Les Halles Civiques is a third-place network that gathers organisations working on citizen empowerment, public innovation, and democratic progress. Its members are researchers, designers, social innovators, entrepreneurs, etc. It aims to contribute to a richer and more inventive democratic life at the local, national and international level, and strengthen democratic innovation. It is also a physical space where citizens, professionals and representatives can work, meet and discuss.
Les Halles Civiques is a result of a collaboration between two niche communities (public innovation community and the democratic innovation community) that decided to unite their forces to create spaces in Paris where citizens, professionals and representatives can meet and discuss the state of democracy. We created a network that won a call for projects launched by the city of Paris that provided us with one of the two spaces we are using for the next three years.
We wanted to ensure that there are physical spaces where citizens, representatives and professionals can meet. We also want to let citizens know what we work on by opening our doors on a regular basis. We also wanted to create a space where we can work at a low price and where other structures that work on democratic or public innovation can find a place to work with low rent and enjoy the emulation of a community working together. Finally, we rent our spaces at a low cost to other organisations that are working on a civic project and would like to organise meetings or events.
Organisations benefited from that innovation because they are able to work in a space that allows for exchanges among all organisations working on the topic, including very small organisations. The meetings enabled through this space even allowed for organisations to work together on specific projects.
We also share our work with citizens more broadly. In September 2018 for example, we organized a big festival (Festives Halles Civiques) where citizens were invited to discover our work in a fun way.
Our project is still very young but in the future we aim to be even more open to citizens with more events. We also want our professional community to grow allowing the Halles Civiques to play a role in national democratic issues.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
First, this is an original rapprochement between two communities that were not working together: the public innovation community and the democratic innovation community.
What makes this project innovative is precisely the will to form a community together. All the structures do not only agree to share a workplace, we all agree on values and on political statements.
Les Halles Civiques is the first and only third-place network in France dedicated to public innovation and democracy.
Collaborations & Partnerships
NGOs and companies that are members of Les Halles Civiques took part in the design process. Those organizations all work on public or democratic innovation. However, all those stakeholders were asked to agree on a deontology charter. We worked together on the leadership and economic model and on inner working.
The City of Paris provides one of our two places following the call for projects we won, but they did not take part in the design process.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
We had several targets as we were designing the project
- Our communities of organisations could find places to work
- NGOs, public services and small responsible companies could rent a space for meetings or events at a cheaper price than that of other Parisians spaces
- Special events are open to citizens, so that we can discuss about democracy and/or public services. Citizens are also always welcome to our offices if they want to discover what we do.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Today, our network gathers 35 organisations, including 25 organisations that work in our places. We also developed partnership with other public or democratic innovation structures, two universities (Centre Michel Serres and Paris-I Panthéon Sorbonne) and the national service for public transformation (DITP).
One of our places is in a popular neighbourhood (Belleville): we worked with NGOs in the neighbourhood to organise events with the youth of Belleville (“Belleville en vrai” festival, projection of football games during the World Cup). In Belleville, we also set up a festival for the citizen of the neighbourhood and for other Parisians to learn about what we work on, which was a great success (www.demainlaville.com/pirater-la-democratie-a-la-halle-civique-de-belleville/).
We now want to strengthen the links within our network by helping new innovative actors and also strengthen our links to the Belleville neighbourhood.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge during our first year was the administration of our NGO: because we did not have a person entirely dedicated to the Halles Civiques – everyone in the organisations had to give a little bit of their time to the network: we were often running out of time to take care of the Halles civiques as much as we wanted to. Gladly, we hired an office manager since February 2019 who is going to help us a lot, even though we really want everyone to be involved a little in the project.
Otherwise we had some struggles that are common to every young project: our business model is still a little fragile, but as our network grows so do our financial opportunities such as new partnerships. We still need to work on our leadership, but we are currently working together to solve these problems.
Conditions for Success
In our case, we would not exist if the city of Paris had not provided us one of our spaces – supporting infrastructures are very important to us. After a year of running this network on our own, we realise that we now need someone entirely focused on our project, even if we deeply believe in Les Halles Civiques – at first it was enough to work on the project on our own, but to bring the project to its second phase, support is needed.
We also think that the agreement from every stakeholder to our political statement and to some rules that should be applied in every community, for example our projects cannot compete with each other, is one of the key factors for the success of the project.
Our project is inspired by the Civic Hall in New York City, even though they were not involved in the design process.
It is a very young project but we are currently thinking about how we can be an inspiration for other third-places in France.
Don’t underestimate your needs for human ressources !
11 April 2018