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Here I am; excited to take up the challenge at Open Knowledge Belgium

- October 31, 2016 in employee, Featured, General, open knowledge belgium

Yihaa, I’m very happy to have recently joined Open Knowledge Belgium as its new project coordinator. Being the successor of driving force Pieter-Jan won’t be an easy job, but I am looking forward to working together with the Open Knowledge community and its partners on bringing Open Knowledge and Open Data in Belgium, as part of the international movement, to new heights.

As Pieter-Jan and I aren’t identical twin brothers, some things are going to slightly change as a result of my appointment. Hence, a quick update with my intentions as well some expected changes in the coming months.

My belief: Open Knowledge and Open Data for a better and more sustainable future

With previous experiences in data modelling, civic engagement and crowdsourcing, I have developed a keen interest in open innovation and the power of many intrinsically motivated individuals contributing to projects with social and societal impact, serving the interests of the many rather than the happy few. However I do have plenty of room to learn, especially on the more technical side (currently taking a MOOC on Linked Data Engineering), I’m more than ready to take up the challenge and start working on projects, which are often, at the crossroads of public interest and private initiative.

My curious mind, some may even call it childish curiosity, makes me interested in many different things, but my main interest goes nowadays to ways open knowledge and open data can contribute to smart mobility solutions; more specifically, urban cycling; as part of the strong tendency towards more liveable cities. In the last few months I have been on a bike tour through Northern and Eastern Europe and had the opportunity to meet civic innovators working on, mostly community-driven, solutions to tackle local challenges. As I’m inspired by this rise of urban cycling movements all over the world and bike data projects like the one in the city of Riga, I’d like to further explore bike data and ultimately provide cities with smart cycling insights on safety, infrastructure and accessibility.

I have made a non-exhaustive list of existing initiatives to encourage urban cycling; please feel free to add other initiatives you know.

Another aspiration of mine is to help build, in preferably multiple Belgian cities, a civic hacking culture. A logical first step would be to gather passionate urban innovators (all backgrounds welcome) and work on a regular basis together on open source civic tech projects, get feedback from tech and government experts and learn about civic innovation and related concepts like open data, smart cities and open government.

The biweekly OK Labs in Stuttgart and weekly civic hack nights in San Francisco might be good starting points; let me know if you know other examples.

Other project coordinator, same open events

To put things clearly: all support to all Belgian Open Knowledge working groups as well as both events Open Belgium and open Summer of code can go on without any interruption.

In fact, even more correctly, we are even more ambitious than ever before and aim at gathering 300 attendees at our yearly community-driven Open Belgium conference, on the 6th of March 2017 in Brussels, in order to discuss open knowledge and open data efforts in Belgium. Last week we launched our open call for speakers — all proposals are welcome.

Office in Brussels

As it’s Open Knowledge Belgium’s clear objective to unify efforts all over the country, we will move our office from Ghent to Brussels. Don’t get me wrong: Ghent is and will always be an important place for our community, but we hope to expand our community and create new opportunities by moving to the center of the country. Hence, we’re currently looking for a new office space in Brussels, preferably near a railway station to make it as easy as possible for our community to gather. If you have any suggestions in mind, let us know.

Belgium as part of the international movement

Open Knowledge Belgium is, as a local chapter part of Open Knowledge International, part of a global movement to create open knowledge. Therefore, I also consider it as one of my priorities to connect with other country representatives, learn from their best practices and failures and let them hear about what we’re doing.

And yes, we can still learn from other countries: although Belgium has been moving up the ladder in the last few years, it was ranked at #35 in the 2015 Open Data Index with a score of 43% (39% the previous year) and considered as a follower by the European Data Portal.

Let me hear from you

As project & community coordinator, I’m there to assist the Belgian Open Knowledge community and its different working groups and partners. If you have any questions, proposals or whatever you want to talk about, please get in touch with me via or ping me on Twitter @DVRansbeeck or @OpenKnowledgeBE.

Please mark Friday the 25th of November in your agenda. Then we’ll have a farewell drink for Pieter-Jan as our fulltime community coordinator and a welcome drink for me as the new one. A perfect opportunity to get to know each other — see you there? And, oh yeah, drinks are on us! Simply register via

Here I am; excited to take up the challenge at Open Knowledge Belgium

- October 31, 2016 in employee, Featured, General, open knowledge belgium

A new challenge for me is a new opportunity for Open Knowledge Belgium

- September 28, 2016 in employee, Featured, open knowledge belgium

I remember it like yesterday, sitting in a bar to discuss joining Open Knowledge Belgium as a fulltime employee. I was a fresh off the boat social-media manager who believed in doing good through online community management. At the time I had no idea what Open Data was except for the Wikipedia short description, but I was sure it was something I could put my shoulders behind. Two and a half years later I now feel I’m ready to pass the torch. I’m preparing for a new challenge, which in response is a new opportunity for Open Knowledge Belgium. Finding someone equally or more enthused to take Open Knowledge Belgium to the next level.

