Buenos Aires (in)formal waste pickers’ cooperatives:  a new governance model for waste management?

Buenos Aires (in)formal waste pickers’ cooperatives: a new governance model for waste management?

di Cosima Malandrino

Urbanization, economic development and exponential demographic growth have maximized urban services problems in many cities around the world. Just like in the case of water and sanitation systems, providing waste management services to millions of people requires complex institutional and technical arrangements. Compared to other utilities however, waste stands out for its multifaceted characteristics and its fluctuating nature. Indeed, while waste is commonly considered as « garbage » – i.e. something no one wants and that cannot generate any benefits –, it can also become a resource, acquiring commodity features since its management and recovery generate profits. Such is the bipolar nature of waste that Jeremy Cavé highlights in his studies (Cavé, 2015). Considering waste a resource allows us to understand the reason why so many conflicts arise when it comes to its appropriation. Many stakeholders are in fact involved in its collection, processing and disposal, competing to extract value from it. For instance, in countries like India, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, poor urban populations often revert to informal waste picking as a survival strategy in order to extract value from recycling materials found in the streets. Far from only being a survival strategy, informal waste picking has in many cases become an occupation carried on from generation to generation by entire families. The high number of informal waste pickers in cities like Cairo, Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, and Buenos Aires has increasingly spurred the debate on the legitimacy of this informal practice, highlighting the need to start implementing or re-thinking recycling waste management systems. Indeed, in the past 20 years, more and more municipalities around the world have adopted recycling schemes in order to manage the entirety of the solid waste stream, not only its unrecyclable component.  The so called ‘modernization’ processes of Solid Waste Management systems (SWM) often follow the necessity to cope with dumping sites congestion and to implement environmentally sustainable policies. However, modernization schemes generate disputes over the appropriation of waste among the many actors involved in extracting its value. Informal waste pickers often become victims of new public policies on waste management that prohibit their activity, and either centralize collection and disposal services, or delegate them to private companies. Appropriation conflicts arise among private companies, municipalities, and informal workers due to the very nature of waste as a good. Neither fully public nor private, garbage is an object that by definition is rejected and abandoned, therefore intrinsically carrying undefined property rights. Moreover, its value fluctuates, as from being an abandoned object it can be recovered and acquire value due to this re-appropriation. Analyzing the governance of solid waste in Coimbatore, India and Vitória, Brazil, Jérémie Cavé thus calls for the need to abandon the dichotomous approach that treats waste as either garbage or resource, and start considering solid waste as a common good. Being a rival and non-excludable good, waste requires a governance model that goes beyond the public/private dichotomy.   To overcome the classic governance solutions that either opt for a centralized municipal system or a delegated private service, we hereby analyze a third option, which allows us to truly apprehend waste as a common good. The case of Buenos Aires, Argentina, shows the possibility of forging public- civil society agreements, enforcing a system of waste management based on cooperatives rather than private companies or public entities alone. In the words of Sheila Foster, “a third option for managing common resources is a regime in which a community self-manages or assumes a greater role in governing those resources in a sustainable way” (Foster, 2009: 280).  


