Spaces of Possibility Confex

Jun/07 09:00 - Jun/11 12:00
Monday, June 7, 2021 - 09:00 to Friday, June 11, 2021 - 12:00


Zoom links for joining the conference has been emailed to all registered participants. If you are having any issues accessing the conference environment, or you haven't received your link, please contact: [email protected].

Spaces of Possibility: communities and places in times of social and environmental uncertainty

‘Spaces of Possibility: communities and places in times of social and environmental uncertainty’ - An international confex (conference and exhibition) incorporating traditional paper sessions, storytelling, creative workshops, plenaries, a policy roundtable and an interactive public exhibition to take place on  7th - 11th June 2021 online and in the heart of Brussels at the premises of Parckfarm.

‘COVID-19 NOTE- In order to adhere to strict safety and health regulations we will hold the conference component online. The exhibition will still go ahead, as originally planned, at Parckfarm.’

Conference Booklet (PDF)



Systems & Structures

Individuals and community based organisations have often demonstrated that they have the capacity to generate transformational solutions from the bottom up. By supporting the local knowledge of inhabitants, they can find new ways of doing things and enabling socio-environmental transformation to take root in the neighbourhood. However, gaining the means and support to enact these solutions frequently requires engagement with larger systems and structures whether it’s gaining permission from the local municipality to convert a vacant plot into a community garden or gaining more access to resources.

Because these large scale systems which govern the flow of resources, can be slow to change, those attempting to bring new ways of working into their neighbourhoods are often confronted by them. Because our daily lives are governed by existing systems and structures, the adoption of transformative perspectives takes place incrementally. How can we negotiate with existing systems to access the resources needed to enact change? How far should we go in pairing back our transformative aspirations in order to do this?

Representation & Justice

For long, development has been guided by the idea that we can build a more egalitarian society through technological advancement. And, even though technology has allowed magnificent advancements, inequality has been deepened in the last century as never before in history. Nowadays, a minimal number of people accumulate vast fortunes, at the cost of increasing extreme poverty and environmental degradation. In that context, justice and representation become powerful tools to build the road towards socio- environmental equality.

Justice allows for people to recognise and understand the disparities among individuals and the different starting points of communities. It also highlights the need for including humans and non-humans in the quest for fairness. Representation asks specifically for the voices that are not being heard in decision making. Furthermore, it creates the need for different and inclusive narratives that challenge universal schemes of “one size fits all”, human or not.

Representation and justice are increasingly asked for achieving sustainable futures, however, there are difficulties. Some of the democratic systems that we have nowadays to implement justice and representation are not sufficient for the challenges that we face. Therefore in this section we set out to explore questions such as: does justice mean the same to everyone? Who is being left behind by the mechanisms we have now? How can inclusion of different voices contribute to justice? How do we increase the diversity of views drawn upon to shape decision-making and action?

Material Places and Embodied Practices

The discussions around equality, fairness, environment and society are placed in large and unfamiliar contexts. However, in our practice as social researchers we encounter daily the personal and small-scale routines of adaptation. This section aims to highlight the hidden jewels that can be found and the materiality of the struggles that exist among the communities we work with.

For many years, socio-environmental struggles around the world have been represented by arrays of images that showcase extreme events and remote locations, placing distant communities and flooded catastrophes in our imaginaries. But the spaces where daily life meets adaptation to socio-environmental uncertainty are far more familiar. Parks, streets, urban waterways, conservation areas, farms and many other everyday spaces alongside inform our approach, to make you reflect on the materiality of living in these times.

At last, we do not want to leave out the individual scale of this confex. Reflecting about our bodies allows us to think about the way consumption culture changes our actions, thoughts, diets, health, dress and routines. The imprints of living in these places and time are amongst the most tactile and personal ways in which we can find the spaces of possibilities around us. For this theme we want to discuss questions such as how socio-environmental transformation happens in the farm or park or How I use my body as a tool for change.

Sustainability research as co-creative practice

Enabling others, and ourselves, to become better at thinking differently about how to achieve environmental justice, rather than focusing alone on highlighting injustices, is arguably crucial to making a positive difference in the world. The starting point of this theme is the proposition that conceptualising sustainability research as being dependent upon ‘co-creative’ research practice has the potential to help stimulate and sustain, but also continuously hold to account, this much-needed process of transformation. Notably, the term co-creative is embedded here upon an understanding of both creativity and knowledge as being fundamentally distributed and relational.

But, what does it actually mean to think of research as a co-creative practice and of researchers as co-creative practitioners? How to nurture transdisciplinary forms of co-creative research practice and how to become skilled in co-creative research participation? And, why might attending to the (inherent) co-creativity of research practice matter? In seeking contributions that address these (and other related) questions, our aims are: to encourage reflection and debate on the co-presence of collaboration and creativity within research; to support researchers in peer-to-peer learning aimed at nurturing, but also managing and responding to the effects, and affects, of co-creativity within their research, and; to better understand the role and potential of such co-creative research practice in furthering transformative sustainability science research agendas.

