The Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia

The Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia

The Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia unifies in a single text the values and methods to ensure participation and collaboration among urban innovators from different categories, according to the quintuple helix paradigm in the definition and management of public policies. This new regulation collects and updates all previous regulations on civic participation.


In September 2022, the City Council approved the establishment of the Consultas, bodies formed by elected citizens to represent their territories and collaborate with the Municipality in policy planning. Through the Area Agreements, citizens can define their needs and propose them to the Municipality for integration into public policies.


Additionally, the regulation introduces the new Title V, which concerns the collaboration of communities and territories in the co-design phase of interventions, updating the previous regulations in line with the new Public Contracts Code and other national and European laws.


The “Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation,” an evolution of the “Citizenship Agreements,” are defined as multi-actor collaborations for various fields such as climate, cultural heritage, urban regeneration, and energy communities. These Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation involve distributed responsibility and collaboration based on trust.


An important innovation is the Community Budget, a tool to measure the impacts produced by the Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation in terms of costs, actions, resources, and especially generated changes.


The Regulation also enhances the relationship between public administration and knowledge institutions, which has been strengthening on other fronts as well, and has consolidated since 2022 with the establishment of the City Science Office (CSO), an office for applied research to public administration where researchers work side by side with councilors, managers, and officials to design innovative policies and facilitate collaboration with social, economic, civic, and scientific actors from Reggio Emilia, Italy.


The Regulation was developed in collaboration between the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, the Department of Law of Luiss Guido Carli University, LabGov ETS – Laboratory for the governance of commons, the City Science Office of Reggio Emilia, also within the framework of the European Horizon 2020 project EUARENAS.EU-Cities as Arenas of Political Innovation in the Strengthening of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy.


The text was also developed with the scientific contribution of professors and experts in administrative law and public policies on social and public innovation, particularly through two study and in-depth seminars held:


– on February 22, 2023, at LUISS Guido Carli, Rome: “Neighborhood, Common Good: democracy and urban and climate justice in Reggio Emilia. An integrated public policy to achieve urban co-governance for sustainable urban development” with the intervention of Giancarlo Montedoro, President of the Section of the Council of State.

– on December 15, 2023, at Chiostri di San Pietro, Reggio Emilia: “The tools of Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia: the City Science Office, the community budget as an ESG measurement tool, Community and Area Agreements, the Climate Contract, and the Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation.


New Review of the Co-Cities Book in the Journal of Design and Culture (Taylor & Francis) by Jacob DeGeal

Check out the review of the Co-Cities Book by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione (The MIT Press) in the Journal of Design and Culture (Taylor & Francis) by Jacob DeGeal.


Click here:


While the authors do warn us of the effects of planet-destroying dystopias of late-stage capitalism and labyrinthian bureaucracies mired in their own processes, they do not fall prey to polemic narratives or bias. They remain hopeful, inspirational, and studious, acknowledging the necessary participation of these power-wielding institutions. By establishing the city as commons, monolithic power structures can be systemically reduced and balanced with the needs and wishes of community members. Co-Cities provides a realistic path forward for communities to apply human-focused collaborative action to their own neighborhoods, and optimize governmental buy-in.


Interview with Sheila Foster for Nature Cities on “New Inroads for Community-Centric Placemaking”

Interview with Sheila Foster for Nature Cities on “New Inroads for Community-Centric Placemaking”


Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione’s great work with LabGov.City, was also featured in Nature Cities magazine, through an interview with Sheila Foster for the article on “New Inroads for Community-Centric Placemaking,” conducted by Anneliese (Lisa) Palmer.

“As urban challenges mount, community-driven placemaking is gaining traction, with cities empowering residents to shape public spaces like parks and plazas through informal partnerships and decentralized decision-making. This global shift toward a range of partnerships is reshaping urban governance from the ground up.”

Here you can find the full article, read it to gain valuable insights!,%20community,partnerships%20and%20decentralized%20decision-making


Energy Award Winner 2023 – Co-Cities Book awarded in the category of Best Book about the ‘Commons’

Energy Award Winner 2023 – Co-Cities Book awarded in the category of Best Book about the ‘Commons’

Each year, the The American Energy Society spotlights the most extraordinary contributions to energy and sustainability.

