How to win back the city: the Barcelona en Comú guide to overthrowing the elite | Cities | The Guardian

In May 2015, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common) catapulted Ada Colau into power as the city’s first female mayor. Ten months earlier, the group didn’t even exist.

With no money and little experience, just how did they wrest the city from the entrenched political caste that had been running it for the past 40 years? Not surprisingly, Barcelona en Comú has since been inundated with requests for an answer from mayors, political parties, urban conferences and community groups all over the world.

In response, the group produced a step-by-step explanation – How to Win Back the City en Comú (pdf). A new documentary, Alcaldessa (“Mayoress”), by the Catalan director Pau Faus, promises further insights into how this revolution in urban governance came about.

‘Involve as many people as possible’

According to Marina López and Juan Linares, members of Barcelona en Comú’s communications team, the first step was to build a platform that could bring together individuals and the multitude of Barcelona’s citizens’ movements in a coherent and coordinated way, so their voice could more easily be heard.

“We have always set out to involve as many people from as many social groups as possible,” says Lopez. “We’ve tried to rethink the public space so the debate can happen in the street.”

The platform didn’t spring up from nothing. On the one hand, Barcelona has a long history of communitarian politics, often organised at a neighbourhood level. And the widespread discontent caused by Spain’s prolonged economic crisis and corrupt political class had already found expression in the 15-M movement. It appeared spontaneously in 2011 as a reaction to the crisis and saw thousands of people meeting in squares around the country to argue and debate a better future. Barcelona en Comú, like the national political party Podemos and other left-wing groups, emerged in part from 15-M.

Linares emphasises that Barcelona en Comú is a platform, not a political party. “We’re a porous organisation. By being open we can combine people with lots of experience with people with none – from university professors to bricklayers, but all with the same goal.”

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