The Municipalist School is a space for self-training and knowledge exchange based on different experiences of municipalism throughout Europe. These are the materials of the second session, titled Between regenerative economies and local specificities: experiences, models, tools.

Faced with the exacerbation of socio-economic inequalities, in recent years new models of local and regenerative economies have developed in cities in order to meet growing social and environmental needs. What perspectives can we draw from these experiences for post-pandemic transitions? With the participation of Sophie Bloemen, Commons Network (Amsterdam, Netherlands); Drazen Simlesa, ZMAG – Good Economy Network (Croatia) and general coordinator of RIPESS EU – Solidarity Economy Europe; Malin Widehammar, The Hub in Bergsjön and part of the organisation Democratic Transition (Gothenburg, Sweden); and Ugo Rossi, SET- Sud Europa di fronte alla Turistificazione (Italy).


Between Regenerative Economies and Local Specificities: Experiences, Models, Tools

Sophie Bloemen, Commons Network

With the Municipalist School we aim to learn from what happens in different localities, exchange experiences as well as empower groups and platforms in different cities.

Click here to continue reading Sophie Bloemen's report.

When we set out to democratise and bring power to citizens, this also means democratisation of the economy and the facilitation of regenerative local economies. It means supporting the local community and sustaining value. Regenerative economies focus on nourishing communities and nurturing the social and ecological ecosystems of which they are part. Hence, they form the opposite of extractive economies, where value is taken from a community, a locality or land to support the accumulation of wealth elsewhere. Regenerative economies are not only about ways of producing but also about the way we live – in line with social and planetary boundaries.

Faced with the exacerbation of socio-economic inequalities, new models of local and regenerative economies have been developed in cities in recent years in order to meet growing social and environmental needs. Despite different characteristics depending on the specific context, these models are genuine ecosystem alternatives to the dominant model of the linear economy. In this session, we looked at the perspectives for post-pandemic transitions we can draw from several local experiences.

The limits of growth are increasingly discussed in the intergovernmental forum. There is substantial attention on ‘doughnut economics’, wellbeing economy, degrowth theory and social solidarity economy. But what about the practices? What is actually happening?

In this session, we had the opportunity to hear from experiences in Naples, Italy; Bergson, Sweden and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Some of the lessons learned were:

  • Initiatives no longer work on one thing, such as energy or food. People work on many different things at the same time and the work is integrated.
  • Although activities emerge organically and are very context-based, international examples or models are very important for inspiration and guidance.
  • Terminology differs enormously depending on the local context, from good economy to doughnut economics and community wealth building and social solidarity economy (SSE). This is okay and it is important to find the right connotations in each context.
  • It would be important for the EU to use a helpful, meaningful term, instead of social entrepreneurship, despite what was said above.
  • It is necessary to actively work with municipalities on how to implement SSE in public policies, instead of trying to convince them it is rewarding and meaningful to work with those who are serious and engaged. Training is needed. Racist structures in institutions are an obstacle to constructive engagement with diverse local communities.
  • Incubators are an important instrument to boost or kickstart regenerative economic practices.
  • One can notice a new sensitivity with municipalities across Europe for public space, values, and local wealth and economy, as well as community stewardship.
  • International solidarity between activists and politicians is key.

Italy, Naples

Touristification has dramatically altered the landscape of Naples inner city, with many local shops that used to cater to the local community disappearing. However the regenerative economy is developing, and community support has sustained local shops in the difficult time of the pandemic through mutual aid. A new community centre is now providing livelihoods for homeless people. The idea is that the type of activity in the neighbourhood moves from value extraction to value creation.

Based on successful crowdsourcing initiatives for community support, activists are looking to implement mutual aid on a permanent basis for struggling local initiatives, aimed at supporting local economic activity in the neighbourhood. It is important that activities remain locally owned by people who live there. However, this sector is not very important for local activists.

Sweden, Gothenburg

The Hub in Bergsjön, in the periphery of Gothenburg, is engaged in many different activities: cooperative housing, repairs, energy, food production, and an agricultural school. Bergsjön has a very diverse community, and working in that context the Hub community has noticed the racism in the municipality’s structures. This manifests in who is listened to and believed.

The initiators of the Hub are beginning to explicitly work towards the concept of a local sustainable economy. They use a local economic analysis as a starting point: where do the money and wealth go (follow the money). They have looked at the Cleveland and Preston models, where procurement is used to support the local economy, and are interested in deals with municipalities to buy services from local co-operatives and have also started an incubator to support their co-operative economy.

Croatia, Dubrovnik

ZMAG is an eco-social education centre for the social solidarity economy or regenerative economy, but also a farm and a public space. It also hosts a food co-op and is engaged in community-supported agriculture and permaculture, teaching people how to use sustainable goals not just in theory, but also in daily life.

ZMAG works with other partners in society, such as municipalities, aiming to promote sustainable practices and also train partners in these practices. It offers models for public policies that support regenerative economies. For example, they have recently produced a manual for public authorities, as well as a local action plan for food sovereignty.

In Croatia, the term the good economy is most used. Using the right terms can be a puzzle, and it is important to have the right connotations for a context. ZMAG is an active member of the RIPESS network, and highly appreciates international networking and mutual support.

Speakers presentations

Ugo Rossi

From SET- Sud Europa di fronte alla Turistificazione (Italy), a network of collectives and social movements, aiming to raise public awareness and put pressure on administrations to regulate the tourism economy based on criteria of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Malin Widehammar

An organiser active in Gothenburg, Sweden. She is one ofthe founders of the initiative The hub in Bergsjön and part of the organisation Democratic Transition.

Drazen Simlesa

From ZMAG – Good Economy Network in Croatia and general coordinator of RIPESS EU – Solidarity Economy Europe