We are thrilled to announce that among the winners of the Energy Awards 2023 is the book “Co-Cities: Innovative Transitions toward Just and Self-Sustaining Communities” (The MIT Press), by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, awarded in the category of Best Book about the ‘Commons’.

Happy to share with you another achievement!

“Law and Society” n°4-2022

“Law and Society” n°4-2022


Discover in the fourth issue of “Law and Society” in 2022 the crucial role of cities in the fight against climate change, responsible for 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union responds to this emergency with the mission “100 Climate-Neutral and Smart cities by 2030”.
The EU supports 100 cities in the ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030, considering that 85% of Europeans will live in urban areas by 2050.

The focus is on energy communities as a key tool for transitioning to low-carbon economies, involving citizens in the production and management of renewable energy. It introduces the “Co-City Protocol,” an experimental method based on five principles of institutional design that, when maximized, ensure greater sustainability.

Learn more and join the discussion for a sustainable future!

Diritto e Società n°4 – 2022

The Co-City Design Principles

The Co-City Design Principles

The Co-city approach has been formulated at this stage considering the various developmental phases it has been through in each chapter and the cases that have been analyzed in different cities. The most recent chapter dubbed Urban Co-governance illustrated the 5P’s which are public-private-science-social-community partnerships. This refers to a legal and economic arrangement between communities, civil society organizations, science, or knowledge institutions, and the social, science, and community actors. The final chapter now offers a set of design principles extracted from the previous chapters and empirically acquired co-cities research projects.


They are: (1) co-governance; (2) enabling state; (3) pooling economies; (4) urban experimentalism; and (5) tech justice. These were also somewhat inspired by Elinor Ostrom’s 8 design principles in her book entitled “Governing the Commons” (Ostrom, 1990).


The co-cities examined case studies of community or city-level initiatives that represent horizons of cooperative or collaborative urban governance, inclusive and sustainable local economies, and social innovation in the provision of local goods and services. It surveyed over 200 cities and over 500 projects and policies within these cities, especially from countries within the Global North. It consisted of examples of public projects and policies from many kinds of cities. These were included in the data set, including some ground-breaking policy experiments were also discussed. The intention was for a larger effort to be explained in the dynamic process (or transition) from a city where urban commons were absent to one in which they were emerging, supported, and enabled by the state, both the community-led examples and those institutionalized in local government. This write-up focuses on the first design principle and will explain the other four design principles (Enabling State, Pooling Economies, Urban Experimentalism & Tech Justice).


Principle 1: Co-governance is the first principle developed for the co-city framework. Some scholars call it multi-actor governance while others also term it collective governance. Ostrom at a point called it polycentrism (Ansell & Gash, 2008; Wilson et al.  2003; Ostrom, 2010). Tine De Moor (2012) helpfully suggests that we think about the commons as consisting of three dimensions: a resource system, a collective property regime, and interactions between the resource and its users; these three come together to form a common-pool resource. From the lenses of Foster and Iaione, co-governance embraces and entails the collective management and ownership of urban assets that provide resources and critical services for the well-being of the most vulnerable urban residents. The co-governance principle simply focuses on collaboration or interaction amongst the various stakeholders in pursuit of a common goal or interest. Co-governance has the potential to evolve, and this helps to enable and recognize the development of urban commons throughout a city. For instance, policies in cities such as Bologna, Naples, Barcelona, and Madrid have enabled shared governance among urban actors and local authorities through collaborative efforts. Co-governance may be applied as a ladder to fabricate urban commons public policies and projects in a specific context by encouraging superiors in an institutional unit. Gathering definitions by other scholars and a thorough observation of case studies in various countries, Foster and Iaione came up with the definition of co-governance as a multistakeholder governance scheme whereby the community emerges as a key actor and partners with at least one of the other four actors or sectors in the quintuple helix governance scheme—the public sector, the civic sector, the private sector, and the knowledge sector. The five helices are first, the Knowledge / Academic helix: This helix depicts academic institutions and universities as the main forces behind knowledge generation, research, and education. By supplying intellectual capital, carrying out research, and providing training programs that promote entrepreneurial abilities, they support the growth of an intrapreneurial ecosystem. The second is the private sector/industrial helix which is made up of companies and sectors that promote economic expansion and open doors for entrepreneurship and innovation. They provide tools, market information, money, and industry-specific knowledge to help the growth and commercialization of innovative ideas. The third helix is the Public Sector helix which identifies the government’s role in establishing the laws, rules, and institutions that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship is crucial. They support the expansion of intrapreneurial ecosystems by providing resources such as money, infrastructure, enabling laws, and hospitable business environments. Civil society helix is the fourth helix and is made up of non-governmental organizations, neighborhood associations, the media, and citizens who take an active interest in social and environmental issues. By supporting social innovation, solving societal issues, and advocating for sustainable and socially responsible behaviors, civil society groups support the entrepreneurial environment. Finally, the last helix which was introduced by Carayannis and Campbell is the Environment Helix: The Environment Helix tackles the effects of entrepreneurship on the environment and underlines the significance of ecological sustainability. It acknowledges the necessity of eco-innovation, sustainable business practices, and ethical entrepreneurship to secure long-term profitability and reduce unfavorable environmental effects. This is referred to as the quintuple helix because a fifth actor is included, that is, the Environment. Carayannis and Campbell proposed the fifth helix because they found the Quadruple helix lacking especially at a point where Sustainability had become a global trend. The Quintuple Helix provides an analytical framework where knowledge and innovation are linked to the environment on the one hand, thus respecting social ecology (Carayannis, Barth &Campbell, 2012). This allows co-governance to respond to the extent of diversity among actors, ensures the distribution of power between them, and encourages responsibilities and benefits within the partnership. Under co-governance, Foster and Iaione classify this into three other forms, Shared governance, collaborative governance, and polycentrism.


