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AA Academy concept

This past year has been disastrous in more than one respect. The Covid-19 virus was of course the biggest culprit, but certainly not the only one. In numerous areas, the world has fared not better, but worse. Superficially, it may seem that the climate has improved slightly thanks to the pandemic, because there were fewer cars and fewer planes. But in the meantime the world has been catching up economically, with all the adverse ecological consequences this entails. Inequality in the world has also grown. The virus is something that has happened to us; it is an outside enemy. What has not changed is that we ourselves are our own enemy as well. So the big question is: what should we do to turn the tide?

Social distancing does not make our need for solidarity disappear. In a beautiful way Covid-19 has shown us that we are one world. Most major world problems, in one form or another, also occur in a city like Amsterdam. For example, the current city government has committed itself to tackling the climate problem at a local level by means of, among other things, windmills and other forms of sustainable energy generation. But at the same time, the municipality is sticking to its plan to set up a new distribution center in the green Lutkemeerpolder, and in Diemen a not at all climate-friendly biomass power station is still on the cards. In addition to this there are many other things to disagree with in the policy plans of this so-called ʻgreenʼ and ʻprogressiveʼ city government, as the faithful readers of Amsterdam Alternative know.

The AA Academy is a new project
that will start in the course of 2021.

Still, Amsterdam Alternative doesnʼt want to criticise only, but to make an attempt as well to make a modest but hopefully useful contribution to possible solutions, in the form of the AA Academy. The AA Academy is a new project that will start in the course of 2021. The Academy aims to give interested parties the opportunity, through innovative, interactive group sessions, to acquire new knowledge and to come up with new solutions to the problems that the world, and therefore also a city like Amsterdam, is facing, in areas as diverse as housing, environment, democratization, the economy and art & culture.

Not an ordinary educational institute

The AA Academy is not an ordinary ʻeducational instituteʼ like a school or a university, and you will not receive a ʻdiplomaʼ or any other kind of certificate if you have participated in one or more sessions of the Academy. The innovation that the Academy is proposing, is the form in which these sessions take place. There is no one-way traffic of a teacher or a speaker giving a lecture, but a joint attempt by all participants to gain insight into the backgrounds of specific problems by means of a kind of role-playing.

The sessions invariably begin with an introduction to the method used. The participants are divided by mutual agreement into four groups, each representing a particular segment of social life: the market, the government, the citizens and the ʻcommonsʼ (what this last term means I will explain in a moment). The purpose of this exchange of views is twofold. On the one hand, it allows the reasons why a certain situation is currently the way it is to be identified, and on the other hand, it allows the possibility of considering whether there are better alternatives. This is the point at which the ʻcommonsʼ can become interesting.

The innovation that the
Academy is proposing,
is the form in which these
sessions take place.

Traditionally, the ʻcommonsʼ were the ʻcommonʼ lands of, say, a village, which were managed and operated jointly by the inhabitants. Thus there was collective ownership here. With the advent of capitalism, these lands were expropriated on a large scale, as fences were put around them. With the advent of the Internet, suddenly there was talk of a ʻdigital commonsʼ (based on the misguided idea that in the virtual world there would also be collective property). Although it soon turned out that these ʻdigital commonsʼ were also relatively easily ʻfenced off,ʼ so that little remained of communality and collective property, the concept of the ʻcommonsʼ underwent a true revival and is now used all over the world to defend, for example, the divestment of government tasks. The so-called ʻparticipative societyʼ is also sold to us as a form of the ʻcommons,ʼ even though it is actually an austerity operation in disguise.

It is therefore high time to restore the real meaning of the ʻcommonsʼ. The ʻcommonsʼ are in fact the domain in which the three other parties in social life (the market, the government and the citizens) can work together. Essential to this is that we rethink our ideas about what the market and what the government is. Because above all this is also about changing our own thinking. The AA Academy is both an arena and an agora. We come together to be able to think things through. In short: can we use the collective wisdom of the participants in the AA Academy to reintroduce creative forms of collective ownership into social life?

The subject of these first two
sessions will be the 'collective'.

We would like to make a start with the Academy on the 16th and 30th of June, in the evening from 20:00 hrs onwards. The subject of these first two sessions will be the 'collective'. At the ned of May the website of Amsterdam Alternative will announce how you can register and who will give the introductions.