Barcelona en Comú

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= the Spanish coalition that won the municipal elections in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain)



From Wikipedia:

"Barcelona en Comú (Catalan for Barcelona in Common, formerly known as Guanyem Barcelona) is a citizen platform whose aim is to bring together progressive social and political organizations to win the 2015 Barcelona city elections. Its policy agenda, currently being developed through a number of participatory processes (in person and online), includes defending social justice and community rights,[24] promoting participatory democracy, introducing mechanisms to tackle corruption, and developing a new model of tourism for Barcelona."
(Wikipedia: Barcelona en Comú)


Kate Shea Baird:

"Since the launch of Barcelona en Comú less than a year ago, Colau has taken pains to emphasize that she is just the most visible face of a movement that is horizontal in structure and collective in spirit. It was no surprise that she opened her victory speech thanking the people who had undertaken in the invisible work of logistics, cleaning, childcare, leafletting, and translation that made Barcelona en Comú's win possible.

This was not the typical posturing of a party politician. The Barcelona en Comú electoral programme was drawn up by over 5000 people, with contributions made in open assemblies and online, and the strategic and political decisions of the platform are made by the ‘plenary’ assembly, held twice a month.

As well as local groups in every neighbourhood of the city, the platform has also given birth to SomComuns, a network of cyberactivists who campaign on Twitter and Facebook, and a group of local artists and designers dubbing themselves The Movement for The Graphic Liberation of Barcelona, who have put their creative skills and the service of the cause.

The complexity of the make-up of Barcelona en Comú has led to both understandable attempts to simplify it as well as deliberate attempts to misrepresent it. While the foreign press has tended to conflate Barcelona en Comú with Podemos, local critics have accused it of being a rebranding operation by Catalan “post-communist” party ICV.

In fact, five existing political forces (Guanyem, ICV-EUiA, Podemos, Equo and Procés Constituent) signed up to the proposal of standing on a joint electoral list. While it is true that the institutional experience and resources of ICV and the political appeal of Podemos have contributed to its success, many of Barcelona en Comú's most active participants come from neighbourhood associations and social movements, particularly indignados from the Spanish Occupy movement. This mix of loosely associated groups and individuals has contributed to Barcelona en Comú's broad appeal and to its success in increasing turnout in some of the city's most deprived areas." (


The predecessor: Guanyem

Joan Subirats:

"Guanyem was created in June 2014, 11 months prior to the municipal elections, with a minimal program in 4 points:

we said, we want to take back the city, it’s is being taken away from the citizens, people come here to talk about a ‘business-friendly global city’ and they are taking it away from the citizens, we have lost the capacity to control it, as the first point; there is a social emergency where many problems don’t get a response; we want people to be able to have decision-making capacity in what happens in the city, so co-production of policy, more intense citizen participation in municipal decisions; moralisation of politics. Here the main points are non-repetition of mandates, limits on salaries of elected officials, anti-corruption and transparency measures, etc. So we presented this in June 2014 and we decided that we would give ourselves until September to collect 30,000 signatures in support of the manifesto and if we succeeded, we would present candidates in the municipal elections. In one month we managed to get the 30,000 signatures! Besides getting the signatures on internet and in person, we held a lot of meetings in the neighbourhoods to present the manifesto – we held about 30 or 40 meetings like that, some of them small, some more massive, where we went to the neighbourhoods and we said « We thought of this, what do you think? We thought of these priorities, etc’. » So, in September of 2014 we decided to go ahead; once we decided that we would present a slate, we began to discuss with the parties – but with the strength of all that support of 30,000 people backing us at the grassroots, so our negotiating strength with respect to the parties was very different. In Dec 2014 we agreed with the parties to create Barcelona en Comun – we wanted to call it Guanyem but someone else had already registered the name, so there was a lot of discussion about a new name, there were various proposals: Revolucion democratica, primaria democratica, the term Comu – it seemed interesting because it connected with the Commons movement, the idea of the public which is not restricted to the institutional and that was key. It was also important that in the previous municipal elections in 2011 only 52% of people had voted, in the poorer neighbourhoods a higher number of people abstained and that it was in the wealthier neighbourhoods where a larger proportion of people had voted. So we wanted to raise participation by 10% in the poor neighbourhoods more affected by the crisis and we thought that would allow us to win. And that was what happened. In 2015, 63% voted, but in the poor areas 40% more people voted. In the rich areas, the same people voted as before.

