Co-City Turin: legal tools for citizen–municipal collaboration created to fight urban poverty

Co-City Turin: legal tools for citizen–municipal collaboration created to fight urban poverty


The City of Turin approved a Regulation for public collaboration on the urban commons in 2016, on the model of the Bologna Regulation with peculiar, context-related adaptation. In 2017, the City of Turin presented a project, admitted to funding within the context of the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) program. The “Co-City” project builds a policy program for the Co-City starting from the Regulation. The Co-City project builds on both previous experiences of the City with urban regeneration policies, fight against social inclusion, the Neighborhood Houses Network (Ferrero 2012), and on more recent proposals of innovative solutions for governing city commons or implementing a Co-City (Iaione 2016).

In particular, it looks at the transformation of abandoned structures and vacant land in hubs of resident participation, in order to foster the community spirit as well as the creation of social enterprises that will contribute to reduce urban poverty in different areas of the city. The implementation of the Regulation on the urban commons will be driven in Turin by the implementation of “pacts of collaboration” between residents or associations and local authorities, based in most of the cases on taking care of public spaces, or on the reuse of abandoned urban spaces and structures. The creation of new forms of commons-based urban welfare will promote social mixing and the cohesion of the local community, making residents actors of the urban change, while the local authority will act as facilitator of innovation processes already ongoing in the urban context.

The use of innovative ICT platforms, such as the urban social network First Life, developed by the University of Turin, and the active collaboration of the network of the Neighborhood Houses (Case del Quartiere),  will contribute to combine virtual and physical dimensions, involving different types of publics in the center, as well as in the suburbs of the city.

The regeneration of abandoned or underused spaces in different areas of the city will contribute to create new jobs in the social economy sector through the creation of new enterprises, which emerged along the process of residents’ participation initiated and facilitated by the city of Turin, together with the network of the Houses of the Neighborhoods. Moreover, the definition and the implementation of several pacts of collaboration will improve the participation of residents in different parts of the city, fostering the commitment of the citizens towards a more inclusive and cohesive city.

The role of the UIA program

It is through the «Co-City» Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) project that the City managed to invest in the urban commons as a lever for addressing key urban governance issues such as poverty, and target the most vulnerable communities in the city. In Turin, the UIA Co-City project is carried out through a partnership with the Computer Science Department and Law School of the University of Turin, the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI) and the Cascina Roccafranca Foundation as the leader of the Neighborhood Houses Network. It aims at coordinating the efforts of different urban actors in promoting the implementation of the Turin Regulation. The project provides the renewal of real estate and public spaces considered as urban commons, as instrument of social inclusion and poverty reduction in many deprived areas of the City. The project is coordinated by the City Department for Decentralization, Youth and Equal Opportunities.

The Neighborhood Houses is a policy and network that the city of Turin is implementing since 2006 (Ferrero 2012), which promotes the diffusion of community spaces all over the city. It represents a key platform for the project’s implementation. In the Neighborhood Houses Network, city inhabitants will find information on the Co-City project and the different opportunities it offers. There, they will find support for drafting proposals of pacts of collaboration as well as the opportunity to meet other city inhabitants interested in establishing a cooperation to take care or regenerate the same urban commons.

The first steps of the Co-City implementation

The first step of the UIA Co-City project was the public call for proposal of pacts of collaboration. The proposal addressed Turin’s city inhabitants. Launched by the City in June 2017, it was aimed at collecting citizens’ proposals for pacts of collaboration and therefore communicating with target beneficiaries and adopting a participative approach.

The call was a great success in terms of rate of civic participation with 115 proposals submitted. This result shows that the project stimulated civic participation and achieved quantitative success from the standpoint of the civic initiative for taking care of the public space. 54 pacts proposals out of the 115 submitted were admitted to the co-design phase. The majority of the proposals falls under measure C of the call, addressing the care of public space; the 37% of proposals falls under measure B, addressing the regeneration of platforms of public infrastructures; and the 6% for the pacts addressing measure A, peripheries and urban cultures. 54 proposals were admitted to the co-design phase. 1 proposal for measure A, 4 proposals for measure B, 12 proposals for measure B “schools”, and 49 proposals for the measure C were admitted to the co-design phase after the evaluation carried out by the City of Turin. The co-design phase started on the 28th of February and is still ongoing. The call for proposals for measure C is still open, so the number of pacts admitted to the Co-design phase will be constantly growing.

The pacts’ proposals are varied and rich (for a detailed analysis of the Co-City Turin process and the pacts of collaboration in particular, see the Co-City Project Journals). Among others, the Habitat proposal is aimed at intervening on a building in Via le Chiuse, District 4 of the City of Turin. The first floor of the building is occupied by the local health agency’s offices while the second floor is in disuse. The renovation work could change the internal disposition of the rooms, to host the pact’s activities.

