European Commons Assembly Madrid: The Workshops

The European Commons Assembly (ECA) is a network of grassroots initiatives promoting commons management practices at the European level. The last stop for the network was at Medialab Prado, Madrid. These activities were part of the Festival Transeuropa program, a large meeting of political, social and environmental alternatives.

Overview of Thematic Working Groups

Participatory Tools for Democracy

Commons and democracy are intimately linked. This workshop addresses civic participation and ways to foster citizens’ involvement in the production of their cities through engagement with public bodies and direct forms of political action.

Lately, technology and digital tools are integral to these initiatives to enhance democratic processes. This workshop will consider this dynamic and look at the co-production of public policies and projects through digital platforms.

Participants are interested in analyzing changes produced by these new collaborative processes. They have experience in the production of tools and resources such as online maps, collective storytelling, repositories of experiences, and initiatives designed to support political decentralization and co-production, with and without support from political institutions. This work also includes the development of charters, contracts and structures between different urban actors involved in urban commons.around civic causes in this domain, and participate in telecommunications technological projects.

Currencies and financing of commons

This theme promotes currency and finance as fundamental to the commons and solidarity economy. How are alternative currencies and digital tools and platforms at work, and what are the infrastructures and material environments that support communing and collective responsibility in this sphere? The workshop will examine how we can multiply or upscale some of the initiatives, methods, frameworks, and formats that have already been explored locally.

Participants have expressed interest in strengthening networks and collaborative projects, developing tools to develop an economy based on the commons, as well as strategies and methodologies on P2P mechanisms of value assessment and exchange. They have experience in time-banking and various cooperatives, have developed crypto-currencies and mobilized economic resources and human partnerships; contribute to community building, disseminate and create awareness and commitment around civic causes in this domain, and participate in telecommunications technological projects.

Data commons and the collaborative city

This workshop brings together the topics of control of (civic) data and the collaborative economic models that depend on online platforms. There is increasing interest in exploring alternatives that respect data and promote its civic control, taking into account possibilities for different modes of production & collection of this data. In what way can we facilitate data management and control in line with the social common good?

The workshop will take into account how regulations and policies on open source and open data, on the one hand, and those on technology and decentralized infrastructure, on the other, can play a role in facilitating data sovereignty and new forms of local cooperativism.

Moving away from large corporation and capital-led city development, we have to rethink the Smart City model and imagine data commons that socialise the value of data. How do initiatives like guifinet and Fairbnb fit in?  The starting point for the workshop will be recent experiences in Barcelona and Amsterdam.

Embodied productions of commoning: Food, Health, and Leisure

This workshop takes a holistic view of health creation to include also food production and distribution as well as sport and leisure activities. It will address the different determinants of our physical and mental condition, based on social justice, solidarity economy, and respect to biophysical limits of ecosystems. The commons approach underlines the importance of self-organised, locally rooted, inclusive and resilient community networks and civic spaces in order to re-think the practices and the development of public policy-making in this domain.

Participants have experience and are interested in the interrelationship at all points of the journey from “Land to Fork”, including access to land, nutrition, food sovereignty, cultivation, etc.; new forms of distribution, including for recycling; access to medical knowledge and patient-guided health policies and services; democratization of healthcare and self-organization of citizen efforts to reduce bureaucratic hurdles; and reclaiming the field for grassroots sports while challenging norms to inspire new models of recreation.

Law for the Commons

In order to guarantee the protection and development of commoning practices, legal opportunities and tools need to be located and addressed. This workshop deals with the search for these opportunities in relation to pre-existing and potential urban commons projects. This can draw from existing knowledge and institutional analysis in management of traditional commons, as well as contemporary legal practices for local, national and European legislation. It can also investigate instances where these concepts have been applied at the local scale.

These include participants’ experiences in, for example, production of municipal regulations for shared administration, which protects urban commons (squares, gardens, schools, cultural commons, streets, etc.) and compels local governments to collaborate with citizens. Participants propose the generation of platforms to exchange existing knowledge and experiences in legal mechanisms, as well as the production of practical tools to be used at European and local levels in relation with legislation, norms and institutional interaction.

Right to the City (Public Space and Urbanism, Housing, Water & Energy)

This theme brings together different aspects of the configuration of the city: Public Spaces & Urbanism, Housing, Tourism, Water & Energy and Culture. Understanding the Right to the City as a collective and bottom-up creation of a new paradigm can help to provide an alternative framework to re-think cities and human settlements on the basis of social justice, equity, democracy and sustainability. The workshop will discuss processes of commercialization and privatization of public and common goods and resources; how commons can create forms of democratic urban management; and how re-municipalization processes of urban infrastructures can be linked to the commons discourse. It will also consider the policy frameworks for commons that can be implemented, how spaces can be collectively used for the common good and what kind of legal and economic frameworks are needed to stabilize communing practices.

There is a great diversity of experiences and interests within the group. Proposals include trans-local collaboration to develop perspectives on: urban rights, cultural ecosystems for integration within the city, commons-based housing plans, fighting gentrification and damaging tourism, among others. There is emphasis on sharing examples and tools and promoting the connection of practitioners, researches, professionals, and citizens with project initiators and grassroots actors. Participants draw from experiences including the redevelopment of brownfields and vacant properties, the creation of political platforms and public campaigning and engagement, and construction of community gardens and other spaces as learning environments for communing. Given the wide range of interests and backgrounds, for this theme we can also imagine a mix of general discussions and more specific working spaces, to be decided by the participants themselves, either in organizational process before the meeting or in situ.

Solidarity as a commons: Migrants and Refugees

In many countries, migrants and refugees are confronted by very repressive policies, and in some cases violence. In certain places, citizens are responding by getting involved in local activities to distribute food, clothes and other commodities, to provide information about asylum procedures or how to meet basic needs and human rights, to facilitate the inclusion of migrants or refugees in cities and cohabitation between people in neighborhoods, etc. At a time when policies about immigration and refugees in most European countries are inadequate and troubling, these mobilizations are extremely important and sharing experiences is key.

The purpose of this workshop is twofold. First, it aims to share experiences and knowledge about local citizen-developed initiatives to help migrants and refugees across Europe. In addition, the workshop will be an opportunity to discuss solidarity with migrants and refugees as a commons. Themes to discuss include: the effects on policies and policy makers of the production of solidarity by citizens, the modalities of governance among civil society organizations around their initiatives, and the forms of interactions with municipalities around the initiatives of civil society actors.

Participants have experience in local initiatives of solidarity and hospitality with migrants and refugees; are engaged in research and activism on urban commons focusing on migrant rights; or are involved in initiatives like ecovillage movements, commons support for artists at risk, or community social centers that work to develop new forms of participative work and cooperation to build solidarity.

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