Around the world, citizens are looking for alternatives to established political parties and democratic institutions. Could there be hope for a revival of democracy in our cities? Might cities be the seedbed for new organisational forms and practices that enable citizens to organise and participate meaningfully in political life?
After three years, OrganisingCities will culminate in a global gathering of some of the world’s leading grassroots campaigners for social change, hosted between 25th October to 1st November by the Sydney Policy Lab. They are coming to the Lab to learn from each other, to work out how they can collaborate internationally, and hopefully to inspire change here in Australia.
The gathering’s participants feature just over one dozen handpicked city-based organisers who are leading innovative political interventions in their cities that bring diverse citizens together for a common purpose.
Many of these leaders have participated in the three-year research project OrganisingCities which has been made possible by the Halloran Trust, based at the University of Sydney. Over the past two years, organiser-researchers Amanda Tattersall and Kurt Iveson have traveled across the world to interview over one hundred community leaders, exploring how different kinds of citizen alliances in cities work, identifying their similar and different strategies, learning what makes them succeed and what challenges they face.
This global gathering is a space where researchers and the global team of urban alliance leaders can finally all meet in the same space together.
These are people like Nkosikhona Swartbooi and Buhle Booi from Cape Town, South Africa, who have transformed the movement for housing rights in one of the most segregated cities in the world; Bonnie Leung Wing-Man, who has been a leading voice in the democracy movement in Hong Kong; Stefan Baskerville from London, who has moved from leading the British campaign for a living wage to helping trade unions organise Uber and Deliveroo workers; Joe Chrastil from the United States, who has been one of the country’s most prominent community organisers for almost thirty years and has led the Industrial Areas Foundation’s work on public health; and Coleen Loper, also from the United States, a feminist campaigner from Texas whose organisation Way to Win is helping transform the US Democratic Party in the run-up to the next Presidential election.
Together, they will explore how citizens are organising and democratising their cities, transforming the very meaning and practice of democracy in the process.
We will stage a two-day retreat and exchange between researchers and citizen leaders, as well as a number of additional engagements ranging from public talks, a full-day “citizen leader” workshop, and events inside the university and in the wider Sydney community.