What are the Commons?

What are the Commons?


The second meeting of the new cycle of seminars of LabGov was held at LUISS – Guido Carli, Viale Romania, 32. The agenda focused on the presentation of the “Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the Administration for the care and regeneration of urban commons”, presented on February 22nd in Bologna.  Prof. Gregorio Arena, President of Labsus – Laboratory for subsidiarity, explained how the Regulation is actually the first case in Italy to incorporate concretely the principle of horizontal subsidiarity, as advocated by Art. 118 of the Italian Constitution.

An initial focus has gone immediately to the question: why a regulation rather than a law? As it is explained, there might be in the near future some sort of regional laws governing such matters; however the risk of the so-called institutional bricolage has to be avoided – which often leads to the limitation of the autonomous initiative, rather than to its promotion. Historically, moreover, the need for  intermediate organizations has always been registered in each social system – let’s just think of the Corporations in the Middle Ages, or to the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno issued by Pope Pius XI (1931) which called for the administrative decentralization and for the fragmentation of the services provided by the Public sector.

The discussion then moved on the choice between local administrations and the state administration for what concerns the protection of citizens’ activities: after an exchange of views on this issue, it has come to the conclusion that it is the case for the local government to ensure and support these activities in the first place. It is not only the internal debate at the meeting that suggests us this type of approach to the topic: the jurist Sabino Cassese, at the end of the 80s, noted that the 70% of the total amount of resources used for the functioning of the Italian system is monopolized by the services provided by municipalities; in addition to that, the reform of Title V of the Italian Constitution in 2001 represents a further example of this thesis.

The Municipality of Bologna was taken as an example of the fact that Italy is an incubator of priceless public goods and of cities of rare beauty. Today we live in a time of (re-)discovery of such assets. The arcades of Bologna are a good example: they have all the necessary features to be defined by UNESCO as world heritage, as long as someone decides to take care of their maintenance. To date, only 60 owners in the area were successfully mobilized in this way. Why? Due to lack of information and training. In this respect, Donato Di Memmo, currently Head of Administrative Simplification, Institutional Affairs, Decentralization and Metropolitan Cities in the municipality of Bologna, in the June of last year, ‘put down’ a first but articulated Memorandum of Understanding between citizens and the Administration.

What do we mean by the term ‘administration’? An evergreen distinction (Giannini, 1961): Administration as activity and Administration as organization. When we speak of Administration as an organization, we mean a redundant system – in the sense that it has influence – on the functions and activities of the very same Administration; if the administrative organization is hierarchical, the activities of popular initiative will suffer, because they are perceived as secondary. Instead, Art. 98 par. 1 of the Italian Constitution: ‘Public employees are at the exclusive service of the Nation.’ establish a different concept of Administration. It is possible to highlight three major observations: 1) the meaning of public employees listed above assume a paternalistic meaning – which sees citizens as ‘passive’ subjects in providing care and protection; 2) service is here understood as in the civil servant case of Anglo-Saxon derivation, according to which the public employee can not and must not be in a higher position with respect to the citizens; 3) in the final analysis, the term Nation – and not Republic, as is the case of many other articles of the Italian Constitution – has to be intended not as an aggregation of institutions, but as a defined territory to preserve and defend. Once concluded the debate which covered differences and relations between citizens and the Administration according to the Italian Constitution, as well as in the everyday life, we moved to investigate the Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the Administration for the care and regeneration of urban commons’ specifically, by giving some definitions.

URBAN COMMONS – are those which, if enriched, enrich all, if impoverished, impoverish all: it is the case of goods that are, tangible, intangible and digital that citizens and the Administration, through participatory and deliberative procedures, acknowledge to be functional to the well-being of individuals and of the collectivity. Pursuant to Art. 118 last paragraph of the Italian Constitution, the citizens share the responsibility with the administration (defined as responsiveness – ability to respond) of the regeneration of these goods in order to improve the collective use;

MEASURES OF CARE: interventions aimed at the protection, preservation and maintenance of the urban commons to ensure and improve their usability and quality – an element that is reactive and proactive in protecting the urban commons;

MEASURES OF REGENERATION: interventions aimed at the recovery, transformation and innovation of the commons, as a part of social, economic, technological and environmental processes, broad and integrated, which have an impact on improving the quality of life in the city.

CHAPTER I – GENERAL PROVISIONS contains a series of precise and accurate ‘rules’ to which the regulation is harmonized – namely the Constitution, general rules, municipal statute and local rules – and emphasizes the ultimate purpose of the interaction between citizens and Administration: collaboration. Something that can be easily derived, following three principles of the text: freedom, responsibility, and solidarity.

LabGov2014 Edition

LabGov2014 Edition



The first meeting of the new cycle of seminars takes is held at LUISS – Guido Carli, Viale Romania, 32. The agenda focused on the presentation of the new cycle of seminars, terms and conditions for the participation to the new cycle, later followed by the presentation of the working group (organizational framework) and the division into categories (mainly cross-sectional): RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, COMMUNICATION and ORGANIZATION.

Prof. Christian Iaione introduced the main concepts and theoretical tools –the new cycle of seminar will deal with starting from the definition of commons. In economic terms commons different from public goods – which non-excludable and non-rival. Commons are both rival and non excludable. But in political and legal terms they are both public and private goods that need to be preserved to ensure their usability for the wealth of everyone and future generations. More precisely, taking the cue from the book ‘Italy of the Commons’, edited by Gregorio Arena and Christian Iaione, we can intend commons as social things – they have a social function or are the result of social processes; natural and man-made assets – i.e goods that are unique or exceptional in terms of high quality; and also, but not only resources – as soon as they become productive inputs for social processes.