So it was not impossible to think we could win. And from the beginning the idea was to win. We did not build this machine in order to participate, we built it in order to win. We didn’t want to be the opposition, we wanted to govern. And as a result, it was close, because we won 11 of 41 seats, but got the most votes so we head the municipal council, the space existed. From the moment Guanyem was created in June 2014, other similar movements began to be created all over Spain – in Galicia, in Andalucia, in Valencia, Zaragoza, Madrid… One of the advantages we have in Barcelona is that we have Ada Colau, which is a huge advantage, because a key thing is to have an uncontested leader who can articulate all the segments of the movement – ecologists, health workers, education professionals…. If you don’t have that it’s very difficult, and also the sole presence of Ada Colau explains many things. In Madrid they found Manuela Carmena, who is great as an anti-franquista symbol, with her judicial expertise, very popular but who didn’t have that tradition of articulating movements, and as a result now they are having a lot more problems of political coordination than here." (


Lessons from the electoral victory


1) Movements should keep pushing for radical and participatory democracy

... "by engaging directly with electoral politics—while also maintaining their independence from established parties.

In advance of Spain’s municipal elections, movement activists worked with existing political parties to create new “convergence” platforms of “popular unity” specifically for May 24. Barcelona En Comú and Ahora Madrid were not traditional parties, but rather a mix of groups working together—including Podemos and more local efforts that had come out of 15M and the activism that preceded it—while maintaining their own structures and decision-making process.

Though complicated and challenging, this structure allowed movement groups to maintain their autonomy without being engulfed by the larger party, Podemos. (While many Spanish activists are encouraged by the rise of Podemos, they are also quick to remind you that the party did not come from the 15M movement).

2. Take steps before the vote to make sure the officials you elect will be accountable to the movement.

Barcelona En Comú candidates signed a code of political ethics called “Governing by obeying,” in which they agreed to a reduced salary and making their schedules and income sources public. They also pledged to open up local government, democratize government institutions and promote increased, direct citizen participation as a way to strengthen social movements and make sure they don't lose energy post-victory. Marina Lopez, an activist with Barcelona En Comú, says that now that they have taken power in city government, “we have to continue to exist as a political organization that is close to the citizens and neighborhoods… this is our strength.”

When Ada Colau and 10 new City Council members took to the stage at the Barcelona En Comú victory party on Sunday, what struck me was that they looked like, well, activists, and not professional politicians. Colau wore jeans, and the others looked like they’d been out organizing all day, no suits or heels in sight.

What these local efforts in Spain have done so far is rightly say that activists should run for office—but that once elected, they can remain activists pushing for a more open and participatory democracy.

Ernesto Garcia Lopez, an organizer with Ahora Madrid, says that in addition to working inside the governing coalition, he and others are now focused on showing that the outside movement continues.

“We’re going to create a huge wave of collective assemblies in each neighborhood in order to create pressure to power local government by the movement and citizens directly,” he says. “If we only think about management of new government, then our idea of radical democracy is not possible.”

3) Create physical spaces for local organizing outside of existing institutions

An important part of progressives’ recent electoral success can be traced to a strong network of locally organized “social centers” across Spain. These are spaces where community members can interact and share ideas, whether that means organizing a demonstration, taking Zumba classes or checking out library book. Many subsist on small membership fees or income from a bar or café. Many served as gathering places for organizing 15M after the movement decided to end its large-scale occupations and focus on building neighborhood-level power.

In the United States, similar spaces are much harder to find—partly because rents are so much higher in major cities. But some American activists are taking inspiration from Spain’s social centers and starting their own. Lucas Shapiro, who organized the activist delegation to Spain I took part in, is creating the Mayday Space in Brooklyn, with the aim of fostering a “interconnected movement ecosystem” where different projects and people can overlap, share ideas and shift the political terrain. Shapiro, who spent time at the social center Ateneu Candela in Terrassa, Spain, says that these centers “create a cultural current within a city that reinforces the autonomous spirit of resistance.”