The Casa Ozanam community hub proposal is presented by city inhabitants already active in the very same structure, who have previously revitalized it. The new program would allow to expand their offer, setting as its objective the realization of a new neighborhood house in District 5 of the city of Turin.

The proposals are distributed across Turin’s districts, although the peripheries received special attention. The neighborhoods often host former industrial areas that were interested in previous years by urban regeneration policies, or formerly rural areas turned into high-density residential neighborhoods. The typical case is the Falchera neighborhood, in District 6, that was already subject to urban regeneration policies in the nineties. The Falchera neighborhood is composed of two main areas, the Old Falchera built in the fifties and the new Falchera built in the seventies as part of a development project of the “INA-Casa” program, a state-level housing program which resulted in the creation of an isolated residential area for factory workers.

Christian iaione, UIA expert, carried out an analysis of the way the pacts’ proposals address the goal of counteracting urban poverty through an urban co-governance approach, rooted in the transfer of the governance of the commons theory to the city (UIA Co-City Turin Zoom in).  His analysis leads to two observations.

The first observation is that the goal of alleviating urban poverty is pursued through direct and indirect means: direct promotion of social and economic inclusion on the one hand, and urban regeneration on the other hand. The majority of the pacts, in fact, foresees low budget or medium budget interventions for the care of public spaces.  This is creating a key resource, namely social capital, which could be the stepping stone for new forms of non-monetary economies, and therefore strategies to fight urban poverty. Other pacts address urban poverty more directly by creating learning and income opportunities for the proponents (i.e. social cooperatives; NGOs involved in migrant’s integration), as well as offering forms of urban welfare to the neighborhoods inhabitants.

The second observation is related to the innovative legal and economic nature of the partnership created through the pacts of collaboration. A key turning point in this regard is the issue of risk aversion, a complex and priority issue faced by public officials at the urban level. The issue is of a primary importance for the EU, as the recently published Draft action plan of the Urban Partnership for Public procurement shows. The need for risk-takers inside any public administration is an issue that several scholars from law, economics, and policy studies are addressing. Mariana Mazzucato recently proposed to the European Commission a mission-oriented and public value approach to public investments to nurture innovation, which could be fruitfully applied to urban innovation processes like the UIA Co-City project.

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference retreat organized by LabGov “Accelerating Citywide Civic Entrepreneurship: An Exercise in the Co-City Approach”

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference retreat organized by LabGov “Accelerating Citywide Civic Entrepreneurship: An Exercise in the Co-City Approach”

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference Program hosted a retreat: “Accelerating Citywide Civic Entrepreneurship: An Exercise in the Co-City Approach” from December 11-15, 2017. The retreat is hosted by the LABoratory for the GOVernance of the Commons (“LabGov“), with the aim of providing a first methodological trans-geographical test of the Co-City algorithm, a new mode of civic entrepreneurship that empowers the public, private, and social sectors to govern urban commons collaboratively for the public good and better meet the needs of city residents through an experimentalist approach.


The retreat brought together leaders in urban innovation and civic entrepreneurship, with representatives from the City of Amsterdam (the Netherlands; urban innovation officer); the city of Barcelona (Regidoria de Participaciò i territorio) the City of Boulder (Colorado,Chief Resilience Officer (CRO); the city of Turin (Italy, the Co-City project funded by the EU Urban Innovative Action program as part of the Regional Development Fund); the city of Madison (Wisconsin, which dedicated capital funds to support a worker cooperative development initiative aimed at supporting people of color and others with barriers to formal employment to create worker cooperative businesses); the City of New York (NY, NYCx Co-labs program of the Mayor’s office of New York City, participating via Skype); Habitat International Coalition; the National Association of Italian Cities (ANCI) as National Contact Point of the EU Urbact programCooperation Jackson (network of cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises; Archiafrika (NGO based in Accra, Ghana, that promotes both the built and cultural spaces on the African continent and aims at contributing to the understanding and development of design within the continent and encourage the investigation and education of African architectural history); the German Marshall Fund of the United States (the Urban and Regional Policy Unit); the Brookings Institution ( the Project on 21st Century City Governance); the Laboratory for the City, Laboratorio para la Ciudad (experimental arm and creative think tank of the Mexico City government); SPUR (an NGO operating in the San Francisco Bay area). The retreat was facilitated and co-chaired by Alicia Bonner Ness, Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione.

