A week contributing to the co-governance of Dutch cities

A week contributing to the co-governance of Dutch cities


From Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 June Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam Metropolitan Area) will host the We Make The City Festival. Five days celebrating the urban living by collectively debate the challenge of making better cities. This huge event will erupt in the streets of Amsterdam with 30 urban talks, 50 workshops, 30 city expeditions, 15 special events, and 10 exhibitions bringing together 600 local, national and international speakers, and 30.000 participants including municipal workers, inhabitants, active citizens, commuters, and visitors to talk about the most urgent urban issues like climate, safety, affordable housing, and health.

LabGov will participate in the session – on Thursday 21 June – about Co-Creating the City contributing to answering the question “How does co-creation work in the urban practice?”. The notion of co-creation evokes and resonates the one of co-governance in raising awareness and addressing the need of a collaborative city-making approach able to include different type of urban stakeholders (knowledge institutions, businesses, start-ups, SMEs, welfare organizations, social innovators and the government) for a more inclusive, innovative and sustainable urban development.

In the context of a full day debate with representative of European municipalities, foundations, citizens and civil society associations – including  Amsterdam, Athens, Ghent, Groningen, Lisbon, Madrid, Nantes, Reykjavik, Rotterdam, and Vienna – a well as researchers from worldwide knowledge institutions – like Harvard University, LabGov São Paulo and San José State University – and international networks like the Project for Public Spaces; LabGov will share the added value of the Co-City approach leading a panel to discuss “Infrastructure and the Co-City: How Might We Make Urban Infrastructure Work for Everyone?”.

Christian Iaione (Professor of Urban Law and Policy at LUISS University, and LabGov Co-Director), Sheila Foster (Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Georgetown), Simone D’Antonio (URBACT), Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes (New Orleans Business Alliance), Marcella Arruda (Instituto A Cidade Precisa de Você, LabGov São Paulo) and Joachim Meerkerk (PhD researcher, Amsterdam University of Applied Science) – in a break-out session facilitated by Alicia Bonner Ness – will address the issue of how the Co-City approach can help city leaders and city-makers in serving collective needs leveraging public-community cooperation.

Key in the discussion will be the focus on infrastructures. Not only because urban infrastructures are the main resources in becoming urban commons if collaborative managed and collectively shared; but especially because this multi-stakeholder and democratic management of common goods is itself co-creating new infrastructure of urban governance. According with the Co-City methodology, in fact, the creation of a collaborative social and economic ecosystem will be transitioning urban governance from urban commons projects to the City as a Commons.

Another interesting highlight of the week will be the participation of Professor Christian Iaione in the EMMA experts event in The Hague on Wednesday 20 June that will also be focused on collaborative partnership between local public authorities, social innovators and civil society in the co-creation of the city that is the basis of the quintuple helix theory of the Co-City approach.

Find the complete program of the Festival on the official website: https://wemakethe.city/nl/programma

Dal 20 al 24 giugno Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam) ospiterà il We Make The City Festival: cinque giorni dedicati alla celebrazione dell’urban living attraverso un dibattito collettivo su come migliorare le nostre città. LabGov terrà, nella sessione “Co-Creating the City” un panel sull’approccio Co-Cities dal titolo “Infrastructure and the Co-City: How Might We Make Urban Infrastructure Work for Everyone” e una break-out session facilitata da Alicia Bonner Ness.

What future for cooperation in scientific research under the new GDPR?

What future for cooperation in scientific research under the new GDPR?

Few weeks ago the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)[i] entered into force. Apart from introducing new guarantees for privacy and data protection, the Regulation also affects the sharing of research data among researchers (see, for example, the case of health and medical data).[ii] In a scientific and academic environment which tends to encourage cooperation among researchers and co-production of knowledge, the implications of the GDPR for research need to be questioned.

Recently, a trend of improving science and academic practice through a greater sharing of data and findings has expanded, especially at the EU level. This trend is demonstrated by a number of initiatives aimed at stimulating openness of research findings. Within this ‘push’ towards a more reflexive science, the EU Open Data and Open Science programs, enhanced by the EU Horizon 2020 strategy and by the ‘Science with and for Society’ framework, can be situated. A statement launched during the workshop ‘Open Data in Science: Challenges and Opportunities for Europe’ (Brussels, 31 January 2018) summarizes this trend: it is affirmed that ‘publicly funded scientists [should] make their research data available in reusable format in order to enhance the quality and effectiveness of science and as a contribution to help address societal and environmental challenges.’ The availability and openness of research output (but also of meta-data) seems the key to achieving the sought co-production of scientific knowledge. This ultimate aim resonates with the FAIR Principle, also stressed during the workshop: a ‘Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusableresearch is presented as the way forward to ensure verifiability and robustness of science. A change in research culture is welcomed in the closing words of the Statement. The assessment of scientific practice and research should no longer reward ‘closed science’, rather the cooperation among researchers to better find answers to the complex interrogatives of today society should be considered and acknowledged as a value.

