History of the community centers: the 90s to 2014


Cooperation between the non-profit Social-Cultural Council and Trefcentrum was far from smooth. The grass roots called for an intervention. In 1991, the government forced all the non-profit organisations to merge into one non-profit organisation – the Community Centre.

The APSKW then became the umbrella organisation for the 22 community centres, under the new name City and Culture. A wide-ranging debate followed on the missions and areas of activity of the community centres.


In 1999, the VGC established a Community Centres Service. It forms part of the General Directorate of Culture, and is responsible for:

  • administrative and technical support to the centres
  • functional support for the staff
  • metropolitan frameworks
  • programme development

The City and Culture umbrella organisation became a source of support for volunteers at the centres.


In 2001, a Flemish decree was introduced to stimulate a high-quality, integral local cultural policy. The cards for Brussels were reshuffled.

The Social-Cultural Councils – and later the community centres – had been in charge of Dutch-speaking culture since their inception. They assumed that role on behalf of or alongside the municipality. The new decree gave the municipalities of Brussels a leading role in a new approach: a local cultural policy. They received a cultural policy coordinator and additional operating resources.

But there was a catch: the Social-Cultural Councils had to work with the community centres and, where possible, the Dutch-language library (still to be established in many municipalities) to come up with a single cultural policy plan.

The VGC encouraged community centres to participate in this new programme. Curious about the results? Read the reflection on 15 years of local cultural policy (2002-2017).

In April 2003, a new VGC Regulation was adopted on the recognition of community councils (a broad local consultation platform) and the non-profit community centres:

  • The community council was also allowed to advise the municipal Cultural Service.
  • The responsibility for managing and administering the community centres was transferred to the users.
  • Each non-profit community centre concluded a covenant with the VGC.


In 2005, the community centres were examined by means of a public survey and an audit – valuable tools for assessing the functioning of the centres.

Some of the conclusions:

  • There was a clear shift from supporting the Dutch-speaking community towards more general neighbourhood work. The local aspect prevailed over the Dutch-language aspect. The centres had to step up their efforts to ensure that they operated in a way that was geared towards the local community. This meant: starting from the needs, wishes and potential of the local environment, based on an analysis of that environment.
  • The organisational structure needed reforming, to become in line with more modern administrative quality standards, the expectations of new audiences and the new needs and roles of the community centres. This meant that business processes could become more centralised, allowing the centres to focus more on local activities and services.

The centres took on a greater role as an urban driving force for local policy. Volunteers were given a more prominent status. The centres became better structured and more professional. Their activities focused on cultural activities as well as on community building:

  • communication, reception and service provision
  • cultural participation, entertainment and dissemination
  • education and continuous training

The staff at the Community Centres Service took on a management and coordination role in these areas, in collaboration with the employees at the centres. All 22 centres had the same mission and vision, but in practice they were very different. They focused on the needs, wishes and potential of their local area.


The very first policy plan for the Brussels Cultural Centre (2003-2005) was followed by plans for 2006-2010 and 2011-2015. The community centres increasingly started to work with the municipal Dutch-language libraries and the municipal services for Dutch-language culture. They created and implemented the local cultural policy plans, in most municipalities under the guidance of a cultural policy coordinator.

In October 2012, a new VGC Regulation was adopted on the Brussels community centres. This regulation incorporated considerations, ideas and reforms that had come to light since the previous regulation of 2003. They reaffirmed the role of the centres as socio-cultural organisations in which cooperation and community building play an important role.

The overall objective of ‘community building’ is at the heart of three areas of activity:

  • communication, reception and service provision
  • cultural participation, entertainment and dissemination
  • education and continuous training

Read more about the period from 2015 to the present day (coming soon)

Go back to the 70s and 80s