The case of Buenos Aires’ cartoneros

El Alamo Cooperative, Buenos Aires. Cosima Malandrino, 2018  

The research I conducted in Buenos Aires, from January to May 2018, stresses the political potential of informal actors organizing when it comes to the governance of urban waste services. Through the analysis of Buenos Aires informal waste pickers’ political organization, my study re-centers social sciences’ focus on the informal sector, a socio-economic stratum that is often overlooked or underestimated due to its marginality. Especially when it comes to waste picking however, this sector is all but marginal. An estimated 20 million people around the world work in the waste recycling sector (ILO, 2013). UN Habitat data highlights that between 15% and 35% of the world’s waste is recovered by these informal workers (2010). In Argentina, far from being a “new social actor”, informal waste pickers have accompanied the urban development of the city of Buenos Aires since the 19th century (Schamber and Suarez, 2007). It is however due to the economic crisis that hit the Argentinian economy at the turn of the century that their presence in the city’s streets has heavily increased. As of 2006, informality made up 39% of total employment in Argentinian urban areas, an increase that started in the 1980s, reaching its peak during the crisis years (World Bank, 2008). From repressing informal waste collection as an illegal activity, the City government has reacted over the years to a waste crisis that led to a radical transformation of Buenos Aires waste management system. Between 2002 and 2013 the city was the theatre of continuous mobilizations and negotiations between cartoneros (1), non-governmental actors, and public authorities. A conflict that started as a ‘usage rights’ dispute over waste (2) (Cavé, 2015) developed into a profoundly political struggle that epitomizes the conflictual nature of waste management politics and symbolizes the transformation of labor-state relations in the past 30 years. Previously excluded from any negotiation with the State, informal workers have indeed succeeded in being recognized as a legitimate actor by the local government. Thanks the progressive formalization of their labor by the City government, a majority of cartoneros have entered and created recycling cooperatives, acquiring sale power, rights and regulations, which have improved their working conditions and quality of life. Today, more than 5300 recuperadores urbanos (urban collectors) officially manage the collection of recycling materials in the city of Buenos Aires. The City has contracted 12 cooperatives, which collect around 600 tons of waste per day out of the 6000 tons of waste produced in the city.     










Fig. 4: The cooperatives divided by area of waste collection and the classification centers also managed by some of the cooperatives. In orange is the biggest cooperative of CABA. Source: Cosima Malandrino, 2018

This regularization or ‘formalization’ did not unfold as a peaceful process of policy change. Filled with political conflict, the process of legitimation of informal waste picking lasted more than 10 years, and it is still ongoing. Notwithstanding the contracting of the 12 waste picking cooperatives in 2013, the fieldwork I conducted for this research highlights the controversial nature of the formalization instruments implemented by the City. Our findings question whether the City actually formalized Buenos Aires waste pickers in a substantial way. If we define formalization as legalization, the City has indeed succeeded in formalizing a practice that was before illegal and persecuted. However, if formalization means acquiring full formal labor rights like the ones granted to any other formal occupation, our research finds that Buenos Aires waste pickers cannot be considered fully formalized yet.  


Cooperatives as a successful governance tool?

At the center of this controversy lies the figure of the cooperative as the instrument chosen by both waste pickers and the City in order to formalize the activity. Our interviews show that cooperatives represented an accessible organizational structure for waste pickers, who came from a complete individualistic organization of labor, and who didn’t have enough resources to fund an enterprise.   The organization of labor with rules and regulations introduced through cooperatives has allowed waste pickers to recognize themselves and be recognized by society as legitimate workers. The formalization of their status therefore led to a process of consciousness building that in turn stimulated an organized movement of political mobilization. Since 2001, waste pickers have progressively politicized their workers identity, demanding the full recognition of their labor rights to the City. Such politicization has further prompted major waste pickers organizations to extend their mission, and mobilize for the recognition of other informal occupations like street vending and seam stressing, among others.


“Unity, in defense of workers”. February 21st, solidarity march called by Hugo Moyano – Camioneros, CGT, 21/02/2018. Photo: Cosima Malandrino, 2018

However, if on the one hand formalization engendered this process of collective identity activation and sector-wide organization, on the other hand it also relegated waste pickers to an ambiguous worker status. The cooperative system adopted by the City indeed allowed authorities to delegate a public service to a third party, without having to pay for it as much as for a private subsidiary company, and without having to respond to the obligations deriving from a traditional labor contract (Parizeau, 2015). Thus, the system set up in 2013 contracted cooperatives to manage recycling waste in exchange of a monthly incentive or subsidy granted by the City, well below minimum wage standards, and further excluding waste pickers from traditional models of labor negotiations. Waste pickers are therefore de jure self-employed – they are granted social security as such – , but they are de facto dependent on the City’s monthly incentives and logistical support (machinery, equipment, uniforms). If the membership in cooperatives granted welfare rights and fostered a process of identity building, it also positioned them in an ambiguous situation, in-between being formalized but not yet becoming formal workers.  


