Publication Social Movements / Organizing - Economic / Social Policy - Participation / Civil Rights - City / Municipality / Region - UK / Ireland - Socialize This! Commoning the Public

Translating European New Municipalism to the UK context



March 2024

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Illustration: Lottie Kingslake

Municipal government in the UK has been in crisis for decades. Heavily constricted powers and ever-shrinking budgets have dramatically reduced local government’s room for manoeuvre, while impacting badly on the recipients of the public services they supply. One bright counter-tendency to that trend has been the emergence of the community wealth building tradition.

Gareth Brown is a researcher, consultant, union organizer, game designer, and activist with a background as an organization studies academic.

Keir Milburn is a writer, researcher, game designer, and consultant. He is co-director of Abundance, an organization focused on developing and implementing public–common partnerships. He also co-hosts the popular #ACFM podcast on Novara Media.

In this study, we propose there are also lessons to be drawn from the new municipalist movements which swept across many areas of Europe in the  second half of the 2010s. While many of the practices of the European model of new municipalism aren’t directly translatable to the UK context, we have identified a key set of policies and practices, variously titled public-civic or public-common partnerships, which are not only eminently translatable to the UK situation, but which are also uniquely suited to an emerging situation in which a newly interventionist state seems likely to launch a massive new round of public-private partnerships.

In this study, we examine two key instances of public-civic action: the Patrimonio Ciudadano (Citizens’ Assets) programme in Barcelona, and the commoning of public assets in Naples. We explain the lessons these experiences hold for UK municipal authorities, community activists, and social movement actors. We also discuss how these models can be adapted for the UK context and provide a valuable new direction in the fight for democratic renewal and a just transition.

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