4) Question the professionalization of movement organizing

Two words we never heard in Spain were “staff” and “volunteer.” Almost every organizer we met—whether for a group, movement or campaign—was doing the work in their free time, without an institutional affiliation or paycheck.

Luis Moreno-Caballud, an activist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania from Spain who took part in our delegation, points out that in the United States, the paid versus unpaid distinction can create a separation between “professional” activists and volunteers or people affected by an issue. In Spain, there are not paid staff who tell volunteers what to do—the volunteers are the leaders, with much more decision-making power.

I’ve found, too, that the large institutions and amounts of money involved in U.S. political organizing can sometimes make it hard to figure out if we’re doing the work we want to do, or the work that we can get funded. And the focus on funding can create an atmosphere of competition for grants and resources.

While it’s tempting to romanticize the purity of getting money out of politics—break free of capitalism!—Spain’s model has its own drawbacks. Organizers in the United States can get paid for doing movement work we care about, and without funding, for many of us that would not be possible. And with an unemployment rate above 40 percent for young people in Spain, I suspect that many Spanish activists would not object to getting paid for doing work that generally aligns with their values.

But Moreno-Caballud suggests exploring alternatives to institutional or big-donor funding. “It can be powerful when you see you can do things without money,” he says. He suggests that U.S. activists can look at strategies of mutual aid and building a social economy—where organizers exchange goods and services—or an alternative economy, through activist-run bookstores or bars.

A volunteer movement means, too, that more time can be spent organizing instead of writing grants or fundraising. As Lucía Lois Méndez de Vigo from the Patio Maravillas social center in Madrid told us, “We have one meeting a year to talk about money.” As someone who’s spent countless hours writing fundraising emails and calling donors to ask for money, that sounds like a pretty great idea.

From what I saw, the lack of professionalization in Spain’s social justice movement also seemed to create a culture that is less ego-driven. For the most part, organizing jobs don’t exist, and there isn’t a career ladder—so people are generally doing things with their spare time because it’s what they want to be doing and believe in, and they aren’t assessed based on title or organization, but reputation and work they’ve done.

5) Inject some creativity into our electoral campaigns

Elections in the U.S. are fast becoming more a science than an art, with a focus on exactly how many times a voter needs to be contacted, in what ways and with which words. Yet for all our data-driven sophistication, as I saw the campaigning happening in Spain I couldn’t help but feel like our U.S. campaigns are, by comparison, a little rote and lifeless.

A week before the election in Madrid, I joined Ahora Madrid for a “walking tour” of the gentrifying neighborhood of Malasaña. But it was more like a parade, led by bikes flying Ahora Madrid flags and speakers blasting campaign songs. Every few blocks, we paused, and a speaker explained through the bullhorn what was happening in the neighborhood. People gave out flyers and buttons, talked to passersby and put up stickers. Up at the front, someone rolled a 7-foot inflatable blue plastic ball emblazoned with the campaign’s demand, Agua Publica, through the narrow cobblestone streets.

We shouldn’t abandon what’s been proven to be effective to get voters to the polls. But what Podemos and these local platforms have managed to do is use imagination and humor to completely transform the sense of what’s politically possible in Spain. As one Podemos banner reads, “When was the last time you voted with hope?”

6) Put feminism and women’s leadership front and center

Sunday’s local election results broke new ground for women in Spain. Ada Colau is the first female mayor of Barcelona—in a region of Spain, Catalonia, where previously only 14.2 percent of cities were run by women. Six of the 11 people elected to municipal offices on the Barcelona En Comú ticket are women, and one, Laura Perez, is a well-known feminist leader.

That’s no accident: The campaigns had an explicitly feminist agenda that includes fighting the “feminization” of poverty and expanding our gendered ideas of leadership. Several of the organizers I spoke with talked about getting away from the traditional idea of a male leader who speaks loudly and confidently and tells everyone what to do, and moving more towards a style of cooperation, discussion and listening. In her election night speech, Ada Colau focused on thanking the “common” people—the people who did the work of caring for the kids and making the food. Feminists, she said, have shown that there’s another way to do politics." (

Barcelona En Comú: party vs. movement

By Eloísa Piñeiro Orge (member of the Executive Board of Barcelona en Comú):

"Is Barcelona en Comú a political party? Legally, yes. However, many of its activists feel uncomfortable about calling this space of political participation a ‘party’, and choose to use other terms, such as ‘organization’, ‘space’, or simply ‘BComú’.

