It was an inspiring morning on an early December day at Maastricht’s industrial-charm Eiffel-building. A spacious and pleasant environment, framed with an engaging meeting format, invited the participants to find collaborators, promote their initiatives or simply brainstorm ideas about community and cooperation in the Euregion Maas-Rhine.

On 6 December 2019, Studio Europa Maastricht gathered various local and regional players engaged in European and Euregional collaboration. Werkplaats Europa or Workplace Europe, as it was called, was to provide a genuine “work shop” – and turned out to be a Euregional network event par excellence!

The event’s open format was refreshing, as one was bound neither by deadlines nor a given programme structure. A key inspirational element: the agenda was set by the partners’ own ad hoc suggestions after the first playful round of kennismaking, getting to know each other.

Sharing ideas for Euregional cooperation

The biggest value of this gathering was the network aspect. Euregional cooperation can benefit from this kind of events because it allowes for quickly growing and sharing ideas and learning more about potential partners. To those like-minded organisations I could present what my organisation ITEM stands for and how it is working on the “European idea” and improving Euregional cohesion. Who knows what’s gonna come of it!

One link towards one of ITEM’s on-going projects could already be identified: The local initiative of starting a Euregional job conference (UM Team Student en stad, MATCH) easily coincides with the project’s dual aim of fostering a 360° cross-border labour market as a breeding ground for a Euregional welcome culture. As an (EU) INTERREG-funded project, youRegion is meant to make cross-border cooperation between various partners in the field of job placement and welcome services a daily and structural reality. Connecting with the euregional student communities, the region’s pool of young talent, would only be logical. The idea has already been planted and will be followed-up!

Cross-pollination in the Mheuse-Rhine Euregion

Based on the initial brainstorming of common plans and objectives, the discussions were organised into individual break-out sessions with participation by choice. A total of 22 (!) proposals were gathered. But then there were also the “butterflies” … and the “bumblebees” … They could chat away in one-on-ones along the side lines or cross-pollinate their opinions by hopping from session to session, from topic to topic. A downside (maybe from too much butterflying?) was that I did not manage to attend all the interesting sessions (e.g. Involve Liège) or join/lead the fruitful group discussions potentially desired based on personal interest.

This Workplace Europe gathering was to provide a working platform to learn from each other, share best practices, and find common solutions or collaboration partners to make Europe generally – and the Euregion Meuse-Rhine specifically – a better place. Participants ranged from formal organisations, like various UM departments, charities, NGOs, citizen movements to cross-border initiatives. The creative and engaging working method was “Open Space Technology” and was moderated by Melih Özkardes, programme maker at Studio Europa Maastricht. The registered organisations accordingly enjoyed a professional, comprehensive pre- and post-briefing with relevant documentation about the event – i.e. stimulating to find, interlink and stay in touch with each other -providing the optimal breeding ground for (new) constructive network relations and project collaborations.

Hopefully there will be a next time to grow those ideas further! Possibly in May 2020?

By Nina Büttgen
Post-doc Researcher @ ITEM
Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility ​