The “Ambassadors of Recovery” network
City/Region : City of Lille , France

As a project at the crossroads of economic and ecological considerations, the “Ambassadors of Recovery” network was created by the end of 2018. It is born just after the organisation of a “gratiferia” (free second hand market) during a participatory weekend entitled “Recovery and circular economy”, which took place from 23 to 24 November 2018. At the heart of the reflection was the willing of the City of Lille to get all the inhabitants involved in environmental public policies.

Agendas addressed
Social inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy

Following the City of Lille’s decision to apply for the European Green Capital Award, the Municipal centre for social action (CCAS) has been approached in order to propose better integration of low-income people into sustainable development approaches. Indeed, more than a quarter of the population of Lille lives below the poverty line.

The Municipal centre for social action (CCAS) decided to highlight the often unknown expertise of these populations when we talk about sustainable development: re-employment and recovery. The main mission of the “Ambassadors of Recovery” is to pass on information on all that exists in Lille in terms of recycling and recovery, such as “repair cafés” and other associative initiatives.

In Action

During the year 2019, some workshops were organized by the City of Lille, bringing together three main themes:

1. Raise awareness of recycling and teach how to make targets from waste

The objective of these various workshops that took place between March and June 2019 was to raise awareness among the network members about selective sorting, waste recycling and new manufacturing techniques’ learning in order to design useful objects for daily life.

2. Increase the participation of low-income people in local cultural and artistic events

In June 2019, the “Ambassadors of Recovery” network participated in an event organized by a young association of Lille which wanted to organize cultural and artistic events with the least possible ecological impact as “eco-events”. In addition to diverse, rich and local programming, the ecological dimension is taken into account throughout the event, from organization to production. It is divided into three main objectives: to move towards «zero waste» (using compost as well as recovery and zero plastic recycling), energy consumption streamlined (using water for creating electricity) and responsible food (organic, local and seasonal).

3. Linking the interests of environmental protection with the protection of people’s health

A network known as the “Health Ambassadors” has been in place for several years in the City of Lille. With the creation of this second network, the City has the idea to facilitate exchanges between members of these two networks on an area called “The Concorde district”, which is concerned by relocation operations and on which joint actions could be carried out.

The rehabilitation project for this neighbourhood, which suffers from a high level of poverty, wants to become the local demonstrator for a “healthy neighbourhood”, trying to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants through air quality enhancement, renewable energies and urban agriculture developments.


Although the creation of this network is relatively young and the results will be measured over time, it is already possible to say that it produces positive effects. The latest example comes from a young network member in his early 50’s who has been unemployed for a long time and who found a job in May 2018. The latter himself expressed the fact that his role as an “Ambassador of Recovery” had given him the desire to have a more active role in society and the necessary confidence to apply to his job. This new posture he adopted through its participation as a member of the network, from a “claimant” position to an “actor” position, is a first step towards a better social inclusion.

These first results encourage the city of Lille to develop new projects for the coming months: develop some cupboards for donation of food and clothes in all the districts of the City, create an event on the theme of circular economy…

The initiative started in several areas of the city (Moulins, Fives, Faubourg de Béthune, Saint-Maurice Pellevoisin), but the goal for the end of the year is for the inhabitants of the other districts to integrate this network and becoming new ambassadors.


1. Economic impact

In economic terms, the long-term objective of this network is to integrate into the habits of vulnerable people good practices that have a direct impact on their own budget. The municipal services made the observation on preceding devices that for certain families practicing the circular economy and the positive energy, the savings realized could reach more than 100€ per year. This is a way for the city to work on financial and budgetary support for this public.

2. Social impact

The reuse of objects, furniture and supplies has long been in place among low-income populations. For economic reasons, of course, but also out of solidarity: the practice of giving among neighbours and the exchange allow this population to face every stage of life (school year for children, births, unemployment, incidents of life, retirements, etc.).

The objective of this project is to go beyond the logic of events and to give a lasting character to actions to raise awareness of recycling and recovery. Not only do these practices have a significant economic impact, but they also contribute to the social inclusion of people by allowing them to share their know-how and new knowledge around them. The City of Lille expects this initiative to have an impact on the daily life of the ambassadors in order to bring a surge of change in neighbourhood’s behaviour.

3. Environmental impact

If we can expect some social benefits of this project, it is harder to measure its environmental impact because for now the network does not count enough members to have a satisfactory effect on the volume of waste generated on the territory. However, as the network is growing, it would be interesting to measure the amount of waste saved by network members over a test year.

Challenges and lessons learned

If a major lesson could be raised from this modest initiative at first sight, it would be this one: it is not a waste of time to focus all the attention on a small group of people at the beginning. Attention would give them enough self-confidence to animate the network by themselves, so they will no longer need the assistance of the municipal services. This method gives more results than aiming from the start a large group of people whose half will give up halfway through the year.



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19



Legal Notice / Impressum


Data Protection Policy / Datenschutzerklärung