What is the trigger that makes us talk today of common goods and the need to protect them? Over the years there has been a gradual decline in the capacity of production, care, safeguard, regeneration, control and supervision by local institutions and also, in some instances, by private institutions or subjects. The consequence of this regulatory slippage, resulted in the deterioration of commons, material and immaterial assets that are essential to the wealth of individals and communities.

What are the solutions?





Is there space for a fourth strategy?

Possibility of interaction between community, public and private sector through the so-called principle of horizontal subsidiarity which demands public institutions to favour the autonomous initiative of citizens, single or associated, to carry out activities of general interest.

How do we call it?

LOCAL GOVERNANCE OF THE COMMONS (through formalized rules and public-private-commons partnerships);

ReinventAda: a regeneration experiment

ReinventAda: a regeneration experiment

reinventadaOn Friday 25 October LabGov – Laboratory for the Governance of the Commons, presented its first shared regeneration experiment. The event called “ReinventAda” aimed to take care of the Temple of Flora, the XVIII century Pallavicini’s Coffeehouse in Villa Ada in Rome.

LabGov, a project born in the LUISS University of Rome, was ideated and strongly supported by Labsus – Laboratory for the Subsidiary and its President and Director, respectively Professors Gregorio Arena and Christian Iaione. The great challenge that LabGov wants to solve is to find mechanisms that allow citizens, public administrations, associations and business to create alliances in order to find common solutions to common problems and to create the shared administration of the commons.

The Temple of Flora even if has been renovated several times by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Rome, was in decay, above all due to graffiti on the walls and garbage. Institutions needed the help of citizens that in the everyday life can take care of this artistic edifice immersed on the green.


The activity has been to clean up the building and the space around from the garbage and to whitewash the walls from graffiti. The Temple of Flora, Roman deities of the spring, symbolically wants to recall the idea of a new Renaissance, made possible through an alliance between citizens and public administration.

The day spent in Villa Ada, a beautiful city park, formerly the residence of the Italian royal family, saw the Labgovers weave an alliance with the by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Rome, thanks to which the intervention has been possible and that was very enthusiastic of the project. The enlighten manager, Mrs Giovanna Alberta Campitelli, in charge of Villas and Historic Parks, welcomed the project and opened the door of the administration.

Another important alliance established has been that with the Department of Environment and Department of Culture of Rome Capital, of which the representatives, respectively Mrs. Estella  Marino and Flavia Barca participated in the initiative by painting walls and picking up garbage. Guest of events also the “Founding Fathers” of LabGov, the General Director of LUISS University Giovanni Lo Storto, and President and Vice-President of Labsus, Professor Gregorio Arena and Mrs. Maria Teresa Rosito.

The primary objective of ReinventAda was to raise awareness of the local community toward a common good that plays an important role in the quality of life of citizens such as this city park, with naturalistic, artistic and cultural heritage.


A second important aspect is to bring together different subject, governmental and non-governmental, interested to the wellbeing of the Villa, and facilitate theirs common work along a path that have to conduct to the shared administration of Villa Ada. Moreover this experiment should be a model for other similar situations in villas and historical parks in the city of Rome.


A strategy based on shared administration could bring a contribution of times, energies, ideas, skills, talents, resources and competences from civil society that represent the real added value of this model, useful for a better management of environmental, artistic and cultural heritage.


This new paradigm of administration, complementary not alternative, that strengthens the classical one, intends to increase the responsibility of all subject willing to take care of the problems of the community. And the event of ReinventAda confirmed how all the subjects involved has been ready and strongly active in supporting, promoting and concretely participate.


On the one hand, ReiventAda, has transformed for one day Villa Ada in a theater in which active citizens can express all their willingness and awareness of the importance of the space around them. On the other hand public administration can start this transformation in three ways: simplifying the procedures and the rules to allow an easier access for citizens; providing instruments that come from the education, to the organization since the materials necessary for the realization of these kind of projects; coordinating and ensuring the quality of the project.

This has been the first step towards a project that aims to create a shared governance of the Villa, providing institutions mechanism that allow normal citizens to take care of the immense cultural heritage that is all around us.

Circular Economy: more well-being with 10 moves

Circular Economy: more well-being with 10 moves

download (1)As part of the European Week for Waste Reduction , the Comuni Virtuosi  association launch the second edition of “ Less waste, more well-being with 10 moves ” to urge the world of manufacturing  and retailing to take ten actions in the short and medium term, to reduce the environmental impact of their activities in the interests of circular economy . An operation of personalized communication will conduct to major companies in the consumer goods and retail chains to ask them commitment and transparency about their policy compared to 10 moves .

The document was signed by about 300 local authorities, many associations , such as the Slow Food Italy , Cittadinanza Attiva and Altroconsumo,  as well as individual citizens.

The 10 moves to get less waste to increase well-being , rotate on a key concept , which is calibrated to corporate policies  linked with circular economy . In fact, through these 10 steps , it essentially asking companies to restructure their stages of planning, production and distribution , in an innovative perspective that allows for greater environmental sustainability .

The systemic design is a key concept about this, which conceives a product as part of a system with which it interacts, and throughout its life cycle. This would allow to design and manufacture products that like output of one process becomes an input to another process. Designed in this way, the product, once exhausted its primary use, can be recovered, reused or recycled . The packaging of the product to be eco-friendly and sustainable products that adhere to the 10 rules , certified as adhering to the logic of recycling and circular economy .