Article by Josette Combes, Ripess Europe

The first national meeting of “Tiers Lieux” (1) took place in Metz, within the Tiers Lieu Bliiida, on 17, 18 and 19 October 2022. Three days of sharing, exchange, inspiration and debate that ended at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE). The objective was to take the time to get to know each other, to give birth to joint projects, to write together new courses of action to face the challenges of our society.

The meeting was attended by 800 people. Here is the synthetic presentation (copied from the web site )

The ephemeral tiers lieu space : The “Walking Ghost Hall” of Bliiida, emblematic room of 450 m², has been transformed into an agora of tiers lieux. It hosted spontaneous debates, facilitated meetings, guaranteed the free contribution of all and made it possible to collectively build the priorities of the coming years. All the productions and documentation resulting from the workshops, round tables and various collective times, were gathered and aggregated. It was the beating heart of the event, where our main collective moments were held!

12 Participatory round tables : In a world in transitions: why make tiers lieux.? How do I do this? Witnesses, practitioners and experts opened the debate on topics that cross the movement of ttiers lieux. and invited us to react to them. They discussed the transformations at work in tiers lieux., what they teach us and how they question existing frameworks.

41 Workshops : Time of collective work and sharing between peers, they were animated by the contributors who proposed their problems and their projects. The numerous contributions and the broad participation of tiers lieux. offer a wide range of formats and themes.

28 testimonials: Presentation of inspiring projects, significant achievements, partners from tiers lieux., media, original ideas…

9 Working Groups : Land ownership issues, legal issues, professional training, food democracy, e-working, tiers lieux. research, circular economy… The National Association of Tiers Lieux. took stock of the achievements and opened the working groups to contribution in order to collectively redefine the roadmaps for the coming years.

And many friendly activities : exhibitions, meeting residents of Bliiida, itinerant actors, projection booth, laughter yoga, Lorraine festival, open microphone, visits to tiers lieux around Metz, hacking workshops, “make your own educational material”…

I participated and I deliver here some comments inspired by these three days in immersion.

The organization was remarkable thanks to all the volunteers involved on the different posts and the space of Bliiida located in the former hangars of public transport in the Metz region, offering a wide range of places where the different activities could take place. Bliiida with 3 “i” for Inspiration, Innovation and Collective Intelligence! Thanks also to a substantial funding for evening meals abundantly provided, maintaining good mood and conviviality.

In his introduction, Patrick Levi Waitz, president of France Tiers Lieux (FTL), an association largely financed by the State, welcomed the vitality of the tiers lieux. movement, the first popular movement since that of the MJC (Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture, associations directed to young people) according to him. We had to remind that other movements have prepared for its advent, in particular that of the solidarity economy, which Marlène Schiappa would then highlight during the CESE meeting. (see video, in French) by evoking the common DNA. From 1800 before Covid, they are expected to be 3500 in 2023 (see the 2021 Report).

An IPCC researcher recalled the ecological issues. Most tiers lieux claim to be actors in the transition by creating solutions (resource centres, innovative materials, organic farming, public awareness, etc.). Crossing skills, crossing audiences, the singularity of each TL has been highlighted, even claimed, using the term “impossibility to enter the boxes”. This question was central when the possibility of labelling was debated, as well as the relationship to politics and the refusal of a hierarchical structuring that would impose a single model. Examples have been given of “fabriques de territoire” which are empty shells that have benefited from the windfall effect of labelling.

All tiers lieux are confronted with the question of land and building ownership, citizen real estate has been mentioned, as well as commercial leases of social utility. All social topics were the subject of workshops: questions of use, health, education, the right to experiment, horizontal governance, feminism, new forms of work (forms of cooperatives, securing the self-employed). A workshop was devoted to structuring the network through regional networks that are already established in 12 regions and are supported to pay a regional facilitator. The workshop was an opportunity to discuss the rhythms of meetings conducive to strengthening these regional antennas which are under the aegis of FTL. A workshop was led by a team of researchers who wanted to assess TLs’ sense of belonging to popular education (2) or SSE. For me this dichotomy did not make much sense but I followed the debates: Three key phrases emerged from the debates:

“The SSE was born from popular education organizations. In SSE organizations, Popular Education is continuously practiced. PE methods are used and practiced there.”
“The SSE responds to a need […] of economic coherence for the associations”
“In fact, we do popular education even without knowing it.”

A visit was proposed tto two tiers lieux located in the proximity to Nancy. One “the La Fabrique des Possibles” was born at the initiative of the Municipality of Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, the other in Maxéville “La piscine ” at the initiative of “Petits débrouillards” an association that promotes access to science for all, especially children. The first, with a central mission to fight against the digital divide and a fablab, meeting a difficulty in bringing the inhabitants of the popular suburb where it is located. The second develops deveral activities focused on welcoming people in difficulty and is experienced as a place of conviviality and access to knowledge. Tools and support are made available to allow the development of artisan vocations, especially with young people but also others.

In total many warm meetings but a fundamental question: how can the Movement for the Solidarity Economy position itself in the face of this wave orchestrated by institutional agencies.

(1) “A tiers-lieu or third place is a collective approach in service of the public good, part of a process of local cooperation starting from its conception. By their very nature, they are unique and cannot be replicated. They emerge from a group of stakeholders who together wish to create new economic or social dynamics in response to the challenges of their local area. It is by bringing inhabitants and future users of a place together, shaping the contours of its active community in doing so, that the activities in the place are defined and the project is adapted”. For more in depth analysis, see here.

(2) In France, Popular Education refers to a movement born in the 19th century and defined as a collective practice of emancipation and transformation of society through shared knowledge.

more information in French

Report 2021 figures, interviews, illustrations, iconography.

Video of the CESE meeting here.

More information on mobilab wiki.