Create a cultural center from scratch, rehabilitate an entire neighborhood, negotiate with the city, engage in political discussions and all of this without hierarchies and grassroots democratic. But how? Over the years, we have tried out countless structures in the Gängeviertel. Some of which still exist today, others were quickly discarded. The central place for all decision-making is the Vollversammlung Wednesday night. Here, all activists of the Gängeviertel are invited to discuss current issues in an open forum. For special and long-term tasks, like negotiations or public relations, we found workgroups. Communication with the authorities and the general public lies with the Gängeviertel association, all issues regarding residents or the renovation with the cooperative. Everything else gets sorted out informally between coffee, beer and cigarettes. Sounds complicated? In deed it is!
Funded on 26 October 2009, the Gängeviertel association (Verein) pursues the promotion of culture and the arts, the preservation of the historical buildings and public education. His main task however is the long-term development and protection of the project.
Today, the association runs several event-locations in the Gängeviertel, such as the Druckerei, the Jupi Bar and the Fabrique, the galleries of the neighborhood and several collectively-used spaces. The weekly open board meeting is one of the central forums for all kinds of social, financial, and public issues of the project. The association is bound to the decisions made at the Vollversammlung.
The Gängeviertel cooperative 2010 (Genossenschaft) has been founded to preserve the project as a self-determined space. Its democratic structure allows its members to live collectively and socially responsible.
In the coming years, all of the Gängeviertel buildings will be rehabilitated in cooperation with the city of Hamburg. This process will carefully preserve the historic buildings. The cooperative is counting on the of the general public, who contribute to the future existence of the project by buying shares.
This is a success story that has been recognized internationally and influenced the debates on city development as a whole.
Grassroots democracy is a beautiful ideal, but unfortunately also a lot of work. How much work exactly, we had to learn time and time again in the last years. The attempt to give everyone a voice and to also hear all of these voices is never easy or uncomplicated in a project of our size. Consequentially, the general assembly sees fights, negotiations, and debates until we are finally ready to vote or have reached a consensus.
The is the heart of the project Gängeviertel – no meaningful decision can be made without it and no space or project would exist if it weren’t for this forum. Because of this, many activists of the Gängeviertel find themselves every two weeks in a circle to discuss programs, social life, politics, negotiations, and the future. Utopia simply doesn’t construct itself.
Gossip? Which gossip? No, not here! Just because we see and hear everything from each other, every cough, every child, every moan? Just because we all know each other, celebrate together, are friends or sometimes enemies? Love and annoy each other, fight together and have to rely on each other in order to live our lives for this utopia? Because votes could be influenced by personal talks? Because we celebrate through the night, go home together and get to know each other more intimately, become friends, start relationships and end them? Just because we’re our own Big Brother?
I wouldn’t really call that gossip, but a, eh, certain transparence certainly exists. Protocols are great but even more interesting between the lines. Have you heard that …?