The findings that this article has tried to briefly illustrate reflect the realization that urban actors such as waste collectors represent at once the transformations of the labor market, and the challenges at stake in the coordination of service provision in large metropolis. Moreover, they highlight the particular nature of waste as a common good, which calls for innovative governance tools able to distribute usage rights to different stakeholders. In this sense, cooperatives constitute an interesting organizational tool, capable of channeling citizens and associations’ collective action efforts in order to more equally dispose of a resource. Therefore, the study on cartoneros’ mobilization not only sheds light on new patterns of political organization among informal actors but it also indirectly informs us on how to improve workers conditions, services, and governance structures in large urban agglomerations.   Finally, Buenos Aires waste pickers’ formalization allows us to introduce a new perspective in a field like waste management studies that is often dominated by environmental and overtly technical approaches. Bringing politics back into the study of infrastructures and urban services means deconstructing the apparent technical decisions of urban governments and underlining their socio-political implications (Lorrain, 2014; McFarlane Rutherford, 2008; Le Gales and Lorrain, 2003). Analyzing utilities networks constitutes a “gateway to the issue of governing large cities” (Lorrain, 2014), as their construction and management requires an out of the ordinary institutional coordination effort. If utilities represent a key governance tool in the large metropolis, it is important to analyze the policy instruments and regulations that control their organization (Lascoumes and Le Galès, 2007). Formalization processes and the instruments that are chosen to implement them, therefore acquire a political significance as they often reproduce “existing set of power relations within urban societies” (McFarlane and Rutherford, 2008: 365). The waste management sector is especially prone to such political dynamics due to its enormous incidence on local governments’ budgets, and to the diverse array of stakeholders that often pursue opposing interests. It is estimated that an effective waste management system makes up 20 to 50% of municipal budgets (World Bank, 2012). Considering that urban residents’ per capita waste generation will increase from 1.3 billion tons per year in 2012 to 2.2 billion tons in 2025, waste management will continue to constitute a serious challenge for urban governance worldwide (World Bank, 2012).  


  1. Cartoneros is the Spanish term used in Argentina to refer to informal waste pickers especially in the post-crisis years. It first carried a negative undertone. It has progressively been re- appropriated by the very waste pickers.
  1. Jeremy Cavé refers to usage rights as granting “privileged access to a flow of resource units” (p.174). When we talk about usage rights disputes in the case of Buenos Aires we therefore highlight the appropriation conflicts that arise among different urban actors who seek to access a resource – i.e. waste – and eventually obtain the right to access waste and dispose of it. Private companies and informal waste pickers were notably taking part in this appropriation conflict in Buenos Aires, both trying to extract value from waste.


This article is an adapted and (very) summarized version of my Master’s thesis: MALANDRINO, Cosima. (In)formal Workers Organizing: The Politics of Buenos Aires Waste Pickers . Master’s Thesis: Political Sociology. Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris – École Urbaine , 2018. English, pp. 104.

CAVÉ, Jérémie. A political economy of urban solid waste management in emerging countries : Learning from Vitória (Brazil) and Coimbatore (India). In COUTARD, Olivier. (Ed.), RUTHERFORD, Jonathan. (Ed.). Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure reconfigurations and urban change in the North and South. London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 159-181

FOSTER, Sheila R. “Urban Informality as a Commons Dilemma”. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter, 2009), pp. 261-284.

LASCOUMES, Pierre, and Patrick LE GALES. Introduction: Understanding public policy through its instruments – From the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation, 2007, Governance, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1-21.

LE GALES, Patrick, LORRAIN, Revue française d’administration publique. 2003/3 (n 107), pp 305-317.

