Two-day retreat

Transforming our Cities: Strategies, stories, politics, diffusion

This two-day retreat is an intensive workshop that will explore crucial dilemmas, goals and strategies that we can use to change our cities. In the room will be a handpicked collection of organisers, academics and leaders from cities as diverse as Hong Kong, Cape Town, Barcelona, Seattle, Austin, Sydney, Brisbane and London. Together we will build new knowledge about how we can make our cities work for their people. 

Together, we will explore the following questions:

  • What is the role of geography in how we build power in our cities?
  • What methods do we use to build power for citizen action – mobilising, organising, electoral work?
  • What strategies work and how do we challenging the state – through confrontation, separation or inside strategies including party politics?
  • The big money question: how do we finance our work?
  • How can diffusion and intercity networks help us build power?


The workshop is divided into sections so that we can tackle each question. Each section will kick off with short reflections or presentations from our global guests, mixed with short conceptual presentations from the researchers, building to small group conversation and plenary reflection .

A core purpose of this retreat is for people to get to know each other and build lasting connections, so relational time is key. There will be time for a big rounds to introduce people at the top, lots of one-to-one sharing and seminar interaction in the middle, and time for more chats during social time.

Towards the end of the retreat, we will explore the question of inter-city strategy exchange and ‘diffusion’, giving people the opportunity to highlight ideas and strategies that they would like to take forward together.


We will minimise talk from the front. There are written and audio materials that we will provide so that you can prepare for the retreat:

Five case studies have been captured as episodes of the ChangeMakers Podcast:

  • Episode 1 “Making the Impossible Possible”on the Fight for 15 campaign and radical politics in Barcelona
  • Episode 12 on the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong
  • Episode 14 on Reclaim the City in Cape Town
  • Episode 22 titled “Tiananmen to the Hong Kong protests”
  • Episode 23 tiled “How Umbrella shaped the 2019 protests”

By October 16th, we will circulate a 20,000 word book on our research and case studies.

What you’ll take home…

For organisers and leaders, we hope that the retreat fuels your heart and your mind. That the stories and challenges from other places gives you insight and energy for organising in your own place. We also hope that by identifying concepts that cross beyond contexts, that strategies become easier to define and see – allowing you to build your own practice and teach others.

For academics, we hope that your scholarship is enriched by the research questions and issues raised by those on the frontlines. Having such a large group of organisers is likely to test and bring new issues to the fore – we hope that it opens the door to new research questions that in turn can feed adventurous creative city transformation the world over.