During the five days in Bellagio, the participants were introduced to the last research output of LabGov, the Co-City process/cycle and the five design principles developed by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione for the design and implementation of a co-city. The participants were involved in a simulation of the Co-City process and engaged in an exchange of experiences and mutual learning exercises. As recalled by Simone D’Antonio 1 in a recent article on the Rockefeller LabGov Bellagio retreat, the fruittul exchange of experiences showed the variety and richness of approached embraced by cities in different parts of the world to develop an innovative way of implementing urban governance; from the case of Turin, which through the Co-City project funded by the EU program UIA is experimenting with urban commons as a platform to tackle the issue of urban poverty, to the case of Mexico City where representatives of different urban stakeholders such as representatives of creative economy and urban planners are coming together to contribute to the re-design or the city or the city of Wisconsin, which which dedicated capital funds to support a worker cooperative development initiative aimed at supporting people of color and others with barriers to formal employment to create worker cooperative businesses, or the experience of international public institutions such as UN Habitat with the Safer cities program, launched in 1996 at the request of African Mayors seeking to tackle urban crime and violence in their cities and has evolved towards time is an integrated, multi-level government and multi-sectoral approach to improving the livability of cities and quality of urban life.

The aim of the Rockefeller Bellagio Retreat organized by LabGov was to gather representatives of different actors of what was called the Quintuple Helix governance of urban innovation at the global level in order to explore potential applications of the Co-city/city as a commons 2 model to co-create and sustain more just and inclusive cities. Among the potential outputs of a global experimental application of the Co-City process is the development a set of tools to design urban justice and democracy and thereby also measure the implementation of some of the New Urban Agenda goals, such as those i 13 and 91, or the Sustainable development goals (SDGs) 16 and 17, in particular the subgoal 16.7, 17.17 and 17.19.

(2) Sheila Foster & Christian Iaione, Ostrom in the city: design principles for the urban commons, The Nature of Cities, August 20 2017.


L’algoritmo #CoCity è stato sottoposto a un primo test metodologico trans-nazionale nell’ambito del Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Retreat organizzato da LabGov dall’11 al 15 Dicembre 2017 “Accelerating Citywide Civic Entrepreneurship: An Exercise in the Co-City Approach”. Nel corso del retreat rappresentanti di città americane, africane, europee e latino americane, movimenti sociali, grandi società tech e ONG pubbliche internazionali si sono confrontate e sono state coinvolte in una simulazione del protocollo Co-City per discutere insieme di soluzioni collaborative per affrontare le nuove sfide delle città nel mondo.

Participatory Budgeting in New York City

Participatory Budgeting in New York City

Participatory budgeting is a democratic practice that was first implemented in Latin America in the late 80’, traveled the world and it’s now been instituted in 1500 cities worldwide. Several scholars[1] highlights the positive impact of participatory budgeting for the quality of life in cities and for democratic legitimacy and in particular his potentiality to include vulnerable communities. On the other side, scientific studies also reveals limits of this democratic innovation, due for instance to the intensity of worldwide diffusion, and put the lights on the riks of transforming a democratic process into a sterile set of procedures[2].

In the European Union Context, a relevant example is the Paris case, the bigger in the EU, and in Italy this experiment is been conducted in some middle size and small size cities, mainly through the Bipart platform.

Participatory budgeting in New York City 

In the USA and Canadian context, participatory budgeting in recently been implemented, in Toronto, Chicago and New York City. The PB in New York was first implemented as a pilot project from 2011 to 2012 and was initiated by four members of the New City Council, three Democrats and one Republican: Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams. They’ve chosen to allocate for Participatory Budgeting the discretionary funds (capital money) of their budget[3]. The four council members decided to put a part of their budget directly in the hands of their constituency, for an amount of at least 1 million dollars.

After the pilot project was realized, Participatory budgeting in New York City expanded dramatically and it’s been adopted by 28 council members. In 2016, 67,000 New Yorkers voted to allocate $38 million for locally-developed capital projects across 28 Council Districts in New York City[4]. Currently, the sixth cycle of PB is ongoing.

There are several kind of projects that can be proposed: improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing, and other public or community spaces. The process is designed to meet needs of communities and to ensure involvement of all the local actors. The first phase of the process consist in public discussions, the Neighborhood Assemblies, realized in each district were people can learn more about the process and discuss the needs of the neighborhood. At the end of this phase, volunteers from the community, the Budget delegates, are selected and the first ideas are collected also though the Idea Collection Map. Budget Delegates, work on the ideas in order to turn them into real proposals for a ballot, with input also from city agencies, that ensure feasibility and coordination of proposals. These proposals will be up for a community-wide vote. The Council Members then submit the projects with the most votes to City Council for inclusion in the final city budget. Community members evaluate the process, and oversee the implementation of projects.

