On Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, a seminar coordinated by Prof. Christian Iaione was held at the Luiss Campus on Viale Pola:
“Neighborhood, Common Good: Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia. An integrated public policy to achieve urban co-governance as a function of sustainable urban development”, to address the feasibility of introducing a Title V dedicated to collaborative democracy tools in the “Regulations on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia.”
The seminar represents the latest episode in a 10-year journey of administrative and legal innovation and experimentation conducted by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia that began in 2015 with the public policy “Neighborhood, Common Good” and the subsequent 2015 “Regulation of Laboratories and Citizenship Agreements.” In the past two years, thanks to the collaboration with the Luiss Guido Carli Law Department, the Municipality of Reggio Emilia has continued on the path of innovation through the establishment of the City Science Office – made up of industrial doctoral students with scholarships funded by the Municipality – and with the approval of the Regulations on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia in September 2022.
In addition to contemplating institutes of local direct democracy, the new Regulations also provided for in an innovative way: the establishment of the Area Councils, deliberative democracy bodies with mixed composition (elective/non-elective) conceived within the Horizon 2020 EUArenas.EU project. These are representative institutions of citizens and local stakeholders pertaining to the nine Areas into which the municipal territory has been divided by grouping the 55 neighborhoods of the urban plan. The councils are mainly concerned with stimulating public debate and co-programming of public policies relevant to urban and climate justice to be conducted together with the relevant departments of the municipal administration, the outcome of which is the signing of an “Ambit Pact.”
The seminar discussed about the introduction of a Title V dedicated to collaborative democracy tools already partly covered by the 2015 Regulation on Citizenship Workshops and Agreements. This title would provide for a phase of co-design, at the outcome of which public policies co-programmed through the Area Pact would be implemented through multi-actor partnerships that would be named “Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation,” a formula that would summarize innovative forms of partnership introduced into the legal system through various regulatory provisions at the European Union, national, regional, and local levels.
The seminar began with an explanation of the virtuous case of the city of Reggio Emilia, led by Councillor Lanfranco De Franco and Headmistress Nicoletta Levi, followed by a talk by Council of State Section President Giancarlo Montedoro on “The new forms of partnership in the light of the public contracts code and the third sector code.”
Also participating in the seminar focus group were professors from Luiss Guido Carli University, La Sapienza University of Rome and Milan Polytechnic University, with specializations in administrative law and public law; representatives from Save the Children Italia; ANCI; INVITALIA S.p.A., National Governmental Agency for the Territorial Cohesion; and the Luiss LabGov ETS research team.
The Municipality of Reggio Emilia is one of the cities that have raised the level of civic collaboration the most in the past decade. It has embraced the principles of the city as a commons and the quintuple helix approach applied to public administration, producing as an outcome the new Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia. It is now about to be completed with a new Title, concerning the implementation of collaborative strategies through multi-actor partnerships, called Partnership for sustainable development and innovation, the text of which was discussed at a conference held at Luiss – Guido Carli on February 22.
co-city, urban justice, climate justice, Reggio Emilia, multi-actor partnership
The Municipality of Reggio Emilia is one of those cities which have given rise to a regulatory practice oriented toward collaborative management of urban development, which has developed locally in Italy as well as in other European and non-European cities. In Italy, in particular, starting with the Bologna experience, and shortly thereafter also Turin, Naples and other cities, this has been done first of all through the regulations on the collaborative management of common goods, which Reggio Emilia already developed in a singular way back in 2015: the idea, in fact, was to replace the administrative districts, eliminated by the law, with new infrastructures that would give voice to the neighborhoods.
At the time, this was achieved through “citizenship agreements,” but in 2022, the new Urban and Climate Democracy and Justice Regulation was passed, establishing Neighborhood Councils as a new structure for listening to the local communities. The main outcome is the provision of a co-planning phase, where neighborhood and municipality develop the policies, and a subsequent co-design phase, aimed at implementing the planned policies through Partnerships for Sustainable Development and Innovation.
