The Carfree Cities Alliance (CCA) is an international organization promoting car-free planning for more sustainable and inclusive cities and neighborhoods.
Ever since 2008, it has been widely reported that Greece is in complete economic collapse. But the Greek economic crisis also provided the people of Athens with a rare opportunity to step outside of the global economy – to come together to revitalize communities, share resources and re-shape public spaces to serve their own needs, rather than the needs of big business and commerce. Projects include Navarinou, a park run by a neighborhood committee, which maintains a busy schedule of public debates, films, children’s activities and urban gardening workshops, and the Social Cultural Centre of Vyronas, whose charter declares: “We put human needs above commerce and business interests.” To learn more about these projects, read: Athens’ unofficial community initiatives offer hope after government failures. Read more about Navarinou Park here.
In 1998 the Balinese village of Desa Ban – a cluster of remote hamlets on arid, steep land – was home to 15,000 people living in terrible poverty and beset with serious health issues. Over the past twenty years, the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) has facilitated a holistic community-led approach to improving lives in the village, centered on vetiver and bamboo as a base for sustainable, diverse agroforestry systems and slope stabilization. Communities built their own rainwater harvesting systems, healthcare facilities, and schools that function as community learning and development centers, featuring organic gardens and vocational training. Their story provides a blueprint for arid, rural communities seeking to revitalize their ecosystems, communities, and local economies.
In the village of Kharamal in Odisha, India, traditional water collection methods are being used by residents to combat drought. Small structures called chahalas work in concert with gully plugs, vermicomposting, and other strategic practices to increase local farmers’ incomes while ending their dependence on chemical fertilizers, and to reduce the number of people leaving the village. Read more in this Hindustan Times article on Kharamal’s agricultural practices, and this article from Climate Action Network South Asia.
Photo by Arabinda Mahapatra.
In opposition to a proposed highway through poor neighborhoods, residents of Lewiston, Maine instead developed a Peoples’ Downtown Master Plan that laid the groundwork for a renaissance of cooperative development and refugee solidarity. Today the city is home to a number of community organizations and cooperatives, including New Roots, Maine’s first immigrant-owned cooperative farm; the Healthy Neighborhoods Coalition, which promotes affordable housing and green space; the Good Food Council, which promotes healthy food systems; the Raise-Op Housing Cooperative; and six other cooperatives that provide childcare, herbal medicine, compost pickup, and food. Read the full story of Lewiston’s transformation here.
MASS Design Group (MASS stands for Model of Architecture Serving Society) is a nonprofit architecture firm whose mission is to advance social justice through participatory design, recognizing that physical infrastructure plays a fundamental role in creating systemic changes in culture and economy. Designers work closely with communities to create buildings that uphold environmental stewardship, social justice, and community-defined values in a local context. Visit the MASS Design Group website for more information on their philosophy and projects, and read more about their work in architecture for food systems in this Medium article.
Tarun Bharat Sangh works with communities in semi-arid Rajasthan, India, restoring traditional water catchment systems to revitalize rural communities and ecosystems. After successfully restoring the water table in Alwar Village in 1985 by rebuilding a disused johad (a crescent-shaped dam to capture rainwater runoff), the organization went on to restore groundwater and forests in more than 750 villages in Rajasthan and beyond. Read more about Tarun Bharat Sangh and similar initiatives in our article series on water sovereignty.
Photo by ecotippingpoints.org
Tosepan is a network of cooperatives with 35,000 members in Puebla, Mexico, dedicated to constructing a holistic, sustainable, locally- and democratically-controlled economy rooted in the indigenous culture and knowledge of the Sierra Norte. Tosepan is comprised of three civil associations and eight cooperatives, which together cover basic needs including organic ecological farming, natural building, local healthcare, decentralized renewable energy, and local finance. They also actively oppose globalization, and have successfully resisted corporate development projects including a planned Walmart. Read more about Tosepan in our article on Medium.
York Central Co-Owned (YoCo) is a grassroots regeneration project in York, UK that aims to create a thriving neighbourhood built around well-being, happiness, and a locally-rooted, ecological, fair and just economy.