Urban Alternatives

Urban Alternatives, previously known as Cities of Change, is a collaborative mapping process looking to identify, promote and collaboratively learn from transformational urban change.

The steering group includes representatives from the Transnational Institute, European Alternatives, Habitat International Coalition (Right to the City), RIPESS (European Solidarity Economy network), and Barcelona en Comú, as well as Dr Bertie Russell (Research Associate at Sheffield University Urban Institute), Dr Erick Palomares (Assistant Professor Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University), and Ana Mendez (Ahora Madrid/Observatorio Metropolitano).

The goal was to identify, map, understand and promote examples of transformative urban social change. The initial focus was on municipalities within Europe, with ambitions to expand or support the development of partner projects in different regions.

The organizations involved in Urban Alternatives share the analysis that cities are emerging as fundamental places for transformative change. From citizen-controlled energy companies through to citizen-led platforms, and from policies that promote the solidarity economy through to innovative procurement strategies, it is in our cities that people are demonstrating that other ways of living in solidarity - rather than competition - are possible.

Our initiative looked to map these moments of transformative change. The result is neither a simple list of ‘radical’ councils nor a database of autonomous initiatives, but rather an attempt to map those moments and processes that move our cities away from a logic of competition and towards one of solidarity. We are interested in those moments when the right balance of unrest, opposition, pragmatism, institutional openness and innovation leads to progressive change in how we run our cities.

Having collected around 40 indicative cases of transformative change for the beta version (urbanalternatives.org, pictured below), the next goal is to substantially broaden participation in the process to organisations across Europe, and to begin discussion with non-European partners about the development of ‘partner’ projects.  

People involved

Bertie Russell

Bertie joined the Urban Institute as a Research Associate working on the ESRC Jam & Justice project and as part of the international MISTRA Urban Futures team. His research interests are in participatory and deliberative democracy; utopianism and directional demands; the dismantling of post-politics; the organisation of the commons and post-capitalist transition; and the rise of new forms of urban internationalism. 

Email Bertie

News, events and blog

Monday, June 11, 2018 - 12:00 to 13:30
Manchester Central Library

Devolution promised to open up new opportunities for community engagement and empowerment, shifting power from Whitehall to the Townhall. One year on since the election of Andy Burnham as Mayor of Greater Manchester, Jam and Justice's Action Research Collective are hosting a debate in Manchester Central Library to discuss the changing horizons of collective decision-making in Greater Manchester. 

Monday, February 12, 2018 - 09:00 to 20:00

Bridging European Urban Transformations Workshop Series in Brussels 2016-2018

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 16:00

This seminar is part of the 2017 RGS-IBG annual conference, running from 30 August to 1 September 2017, and will take place on 30 August. More information on the seminar is available here.

A roundtable discussion on the theme of nature of urban transformation. Panelists will be invited to address these questions, followed by open discussion.

By Bert Russell

The Jam & Justice project has been looking at examples of participatory urban governance across the Global North and South. We want to find examples of inspiring, workable, and actually existing examples of how citizens can be involved in decisions, processes and structures that affect them.