Building a Fearless City with the Municipality of Amsterdam
The commons movement has become a rich field of practices, thinking and experimentation, coalescing with political movements like new municipalism and new economic thinking like doughnut economics. Recently, our work in Amsterdam reached a new milestone with the co-creation of the municipalist thinktank ‘The 99 of Amsterdam’, which represents Amsterdam in the global Fearless Cities network. It is part of a worldwide movement striving for systemic change by means of translocal organising and politics. In this blog we’ll tell you about the run-up to these developments, the reasons behind Fearless Cities and some of the fruits of our collaborations with the Amsterdam Fearless City programme.
A few years ago, Commons Network organized European Commons Assemblies: large-scale gatherings of commons-scholars, practitioners, local politicians, MEPs, hackers, organizers, labour activists, self-organizing farmers, democracy-innovators, artists and journalists. The first one took place in Brussels, the second one was in Madrid, in cooperation with the TransEuropaFestival and MediaLab Prado.
It’s hard to trace back exactly when and where the networks of commons activists and municipalists started to overlap. But by 2017, when worked with the P2P Foundation, the French organization Remix the Commons, and European Alternatives from Berlin to organize the Madrid assembly, these networks were already merging, partnering and learning from each other for a number of years.
La Marea, En Comu, Podemos: the Spanish municipal elections of 2015 were crucial in bringing the municipalist movement to the next level, internationally. We recommend you read the Charter for Democracy. It shows how much the values of the 15M movement, Occupy, P2P and commons and the new municipalists and many other contemporary waves of new progressive thinking started to overlap around this time. If you want to know more about this, it’s really worth reading this piece by our friends Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Ultratel who describe all these developments beautifully.
The developments in Amsterdam undoubtedly relate to and were inspired by these international movements and transformations. In early 2018, the municipal elections in Amsterdam produced a majority for left-leaning and progressive parties, with the Greens being the largest. The new coalition presented itself to the city with towering ambitions, including a plan to organize a Fearless Cities Summit like the one in 2017 in Barcelona and a plan to experiment with commons policies.
Our first move at Commons Network was to present our Urban Commons / Shared Spaces research to the coalition and its prominent alderman Rutger Groot Wassink. Later, we partnered with the municipality to explore commons policies in different domains from food to energy to public space, and asked: what potential do the commons have for the city, and what policy opportunities do we see for the commons in Amsterdam?
Almost at the same time, we started talking to Frans Bieckmann, newly appointed programme manager for the municipality, in charge of the Fearless City Programme. We soon became partners, knowing we could use our European municipalist network, our experience in organizing assemblies and our knowledge about the commons, municipalism, new democracy strategies and new economic thinking to help Amsterdam turn into a “Fearless City”.
At the end of 2019, we brought together activists from all over the world in Amsterdam to kick-start its local municipalist movement at a 4-day assembly “De Stad van Morgen”. Since then, the Fearless team has been using the name ‘The 99 of Amsterdam’ for this new movement, referring to the 99 neighbourhoods of Amsterdam while also making a reference to the 99% versus 1% slogan of the Occupy movement.
We have kept on working with many inspiring people and initiatives in Amsterdam and beyond. We have been exploring new ways of economic thinking like doughnut economics, wellbeing economics and degrowth, and linked them to the huge variety of commons practices happening in the domain of the cooperative solidarity economy, or ‘caring economy’, in The Netherlands. Most recently, this has led to our publication on the role of the commons for the future of Dutch social security.
As a team, we continue to believe in Amsterdam as a pioneer city in the co-creation of more caring, sustainable and democratic societies. We continue to see the commons and the cooperative solidarity economy as crucial building blocks of the municipalist vision and the creation of a translocal, transformative economy. As part of our work on Fearless Cities, we hope to further sharpen this vision and push for systems change.
This page was written in May of 2021, in the midst of the Cities for Change Forum, another platform and digital conference of the Fearless City Programme, that we helped build. Please visit the forum-site to explore numerous interesting videos, stories and events from the Amsterdam municipalist movement.
Below, we will publish some of the output of our team as part of the work our organisation did with the city of Amsterdam.