TNI’s Public Alternatives project works to build a strong countervailing force to reverse privatisation and help construct democratic, effective and universally accessible public services. The project has focused primarily on the water and renewable energy sectors, and has a special dimension concerned with exploring and catalysing new thinking on politics and economics as a necessary condition for the achievement of public alternatives.


TNI has contributed significantly to a strong evidence base for the growing trend towards re-municipalisation of public services. This has been taken forward by a number of inter-linked academic networks, keen to deepen and expand the studies. TNI research has also been used extensively by public sector trade unions for internal education purposes, and for particular citizens’ struggles in Jakarta (water), Lagos (water), and Cali (telecom), as well as in South Africa (energy), and more broadly in the UK (where shadow ministers of the Labour Party have sought TNI advice) and other European countries.

Saskia Sassen

Saskia Sassen Speaks at the Transformative Cities Award event in Amsterdam, June 2018. For more on Transformative cities: Atlas of Utopias.

Outcomes included the Governor of Jakarta establishing an official advisory committee to prepare the return of the water utility to public management based on an earlier Supreme Court ruling, with civil society representatives included for the first time. In Colombia, following the successful halting of the Emcali privatisation, a pioneering Public-Public Partnership agreement was signed betwen the Calí utility and its Uruguayan counterpart, with a view to putting Emcali on a stronger footing. TNI research was also used to influence the public debate in the UK and in Japan about the cost of using the private sector to finance and construct public facilities or ‘Public Finance Initiatives’ (PFIs) that are then leased back to the state at a cost.

At European level, TNI helped to build opposition among municipalities to the EU Service’s Notification Procedure as an obstacle for progressive municipal policies and initiatives. The Procedure has yet to be adopted as a result of the controversy.