Community co-operatives at an all-time high in Flanders


Ecological think-tank Oikos has completed Flanders’ first ever study of community initiatives, finding that the number has increased significantly over the last eight years

Enhanced communications

Whether they’re united in an energy collective, a co-housing group or a pick-your-own farm, more and more people in Flanders are becoming involved in co-operatives.

Since 2008, the number of new initiatives launched by residents without any assistance from the government or other professional organisation has skyrocketed. While between 2000 and 2008, only four such civilian co-operatives were set up, 44 more joined their ranks by 2014.

The figures were released by the ecological think tank Oikos, which carried out the first study done on collectives, with help from Utrecht University. The researchers found roughly 10 economic sectors in which the collectives could be classified. Food, living space, energy, the sharing economy and sustainability were the most common.

According to Oikos co-ordinator Dirk Holemans, there are two explanations for the fundamental rise  in collectives. “There was the financial crisis, a psychological jolt that acted as a turbo,” he said. “It gave many people the feeling that they should take things into their own hands, because existing systems didn’t seem sustainable anymore.”

Also, he said, the gap between what people want to do and what they are capable of doing has decreased significantly, he said, with the advent of internet communications. “The costs for communication and organization have been reduced to almost zero.”

Photo: A co-housing project in Ghent