CIC’s autonomous projects of collective initiatives: Calafou

August 5, 2016

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

One of the most interesting autonomous projects associated with the Catalan Integral Cooperative (CIC) is Calafou, the self-proclaimed “post-capitalist colony” which settled in 2011 in the ruins of an abandoned industrial village in the Catalan county of l’Anoia, about 65km away from Barcelona.

The colony was set up with the participation of several CIC members with the aim of becoming a collectivist model for living and organizing the productive activities of a small local community based on the principles of self-management, ecological sustainability, free culture and technological sovereignty. At the same time, it represents an example of the form that former industrial villages could assume in a post-capitalist era.

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Calafou’s post-capitalist aesthetics

The first thing one is struck by when visiting Calafou is the aesthetics of the space which gives the impression of a Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic scene, as many of the buildings of the village remain abandoned and half-dilapidated. In reality, however, Calafou is anything but abandoned: at the moment, the colony accommodates a multitude of productive activities and community infrastructures, including a carpentry workshop, a mechanical workshop, a botanical garden, a community kitchen, a biolab, a hacklab, a soap production lab, a professional music studio, a guest-house for visitors, a social centre with a free shop, as well as a plethora of other productive projects.

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The Calafou hacklab

As far as its property regime is concerned, the village has been leased to Calafou members based on the following agreement: the “colonists” gave the owner a security deposit of seventy thousand euros and committed themselves to paying a monthly rent of an average of two and a half thousand euros (inclusive of the cost of utilities) for the next ten years. Presently, the colony, which has twenty-seven houses (of 60m2 each), is inhabited by about thirty people. For the collective management of housing, Calafou members have set up a housing cooperative, which grants them as tenants only the right to use the space they inhabit. In that way, as tenants do not have the right to re-sell or lease their rights of use to others, the land and the houses of the village remain the unalienable property of the housing cooperative. Thus, based on the above agreement, tenants pay 175 euros per month for each house.

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A bird’s-eye view of the village

According to some of its members, one of Calafou’s most significant accomplishments is its consensus-oriented assembly, which is held every Sunday for the purpose of making decisions as well as for the coordination of daily tasks like cleaning up common spaces, which – like everything else that needs to be done – are self-selected on a voluntary basis by “Calafou-ers”. The assembly character is however not always the same, as its thematology alternates between “political” (for discussion of political issues), “managerial” (for management issues) and “monographic” based on presentations made by Calafou’s working groups.[1]

For its economic sustainability, Calafou depends on three main sources of income: first, the revenues of the housing cooperative (based on the rent paid by residents); second, the contributions made by Calafou’s productive projects [2]; and third, the income generated by the various cultural events taking place at the village (like conferences, concerts and festivals).


[1] Although Calafou has quite a few working groups, all of which have direct input into the assembly process, the presentations at “monographic” assemblies are made only by the four most important ones (i.e. the working groups on economics, on communication, on renovation-restoration and on productive projects).

[2] Productive projects have to pay a monthly rent of one euro for every square metre of space they occupy at Calafou.

Tags: building resilient communities, co-operatives, new economy, post-capitalist economy