More information about the phases of the project are available here: and here: To see research on the impact of Participatory Budgeting, you can have a look at the annual research reports published by the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center:

The participatory budgeting process in NYC is supported technically by the Participatory Budgeting Project, a non profit organization that create and support participatory budgeting processes in several context in the United States of America and in Canada. On the basis of their large experience, both theoretical and on the ground, they developed Guidelines and Tools to implement Participatory Budgeting in cities: .

The issue is been studied also from an institutional standpoint. The World bank, European Union and the United Nations have worked intensely on this issue, given his relevance for democracy and his great diffusions, and developed opinions and toolkit.

[1] Wampler, B. “A Guide to Participatory Budgeting” In. Participatory Budgeting edited by Shan, A. Washington DC, The World Bank (2007); Smith, G. Democratic Innovations. Cambridge, CUP (2009); G. Baiocchi, P. Heller, and M. K. Silva Bootstrapping Democracy: Transforming Local Governance and Civil Society in Brazil, Standford University Press (2011).

[2] E. Ganuza and G. Baiocchi, The Power of Ambiguity: How Participatory Budgeting Travels the Globe Journal of Public Deliberation Volume 8 Issue 2 Article 8 (2012).

[3] See generally H.R. Gilman, Democracy reinvented, Brookings, (2016).

[4] The list of the winning projects and the amount of funds spent per district are available here:

This is not (only) green economy – “Green Week” at Trento University, sponsored by the ENI Foundation

This is not (only) green economy – “Green Week” at Trento University, sponsored by the ENI Foundation


LabGov will participate at the Trento Green Week, a forum for discussion on the major issues of the green economy. The three-day festival, that will take place from the 4th to the 6th of March, includes several sessions, debates, meetings and events on sustainability.

Green-Week_imagefullwideLabGov will intervene during the panel on  “The collaborative economy in the city (and beyond)”, organized by the ENI Enrico Mattei Foundation. It will gather noteworthy speakers among the most notable leaders of innovative researches and projects about the collaborative economy in Italy. After an introduction by Flaviano Zandonai, from Iris Network and an intervention by Matthew Bina, from the Manager Incubator Fabri, LabGov will present CO-Bologna. The forward-looking significance of the collaborative economy is indeed one of the most important issues of the CO-Bologna program, which aims to prototype – through a process of experimentation in urban collaborative living labs moderated by LabGov experts – collaborative/polycentric governance devices at the neighborhood level. This process will contribute in turning neighborhoods in collaborative ecosystems that enable the proliferation of innovations such as the pooling economy. The panel discussion that will follow immediately after those intervention will see Francesco Gabbi, founder of Abito and Ilaria Lenzi, coordinator of the research program “Sustainability and Social Innovation”, at the Eni Enrico Mattei Foundation and Angelo Rindone, founder of “Produzioni dal basso”.


Non solo green – LabGov parla di economia collaborativa alla Green Week di Trento.

LabGov parteciperà alla Green Week, forum di discussione sui grandi temi della green economy. La manifestazione, organizzata dall’Università di Trento, sarà suddivisa in due percorsi differenti: dall’ 1 al 3 marzo un tour porterà i partecipanti alla scoperta delle aziende d’eccellenza delle Venezie; dal 4 al 6 marzo, un festival di tre giorni  sarà animato da una ricca serie dibattiti, incontri, eventi, sul tema della sostenibilità ospitati dalla città di Trento.

LabGov prenderà parte alla sessione dedicata a “L’economia collaborativa nelle città (e non solo)”, curata dalla Fondazione ENI Enrico Mattei, che vedrà il contributo dei protagonisti delle più rilevanti ricerche e sperimentazioni dell’economia collaborativa in Italia. Dopo l’introduzione di Flaviano Zandonai, segretario Iris di Network e gli interventi di Matteo Bina, Incubation Manager Fabri, LabGov racconterà i successi di CO-Bologna. Il tema dell’economia collaborativa è infatti uno dei temi più importanti del programma CO-Bologna, che ha l’obiettivo di prototipare, a valle di un processo di sperimentazione in laboratori urbani collaborativi, dei dispositivi di governance collaborativa/policentrica a livello di quartiere che contribuiscano a rendere le città degli ecosistemi collaborativi che abilitano il proliferare delle innovazioni come la pooling economy. La tavola rotonda che seguirà subito dopo prevede la partecipazione di Francesco Gabbi, fondatore di Abito e Ilaria Lenzi, coordinatrice del programma di ricerca “Sostenibilità e Innovazione Sociale”, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei ed infine Angelo Rindone, fondatore di Produzioni dal Basso.