In Brussels the word BROL is understood by mostly everyone a bit familiar with its inhabitants, but for you and you or you that might not be familiar with it, “brol” is a commonly used Belgicism for designing a rather messy situation.

Nevertheless, at the ULB and the VUB, this multifaced metaphor ( inspires a fast growing and intensely interactive community of researchers motivated by participatory action / transdisciplinary / cocreated research initiatives and very conscient of the need to bridge the gap between academia and civil society.

BROL-aficionados in fact are everything but messy, they are urban engaged citizens with expertise and a lot of experience willing to connect, re-signify and re-invent what is commonly accepted as science and research process and contribute to increase Brussels understanding and systemic sustainability through the creation of an innovative THIRD SPACE on the future U-Square-site in Bruxelles.

After having done a lot of meaningful consultations and project development the last two years, today, Friday 18th of December 2020, BROL was officially launched. The endeavour is to collectively re-signify and structure why, what for and how come so many people support this project in the first place.

The Brussels Research Open Lab is not a conventional place, rather the opposite. The project initiators define BROL as an open, inclusive and disruptive THIRD SPACE, an in-between place where diverse stakeholders (citizens, collectives, associations, policy makers, artists, students, researchers) can meet and collaborate around local so-called “wicked problems” through social innovation.

About a 100 persons (40% of which being from neither universities nor hautes-ecoles) from very different backgrounds joined the virtual launch meeting of BROL and engaged in co-shaping its’ contours. What resources could we mutualize to get it started? What issues should we tackle first? Who needs to be involved? Most of the participants were already quite familiar with the participatory engagement strategies proposed to work together, new members adapted to the dynamics with a lot of flexibility. We used a shared digital wall (MURAL) to structure our propositions in several breakout rooms and reported with diligence and ability what we’ve collectivised. It was a warm, friendly and rich exchange adding value to what collective intelligence is all about.

Reading the following key points emerging from our discussion will surely motivate you to reflect on your activities and practices too. What would you do if you had a THIRD SPACE and OPEN LAB for SCIENCE?

  • a meeting place to connect local actors, young people, general public, artistic and cultural sector, university/society interface, guaranteeing accessibility to underrepresented groups, recognizing the plurality of knowledge, allowing to create methods and tools to articulate different modes of knowledge creation, transfer and valorization.
  • a place of reference: workspaces, support and expertise, transformative practices, a place helping to overcome obstacles (financial, legal, administrative, …), documentation on projects in progress / project that were successful or allow us to learn from mistakes, events, …
  • a toolbox: for participatory action research, transdisciplinary research and learning, digital co-creation, transcultural and transgenerational pedagogies, …
  • a supporting atmosphere: helpful for demystifying science, restoring public confidence in the scientific fabric and working against ‘blind intelligence’, further fragmentation of knowledge.


  • networks and contacts: academics, students, associations, institutions, citizens, policy makers, the general public, … both local as well as international
  • communication tools and events: helping with outreach and dissemination, …
  • expertise: experience in co-creation, participatory research, transdisciplinary education, community engaged practices, …


  • governance, funding and other constraints
  • identify actions that will allow to gather larger support for BROL
  • explore methods that help keep balance between creativity and the scientific rigour/ethos
  • topics such as social inequalities, cultural diversity, transdisciplinarity, the post-pandemic city, sustainability, democratic participation, how to shape more inclusive and humane cities.


Of course, this is only a non-exhaustive summary of potentialities expressed, but one should never underestimate the power of people trying to change the world…

The Brussels Research Open Lab might NOT YET have a physical base-camp to host its activities, but the project is alive, inclusive, united and creative. The launch meeting showed that there’s definitely enough ingredients to keep our hopes and motivations high for pushing BROL to the next level.

If you want to keep informed, please contact our team at (ULB counterpart) and (VUB counterpart).

Special Thanks to all participants for their inspirational input and uplifting feedback: quelle chouette BROL, ce bazar…