Introductory information on Citizen action networks and The Alternative UK is on our Networks UK page.

This section gives examples of CANs. As it's currently from a thread of A/UK blogs, newest at the top, working backwards, it's likely to an incomplete listing. Although this page is about all kinds of CANs it's intended to be complemented with other experimental pages, for example social media supported pages to do with CANs, networks, resources, etc. in relation to the broad themes of Menu of possibilities. All of this intended to help a growing number and diversity of people continue to find each other easily over time.

see also: Maps for this page? etc, (via talk page); Citizens Action Network development, Examples of networks

latest/current names and links needed throughout, eg Sheppey may need updating, 21:29, 30 December 2020 (UTC)

2022[edit | edit source]

  • Costa Rica’s Los Higuerones coop is a perfect example of what a CAN looks like - combining economy, relationship and conviviality, The Daily Alternative (Mar 21, 2022)

March 2021, update[edit | edit source]

  • CANs might be place or purpose based. [1]

A/UK Co-creator groups have welcomed initiators of all kinds of CANs from across the UK and Europe, Mexico, South Africa, India, USA.

CANs have been springing up all over the world, often at neighbourhood level but also across towns and cities, and directly in response to the Covid crisis. The implicit connections between those living in the same place rose quickly to the surface, manifesting as organic care systems for those made vulnerable by the lock down.

The phenomenon of people coming together to ameliorate a multi-dimensional crisis, putting an emphasis on building safety and trust and coming up with practical solutions, was a narrative shared with more established CANs like Transition Towns or Ecovillages (though there’s mostly no direct connection). These established CANs started in a similar way but have since become wholistic, systemic islands of activity in our otherwise flatter landscape of activism.

If protest movements were until recently our only popular option for rejecting the current socio-economic system – an action that often polarized communities – then CANs, in our understanding, aim to cross divides and bring us back to the ‘more we have in common’. They emphasize connection in all its forms – to each other, the community and the planet.

But not all CANs are immediately recognisable as community care or transformation groups. In the past year we have come into contact with at least eight different ways of describing the reason for people coming together in a place-based community:

  • CAN as a sangha/church, looking at beliefs and new ways of becoming agentic
  • CAN as the place to generate a 4th sector economy built on community wealth/commoning
  • CAN as a space to explore and experience creativity
  • CAN as a democracy hub - experimenting with participation, governance
  • CAN as a learning club, upgrading ourselves for the 21st century
  • CAN as a farm – aiming for food sovereignty
  • CAN as a care-system
  • CAN as a community hub, offering interaction, identity, belonging

As such, the mnemonic has become flexible. C can mean citizen, community, creative. A can indicate action, agency or simply “and”. N tends to mean network but has also meant neighbourhood or even nest!

When you add these all up, you get the essential definition of a CAN as a firelighter, drawing out of those living together in loose community their collective potential to spring into life. A CAN gives them a space in which to grow, each person a flourishing system within the bigger system of community and planet.

Of course, any particular CAN might also be a mixture of many elements in that list. But some are singularly focused. [2]

Cape Town’s CANs movement[edit | edit source]

We’re delighted to discover Cape Town’s CANs movement - “community action networks” that have been keeping a city together, under Covid, Feb 19, 2021. [3] Cape Town Together, capetowntogether.net, a rapid community-led response to Covid -19. The network is made up of thousands of volunteers who are coming together to form Community Action Networks or CANs. Over a 160 Community Action Networks, and growing. added 11:59, 22 February 2021 (UTC)

Latest CAN examples[edit | edit source]

In similar spaces of intense reflection around the world, more people have connected the dots between corporate globalisation, the unchecked extraction of natural resources from the planet, the instrumentalization of human beings for mechanical work and wasteful consumption, and the pandemic.

