Politics and Cities

What can urban alliances and community organising teach us about building political unity across difference in cities?

The ‘progressive dilemma’ is an apparent problem for contemporary left politics and our two guests have very different takes on the issue, and how it relates to urban politics. Our first guest is professor of politics from the UK and the other is a community organiser from Sydney. They discuss the challenges of centre-left politics and urban alliances.

“It’s a terrible city sometimes, and it’s a beautiful city, and there are interesting people in it that matter, who deserve the kind of city people want to live in. I think we need a core of people who are committed to that city, who are willing to transform it.”

Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis

They talk about the possibilities for political renewal in political practices that build relationships across diverse urban geographies and political difference in cities, and in cultivating a belonging to place that is still open to and attentive of diversity.


Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis is a community organiser with the Sydney Alliance, who spends her days meeting and working with a huge variety of people and communities right across Sydney. She, and the Sydney Alliance, are building a coalition of people willing to fight for a fair and sustainable city. You can read about the Sydney Alliance here.


Chantelle shares her experience organising across Sydney with Adrian Pabst, Professor of Politics and the University of Kent. Adrian is a key thinker in the UKs Blue Labour movement and author of the recently-released book Story of Our Country: Labor’s Vision for Australia.

The Democratic Experiment Series

This episode is a part of a series called The Democratic Experiment and hosted by Rosie Hancock. Rosie researches social movements, community organising, and grassroots urban political coalitions. She is convenor of the Religion and Global Ethics program and is the Managing Editor of Solidarity: Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics. She holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Auckland, an MA in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Sydney, and completed her PhD on Islamic Environmental Activism at the University of Sydney in 2015. Rosie is an Editorial Board Member of The Sociological Review, and the co-convener of the Sociology of Religion Thematic Group for The Australian Sociology Association.

The Democratic Experiment series is a partnership between City Road and The Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney. The Sydney Policy Lab exists to break down the barriers between researchers, policymakers, campaigners and the community at large. At the Sydney Policy Lab people of all backgrounds are coming together to strengthen our democracy, reduce spiralling inequality and help to empower communities to shape their own future.


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