I arrived in Barcelona on March 10 in order to study on behalf of the P2P Foundation* one of the most interesting cooperative projects in recent years in Europe: the Cooperativa Integral Catalana (CIC), the Catalan network of collaborative and self-managed projects animated by the principles of the integral revolution. I spent the next three days at procomuns (the epicentre of which was the development of public policies for the commons), which was attended by several friends and colleagues from the P2P Foundation, such as Vasilis Niaros and Stacco Troncoso, and then I moved to AureaSocial, which is the “headquarters” of the CIC in the city, a 1400m2 building at the heart of touristic Barcelona, about 100 metres away from Gaudí’s famous Sagrada Familia.

The reception dimly illuminated, a few minutes before closing down for the night

The reception dimly illuminated, a few minutes before closing down for the night

Through these reports, I will try to document some of the projects and infrastructures developed by the CIC in Catalonia.

AureaSocial’s entrance

AureaSocial’s entrance

AureaSocial is an open space for health, education and self-management. It operates as a co-op since 2010 and is one of the so-called “autonomous projects of collective initiative” of the CIC, which was launched with the aim of exemplifying CIC’s post-capitalist vision and the principles of the integral revolution. Actually, the story of the building is quite interesting: the building belongs to a company which resorted to leasing it to the CIC (in exchange for a symbolic rent) when it went bankrupt six years ago, thereby obstructing the legal process of seizure and foreclosure by the bank. This is, in short, the “strategy” that allows the CIC to appropriate this space and use it for a multitude of activities: such as for many of the meetings and assemblies of the CIC committees; for public talks, seminars, conferences and films; for yoga and kung-fu; for psychological support sessions and physiotherapy; and for all sorts of workshops (anything from workshops about how to improve one’s humour to vegan cooking)[1]. The space also hosts the office of the committee of economic management of the CIC, a free public library, a gift shop for clothes and the central warehouse of the CAC in the city, which operates as a collection point and distribution depot for a wide spectrum of products – from bread and beer to shampoo and toothpaste – ordered by members of CIC’s network in Catalonia (and which, of course, are supplied by other members of the network).

At the terrace of AureaSocial

At the terrace of AureaSocial

AureaSocial is paradigmatic of the self-employment model evolved by the CIC. Most of the rooms on the 1st floor are used as coop-working spaces during the day (from 10.00 to 20.00): they are rented by freelancers such as psychologists and physiotherapists, who, as self-employed members of the cooperative (the so-called “auto-ocupados”), use them for their professional activities. The building constitutes thus a critical organizational infrastructure for the CIC and at the same time a space hosting the entrepreneurial activities (which are unrelated to CIC’s internal organization) of members of CIC’s cooperative network. Renting out the rooms in this way generates a monthly income of about two thousand so-called “monetary units”, which means that auto-ocupados can pay for their rent either in euros or ecos, using the distributed social currency used by the CIC and by several eco-networks in Catalonia. This income is then used by the committee of economic management to cover various needs of the cooperative, such as the provision of the basic income [2] received by committee members or the payment of utility bills for Aurea Social. To ensure that nobody is excluded from making use of the coop-working spaces, an alternative way by which auto-ocupados can pay for their rent is by contributing through their labour: for example, by working at the reception or helping to clean up the building.

I hope the above notes give you an idea of what an interesting place AureaSocial must be! In my next post, I’ll write about another very interesting autonomous project of collective initiative, MaCUS.


Notes

[1] Here’s the calendar of public activities at AureaSocial: https://teamup.com/ks2721d89e700255bc

[2] The amount of basic income received by committee members is not the same for everyone, but is determined in agreement between each member and the committee of economic management. In short, the committee asks each member the amount that he or she needs. However, no member receives more than 765 euros and 135 ecos per month.

 *We are grateful for the support of the Robin Hood Cooperative, which has provided funding for this study.

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