LORRAIN, Dominique. Governing megacities in Emerging Countries. New York: Routledge, 2014.

McFARLANE, Colin, and Jonathan Rutherford. “Political Infrastructures: Governing and Experiencing the Fabric of the City.” 2008. International Journal Of Urban & Regional Research 32, no. 2: 363-374.

PARIZEAU. Kate. Re-representing the city: waste and public space in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 2000s. Environment and Planning. 2015, Vol. 47, Issue 2, pp. 284 – 299.

SCHAMBER, Pablo, SUÁREZ, Francisco M. (eds). Recicloscopio: Miradas sobre recuperadores urbanos. Buenos Aires: Prometeo, Universidad Nacional de Lanús, 2007 pp. 324.




BERTRANOU, Fabio, CASANOVA, Luis. Informalidad laboral en Argentina: Segmentos críticos y políticas para la formalización. Buenos Aires: ILO para Argentina, 2013. 155 pp.

CORAGGIO, José Luis. La presencia de la economía social y solidaria y su institucionalización en América Latina. UNRISD Occasional Paper: Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy, 2014. No. 7, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva.

WORLD BANK. Labor Market Study Informal Employment in Argentina: Causes and Consequences. March 27, 2008. Report No. 36092-AR.

WORLD BANK. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. Urban Development Series, 2012.



On the ‘Medellin Miracle’ and the ‘Social Urbanism’ Model

On the ‘Medellin Miracle’ and the ‘Social Urbanism’ Model


Source: The Guardian. “Cable cars and escalators now carry tens of thousands of people a day between Medellín’s comunas and the city centre. Photograph: Alamy”



Urban scholars and practitioners today look up to Medellin as one of the most progressive cities in the world. Winner of an impressive amount of awards like the Curry Stone Design Prize, Harvard’s Green Prize in Urban Design, and the Most Innovative City Award by the Urban Land Institute, Medellin truly became a model to follow when it comes to addressing urban challenges like violence, insecurity, poor education, and lack of mobility, which all reinforce the spatial and material inequalities in our megacities today. “Social Urbanism” is the best practice that Medellin showcases in the international community, proving the positive impact of the construction of social infrastructure, which allows for an improved access to education, mobility, and safer public spaces. This article seeks to present the policy interventions that brought Medellin to the spotlight, stressing the importance of participatory urban upgrading policies in informal areas. However, we would like to stress that an appraisal of the “Medellin Miracle” must include a deeper analysis of the contextual political and social factors which have made such a miracle possible in the first place. To some extent, the Medellin case shows that tackling the complexities of peripheral urban informal settlements requires the introduction of new governance models that go beyond the public and private dychotomy. Indeed, urban informality more in general can be intended as a crisis of existing governance actors who have been unable or unwilling to equally redistribute resources in the city. This short article attempts at reflecting on what Sheila R. Foster calls the « urban informality commons dilemma », through an analysis of the Medellin case.[1]


From being the most violent city in the world in 1993 with 381 homicides for 100 000 inhabitants, Medellin has embarked in a transformation journey starting from the 1990s. To address the problems of violence, social segregation and urban inequalities, the Colombian government established the Consejeria para el Area Metropolitana de Medellin program in 1990. The Consejeria also proposed the Integrated Slum Upgrading Program of Medellin (Programa Integral de Mejoramiento de Barrios Subnormales en Medellín – PRIMED), that is often cited as a forerunner when it comes to the progressive policy turn taken by Medellin at the beginning of the 21st century[2]. As Sheila R. Foster highlights, PRIMED is especially interesting because it followed a “methodology of partnership with the community” in order to upgrade informal settlements. A similar approach was followed by the two mayors, Luis Perez and Sergio Fajardo, who were elected respectively in 2000 and 2004. They have implemented key projects to tackle the inequality and violence, which were further marginalizing the populations living in the informal settlements (“comunas”) on hillsides of Medellin. Representing half of the entire population of Medellin, comunas inhabitants lacked access to the city center, to education and utilities, as well as suffered from the violence and insecurities of their neighborhoods, often taken over by drug cartels. Investing in a cable car to connect the comuna of Santo Domingo, Luis Perez initiated a process that was for the majority carried out during the term of Mayor Farjado.

