We Are Molenbeek (WAM1080) was a Citizens' Panel on radicalization and community reconciliation. Discussions encompassed the causes of radicalization, preventative measures, and current and future approaches to integration.
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Problems and Purpose
We Are Molenbeek (WAM1080) was a Citizens' Panel on radicalization and community reconciliation in the Belgian municipality of Molenbeek. Specifically, participants discussed the issues of youth radicalization (causes and preventative measures) and integration (current approaches and future avenues). The outcomes of the event were intended to inform the Municipal Council on ways to encourage and sustain dialogue between residents.
Background History and Funding
The event was austensibly organized in response to Molenbeek's international reputation as a "haven for terrorists" after radical Islamists from the community carried out attacks in both Paris and Brussels.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The event was sponsored by the Municipality of Molenbeek and was organized by Particitiz (Participation et Citoyenneté - Participation and Citizenship - www.particitiz.org), a Belgian non-profit whose goal is to test and design alternative methods of democratic innovation and citizen participation. CEVIPOL, Le Centre d'étude de la vie politique (Center for the Study of Politics) at l'Université libre de Bruxelles (the Free University in Brussels) provided "scientific support" (l'appui scientifique) for the opinion collection and analysis of the deliberative poll.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
112 participants were randomly selected.
Methods and Tools Used
This event used the Citizens' Panel method which involves various tools of engagement including information and question and answer periods with experts, small group deliberation (such as thematic dialogue tables or future workshops) and plenary discussion.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Participants were divided roughly into groups of 7-8 and sat at separate tables each with a facilitator. There were two rounds of debate, one for each of the topics under discussion (radicalization and reconciliation). For the first debate, participants were divided based on demographic (to ensure diverse representation) and language (Dutch groups were given a translator and bilingual participants were sat together). For the second debate, participants were free to sit wherever they pleased as long as some level of diversity was maintained.
For the first debate, participants were asked to come up with proposed solutions to the the question "what can Molenbeek do to tackle youth radicalization?" 28 proposals were recorded which suggests each table was asked to provide two. Participants then voted on the top proposals.
The top three proposals were:
- Prevention: organize a similar public discussion and debate among Molenbeek's youth.
- Teach: replace the "ghetto schools" with culturally diverse, participatory, high-quality education with oversight from teachers and social workers trained in de-radicalization and youth development.
- Religion: restrict the number of Mosques to those with official recognition and ensure Friday sermons are delivered in French with Arabic summaries.
The second debate followed the same format as the first in answer to the question "what can Molenbeek do to assist reconciliation between communities?"
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
According to the official website of the event, "A total of 56 proposals were selected and submitted to the vote of all the citizens present. The proposals with the most votes were presented to the communal authorities at the end of the day. These proposals were forwarded to the College of Mayors and Aldermen and the Municipal Council, as well as to the Youth Council of Molenbeek, in order to continue this new form of dialogue between the commune and its citizens."
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Citizens' Reference Panel
"100 citoyens vont échanger à «We are Molenbeek»: «Les Molenbeekois n’ont pas eu le même temps de parole que les experts»," L'avenir, March 15, 2017, https://www.lavenir.net/cnt/dmf20170315_00974537/100-citoyens-vont-echan...
Lead image: Wam1080 - We are Molenbeek/Facebook https://goo.gl/PQfSqM