Let’s start the bragging part about my time at Open Knowledge Belgium.

Almost three years later I’ve organised 3 conferences, bringing together 537 people(1), hosted 3 open Summer of code editions and hiring 68 students, co-organised 3 Apps for Ghent editions bringing in ±250 hackers. I was an expert judge at least 8 hackathons, attended more than 15 as a coach. We co-created with other non-profits in making an interactive datawisdom tool ‘Datawijs’ for Flemish young people, making an Open Source Crowdsourcing tool ‘W4P’ for social and open innovation projects and contributed to projects such as SoloMIDEM and Apps for Europe. Combine that with smaller projects and experiments and you can understand why we need a new talent to take over. Our organisation is bad at not doing stuff. Data Days Ghent

And now let me brag about what I didn’t do.

Our five working groups all have their own theme, approach and volunteers. Just last weekend, OpenStreetMap Belgium organised State of the Map in Brussels, a three days festival with 450 visitors and 20+ volunteers limiting the chaos to a healthy level. I did nothing, except helping out as a volunteer myself. And only then my main task was to be amazed about their commitment and end result. I’ve been to Belgian Missing maps Mapathons, Opencon’s, iRail meetups and DataTank launches where I had no part in except cheering on. SOTM Volunteers Picture of the amazing SOTM Volunteers,CC-BY Tatiana Van Campenhout

So small organisation on paper, big on impact?

Exactly. It is a one employee organisation, but with a small army of contributors.

So what will be the challenges for this new talent?

Our current focus is on dissemination, online communication and event management. Not only because the organisation requires these skills, but because those are the things I’m actually good at. That does mean that we try to see how different profiles could contribute to different actionables in the organisation. If you happen to be a more technical profile who is also willing to partake in the projects I just bragged about, then sure, you could be perfect for the job. The employee is not just a executing force, but someone who helps shape our mission and its outcomes.

What is the state of OK-BE with you leaving?

Honestly, it has never been better. We have our own office, in which we can still be flexible, a decent daily management which mainly consists of board members who also want to help out in operational stuff, a big European project right at our doorstep, the growing Open Belgium community and happy #oSoc partners, coaches and students. Our financing is stable (I know we should open that up as an example) and we’re gaining more recurring partners and traction. Could our organisation be more professional? Sure, everyone involved is committed to the cause and are not professional non-profit managers, but we’re making great progress every day.

If everything is going so well, then where are you going PJ?

Not going too far, I’m going to work for Digipolis Gent to help them make a sustainable smart and open city of my hometown Ghent. So I’ll still be around within the field of work. And besides that I’m sticking around as an active member of the organisation. Because I too still believe Open knowledge Belgium has a lot of potential.

Have an insider insight PJ? How was working at Open Knowledge Belgium?

This has been and still is an amazing experience. Not because of the projects, the data, the cutting edge field(s) of work, the status… What truly is amazing about the organisation are the people. I’m not going to name people out of fear of forgetting some but if you see how dedicated people in our organisation are, you are in a daily awe. From the board, to contributors, to volunteers, to interns, to summer job students, to oSoc coaches, to … I’ve never before felt like I’m surrounded by so many talented people as I did when working for Open Knowledge Belgium. oSoc15 student shot #oSoc15 Students kicking-ass CC-BY-SA OK-BE It is what inspires me of using my techno optimism to build a better world. An open world where knowledge is open, usable, used and useful.

A new challenge for me is a new opportunity for Open Knowledge Belgium

- September 28, 2016 in employee, Featured, open knowledge belgium

Community coordinator at OKFN Belgium

- December 10, 2013 in employee, General

Pieter-Jan PauwelsLet me introduce myself. I’m Pieter-Jan and from now on I’m the new community coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation Belgium. I’ll be lead on projects such as Data Days, open Summer of code, Apps for Europe, SoLoMIDEM, The Datatank and many other projects. Above all that I’ll be assisting all the volunteers in making OKFN a known organisation within the field and making open data used and useful.     What does that mean for us? Well, starting today you can contact me concerning questions about OKFN Belgium or open data in general. Volunteers and active members can ask for my help with their current projects and challenges. And if you’re new to open data I can help you as well. Do you have loads of data that needs to be open, but isn’t? Are you looking for a strategic and executive partner for managing open data? Then you’ve found your guy. What do I have to offer?  In a previous life I was a social media manager in the famous social media agency Talking Heads. That’s were I learned to love thinking about how you can put something in the market in a sustainable and structural way. I’ve worked for non-profit organisations, big commercial companies, business to business companies, you name it. Besides that I studied ‘new media & society’ at the university of Ghent where innovation research was at the core of the program. With this background I hope to contribute to the mission of OKFN. You can contact me through numerous social media channels. Always happy to meet new open data enthousiasts. You can contact me through: Twitter Facebook Email: Skype: pieterjanpauwels Google Talk: