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Ghent: the first Belgian Inclusive City for people in recovery from addiction

Bijgewerkt op: 6 dec. 2022

The central objective of “Inclusive Cities” consists of two components:

  • Make recovery visible and celebrate it

  • Connect relevant actors (such as actors who provide supportive social networks, safe places to live, meaningful activities and roads to employment) to people in recovery from addiction

Based on the available research and expertise, the city of Ghent has included “Inclusive cities” in its drug policy plan (2020-2025). The city has identified the ambition to become an “Inclusive City” for people in recovery from addiction.

Following the Inclusive City-action plan (see upcoming blog post mid December 2023), we have first installed a Ghent Inclusive City Council. This core group is led by Filip De Sager (local drug coordinator), Diete Glas (City of Ghent) and prof. Charlotte Colman (Ghent University). This core group has drafted a tailor-made mission, vision and activities for Ghent as an Inclusive City. The Inclusive City Council works closely together with amongst others people from practice (prevention, treatment, welfare), private organisations, public organisations and people in recovery. Based on that mission and vision, activities are developed to make recovery visible in Ghent and to celebrate recovery.

On December 2, 2022 we organised our kick off event in Ghent. Below you could find some pictures of this event.

This event brought together a diverse audience of practitioners, policy makers, people in recovery and their family members. It focused on visibility, connectedness and sharing knowledge about recovery.

In the morning, the mayor of Ghent (Mathias De Clercq), Filip De Sager (local drug coordinator) and Charlotte Colman (Ghent University) informed the audience about the role of the community in recovery as well as the aspirations of Ghent to become an "Inclusive City". Afterwards, "Gantoise Plantrekkers" shared their experiences about their strengths-based community work and activating vulnerable people by bringing them together through sports and social activities. This was followed by a talk from Jobroad, a non-profit organisation that focuses on reintegration through work. We also showed inspirational inclusive activities from abroad such as the Recovery Games or a coffee roasting business led by people in recovery.

After lunch and an intimate music experience by KAAIMAN, we organised small discussion groups, during which organisations, professionals and people in recovery (Op Stap, Littekens & Jobroad, De Sleutel, Gespecialiseerd Team Bemiddeling, Averroes) discussed recovery.

Furthermore, we also created an "experience room", in order to indulge the audience in the world of people in recovery. In this experience room we shared pictures from the publication "Birds of a feather" (by Op Stap), from a participatory photovoice project with eight women in recovery (REC-PATH, Jessica De Maeyer and Tijs Vansteenberghe from EQUALITY-HOGENT) and from the photovoice part of a postdoctoral project on the role of the community in recovery (Colman, 2017-2020).

This project "Ghent as an inclusive city" aims to implement a sustainable future for people in recovery. This event was the kick-off of our 6-monthly activities that will be organised in the city of Ghent. During this first event we aimed to install a group of "Ghentian Friends of Recovery" who will help the Ghent Inclusive City Council to translate the ideas of an Inclusive City in Ghent into actions.

Our next event, in March 2023, will focus on access to employment, namely “Jobdating for people in recovery and employers”. After all, we know from research that employment is crucial to start and persist recovery, but unfortunately people in recovery and employers often do not know each other. Through a career dating event, we aim to match people in recovery and employers.

The last event of 2023 (December 2023), will focus on recovery through sports.

Dear reader, and our Ghentian Friends of Recovery in particular, we are looking forward to building this Inclusive City together!

(If you would like to become a "Ghentian Friend of Recovery"- please contact

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