Of course, the word ‘party’ has negative baggage, particularly in a political culture impregnated with the recent memory of the indignados. But it’s true that the word ‘party’ isn’t quite right, or enough to describe what Barcelona en Comú is, in terms of both its behavior as a political actor, which goes beyond an electoral tool related solely to institutional governance, and in terms of its internal rules in deliberation and participation processes. These rules provide checks and balances and open up decision-making spaces that seek to distance Barcelona en Comú from classic party structures and thereby increase its capacity for action, a key element of our ultimate goal: the defense of the commons.

However, while it works at the margins of the logic of classic political parties, we can’t quite call Barcelona en Comú a movement. Its structure and internal rules, recognized by its activists, the definition of its goals in annual plans and its tools for communication and collective action aren’t those of a social movement. Precisely because of all these elements, BComú has become an institution, and this shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage, quite the opposite.

Elinor Ostrom, in Understanding Institutional Diversity, defines institutions as “prescriptions that humans use to organize all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those within families, neighborhoods, markets, firms, sports leagues, churches, private associations, and governments at all scales.” Individuals interacting within rule-structured situations, says Ostrom, “face choices regarding the actions and strategies they take, leading to consequences for themselves and for others.” During its more than two years of life, Barcelona en Comú’s activists have participated in actions that are the embryo for change we’ve always longed for, and which would be impossible from outside political institutions.

Beyond the technical question of what kind of organism BComú is or isn’t, what’s clear is that it is a living organism and, as such, it breathes the same political oxygen as the other parties, local institutions and social and neighbourhood movements in the city. BComú has to decide how to coexist and interact with them all. BComú itself is a space made up of activists with backgrounds in the struggle for the commons, neighbourhood associations, feminism, ecology, internationalism, workers’ rights, and the fight for democracy. Many of them are active inside and outside BComú at the same time, something which some describe as a ‘schizophrenic’ relationship, while others are pragmatic, using BComú (in a positive way) to multiply the capacity for transformation and influence of other organizations in the city. In this way, BComú meets its transformative goals by means of a relationship with movements that is in constant creation, doubt and critical reflection; uncomfortable when it’s not contradictory and overwhelming.

It’s not up to us to decide whether we’re a movement or an instrument, because this choice, which seems compulsory to us, and which hangs over our heads, is a trap that prevents us from being free and taking the action we want to take. We have to move from one side to the other, acting as a porous interface between institutions of government and institutions of the commons, being more movement at some times and more party in others. Above all, we must seek the cracks in the institutional structures of government and in the suffocating political-institutional fight, in order to go beyond the transformational capacity of traditional parties. We’ll only know who we are from our potential for action. That’s what the activists of BComú are engaged in every day, uninhibited in the institutional sphere, but less so when we act beyond it." (

More Information

Documentary: Municipal Recipes

Video via

Stacco Troncoso:

"One of the most repeated mottos chanted at protests four years ago was Que no, que no, que no nos representan [No, no, they don’t represent us], “they” being the politicians in power. Today, we’re beginning to hear Que sí, que sí, que sí nos representan [Yes, yes, they do represent us], “they” being regular people who, tired of feeling unrepresented, have organized to try to take back the political institutions. This reverse, hopeful motto is what hundreds cheered at a recent gathering of activists running for the May 25th municipal elections as representatives of newly formed citizen candidacies around Spain.

It all started about a year ago with Guanyem Barcelona, now called Barcelona en Comú, an initiative that has inspired people in dozens of Spanish cities and towns to create their own citizen candidacies, where members of various social movements and non-establishment political parties have converged to stand for local government, the most relevant being Ahora Madrid. With the elections just days away, the support for these new non-parties is turning out to be huge. Some of them, notably Barcelona en Comú, have a very good chance of winning, according to the polls.

