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Announcing the ‘Atlas of Utopias’

From Transformative Cities: The Atlas of Utopias is a global gallery of inspiring community led transformation in water, energy and housing. The atlas features 32 communities from 19 countries who responded to the Transformative Cities initiative which seeks to learn from cities working on radical solutions to our world’s systemic economic, social and ecological crises.

Transformative Cities

“Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”
– Eduardo Galeano

The Atlas of Utopias is a global gallery of inspiring community-led transformation in water, energy and housing.

The atlas features 32 communities from 19 countries who responded to the Transformative Cities initiative which seeks to learn from cities working on radical solutions to our world’s systemic economic, social and ecological crises.

The atlas is by no means a comprehensive mapping of transformative practices. Transformation in one area such as water management does not necessarily mean transformative practice elsewhere in the city. Nevertheless, the atlas showcases inspiring stories of communities challenging entrenched power and boldly developing alternatives. These range from small villages in Bolivia to international cities like Paris that have even defeated multinational corporations and hostile national governments in order to deliver democratic, people-powered solutions on water, energy and housing.

The cases show how public solutions based on principles of cooperation and solidarity rather than competition and private profit have been more successful in meeting people’s basic needs – and perhaps just as importantly in creating a spirit of confidence and empowerment that strengthen communities for many other challenges. These initiatives demonstrate in practice that another world is possible, and is already happening.

The Transformative Cities initiative is learning from and with the communities to explore what has been most transformative in terms of power relations and social and ecological justice and the lessons from their experience. Nine cases in particular will be explored in more depth and then in the first half of April the public will be invited to vote on their favorites. The learning will also be turned into publications and different media formats to inspire and assist other communities involved in similar struggles.



ActionAid India
There are very few shelters for homeless people in India, and those that do exist are primarily for men. In 2001 ActionAid India launched Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan – an intervention to create a nationwide network of homeless shelters that has pushed the number of shelters in Delhi from 10 to 269.

El Cua, Nicaragua
Residents of the northern highlands of Nicaragua were typically overlooked by modern infrastructure development. The Association of Rural Development Workers has changed this, securing access to electricity and clean drinking water for local people for the first time. Today the association is also generating enough profits from hydro power to fund US$300,000-worth of development in the region.

Mumbai, India
Pani Haq Samti’s ‘People’s Campaign’ had the dual aim of mobilizing public opinion to oppose the privatisation of water supplies in the Indian state of Maharashtra, and securing the distribution and re-establishment of water as a right.

Barcelona, Spain
Open data is a cornerstone of transparency, democratization and the guarantee of free access to information. But over the last 15 years it has also become a commercial commodity that is hugely in demand, and one that is proliferating fast. Juegos del Común is an exciting digital association in Barcelona using games dynamics to challenge this model and promote citizen empowerment and open data.

Lagos, Nigeria
Since 2014, the Our Water Our Rights Campaign has mobilized communities and people’s groups to resist water privatization across Lagos, and broadened citizen engagement in resolving the city’s water crisis. Against the odds it has also increased government spending on water and sanitation in the capital.

The 2017 movements and victories that give us reason to hope
The Transnational Institute
The bad news streaming through our media in 2017 has been relentless. However it doesn’t tell the full story. Beyond the headlines, there have countless amazing social movement struggles in different regions of the world that deserve to be celebrated. Here are ten stories showing that people power works, courtesy the Transnational Institute‘s 2017 recap.

How to form a global counter-economy
Open Democracy
Open cooperativism is an effort to infuse cooperatives with the basic principles of commons based peer production. Here are six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy.

Local, self-sufficient, optimistic: are Transition Towns the way forward?
John-Paul Flintoff, The Guardian
The Transition network was founded in 2005, as a response to the twin threats of climate change and peak oil. Unlike other campaign groups, the Transition network never set out to frighten people, but seemed resolutely upbeat, determined to find opportunity in what most regard with dismay. One of the movement’s most fundamental ideas was to ask what the world might look like in the future “if we get it right” – then work out backwards how to get there. Generally speaking, the Transition vision is of a move towards self-sufficiency at the local level, in food, energy and much else, but the specifics of what “getting it right” might look like were never handed down from above.

Totnes: The world’s most forward-thinking eco settlement?
Lucy Siegle, The Guardian
Totnes has been called ‘Britain’s town of the future’. This month, the small town which kick-started a worldwide movement of sustainable urban living, completes 11 years of being a Transition Town. As fossil-fuel reserves dwindle and the economy contracts, will resident-led Transition Towns prove to be a viable model for the future?


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