CEAL-program Bilbao – Portugalete



Portugalete is a city close to Bilbao with a population of 47 thousand of people. In recent years its old town has been degraded: it has lost a lot of activity and life. One example is its traditional market that closed some years ago.

In 2014 a social movement of neighbors started to manage the abandoned old market to transform it into a cultural and social center. This was the setting for the CEAL-pilot program, where the neighbors wanted to participate in this CEAL Network project to attract other people in the village to propel social projects for the community forward inside the market.

Every weekend there were already several activities taking place – cinema, lectures, games, workshops, etc. and everybody was welcome to propose activities for the market. The main intention was to encourage a broader group of citizens to participate and manage the spot.

The program brought together a large group of the community and supported by a group of students who hosted an Oasis Game, spread over 2 weekends. The group went out to interest people to come and join various gatherings to meet each other and think of new projects in empty booths still available in the market.

In the second weekend various of the initiatives were realized using local resources and the talents that were found in the community to execute them. The hands-on weekend resulted in some hands-on results as vertical gardens and the solidary fridge, but also activities such as a youth-disco, kids cinema and various activities promoting connection between people.

In the following period the groups came together every couple of weeks to work out other ideas that needed more time to develop and were taken on in the ‘challenge yourselves’ phase to develop into more embedded projects in the Portugalete market.

What stood out as most impactful outcome of this case was that the initiative for the first time after opening this marketplace was able to get a bigger variety of community-members to come in and participate who didn’t want to meet each other, nor collaborate. But now did.

Community partner – The community members of the Portugalete market which is a social and cultural self-managed by local community and neighbours.

Educactional partner – EDE Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes social development in Biscay through the training and support of individuals and organizations working in the field of social intervention. EDE Foundation has 50,000 direct users and 400 organizations using their services annually. Currently the foundation is made up of 419 individuals. There are a further 52 volunteers and 241 teaching collaborators.

Program Design
The pilot program in Portugalete had the key components of an intensive start with 2 long weekends of hosting the Oasis Game, followed by a phase where the community-members and participants were challenged to prepare and develop their projects for long-term continuation. During a period of 2 months the group had three gatherings;
– Activity 1: identify the learnings of the people involved and the changes in the community
– Activity 2: sharing new community dreams
– Activity 3: select and prioritize community dreams
A unique element to the program was the availability of a community-space as a container for collective projects.

Participants – 4 students, 15 youngsters from the community and 2 community             members.

– Vertical urban garden created
– Beautifying the market space by painting the main door, tables and chairs.
– Solidarity fridge project
– Kids cinema initiative
– Cultural activities developed: cooking workshop, recollecting historical
stories of the neighborhood with the old people
– Initiatives in collaboration with the shops of the old part of the town in order
to revitalize the neighborhood (for example, a Basque-Spanish dictionary
for the shops and bars)


Learning – “I always get surprised with the power that people have for transforming a community” – Gorka, student of a community building program from Bilbao.