In order to get rid of the corruption and inertia in local governance, Farjado implemented his “social urbanism” policies through an autonomous agency, the Urban Development Corporation (EDU).

The “integral urban projects” (PUIs) – “projects that incorporate multiple programs simultaneously, from transport to landscaping, from street lighting to cultural centres” – implemented between 2004 and 2007 include:

  • “the Parque Explora, a park with a free science museum in it;
  • the Botanical Gardens, site of the octagonal Orquideorama; ten new school buildings
  • five ambitious library-parks in the comunas of Santo Domingo, La Quintana, La Ladera, San Javier and Belén;
  • a cultural centre in the run-down district of Moravia; and the completion and extension of the Metrocable”[3].

It is Echeverri, the head of EDU under Mayor Farjado, that actually explains how the success of the “integral urban projects” (PUIs) carried out by the agency was highly dependent on a set of national and local political enabling factors. Mayors were indeed given more autonomy in the rewriting of the Colombian Constitution of 1991. Moreover, Farjado was heavily inspired by Bogota’s mayors, whose innovative policies reinforced the idea that violence and inequalities should be at the top of cities’ political agenda. Finally, the decrease in violence in Medellin cannot entirely be attributed to social infrastructure and upgrading policies. The PRIMED and Consejera programs as well as military pacification operations and peace deals between cartels are also often cited as enabling factors when it comes to the decrease in violence in Medellin[4]

Stressing the importance of contextual enabling factors is important in the case of Medellin’s social urbanism as its programs tend to be analyzed under the “best practice” lens. Best practices cannot be replicated everywhere in the world following an identical reproduction. Understanding such a critique allows us to stress the importance of taking into account context and inhabitants demands when it comes to implementing urban renewal projects.


Medellin’ social urbanism strength point can be indeed found in its participatory nature. While Mayor Farjado’s policy choices ensured a heavy intervention in the renewal of educational facilities like schools and libraries and in the beautification of public spaces, it is through a participatory process that such projects were designed.

In the case of the Parque Biblioteca Espana, Echeverri explains how the project was conducted following participatory design methods: “‘We had a specific team that combined architects, urbanists, social workers, communications people, lawyers and a leader who was the “social manager” for that area of Santo Domingo. And that guy worked with the community keeping the project on the agenda,’ says Echeverri. ‘We also had imagination workshops every month, with children trying to think about how to make a park[5].

Beyond being a social urbanism for the people, the urbanism of Medellin strikes us for its deep commitment to a participatory model of urban integration in the fight against violence and inequalities. Social infrastructure renewals coupled with the feeling of civic ownership of the local community have contributed to improve the conditions of the populations living in comunas.

Inequalities and segregation still exist in Medellin. The programs implemented in the past should serve as a starting point for more comprehensive policies that can tackle such issues at bigger scales and in a more integrated way.



[1] Sheila R. Foster, Urban Informality as a Commons Dilemma, 40 U. Miami Inter-Am. L. Rev. 261 (2009)

[2] John J. Betancur, Approached to the Regularization of Informal Settlements : The Case of PRIMED in Medellin, Colombia. Global Urban Development Magazine, 2007 http://www.globalurban.org/GUDMag07Vol3Iss1/Betancur.htm

[3] McGuirk, J. (2014). Radical cities. London: Verso.

[4] McGuirk, J. (2014). Radical cities. London: Verso.

Maclean, K. (2015). Social Urbanism and the Politics of Violence: The Medellín Miracle. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

[5] McGuirk, J. (2014). Radical cities. London: Verso.