A recent example of the EU Open Science’s aims is represented by the ‘European Open Science Cloud’ initiative (EOSC), an EU virtual infrastructure where scientists are invited to share scientific data across disciplinary, social and geographical.[iii] Another noteworthy example is the ‘Open Access’ (OA) policy promoted at the EU level. OA aims at freely providing access to scientific information in a reusable format. The co-production here is brought a step further: not only openness and sharing among researchers, but also inclusion of society in the dissemination of scientific results. This inclusion appears the first step to ensure that civil society actors take a leading role in the co-production of knowledge.

The move towards Open Science at the EU level intersects with the ‘Science and Society’ Action Plan promoted by the European Commission with the aim of better connecting science and EU citizens. This action plan developed into the ‘Science in Society’, underlining the need for public engagement of civil society in science, and recently became ‘Science with and for Society’. In an EU research agenda where science should be devoted to social inclusion and should be placed ‘at the service’ of society, it seems worth to question which research data and scientific results can still be freely made open and shared, under the new GDPR.

A visual representation of networked research centers

The question of the implications of the GDPR for scientific openness derives from the principles underlying the new regulation, namely that of data minimization. In addition, the GDPR provides for more stringent limits for data sharing and data storage. On one side the research exemption inserted within the GDPR (Art. 89 GDPR) seems ensuring that scientific research will be mostly unaffected, however research practices will strongly have to change in order to be aligned with the new provisions. If both Open Science and data protection are goals currently prioritized in the EU agenda, it is opportune to question whether a conflict between the two aims may exist.

What seems worrisome is the possible disincentive that the GDPR will produce on research cooperation. The GDPR indeed mandates for more stringent requirements for data sharing among research units. Researchers in different research centres, for example, in two universities based in two different countries working on the same research project, will be prevented from sending material via mail or other online services, unless a data treatment agreement will be signed among them. Apart from the consequences for research speed, there is the risk that these additional requirements will discourage researchers from collaborating and sharing research findings.

In view of this possible adverse consequences of the GDPR for research cooperation, it will be advisable for European universities to ensure data processing agreements with extra-EU research units, in order to facilitate the sharing of research findings by individual researchers. In addition, accessible procedures and modules should be developed in order to align research practices to the GDPR, without harming the goal of openness. A balance between cooperation in research and data protection will have to be careful established, to the benefit of the research process and of society at large.

[i] EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation), OJ 2016 L 119/1.

[ii] Menno Mostert and others, ‘Big Data In Medical Research And EU Data Protection Law: Challenges To The Consent Or Anonymise Approach’ (2015) 24 European Journal of Human Genetics.

[iii] The Commission High Level Expert Group on the European Open Science Cloud. Realising the European Open Science Cloud (Publications Office of the European Union 2016), p.6.

Il presente articolo illustra le possibili conseguenze che il Nuovo Regolamento Europeo per la Protezione dei Dati (GDPR) avrà sulla cooperazione tra ricercatori. La recente tendenza a livello europeo verso una scienza ‘trasparente’ e in costante dialogo con la società viene illustrata attraverso rilevanti esempi, come i programmi ‘Open Science’, ‘Open Access’ e ‘Science with and for Society’ lanciati negli ultimi anni dall’UE. Nonostante tali iniziative, la GDPR sembra suggerire la necessità di ridurre la condivisione di dati tra ricercatori e di coprire tale condivisione con specifici accordi. Ciò potrebbe sostanzialmente disincentivare la collaborazione tra ricercatori, specialmente con unità di ricerca al di fuori del territorio UE. La necessita di bilanciare le esigenze di protezione dei dati con quelle di una scienza ‘accessibile’ risulta evidente.

The City, the Commons, the Flower

The City, the Commons, the Flower

di Miguel Martinez


Today June 7th, a small event, highly symbolic however for all of Europe’s historic centres being turned into Disneylands for tourism, will take place in Florence, when the children of the Oltrarno district will plant forty rhizomes of iris about one hundred metres from the Brancacci Chapel, where Masaccio unwittingly unleashed the Renaissance (and also painted an extraordinary allegory of the Commons).

Whatever is bureaucratic and artificial, is easy to understand. Whatever is real is unique and complex, so it will take some explaining, but the fun lies precisely in putting the strands together.

The first strand lies just behind the Carmine church, in Florence’s Oltrarno district: a garden hidden behind a high wall called the “Nidiaci”, a gift by the American Red Cross, in 1920 to the children of what was then the poorest district of the city, riddled with TBC and crime, yet the scene of extraordinary human passions and solidarity.

Today the inhabitants of the centre of Florence are being driven out by an Airbnb economy based on evictions, empty houses, craftsmen overwhelmed by taxes losing their workplaces to pubs.

Flats are filled by people who have no contact with the area they sleep in for a night or two, while bartenders and cooks – largely from remote parts of the world – commute every night for miles, to reach their zoned homes, leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuel behind them.

Metaphorically, we could say that a certain number of Florentines make money by gluing their ancestors’ bones to clothes hangers and putting them up in their shop windows. As an exceptionally kind hearted landowner put it to a single mother and her child before evicting them, “I’m so sorry, but if you leave, I can earn 90 euros a night from this flat!”

