Picture from Alvaro

Key Facts

The idea

How to ensure better dialogue in urban transition neighbourhoods which face high levels of unemployment and socioeconomic difficulties? How to strengthen the community life and mutual understanding in multicultural settings?

The local context

Liège is a nodal city in Belgium: more than 180,000 inhabitants, in a conurbation of 600,000 persons. The community mediation is focused on 3 targeted neighbourhoods in urban renewal planning: Bressoux-bas/Droixhe ; Burenville ; Sainte-Walburge/ Sainte-Marguerite including their peripheral areas. These areas have their specific identities but share similar features from urban local analysis:

  • High population density especially in social housing
  • multicultural neighbourhoods (i.e. 270 different ethnies in Sainte-Walburge/ Sainte-Marguerite) where intercultural mutual misunderstanding may occur
  • Socioeconomic difficulties: high level of unemployment; local wealth cleavage within a common neighbourhood (i.e. working-class housing closed to individual intermediary housing estate in Sainte-Walburge / Rocourt).

Starting point

The present neighborhood mediation plan in Liege is inherent of all the dynamics of urban renewal dynamics (late 80’s) and social community work (70’s). Classical approach:

  • Macro-level (Plan design): Socio-economic analysis and data collection to coin targeted intervention areas and better articulate the local needs
  • Micro-level (Intervention plan): Mapping and personal contact of all providers of social services within one district by first-hand intervention pools. The interviewed neighborhood mediator stresses the importance of complementarity of action within existing organizations and a way to redirect quickly the needy person to the right actor.

How does it work?

3 types of entry points for local community mediation in urban renewal actions

  • specific mediation intervention requests:
    • indirect: formulated by local institutions: the Police; la Maison liégeoise- the social main housing service; local neighbourhood associations or public services (administration/ CPAS/ neighbourhood councils); mutual funds; home help services;
    • direct: formulated by individuals and families: local inhabitants or not.

NB: most requests come from the Police and la Maison Liégeoise

  • weekly dedicated meditation hours at the neighbourhood centre: open to anyone (resident or not in the neighbourhood); social listening; information and orientation service (working in complementarity with existing local associations providing a social listening service)
  • community projects: long-term support; familial and parental mediation/ debt management: bringing up support for parents and families to better endorse their daily life duties.

Neighbourhood mediation Process: 1/Reception and analysis of the mediation request (direct of indirect):

  • Informal request except for the Police and the Housing service (specific file)
  • Convocation of the individuals involved in the conflict to clarify the situation under 5 days (preferably by phone otherwise by mail).
  • No mediation in case of existing legal pursuit/ personal and physical abuse

2/ individual separate meeting of each party involved in the conflict (at the person’s place or in a neutral

  • Explaining the role of the mediator: a neutral agent working to help the emergence of dialogue between the parties and improve the community life. The mediator is neither from the Police nor from the Justice. Professional secret: only agreed information by one party can be transmitted to the other party.
  • Receiving the problematic case: the mediator listens to each version of the conflict (find similarities/ contradictions)
  • Getting into Historic record of the situation: type of existing relationship/ neighbourhood implantation/ actions implemented to solve the problem/ other people involved/ personal desires (…)
  • Setting the kind of mediation/2 types of mediation proposed:
    • direct mediation: organizing a meeting with both parties in a neutral setting; the mediator forms a buffer (moderating the exchange/ ensuring politeness rules and speech equal access)
    • indirect mediation: individual positioning; the mediator ensures the shuttle back and forth between the parties

NB. Usually the persons do not want to meet each other. It depends on the profile of the individuals, the type of conflict and the background of the situation. 3/ Second meeting (2weeks up to one month later): either direct or indirect mediation

  • Auto-Setting of the targets of the mediation for each person
  • Finding a common agreement point to reach for the mediation process

3/ Closing meeting According to the type of conflict, different other meetings can take place during the process. Usually the closing meeting happens less than a month after the first meeting and in a direct form confronting both parties. A closing evaluation file sums up the solved problems and achieved results (partial/global/ type of suggested orientation to another professional), the number of contacts and meetings, the start and end date ( between one and 6 months) NB. Many problems involve psychiatric or addiction problems. In this case, social or medical reorientation can follow the mediation (not during the process to keep the neutrality).

Usual encountered problems:

  • relation neighbourhood problems
  • sound (usually prevailing communication problems)
  • animals
  • environmental/plantation arguing
  • landlords and tenants
  • hygiene
  • parking
  • cultural/ intergenerational


Targeted individuals: all persons living in the neighbourhood

  • local inhabitants and their families; as there are many different ethnies, the mediator can ask for the presence of a relative for direct translation or can get help from a translation public tailored service (CEPI) ; or volunteer help from neighbourhood women.


  • local services providers (reporting bodies): the Police; la Maison liégeoise- the social main housing service; local neighbourhood associations or public services (administration/ CPAS/ neighbourhood councils); mutual funds; home help services

The service visibility has been strengthened through local communication tools: Flyers/ posters/information in the local magazine.

  • Federation of neighbourhood mediators (Fédération des médiateurs de quartier): exchange of good practices and

Project Governance:

  • Social and cultural coordination meeting every 2 months with public local services and associations/ the President of the neighbourhood Council
  • Prevention contract meeting: the Police/ la Maison Liégeoise/ the peacekeepers/ the Youth Service. This meeting seeks a participative and dynamic mapping of the neighbourhood.

Added value of the project and making resources available

  • improved intergenerational and mutual understanding: avoid legal pursuit
  • pacification of community life and enhanced dialogue
  • easy access and neutrality
  • better articulation with existing social providers


  • individual case to case problems: accept “mediation failure”: the ability of individuals to open up their minds influence the general process. The mediator is a key person to find a way to support free dialogue for the individual (different interview techniques: open questioning/ paradoxal injonctions/ reformulating/ getting the individual back to his/her problems.)
  • confusion for the inhabitants with the different neighborhood local service providers: the urban renewal local service mixes the sport local and federal agents, the mediator in administrative sanctioning, street workers. There are all employed by the city of Liege but from different services.
  • too many mediation requests and less time devoted to long time support projects by the mediators.

Future perspective

  • ongoing debate with the social housing provider to involve the tenants’ unions in the prevention plans meetings.

Other valuable projects


  • VoisinMalin (Ile de France): VoisinMalin provides local neighborhood service providers (local authorities/ public interest companies or social housing companies) with services from « Voisins » local « resourceful inhabitants » who are employed and trained to facilitate the link between their ursers: pedagogic door-to-door, oral translation, support to inhabitants in their processes. This social enterprise provides a new interface for inhabitants and value usually marginalized persons.
  • Night mediation project (Toulouse): Different social housing operators have launched a common action where mediators go to social housing blocks between 8PM and midnight to meet young people and redirect them to a specific leisure room
  • Chez nous (Auvergne): Cooperative for the creation, development and distribution of neighborhood services especially around concierge service.
  • La veilleuse (Lille/ Saint-Etienne): Concept of an autonomous information and mediating center opened to the inhabitants to think about the future of their area and launch new projecs.


Sources and Links