Last Sunday, the townspeople of Barcelona elected Ada Colau as their new leader to run City Hall for the next 4 years. This act represents the democracy-in-action and recognizes the freedom of the people, but it may also signal drastic changes in the way our city works.
Barcelona has been for most of its time under the government of central-left party PSC, and run by a central-right party CiU during the last four years. In recent years, the city has leaned into creating a Barcelona brand well known around the world, starting with the Olympic Games in 1992 and developing into a world-leading Smart City, ready for the 21st century technologically speaking, and trying to become one of the top “2.0” cities in the world. Tourism and entrepreneurship have been the keystones of the city the government has been trying to build.
And now the coin has flipped.
A newly created political party, based on a citizen platform that moves towards facing the powerful lobbies in town, that promotes institutions based on helping those in need, that strives to stop evictions, that fights to guarantee basic rights to everyone in Barcelona, and that wants an economy based on social justice, just to name a few of their main ideas, will probably be elected as the running party under the visible head of Ada Colau. Ms. Colau is a political activist, with ties to the squatter movement in Barcelona, co-founder of the PAH (plataforma de afectados por las hipotecas), winner of the Social Rights Defender Award in 2013 for her fight towards the right to decent affordable housing, and with deep links to anti-globalization movements since 2001. Without a college degree, Ms. Colau cites her work expertise as informal studies, collaborations with social organizations, and her participation in popular movements.
How will this affect Barcelona’s Entrepreneur Ecosystem?
Of course with all new change come new doors that need to be opened. Based on campaign messages, political program, and the own Ms. Colau’s soundbites on interviews, the main goal of the new party is to redistribute wealth in order to reduce the friction among social tiers in Barcelona.
The most notorious statement, that has later been modified, was the manifestation against the Mobile World Congress coming to Barcelona. As I just said, this soundbite has been lately altered in the direction of not against the MWC, but with a need to re-evaluate how the economic benefits redirect back into the city and won’t fly away.
Another big issue for the entrepreneurs is Barcelona Activa. The institution with over 25 years of existence, that has helped almost 5.000 businesses, over 2.500 start-up projects and around 10.000 people find a job, will see its wings cut drastically. Barcelona Activa will almost certainly have its funds reduced, its organization de-centralized to different areas of town, and will focus mostly on companies of two or more shareholders and possibly leave sole entrepreneurs to fend for themselves.
The 22@ neighbourhood was a big bet and project on the former Barcelona mayor political plan. The new government plans on redistributing and investing in more needed areas of town, therefore we may see that the hub the city was trying to create, and the talent it was trying to recruit, ends up going somewhere else or not coming at all.
But lets not get too harsh.
It is also true that Ms. Colau is trying to have Barcelona as an open source city. Collaboration among programmers, citizens, and the government can play a key role in making Barcelona successful.
Hopefully we will find some funds redirected into I+D+I, and into college education and social promotion in order to create our own talent in town.
One of the main goals of Ms. Colau is to fight against unemployment, especially at a young age; and to try and promote the local business to help them grow, and help the city with a social and supportive small business network.
As a left wing party and socially concerned, Ms. Colau’s party will have as one of their main goals the redistribution of city funds into healthcare, schools, and protection of infants in need.
Elections just happened on Sunday. Let’s not get too carried away for now. Ms. Colau has four years to try, learn, make mistakes, fix them, and continue to improve Barcelona and the quality of life for its citizens. Lets not interfere with her. Lets help her and lets all together grow bigger.
The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barcinno Media. At the time of publication, Ada Colau’s mayoral confirmation is still pending.