Le politiche urbane che hanno trasformato Medellin hanno reso la città colombiana famosa in tutto il mondo. Applicando il modello di ‘social urbanism’, il Governo della città si è impegnato a ridurre le ineguaglianze sociali e la segregazione spaziale che divide il centro della città dagli insediamenti informali che occupano i versanti delle colline di Medellin.

“Sharing Cities. Activating the Urban Commons”: a new publication by Shareable

“Sharing Cities. Activating the Urban Commons”: a new publication by Shareable


“Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons” is the new publication from the non-profit media outlet Shareable, which collects 137 case studies divided in 11 categories in order to demonstrate that another city governance model is possible, and is in fact, already in the making. By showcasing initiatives from all over the world, and in particular from the US and Europe, Sharing Cities unfolds as a concrete testament to the richness, creativity and diversity of the world of urban commons today. Indeed, the book is structured as a powerful storytelling and showcasing work of the best practices in the field of urban commons. Such collections represent the starting point for the work that LabGov is carrying on with the drafting of the scientific research project known as the Co-Cities Report¹. 

Shareable has been one of the key initiators of the Sharing Cities movement: they organized ShareFS in 2011, the first event held under the joint theme of sharing cities, and in 2013 they launched the Sharing Cities Network to connect local sharing activists in cities around the world for mutual support and movement building.

Before presenting an overview of the wide range of urban commons projects presented in Sharing Cities, it is important to mention the introductory theoretical framework developed by Neal Gorenflo. Indeed, the co-founder of Shareable introduces the collection of case-studies by providing the theoretical background on the study of urban commons, acknowledging the analytical contribution of scholars like Christian Iaione from LabGov, Sheila Foster from georgetown University, Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation, and David Bollier of the Commons Strategies Group, among others.

Gorenflo adfirms, There are 67 case studies and 66 model policies in this book. Though the book only scratches the surface of what’s out there, the geographic and sectoral diversity of our selections will expand your view of what’s possible. Together, they are provocative in the best possible way. In terms of the case studies, I challenge you to flip through the book and not be amazed at what ordinary people can do when they commit to projects where personal interests and the common good are aligned.

In particular, citing the work of Christian Iaione and Sheila Foster, as well as the seminal urban commons initiatives like the CO-Bologna project and regulation², the book underlines the importance of urban commons initiatives in today’s context of citizens disempowerment. As the introduction argues “the importance of the urban commons to cities today is that it situates residents as the key actors – not markets, technologies, or governments, as popular narratives suggest – at a time when people feel increasingly powerless. To paraphrase commons scholars Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, the city as a commons is a claim on the city by the people.” What is key to understand when talking about the urban commons framework is that it is not only about sharing resources, knowledge, and tools. Sharing for the sake of innovative profit making lacks the fundamental constitutive element of the commons, that is the creation of collaborative relationships between urban residents, NGOs, public institutions and businesses in order to manage resources in urban communities in a way that gives the decision-making power back to the people.

After the introduction on urban commons, the book dedicates 11 chapters to the different categories of commons, namely: Housing, mobility, food, work, energy, land, waste, water, information and communication technology, finance, and governance³. Ranging from cases of co-housing, open-data initiatives, comprehensive shared mobility projects, open access edible plots of land, networks of workers cooperatives, commons collaborative economy initiatives, community energy distribution networks, to examples of commons regulatory frameworks, this book represents an inspiring proof of the existence of new governance models that can ensure an alternative, more sustainable, way-forward. These cases and policies reveal a new model of city, where people has been put at the centre, having a primary role among market priorities, technologies or government. Moreover, it is not a simple demonstration that a city run by the people is possible, but it unveils that much of it is already here. In this perspective, the book represents a claim.

Shareable launched a crowdfunding campaign, that is part of a three-years strategic plan, as a step towards the big goal of establishing Shareable as a financially resilient organization by 2020.

