Situated in the heart of Madrid’s La Latina district, El Campo de Cebada is a community-managed urban space. It is also a great working example of a for-benefit P2P association. Everybody is welcome to contribute and benefit from El Campo de Cebada, where neighbours invest their time and effort building and maintaining both the physical and intellectual structures that hold “ECDC” together.
They don’t do it purely for themselves either, as activities and facilities are shared free of charge with the larger commons of the surrounding space. This for-benefit dynamic works in a similar fashion to a gift economy: Commoners directly involved in ECDC work actively for the good of the community space, while neighbours and visitors benefit from the space and activities and are, in turn, encouraged to take an active role in ECDC’s management.
It’s also a great, scalable, prototype for a partner state institution and a lab for breaking the dysfunction between social and institutional power. This was the site of the only public swimming pool in Madrid’s center district. It was subsequently torn down, supposedly to be renovated soon thereafter. Months passed, post-demolition, when the City Council declared that there weren’t enough funds to rebuild it. Faced with an empty lot, the neighborhood association got together with local activists and proposed a model of self management to the (notoriously commons-unfriendly) City Council. A deal was struck where the community would be allowed to manage the space on their own. The City Council has merely allocated the grounds and mostly keeps out of the way, except for taking care of some minimal maintenance fees. ECDC is nowadays largely self-funded, although it was allocated 40.000€ from the City Council’s participatory budget to assist with start up costs.
Three years on, a lot has happened. Amongst other things, La Cebada was recently awarded Ars Electronica’s prestigious Golden Nica Award in the Digital Communities category.
As an active member of the community, I really enjoyed the video showcased below. It is a superbly shot but understated look at ECDC. Rather than focusing on some of the flashier events that have taken place, it simply shows what a typical day at La Cebada is like.