planning of the September event in her eco-community, Het Abtshof.
29-30 August: Robert participates in the Samenhuizen study tour of communities of Wallonia with Luk, Sabrine and Roland, and Thierry De Bie meets up with the tour at one community.
1 September: The BelgEco Council plus Sabrine meet physically at the HeP office in Louvain La Neuve.
2 September Luk and Robert join the HeP General Assembly in Louvain La Neuve. Robert in addition visits the open house of Thierry’s eco-community Briktrie on 4 September, De Bereklauw eco-community of 5 September with Samenhuizen’s Trui Maes and received by Samenhuizen’s third employee, Isabelle Reynders and community founder Gosse Verlaers.
10-12 September 2021: BelgEco holds its first physical public event with more than 30 persons attending. Participatory processes are used to find common ground for a national network and identifying activists for roles in the network.
13 September 2021: BelgEco receives a generous private donation of 3000 Euros to help the start-up of the network.
21 September 2021: BelgEco is formally recognised as the Belgian branch of GEN Europe (Global Ecovillage Network).