To get a free PDF of the book or buy a print or ebook version, click kere: https://www.shareable.net/contribute

La nuova pubblicazione di Shareable intitolata “Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons” approfondisce il tema dei commons, mostrando attraverso 133 casi studio, come il modello di governance dei commons rappresenti un’alternativa valida e realizzabile per la gestione condivisa delle risorse al livello urbano.


¹ To be released on the project platform www.commoning.city

² The Bologna Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of the urban commons

³ To know more: https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Activating_the_Urban_Commons_Through_Sharing_Cities

The Port of Capri as the first public-commons partnership

The Port of Capri as the first public-commons partnership

Credits: picture from www.portoturisticodicapri.com



The decision of the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio no 874, issued on July 26th 2017, confirmed the legitimacy of the action taken by the City of Capri to buy-back from Invitalia, a State-owned company, the 49% of the shares of the company managing the Touristic Port of Capri. The Touristic Port of Capri was created by the central government in the sixties as a public-public partnership with the City of Capri which owned the remaining 51% of the shares. The decision rejected the judicial review application of NLG Navigazione Libera del Golfo, a private company managing the ferry service between Naples and the island. According to many on the island NLG’s primary and probably sole interest is to bring as many tourists as possible on the island and therefore NLG might have seen the purchase of the 49% owned by Invitalia as a “foot in the door” to secure full control in the future over an essential facility for its business. This might have increased the mass tourism phenomenon that is jeopardizing the environmental and social sustainability of Capri as well as other main touristic attractions in Italy, such as Venice, Cinque terre and Florence, and in other European cities, such as Dubrovnik and Barcelona.

The City of Capri, as announced in a press release by the Mayor Giovanni De Martino, who thanked Professor Maria Alessandra Sandulli and Giplex LLP for their work in representing the City of Capri in court, has decided to stop the privatization as a first step of a long-term strategy to improve the quality of the port infrastructure and services. The Touristic Port of Capri is indeed an essential facility for the livelihood of those living on (and not just visiting) the island. It may well be also the linchpin for a development plan of the island based on a more sustainable and responsible tourism that would preserve a cultural and landscape heritage for future generations. The Mayor highlighted the importance of the decision to keep the Touristic Port of Capri company under the full control of the City, allowing it to continue in its mission to contribute to the economic and social development of the island of Capri. The City indeed decided to exercise the right of first refusal and purchase the minority shareholding owned by Invitalia to secure full ownership of the Port in public hands and thereby start a strategic planning process to reconceive the governance and business model of the Port as an infrastructure commons.

As Parag Khanna has recently stated “no matter which way we connect, we do so through infrastructures”[1]. Brett Frischmann demonstrated how to conceive infrastructure (both traditional, transportation and communication, infrastructures and non-traditional, environmental and intellectual, infrastructures) as commons[2]. Frischmann argued that infrastructure have a social value that exceeds the private market value, and open commons management might therefore be a promising strategy for infrastructure, because it offers opportunities for users to generate public and social goods, although with a range of complications, such as congestion management[3]. Studies carried out by Christian Iaione[4] on price and quantity instruments to regulate transport infrastructure suggested that congestion in infrastructure use can amount to a “tragedy of the infrastructure” as in the tragedy of the commons. Iaione proposed that transport infrastructure could be regulated at the level of local communities, individuals, inhabitants (i.e. the lowest level possible) who should be enabled by the government to take on the challenge to pursue the general interest in their everyday lives and in the management of common resources[5].

In other words, according to the this literature, cooperation for infrastructure commons might be both a supply side strategy to involve users in their governance and rethinking of their business model in order to address financing problems, as well as a demand-side strategy to enhance capacity and efficiency of the existing network in order to address congestion problems.