To bring together groups of response-able citizens, willing to build the relationships with everyone in their community in order to ‘wake them up in time to get out the house’ is what a CAN is for. Trust the People, Local Trust, Transition Towns, Devon Convergence – all of these are CANs, trying every day to attract and serve new and more people. July 2020 [4], July 2020

A/UK Loomio forums are helping CANs to form[edit | edit source]

Three varied initiatives birthed from our Action Forum (you’re welcome to join it, please come in through the co-creator door) which we wanted to let the wider audience that follows the Daily Alternative know about. Support them, or join us, and propose your own! May 2020 [5]

  • Alter-Narratives
  • Co-create Sheppey CAN
  • TinCan.tv

Different genres of CAN that might share learning[edit | edit source]

How can we keep going our intensely personal thoughts about what is wrong and needs to be righted, as a shared conversation? So that those people who have recently begun to know their neighbours, might find some onward field of action as we move out of lock down?

To this end, over this period we have been participating – either remotely or up close – in at least 11 kinds of fast developing genre of citizen action networks (CANs). CANs do the work of developing the people power arising from new and deeper thinking about the future:

  • Transition Towns
  • Trust the People (arising from XR’s Future Democracy Hub. See this week’s blog)
  • One Small Town (an ambitious project to transform the economy through the actions of only three hours of citizens voluntary labour per week).
  • Participatory Cities (Dagenham)
  • Co-operation Jackson
  • Preston Model
  • Flatpack Democracy
  • Commoning initiatives
  • Co-operatives /Platform co-operatives
  • Pop Plymouth / CAN ... The Alternative UK, search results for 'Plymouth'
  • Neighborocracy

Each have slightly different dynamics between the individual and the local collective, the wider tribe of those that share values and the state. But what they have in common is a determination to ‘reclaim’ their power and agency from ‘business as usual’ – the growth economy that has weakened our social bonds and destroyed the planet. May 2020 [6]

Citizen Spring: The new movement connecting social enterprises across Brussels and Antwerp[edit | edit source]

Connect with networks globally

A CAN is “a structure - both face-to-face and digital - that brings together civil and social enterprises in an area, along with citizens currently disengaged with politics. A CAN tries to build a combination of concrete services meeting actual needs, as well as a growing agenda about the need for decision-making power at the lowest possible level”.

Citizen Spring is a network based in Brussels, Belgium that aims to connect local projects so that groups can identify ways to support each other, coordinate their activities, and promote sustainable and future-facing ideas. May 2019 [7]

CTRLshifts into next gear[edit | edit source]

CTRLshift was initiated by members of system-change organizations including Permaculture Association, Transition Network, Shared Assets, The Alternative UK and many others (see here for partner organizations). System change is not loosely evoked. These organizations have adopted the task that Buckminster Fuller described as building ‘a new model’ to replace the old, dysfunctional growth economy that has almost destroyed our planet. Day 1 offered a number of solution sessions, from Building the Open Credit Network, Citizen Led Economic Transition, Alternative Local Food Systems, Women as a Force for Social Change, to our own How to Build a Citizens Action Network. May 2019 [8]


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Notes and References[edit | edit source]

- zoom 21 12 20 - earlier discussion - google doc of resources - other references

  1. Co-creators zoom meeting, Mar 8, 2021
  2. Alternative Editorial: We Are FOUR, Mar 1, 2021
  3. thealternative.org.uk
  4. Alternative Editorial: Scenario Planning, July 19, 2020, thealternative.org.uk
  5. Alter-Narratives, Co-create Sheppey and TinCan.TV : our Loomio Action Forums are getting active, May 29, 2020 thealternative.org.uk
  6. Alternative Editorial: Everyone Is Implied, May 17, 2020 thealternative.org.uk
  7. Citizen Spring: The new movement connecting social enterprises across Brussels and Antwerp, May 28, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
  8. Alternative Editorial: CTRLshifts into next gear, May 12, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
Page data
Authors Phil Green
Published 2020
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Impact Number of views to this page. Updated once a month. Views by admins and bots are not counted. Multiple views during the same session are counted as one. 54