To make way for tourists yearning to see the “Oltrarno, district of craftsmen”, the last shoemaker was evicted too: he held out bravely for several months in his tiny shop, with no running water, before finally leaving the city.

The hidden Nidiaci garden has become a rallying point for old and new residents – Florentine carpenters and bakers alongside Macedonian hotel cleaners, Egyptian pizza cooks and Irish artists – who keep it open as a Commons: arts, music, crafts, a vegetable garden, a football school, set up by the legendary Lebowski team (the only soccer club owned by fans in Italy) and guided tours for local children, to remind them that they are the guardians of the rich history of Florence, wherever their parents may have been born.

Children’s concert at the Nidiaci


The second strand concerns the name of Florence, supposedly derived from the Latin flos, “flower”: a city founded, according to legend, during the Roman festival of Floralia, an image which immediately brings to mind Flora in Botticelli’s Primavera, so beautifully thinned out in Evelyn De Morgan’s painting Flora, sold to a Scottish patron.

Evelyn De Morgan, Flora


On the bottom right of the painting, the small tag, written in rhymed medieval Italian, says,

“I come down from Florence and am Flora,

This city takes its name from flower

Among the flowers I was born and now by a change of home

I have my dwelling among the mountains of Scotia

Welcome me, and let my treasure amid northern mists be dear to you.”


The heraldic symbol of the city-state of Florence, since before Dante, has always been the fleur-de-lys, as it appears on the town banners. Here you can see it in one of those ambiguous events where true Florentines wear, with enormous commitment, authentically fake Renaissance costumes, partly to attract tourists, but mainly because they have a tremendous desire to express a deeply felt identity.


People all over Italy do similar things, like the Chivalry Joust of Sulmona, which has no spectators because nearly everybody in town is an actor and nobody knows where Sulmona is.

The fleur-de-lys of Florence is actually an iris, the humble giaggiolo which until not so many years ago used to grow everywhere along the banks of the Arno, but has now nearly disappeared.


Next to Piazzale Michelangelo, where tourists enjoy a splendid view over the city, there is another little known garden, kept open only a few weeks a year by a group of enthusiasts and dedicated exclusively to the iris.

The third strand is the University of Florence, where Professor Stefano Mancuso has opened a new field of research, that of plant sensitivity, establishing the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology.

Mancuso is also the inventor of the fascinating and somewhat frightening Jellyfish Barge, a kind of Noah’s Ark to help us survive the Anthropocene we have created.

Right now, probably the most prominent cultural event in town is an unlikely experiment set up by Mancuso and a German artist, in the courtyard of the Renaissance Palazzo Strozzi, on the relations between plant and human psychology.


The Florence Experiment is a research project where visitors slide down a structure from a height of 20 metres; their emotional reactions will be recorded and compared with those of plants to examine the empathetic possibilities between humans and plant organisms.



The issue of relations between plants and us, is of course enormous, quite simply because without plants, we would cease to exist; and our future therefore depends on how we relate to them.

This takes us to the fourth strand. Professor Mancuso has launched an interdisciplinary master’s degree, called “Plant Future” – Futuro Vegetale, – bringing together scholars from very different fields (biology, sociology, architecture, political science) who are seeking a way out of the suicidal course we are currently engaged in.

Then there is the fifth strand, Florence’s Calcio fiorentino, a no-holds-barred form of football developed in Florence in Renaissance times, played between the four historic districts of the old part of Florence,

Though it is a rediscovered tradition (dating back to the 1930s), it is firmly rooted in local culture, and is the strongest source of identity of the Oltrarno district, which is of the “White” colour, and where a hardy group of unpaid bar keepers, electricians and carpenters risk their lives every year for this match dedicated to Saint John, the city patron.


The official matches are a municipal institution, so fans and players have set up an independent organisation, recreating the fourteenth-century fraternity of the “Whites”, the Compagnia dei Bianchi, one of the countless lively community organisations of medieval Italy, to develop local solidarity and help the countless people whose very survival is in doubt in these hard times.

The scholars of Plant Future decided that the most symbolic place in all Florence to launch a new idea of how to found a city was the Nidiaci garden, its plants, trees and human community.

The first irises would be there, then they would be gradually planted wherever people took care of community gardens.

So they went to the Iris Garden, where the organisers immediately understood, and gave forty of their best rhizomes, kept for international competitions, to plant in the Nidiaci, recreating the original Florentia or flowering.

The minute beginning of a renewal of a whole city, based on commoning.

The Plant Future scholars came over to visit the garden.

An Albanian mother, who sells shirts in the market at San Lorenzo and teaches the children how to grow tomatoes and melons in the Nidiaci garden, decided where the rhizomes should be planted.

Then the organisers got in touch with the Compagnia dei Bianchi, because it was fundamental for them to be present in such a special moment.

All of this is very small, and very concentrated.

And smallness, and concentration, is exactly what we all need.

As Rising Appalachia put it,

Stand up, look around and then scale that down too!”