In a context of crisis and lack of resources for the public sector, privatization of public infrastructures often gets depicted as the only possible solution in order to improve public service provision and efficiency. However, the judicial decision by blocking the privatization process opens up the door to a solution that could adopt the design principles suggested by the literature on the infrastructure commons. Moving away from the classical public-private partnership model, the Mayor’s view suggests that the port of Capri should be legally understood as and managed through a public-commons partnership to produce both economic returns and social, environmental and cultural impacts. This solution might be able to grasp the social value and the economic potential the governance of the commons has guaranteed in other contexts.

[1] Parag Khanna, Connectography:  Mapping the Future of Global Civilization 7 (2016).  For a critical analysis of Khanna’s Connectography, see Daniel W. Drezner, Connectography by Parag Khanna, The New York Times, (April 29 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/books/review/connectography-by-parag-khanna.html.

[2] Brett Frischmann, Infrastructure, Oxford University Press (2012) at 189-253.

[3] Brett Frischmann, Infrastructure, Oxford University Press (2012) at 116.

[4] Christian Iaione, The tragedy of urban roads: Saving cities from choking, calling on citizens to combat climate change, Fordham Urb. L. J. Vol. 37, 3 (2009).

[5] Id. at 949-950.

Il Porto Turistico di Capri, creato negli anni ’60 come partnership pubblico-pubblico tra la città di Capri e lo Stato rischiava di essere privatizzato a causa della procedura di dismissione delle quote statali trasferite dallo Stato a Invitalia. Si appresta adesso ad essere giuridicamente inteso e gestito come bene comune, attraverso la prima partnership pubblico-comunità, per produrre non solo ritorni economici per la comunità caprese, ma anche impatto sociale, ambientale e culturale.

First Regional Law Proposal on the Commons in Tuscany

First Regional Law Proposal on the Commons in Tuscany



On the 25th of July, 2017, a law proposal on the commons and active citizenship was presented in the Regional Council of Tuscany, Italy. This is the first regional law on the commons in the Italian context. The law proposal concerns the “Social subsidiarity and civic collaboration for the governance of the urban commons for the application of articles 58 and 59 of the Regional Bylaws”. As highlighted by the President of the Regional Council Eugenio Giani, the director of the legislative office Gemma Pastore, and the secretary general Silvia Fantappiè the aim of the law proposal is to prepare the ground for a renewed relationship between public and private actors, based on the general interest, through the implementation of the concepts of subsidiarity, civic collaboration and the commons. The regional law is also aimed at providing an impulse for the Municipalities in Tuscany for initiating policymaking processes for the regeneration of the urban commons, as a duty of responsibility toward future generations.

This proposal is a step forward in the long-term commitment of the Region of Tuscany to improve and promote participation, cooperation, and civic collaboration principles for the commons and the collaborative economy. Indeed, the Region has promoted the #CollaboraToscana process (2016- 2017). Activated by the Presidency Department of Tuscany (which holds the mandate to innovation and participation) with the aim of drafting a green book outilning a regional policy on sharing and collaborative economy. #CollaboraToscana represents a first experience at regional, national and international level in the co-creation of a public policy on sharing economy through the involvement of local actors. The process is inspired by the principles and methods used in 2011-2014 for the development of the Bologna Regulation and by the drafting process of the Opinion on the local and regional dimension of the Sharing Economy produced by the Committee of the Regions of the European Union. The process, constituted by an intense fieldwork with co-working sessions organized in Florence with the participation of relevant actors of the sharing economy and social innovation ecosystem in Tuscany has had the scientific support of the international research project “Co-Città e Co-Territory”, developed by Labgov, and is curated in his methodological component by Sociolab, with the support of Collaboriamo.

To know more about the process: http://www.labgov.it/governancelabs/collaboratoscana/



Una proposta di legge su Beni comuni e Cittadinanza attiva è stata illustrata il 25 luglio 2017 in Consiglio regionale della Regione Toscana. Il testo rappresenta il primo caso di legge regionale a trattare il tema dei beni comuni, intesi non singolarmente, ma come categoria.

Image Source: Regione Toscana, http://www.regione.toscana.it/