The European Commons Assembly is about to start, this Wednesday in Madrid. In preparation, and to get into the spirit of the European Commons, this week we will publish articles and blogs from commoners all over Europe. To kick things off, Commons Director Sophie Bloemen and Commons Assembly Coordinator Nicole Leonard write about what the Assembly means for the political future of Europe.
The crisis of the European Union begs for new, unifying and constructive narratives as alternatives to the right-wing populist and nationalist wave that gets fiercer every day. A commons approach holds the potential for a unified vision towards an alternative economy, a Europe from the bottom up, and an ecological economy and way of life. The idea of jointly administrating shared resources, community and a generative economy can find resonance with a diverse range of citizens.
The European Commons Assembly arrives to Madrid.
The European Commons Assembly is an effort to provide a platform for these connections and trans-local solidarity. The European Commons Assembly that took place in Brussels in November 2016 has been a case in point for the unifying potential of the commons, and a symbol of maturity of the commons movement. A myriad of over 150 commoners, activists, and social innovators from different corners of europe came to Brussels for three days to develop new synergies, express solidarity, and to discuss european politics as well as policy proposals. In the European Parliament, Members of Parliament exchanged views with this Commons Assembly, and the political energy generated by bringing all these people together in this context was exceptional.
The ECA continues today as a political process and diverse platform, open to anyone who shares its values and wants to contribute. ECA explores what strategies to engage in in order to nourish, protect, and extend the commons. How to develop the outward channels to affect political change, while still trying to maintain and strengthen its communities? How to build broader coalitions on the ground not bound to the left or the right, how to prevent erecting barriers with academic language and theory?
Since Brussels, the ECA has published a series of videos on commons topics, articles, and generally aimed to visibilise the unifying potential of the commons narrative. Members also examined the intersections of the commons and Social Solidarity economy and municipalist movements, with smaller assemblies held in Athens and Barcelona. Commoners from all over europe and beyond are joining the online community all the time and sharing their experiences, and even in the Netherlands and finland commoners were inspired to create local commons assemblies.
ECA Madrid and the collaboration with Transeuropa 2017 provides the energy to move the process further along. It is becoming clear that the ECA needs to offer an added value beyond ideational affiliation. Assembly members will have to co-create the resources and practices that will strengthen the movement. That is why the idea of production figures so prominently in the discourse around this Assembly. The focus of the assembly this time will be on urban commons, taking advantage of ECA’s presence in Madrid and Spain to examine strategies, failed and successful, to promote the commons politically and in public policy, including citizens in this process.
In Madrid, working groups will focus on specific themes of the commons in the city to create shareable outputs that bring these local experiences to a broader audience. This creation will nourish the toolbox of the ECA, in turn helping other efforts to support and scale commoning. This opportunity will allow initiatives to learn from and share with each other, attaining a level of technical depth and understanding that is necessary for change, deepening the european political agenda for the commons. At the same time, what is at stake goes beyond the specific themes and issues that color the commons movement.
The ECA aims to engage in conversations with other allies around europe, and considers the political context and the commons movement as a political force that relates to conventional political power. Rather than letting citizen resentment of the current order and political backlash lead to Europe’s disintegration, the European Commons Assembly builds on these on-the ground experiences to draw hope and energy to power the commons vision and a renewed political force in Europe.
The European Commons Assembly will be in Madrid from the 25th until the 28th of October. The program includes participative workshops on urban commons topics, joint sessions with European Alternatives on the commons in policy, and opportunities to learn about and visit local commoning initiatives in Madrid. There will also be time dedicated to the future of the ECA.
This post is an abstract from ‘The European Commons Assembly in Madrid, For a Renewed Political Force in Europe’, by Sophie Bloemen and Nicole Leonard, published in the Transeuropa Festival Journal 2017, by European Alternatives. For the full (and free!) publication, go here. Read it all.