In Municipal Recipes, a short documentary which Guerrilla Translation subtitled for the 2015 Zemos98 Festival, a small group of activists involved in these municipal initiatives to share their experiences and expectations over lunch." (

Code of Ethics and Shock Plan



The city of Barcelona does not strictly speaking have a "charter". After having disseminated the Principles on which they were based to present themselves "with the intention of winning" in the municipal elections of May 2015, the organization "Barcelona en Commun", a new political space created a year earlier including parties and citizens' associations, proposed a Common Agenda accompanied by a Code of Ethics and a Shock Plan. These four documents, the last three of which were drawn up on a participatory basis for several months, can be considered as a charter between "Barcelona en Commun" and the inhabitants.

The principles

The declaration lists four "Principles and Prior Commitments" that underpin the will to “win over" the municipality. The original name of the new political space was "Guanyem" ("Gagnons")

  • Guarantee basic social rights and a dignified life for all people.
  • Promote an economy with social and environmental justice.
  • Democratize institutions and decide on the city we want
  • Assume an ethical commitment with citizens

Principios voir aussi en anglais Why do we want to win back Barcelona?

The code of ethics

Under the title of "Governing by obeying. Code of Political Ethics ", this document presents a code of good practices and concrete actions that must be respected by any person elected or appointed to a political position. The code ensures a committed political management that has a close relationship to citizens with effective mechanisms for financial transparency and democratic and popular auditing. This also includes real spaces to host citizen participation and decision-making in public affairs. "

The code includes four points:

  1. Democratization of political representation, control and accountability
  2. Financing, transparency and cost management
  3. Professionalization of politics, removal of privileges, and measures against corruption

This last point includes: “The possibility to fix a maximum monthly net salary of 2,200 euros, including expense reports, it being understood that this remuneration guarantees conditions worthy of the exercise of the responsibilities and functions incumbent on the post in question. The salary level will vary according to the assumed responsibilities"

PDF: Castillano: Gobernar obedeciendo. Código de ética política
PDF: English: Code of Political Ethics
PDF : French: Code de l’éthique politique

The “shock” plan

The shock plan “is based on common and economic viablility" meets the priorities set in the program development meetings. It aims to "counter the dehumanization" of austerity policies and "restore the dignity" of the poorest people. The plan aims to allocate a substantial budget (160 million euros) to social measures that are considered a priority in four areas: "1) create a dignified job by diversifying the productive model; 2) guarantee basic social rights; 3) reconsider forms of privatization and projects that are contrary to the common good; 4) execute an audit of the institution and finish with the privileges. "

PDF : Plan de choque para los primeros meses de mandato
PDF : English: Emergency Plan for the first months in government

The program

The principles underlying the program:

  • It is a space and an instrument of dialogue with citizens
  • It aims to find measures that promote the common good
  • It uses collective intelligence through a participatory process open to the public.

The program is a firm commitment that offers more than promises in the elections, setting out the timetable and mechanisms for implementing the proposed measures. “

Development process:

Public reflection meetings initiated in mid-2014 have discussed diagnoses and proposals that lead to two documents:

  • A citizen mandate of 40 proposals ordered in order of importance
  • A set of citizen requests from different districts of the city.

The proposed measures

The measures proposed by the program are grouped into three categories:

  • The City Model (Fundamental Rights, New Economic Model, A Livable City, Open Democracy)
  • The territorial domain (specific measures for each of the ten districts of the city)
  • The thematic area (24 thematic axes ranging from health to tourism through ecology, participation and transparency, etc.)

A schedule and methods of the implementation of measures start with the most urgent in the Shock Plan, and include the elaboration of a Municipal Action Program (MAP) and ten District Action Programs (PAD).

Special attention is paid to transparency, monitoring and evaluation of the measures taken. Finally the program remains open for discussion amendments. Participatory communication tools are put in place to ensure follow-up and discussions.