Shared Governance includes cross-border contacts or alliances, such as those between public authorities and urban communities or citizens. It practically exists in the management and stewardship of small-scale resources such as neighborhood parks, and community gardens, just to name a few. Shared governance may be likened to Ostrom’s idea of self-governance. She explains it as a type of governance where resource users themselves establish and enforce regulations to protect or conserve common pool resources. This is viewed as a prerequisite for more complex and dynamic kinds of collective governance. Though others consider it as privatization, Foster and Iaione agree with Kooiman and van Vliet that it is a form of re-regulation. This is because it remains in the domain of the public, thus, the residents themselves who use and depend on the resources without having to wait on the central government’s efforts.


Collaborative governance transcends bilateral public-community partnerships and usually includes different types of stakeholders. They are involved in constructing and supporting institutional arrangements to support resource stewardship. They may be formal or informal, but they are the result of extensive contact and exchanges with various stakeholders (Kooiman 2003, 97). Collaborative governance is realized through the implementation of public policies that enable nongovernmental stakeholders to manage public resources collaboratively. These policies frequently stimulate cross-sector collaboration and alliances between for-profit and nonprofit players, depending on previous or new connections and social networks (Cepiku, Ferrari, and Greco 2006).


Polycentric governance is cooperative governance arrangements that eventually develop into a polycentric system, whether they are fueled by formal institutions or informal social norms at the city level. The book cites examples of policies that indicate forms of shared governance and self-governance that may lead to polycentrism. Such are in the cases of Turin, Reggio Emilia, Barcelona, or certain US towns where community land trusts are predominant.


Co-governance has evolved and progressed over time, it gives room to build authentic, power-sharing relationships among the actors, offering opportunities for transformative changes in cities and beyond.   The first principle has been elaborated upon in this paper, and the other four design principles will be critically analyzed and discussed in the next segment.


Co-governance covers both vertical and horizontal governance, self-governance, shared governance, and collaborative governance. It does not settle on one framework but considers the most suitable form for the city or community and how best it can solve the urban challenges they face today.




Ansell, Chris & Gash, Alison. (2008). Collaborative Governance in Theory. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. 18. 10.1093/jopart/mum032.

Carayannis, E.G., Barth, T.D. & Campbell, D.F. The Quintuple Helix innovation model: global warming as a challenge and driver for innovation. J Innov Entrep 1, 2 (2012).

Elinor Ostrom, Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change, Global Environmental Change, Volume 20, Issue 4, 2010, Pages 550-557, ISSN 0959-3780,

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions) Cambridge: Cambridge Press University.