The Power of the Municipal: Lessons in transforming democracy from the grassroots

The Power of the Municipal: Lessons in transforming democracy from the grassroots

microphone in front of crowd
Key Info: 
  • Hot on the heels of events in New York, Warsaw and Brussels and ahead of the English publication of the Fearless Cities guide by Verso in summer 2019 learn from those on the frontline of transforming local power around the world.
  • Contributors from Barcelona en Comu one of the best-known and most advanced new municipal movements will share tools, approaches and techniques in person and by Skype.

With Laura Roth, Frances Northrop, Kali Akuno ( via Videolink), Debbie Bookchin ( via Videolink), Jenny Gellatly and Ruth Potts

£ 795.00
Course fees include a four-night stay in private accommodation with shared bathroom and all vegetarian meals.
Fee also includes any field trips, materials as well as all teaching sessions. The programme will run from Monday to Friday afternoon. If you would like to take this course as a non-residential participant, please call us on Tel: +44 (0) 1803 847237.

Learn from the citizens movements building the future

“Politics, almost by definition is the active engagement of free citizens in the handling of their municipal affairs and in their defence of its freedom” - Murray Bookchin

‘Municipalism is a politics of everyday life concerned with the issues that immediately affect citizens, including education, policing, jobs, culture and services. Municipalism is a political approach to community.’ - Margaret Kohn

Spain’s administrative elections in May 2015 marked the start of a new municipalist era with independent mayors elected in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Saragoza and La Coruna. Their election marked a significant shift in the political landscape. Most notable has been the global scope and range of these new municipal movements as well as the vibrant, creative and transformative ways they operate - not only campaigning for power but creatively transforming it once in office. From Argentina to Athens, New York to Warsaw, Taiwan to Sicily, new municipal movements are changing the way politics is done at the local level.

They were not organised by leaders or a central committee, nor fuelled by theoretical texts or a prefigured programme; the new municipal citizens’ movements were a response to the failure of national political parties or street-based organising to deliver transformative change. At the same time, the continued erosion of basic living standards and increasing inequality driven by the myth that there is ‘no alternative’ has increased awareness that revolutionary change extends beyond ‘economics’ to every aspect of our lives. This is a chance to meet, and learn from, the people delivering transformative change around the world.

Course structure and content

Working with expert facilitators we will explore the theory, tools and techniques used by citizens around the world to respond to the challenges of austerity, inequality and climate change by co-creating stronger and more engaged communities and economies. The course will combine the theory and practice of the new municipal movement with workshops and short group projects based on real-life challenges:

Introducing the New Municipalism - A New Global Movement for Community Transformation: We will explore key lessons from new municipal experiments around the world including exclusive material from Barcelona en Comu’s collaborative book published by Verso in summer 2019.

The Feminisation of Politics - Creating Collaborative Cultures: Together we will experiment with tools and techniques for the creation of cultures that transform politics from the twentieth century basis of competition to the collaborative approaches beginning to emerge and flourish in the twenty-first century.

Governing through Participation - Politics of the everyday: Twenty first century politics is transforming, not taking, power. We will explore the approaches and structures that are enabling communities to shape and transform where they live from participatory budgeting to neighbourhood assemblies we will look at these approaches in theory and practice.

Re-municipalisation - Taking essential services back into local control: Around the world key public services from electricity to water and transport services are being brought back into public ownership– using a range of case studies we will explore how local people are taking control of essential services.

This course will give you theory, tools and techniques to work with others to make change happen where you are, whether you are:

  • A progressive working in a local authority or town council looking for new ideas and approaches
  • A local organiser working for change looking for new ways of engaging with power
  • A public policy professional looking for innovative new models of delivery
  • A recently elected, or longstanding, local authority Councillor
  • A campaigner for taking essential services back into public ownership
  • Someone who is passionate about community transformation

*The Booking Deadline gives us an accurate idea of course participant numbers at approximately 6 weeks before the course is due to run, at which point we confirm the course, add additional time for people to book on or cancel the course. We encourage people to register early for courses as places are limited.

With Laura Roth, Frances Northrop, Kali Akuno ( via Videolink), Debbie Bookchin ( via Videolink), Jenny Gellatly and Ruth Potts
Laura Roth

Laura Roth

Laura Roth is the coordinator of the Participation Committee and a member of the International Group of Barcelona en Comú, where she helps to build an international municipalist network. Laura also works at the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (supported by the United Cities and Local Governments network and Barcelona City Council), and as a professor at Pompeu Fabra University where she focuses on the connections between democracy and the law. She also coordinates the Facilitation Group at FundAction, a new participatory fund making grants for social transformation.