"We are transforming the city by putting people at the crux of public policy by also changing the priorities of the municipal agenda. Here they are! "

  • Combatting speculation: rights to housing, recovery of buildings for public use and regulation of tourism.
  • For a healthy and travel-able city (‘paseable’??): public transport, clean air, retrieve the streets.
  • The struggle to recover public management of services: water, energy, basic services.
  • Reducing inequalities and precariousness: guaranteeing rights, creating work and wealth in a fair way
  • New ways of doing politics: transparency, feminism, and participation
  • The fight in the neighborhoods: co-produce public policies with and between neighbors

Citizen participation process.

The active participation of citizens in the diagnosis, proposals, debates and decision-making on municipal policies is at the heart the desire of Barcelona en communs to "do politics differently". This "co-production of policies" requires methods and explained tools in the program to be developed in a participatory way during the new administration’s mandate.

A new regulation of citizen participation (Projecte normatiu Reglament de participació ciutadana) was voted in September 2017 for the municipal council. It has been developed for 18 months during both face-to-face and virtual consultations.

"The City requires a culture of participatory democracy whereby, regardless of government, citizens have tools to make decisions. With the recently approved Citizen Participation Regulations, we have taken a big step in this direction by introducing citizen initiatives as a mechanism in the decision-making process of the City of Barcelona. "

"The right to the city is not only the right to have access to what already exists but also the right to decide and change it"

Participation can take different forms:

  • Propose forums and participatory consultations through citizen initiatives and processes.
  • Discuss in spaces and forums of participation to commence a dialogue with the City Council for questions and actions whereby citizens can intervene.
  • Influencing municipal actions to collaborate in their development and realization.
  • Co-produce the city's public policies and resulting actions by developing the definition of the diagnosis and by participating in its implementation, evaluation and monitoring of these policies.
  • Decide on important issues of the city as a part of citizen consultations.

On the website of the Ajuntament (municipality) - how to participate:


See also:

Video :Decidim
Video :Les différents modes et mécanismes de participation. Barcelona participa
Video :l'initiative citoyenne

The public / common ecosystem of Barcelona

A public / common ecosystem includes different social actors. According to Christian Iaione, the Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons is an iconic example of such an arrangement, and it consists of a five-fold helix for governance common cities bringing together the public, private, universities (media and knowledge), civil society organizations, and commons that include their organizations, practices and institutions. What is most important to Iaione in this example is the capability to make commons an actor in their own right.

The public / common ecosystem of Barcelona, ​​as presented by Mayo Fuster, follows this model of the five actors. But it is more precise in the institutionalization of bridges between the different actors. In an interview on the occasion of the Procomuns 2017 meeting, Fuster talks about co-creation ecosystems of policies articulated on several levels.

  1. Barcola (Barcelona colabora) - a working group between the Barcelona City Council and 50 representatives of Procomun Economics entities (in different sectors: technology, fund raising, solidarity economy, etc.) and four universities of Catalonia which manage four research projects funded by Europe whose aims and methodologies are decided by the group.
  2. Procomuns - an annual meeting defined as "an event-action". "We use co-creation methodologies to develop new public policy proposals that are appropriate for the establishment of a collaborative community economy." Procomuns makes proposals on urban policies and the collaborative economy to various levels of government and the European Commission. According to Fuster, Procomuns is also an open "meetlab" platform based on themes and issues that have emerged during the year. It is also an opportunity to create and test tools and methodologies that facilitate the approach and collaboration between institutions and new entrepreneurs of the commons. Localization tools like Pamapam can be used to evaluate collaborative economy practices such as the " Étoile d’évaluation de qualité des communs “ or “Quality Rating Star Evaluation”. In 2016, Procomuns made 120 proposals to the Barcelona administration as well as recommendations to Europe.
  3. Decidim Barcelona - an online participatory platform that facilitates the collaborative design of proposals and policies with citizens. Last year, 120 Procomuns' proposals were discussed on the site. It is noted that Decidim Barcelona platform itself is the subject of an open and permanent re-design that invites partners and citizens to specify the themes and methodologies of consultations. The current reform of the city's (voir infra) laws use this platform (see below).
  4. An intersectoral commission within the town hall that helps articulate and coordinate the different themes and issues of urban policy: eg. mobility and transport, libraries, employment because, according to Fuster, "the theme of the collaborative economy is very transversal and affects many sectors of the administration".

See Also: