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Date(s) - 05/06/17
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Starr Bar

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An Activist-Research Workshop Program
New York City. May 2017.
Saturdays, Afternoons at Starr Bar and Brooklyn Community Foundation

Program Description

Within the last several years, cities all around the world have proven to be crucial spaces for the struggles for social and political change: the movement of the squares throughout the world, from Occupy to 15M, from Tahrir to Gezi, from Iceland to Hong Kong, pointing to new organizational forms, and a broadly shared desire for more participatory and egalitarian democratic forms. In some places, these movements gave place to new political forces, especially at the municipal and city level.

In the US, there has been long traditions attached to ideas of municipal democracy, and plenty of experiences that show how cities can push meaningful social, economic and political transformations, and even become relevant actors regarding the national politics. With all its dramatic and grave effects, the current conjuncture open by the start of the Trump administration forces us to build together new political forces, so we can be able to go beyond the shock effects that this administration has sought, and also beyond a merely “Anti-Trump” framework. At the same time, tensions between federal and cities’ governments, exemplified in the debates around the so-called “Sanctuary Cities”, show the potential of local power against this situation, despite the extremely limited meaning of the “Sanctuary” idea – and therefore its instrumentalization – that Democrats want to establish.

The goal of the program is to share, produce and grow our knowledge of NYC social and political landscape, and think together on possible ways for building a city movement confluence around critical issues of the city’s life. The program combines two aspects. On the one hand, it tries to spark a shared production of knowledge, both theoretical and practical, between activists, academics, and interested individuals. On the other hand, the program itself is intended as an opportunity to build a strategic discussion and organizational process. By doing this, program participants will have the opportunity to learn and discuss about Municipalism and its different aspects, history, etc. while at the same time, be able to contribute to a collective exploration of NYC—particularly its realities as immigration, gentrification, and its political potentialities— and a collective mapping out the city’s political landscape, its institutions and administrative structures, and political actors (potential allies and adversaries).

In doing so, each session will bring together the presence of organizers, activists, etc. coming from various social and political organizations in NYC, so the series can provide an opportunity for dialogue towards a movement building process. This program is open to any organization, collective and individual willing to get involved in the transformation of New York City, and of the usual ways of thinking and practicing politics in this city.

Why Municipalism? Why now? What historical precedents and experiences have been and are currently going on in the US? How would a US and NYC municipalist movement look like? What methods and tools can be developed in order to build it? How to relate electoral initiatives with grassroots processes? What is our shared analysis of the main problems in NYC? What new visions for city policies and institutions can this movement integrate?

Throughout the 4 sessions of the program, we will explore these and other questions. By the end of the program, participants will collaborate in generating a collective document summarizing the program discussions, analysis, and strategic conclusions.


Session 1: Introduction. The Municipalist Hypothesis.
May 6- 3:00PM – 5:30PM
Starr Barr, 214 Starr St. Brooklyn, NY 11237
Introduction to the workshop series: Methodologies, Contents and Materials. Purpose and specific goals of the program. Why Municipalism? Why Now? Discussion on the relevance of Municipalism in the current NYC and US conjuncture.Discussion on Municipalism in other countries: Spain.

Session 2: Session 2. Municipalism in the US. Traditions and Examples.
May 13 – 3:00PM – 5:30PM
Brooklyn Community Foundation 1000 Dean St. Thrid Floor, Brooklyn NY 11225
Historical overview of local and municipal experiences in the US.

Session 3: Session 3: A Social and Political Mapping of NYC
May 20 – 1:00PM – 5:30PM (Double Session)
Brooklyn Community Foundation 1000 Dean St. Third Floor, Brooklyn NY 11225
Assessment of the current social and political juncture in NYC.
Collective mapping of main problems in NYC and of existing organizations dealing with those issues: housing, gentrification, migrations.
Collective Mapping and discussion on NYC’s political landscape. Perspectives from different political organizations regarding municipalism. Assessment of NYC’s political actors and administrative structures.

Session 4: Participatory Practices and Tools. Collective Conclusions and Next Steps
May 27 1:00PM – 5:30PM (Double Session)
Brooklyn Community Foundation 1000 Dean St. Thrid Floor, Brooklyn NY 11225
How to build a Municipalist Movement in NYC? In this session, we’ll take a look at different participatory methods, base-building approaches, online tools that may be helpful in starting a shared process of political organization.
Envisioning a NYC Municipalist Movement.
Collective conclusions. Discussion on program outcomes and proposal for next steps.