Frances Northrop

Frances Northrop

Frances Northrop is Principal Director, New Economic Practice, at the New Economics Foundation. She a community-led economic development specialist with practical and strategic expertise in community organising, the co-production of health and social care, the establishment of community and social enterprises, relationship building across local government and asset transfer and management. She is also a Director of Totnes Community Development Society (an IPS ben com) which exists to hold land and buildings in community ownership for activities which meet the needs of residents.

Kali Akuno

Kali Akuno (by Skype)

Kali Akuno is a co-founder and director of Cooperation Jackson. Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples' Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California. Kali is also the co-editor of, "Jackson Rising: the Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, MS.

Debbie Bookchin

Debbie Bookchin (by Skype)

Debbie Bookchin is an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The New York Times, HarperCollins Best Science Writing, and numerous other publications. Her investigation into contaminated polio vaccine and FDA's close ties to pharmaceutical companies resulted in her acclaimed book The Virus and The Vaccine, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004). She served as Press Secretary to U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders between 1991 and 1994 and is the co-editor of The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy, a collection of essays by her father, Murray Bookchin.

Jenny Gellatly

Jenny Gellatly

Jenny works as a facilitator, collaborator, coordinator, and change maker with a range of organisations including Encounters Arts, Transition Town Totnes and Change in Practice which she co-founded with Frances Northrop and Ruth Potts. Jenny has worked in education and community based approaches to change for the past fifteen years, both in the UK and Spain. She worked as the Regional Coordinator for the Mapping Local Food Webs Project, a participatory research project investigating local food systems in the UK, before studying horticulture and co-founding School Farm Community Supported Agriculture, where she spent six years as a Director and Education and Outreach Manager.  More recently Jenny worked with activist collective, La Transicionera, in Seville and trained as a facilitator with the Institute of Facilitation and Change in Spain.  Since returning to the UK she has worked as an Associate with Encounters Arts, managing, designing and delivering the ‘What Does Good Look Like’ creative consultation project to co-design a Residents Rights Charter with people living in residential care. Jenny is motivated by a desire and a belief in our ability to come together to re-design social, political and economic systems, locally and globally, in which we and all life can thrive.

Ruth Potts

Ruth Potts

Ruth is a Senior Lecturer in Ecological Design Thinking at Schumacher College, co-editor of Red Pepper Magazine, a co-founder of bread, print & roses a collective engaged in anarchist baking, seditious pamphleteering and radical walks and a co-founder of Change in Practice. She was initiator of (with Gareth Evans) and Artistic Advisor to, Utopia 2016 at Somerset House; a year of events, activity and exhibitions exploring the importance of utopia in the twenty-first century at Somerset House, the Courtauld Gallery and King’s College London, and including collaborations with the British Library, LSE Literary Festival and Verso books. Previously, Ruth was Campaign Organiser for the Great Transition at the New Economics Foundation where she co-developed a new model of campaign designed to kick-start the decade -long transition to a new economy and society. She is the co-author of The New Materialism, covered by the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times, and a co-author of NEF’s Clone Town Britain reports.

If you would like to book onto one of our short courses, you will need to create an account. This is a simple process of choosing a username, email address and password. Once you have created an account you will receive a verification email. Please click on the verification link within to have full access to the site and to make your booking. (You may need to  check your spam folder if you do not see this email.)  We will email you confirmation of your payment and any further communication about your course application.

A place can not be guaranteed unless we receive your deposit or payment on your chosen course. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please do this before making your course application.

Short Course Bursaries create an opportunity for an individual to experience the powerful transformative learning by joining a course that assists the participant to inspire their wider community and benefits from the participant’s own unique contribution. It is our hope that our bursaries support a wide cross section of participation on our short course programme. The number of bursaries available is limited, competition is strong and funding is not always available for every short course. Please be aware that most bursaries are in the region of 10% – 20% of the course fee so please be prepared to raise funding from other sources.  A bursary award is not intended to cover travel or incidental expenses.

Applications are viewed on a case-by-case basis and we are unable to enter into discussions on any decisions. We generally have many more applications for bursaries than we have funding available. We can only offer one bursary per person per year and priority is given to those who have not attended the college or received a bursary before. To help us support as many people as possible, please only apply if you would be unable to attend the course without a bursary.

How to apply for a bursary

Six weeks before the course is due to start all bursary applications will be considered and responded to.  If successful you will be required to accept our Bursary Terms and Conditions.

Please answer the following:

  1. What does a bursary mean to you?
  2. How will your attendance on this course benefit the wider community?
  3. If your financial situation justifies you applying for a bursary, how much are you able to contribute towards attending this course?

Please be prepared to supply an appropriate reference in support of your application.