Broadening and networking Britain’s emerging municipalist ecosystem

Proposal abstract

There are a wide range and growing number of grassroots groups, organisations and social movements in Britain that share many municipalist traits. For instance, they are feminist, decolonial and democratic, and are place-based, democratically organised and assemble in a ground-up way. However, they don’t yet all identify as municipalist, although some are inspired by municipalist projects in other countries. We are in contact with many of these groups, and want to consolidate these connections into a network that can support each other, contribute to wider political conversations and cooperate more in practice. This project proposal is therefore for coordinating online meetings between these groups and documenting themes, aspirations and needs that arise from those conversations, with a view to facilitating further organising and development.

Who we are

Municipal Enquiry is a not-for-profit company set up to support the development of alternative forms of grassroots, community and municipal power in Britain. It is a relatively new and small organisation with two founders, Nick Mahony and Frances Northrop, and no employees, which is reliant on grants to support its municipalist oriented research, networking and advocacy work. In 2022, supported by a small 2020 grant from the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust, Municipal Enquiry published its first major report ‘Pathways to the new municipalism: from devolution to decentring’. This charted the contemporary politics of municipalism in the British context, highlighting possibilities for further expansion. Following this, Municipal Enquiry have collaborated closely with Research for Action and journalist Steve Rushton to organise events which have convened different kinds of proto-municipalist organisations in Britain. Municipal Enquiry will lead and coordinate this new project.

What we want to do and how we will do it

This project will bring together a network of proto-municipalist groups from across Britain. We will engage with a diverse set of groups including: Latin Village in Tottenham, London; Cooperation Town, Manchester; Kitty’s Launderette, Liverpool; Heart and Soul, Wigan; 4Front, London; Community Wealth Building, Preston City Council; Friends of the Joiners Arms, London and more. We will start with an outreach phase between January and March 2023, where we will follow up groups with whom we have had conversations before about municipalism. This will allow us to identify themes to discuss in online meetings. We will then have three online meetings between March and June on themes that are important to the groups, and document those in writing, in a form that is suitable for dissemination. This proposal builds on work we have done in the past. In May 2021, we organised an online event on municipalism as part of the Cities for Change forum, together with Research for Action and Steve Rushton. There was great interest, we had nearly 100 registrations and 60 people attending. Sadly we didn’t have the resources to take that energy forward, but have continued some of this network-building informally and through a small research project currently underway with the same people that specifically looks at community/social infrastructure. We see this proposal as being about raising awareness, generating enthusiasm about municipalism across Britain and asking groups what support structures would be needed for building municipalist, community-based, horizontal power across the British ecosystem of grassroots groups. By the end of the project, we will have at least 10 collectives / groups who want to take this conversation forward. The timing perfectly enables us to then go into political festivals and other events happening in the summer and do further municipalist activities with this network, broadening the conversation even further.

How much money do we need and what for?

Total of €3000: – €700 for outreach and network-building – 3 x €500 for organising and facilitating meetings – €800 for debriefing and documenting meetings and dissemination This will pay living wage hours for those working on the project. Municipal Enquiry will manage the budget.

Why / How does it contribute to /reflects the municipalism principles

– Groups being convened will be place-based projects that defend social justice, work to establish forms of radical and participatory democracy, aspire to autonomy and self-government, and ascribe to feminist and decolonial values practices. – By connecting projects in spaces of mutual learning, discussion and exchange, we will start to map the forms and ecosystem of British municipalisms currently emerging in practice. – The project will lay the foundations for further meetings, involving an ever larger number of projects, to support ongoing processes of broadening and generating new municipalisms in Britain. – Linking up emerging energy across the British proto-municipalist ecosystem with more experienced groups in the rest of Europe, we can start creating support structures for building municipalist, community-based and pan-European forms of horizontal power.