Clearly, such aims are underpinned by a number of assumptions, including in particular, that creativity and collaboration do and ‘should’ go hand-in-hand in the design and practicing of sustainability science research. It is worth emphasizing, however, that despite such assumptions, what is sought through this theme is not (or at least, not only) an uncritical sharing of celebratory accounts. Rather, an intentional nurturing of co-creative methods and approaches can be argued to hold as much potential to be mutually rewarding for all involved, as to prove highly problematic. It is in recognition of this problematic that the need for extended critical reflection by a community of action-orientated researchers, and in turn the aims of this theme, were originally derived.


Parallel to the conference, an exhibition with the same themes will be organized.

The recent global events show the evidently urgent need for transforming our relationship as humanity with the environment that supports and enables our existence on this planet. Now or never, changes in the ways we live, interact, connect and think about the world including other humans and nature are needed.

The diverse places and communities, which we all are part of, are the platforms in which many of the transformative actions are being shaped and established. We inhabit places that are formed of interconnected webs of cultural practices, social networks, local ecosystems, values, beliefs, knowledges and historical pathways that have led to this current point. In these diverse and dynamic spaces, we see the growth of various seeds of ideas and initiatives that can help us to respond to the environmental uncertainty. They form spaces of possibility from where ways forward emerge through adaptation and transformations of our daily practices.

In this exhibition, we highlight communities across Europe, America and Asia and their unique challenges and efforts to realize more just and sustainable futures. Through stories and examples shared by fifteen early career researchers, we offer glimpses of both achievements and losses, and embrace what we have while underlining what is still needed. The content presented in this exhibition can only paint a fraction of the picture, the rest exists in the visitor. What is your history and future? What is your space of possibility? We invite you to share stories from your communities to discuss exchange and learn together. With your input, the exhibition will grow over four days into an arena of transformative tales from many particular places. 

The exhibition is organized under three main themes which all offer a lens to examine spaces of possibility. These themes are Systems & Structures, Representation & Justice, and Material Places & Embodied Practices.

Further information on the exhibition will be available soon.

Download the Exhibition Guide


The Conference will run from 7th June to 9th June 2021.

The Exhibition will run from 7th June to 11th June 2021.

The programme will include keynote presentations and parallel expert practitioner led creative methods workshops. Confirmation of the full programme and line up of speakers will be provided soon, including details of how to register for the conference creative methods workshops (for which spaces will be limited)

Full programme (PDF) Book of Abstracts

Registration and key dates

The RECOMS Confex is free of charge, however for the conference, registration will be needed. Please, note that we will have a maximum number of registrants and presenters will have priority. Your registration will be confirmed to you via a confirmation email (sent to the email address provided in your registration application).

  • Call for contributions submission deadline – 15th February
  • Draft program – 15th April
  • Full program – 21thMay
  • Participant registration deadline – 30th May (should a maximum number of registered participants be received prior to this date registration will be closed early)


Brussel - Herman Teirlinckgebouw


The online conference will be hosted at the VAC Herman Teirlinck building Avenue du Port 88, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium.

Brussel - Packfarm


The exhibition is hosted by Parckfarm that is located at Boulevard du Jubilé, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Brussels, Belgium.

Brussel - Parc Tour


The event will take place in Brussels, Belgium.

Key partners & Sponsors

The RECOMS Confex is organized by the RECOMS Consortium, ILVOCoventry UniversityBOKURachel Carson Centre - LMULUKERijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands and the University of Groningen, RECOMS Beneficiaries with the contribution of RECOMS partners, Bavarian Forest National ParkGreenCity ExperiencePeerGrouP and SharedAssets with the assistance of OMGEVING.




The Scientific Committee of the conference consists of:

  • Joost Dessein, Associate Professor, Ghent University
  • Jeroen De Waegemaeker, Scientist, ILVO
  • Alex Franklin, Associate Professor, Coventry University
  • Viola Hakkarainen, RECOMS Fellow, LUKE
  • Elke Rogge, Scientific Director of the Social Sciences Unit, ILVO 
  • Sara Smaal, RECOMS Fellow, ILVO
  • Katriina Soini, Senior Scientist, LUKE

Eu Flag

The event is financed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765389.


Registration and participation in the conference is free. Please note we are unable to provide any funding for the conference participants’ travel and boarding costs. Catering during the conference will be provided.

Covid-19 Note

The confex Spaces of Possibility aims to bring people together within a creative setting. Because of COVID-19 restrictions it has been necessary to move the conference component of the confex online. However, we will be working with a team of technical experts to ensure that the experience remains as creative, thought-provoking and interactive as possible. In parallel, the exhibition component of the confex will still go ahead in physical form. Further information on the program of the exhibition and its running in adherence with covid-19 regulations will be provided in May 2021.


Contact page

For any questions please contact the project management team here.