From chaos to Alliance of the Future

Disentangling the Oosterweel project

Context and question

Urban planning agency Lantis, previously known as Beheersmaatschappij Antwerpen Mobiel, is responsible for the funding, realisation, management and operation of transport infrastructure in the Antwerp region. It for instance oversees the infrastructure projects that are part of the Flemish government’s Masterplan 2020, which includes the Oosterweel link.

The idea of a third Scheldt crossing has been proposed in discussions around mobility in Antwerp for more than 20 years, but political and legal issues halted progress on the project for many years. In the meantime, citizen pressure groups like Ringland managed to get many Antwerp locals behind the idea of covering the Antwerp ring road. In 2016, it was still unclear whether such an initiative was compatible with the Oosterweel link plans. Callebaut Collective was brought on board to handle the strategic communication around the project, with the objective of defining the positioning of the Oosterweel link project against this complex background and presenting a fitting communication strategy and means to build the needed support among the different target audiences.

Approach

Together we drew up a working programme that divided the entire breadth of the issue into subprojects with their own individual timelines. From this trajectory, we distilled five strategic lines that shaped the positioning in response to the Oosterweel link. A sixth line that primarily focused on the reputation of the alliance was added after the Toekomstverbond (“Alliance of the Future”) of March 2017.

Communication action points were subsequently developed around each of these lines. This for instance included a collaboration with former journalist Marc Vandelooverbosch, who temporarily reinforced the communication team in charge of the Oosterweel project to assist with the strategy’s execution. Marc Vandelooverbosch for instance gave a number of workshops and assisted the management team with a number of public events.

Result

We managed to disentangle the Oosterweel project, which had been dragging on for years, and built the needed support among all the stakeholders, which included both the government actors and the pressure groups. This ultimately resulted in the establishment of a Toekomstverbond (Alliance of the Future) that united the government actors and citizens’ movements. In this way, a conflict model gave way to a model of collaboration, and significant progress was made.

People involved

Jan Callebaut (kernteam)
Jan Callebaut
Sarah Steenhaut (kernteam)
Sarah Steenhaut, Ph.D.
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