The European Framework
At the European level, Reggio Emilia – in partnership with Luiss – Guido Carli, and the LabGov research group – is involved in the Horizon 2020 “EUARENAS – Cities as arenas of deliberative democracy”. In particular, it is a pilot city of the European project through the strategy on Neighborhood Councils, applying also the “Tech and the City” approach to urban and climate justice goals.
In developing this strategy, Reggio Emilia made use of the City Science Office, an organizational unit consisting of one employee and industrial PhD students from Luiss Guido Carli University, which serves as a center for research, development and support for the experimentation of innovative public policies; this tool is also part of a European framework, that of the City Science Initiative, to which the European network of City Science Offices belongs.
The Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia
Also thanks to the aforementioned project path in EUARENAS.EU, as mentioned above, and the cooperation among the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, the City Science Office, the Law Department of Luiss Guido Carli and LabGov ETS, the Regulation on Urban and Climate Democracy and Justice in Reggio Emilia was finally approved in September 2022.
Its most relevant and innovative provision is the creation of deliberative citizen assemblies called Neighborhood Councils, which – through a process of co-planning municipal public policies – draw up a document called the Neighborhood Pact, which becomes part of the whole municipality’s urban planning.
It is inspired by the principles of deliberative and collaborative democracy, which also find recognition in the Italian Constitution, and pursues a strategy of participatory administrative planning in order to achieve a sustainable, equitable and inclusive model of urban development, according also to the goals set by the Next Generation EU, the 2021-2027 EU Cohesion Policy, as well as the new Horizon Europe research and innovation program.
The new Title: Partnerships for sustainable development and innovation
In supplementing the aforementioned Regulation, it emerged that the regulatory framework should be completed through the provision of a new Title, concerning a co-design process involving all urban actors – according to the quintuple helix paradigm – and concluding with a mutual assumption of binding rights and obligations.
This instrument, which aims to put into practice what was previously designed at the policy level, has been called Partnership for Sustainable Development and Innovation (or Neighborhood Climate Contract if it is entirely focused on climate and environmental issues), which is a multi-actor partnership that is negotiated and, as a result, broad and non-standardized, in order to offer solutions consistent with the policies, the outcomes of which are evaluated in terms of impact.
The drafting and subsequent application of such an innovative document, however, raised questions of the most importance, with regard to the form and the conditions that would justify the adoption of a multi-actor partnership instead of more traditional procedures, the possible implementation tools (of which a toolbox was drawn up) and, above all, the impact dimensions through which the effectiveness of each partner’s action should be assessed.
This led, on February 22, to a seminar at Luiss Guido Carli, entitled “Neighborhood, Common Good: Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia. An integrated public policy to achieve urban co-governance as a function of sustainable urban development,” where some extremely competent authorities on the subject gave their views on the progress of the new part of the Regulation.
 P. Chirulli, C. Iaione (eds.), La Co-città, Napoli, Jovene, 2018; S. R. Foster, C. Iaione (eds.), Co-Cities, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2022.
 L. 23rd December 2009, n. 191.
 A. Jeanneau, The City Science Initiative: strengthening science and research for urban policies Tech and the City – Reggio Emilia, Labgov.city, 2020, <https://labgov.city/theurbanmedialab/the-city-science-initiative-strengthening-science-and-research-for-urban-policies-tech-and-the-city-reggio-emilia/>.
 EUArenas, https://www.euarenas.eu/.
 Regulation on Democracy and Urban and Climate Justice in Reggio Emilia, https://www.comune.re.it/documenti-e-dati/atti-normativi/regolamenti/regolamento-sulla-democrazia-e-la-giustizia-urbana-e-climatica-a-reggio-emilia.
 E. G. Carayannis, T. D. Barth, D. F. J. Campbell, The Quintuple Helix innovation model: global warming as a challenge and driver for innovation, Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, n. 1/2012; C. Iaione, E. De Nictolis, La quintupla elica come approccio alla governance dell’innovazione sociale, in F. Montanari, L. Mizzau (eds.), I luoghi dell’innovazione aperta. Modelli di sviluppo territoriale e inclusione sociale, Torino, Fondazione G. Brodolini, 2016.
 C. Iaione, Urban Sustainable Development and Innovation Partnerships, Italian Journal of Public Law, 2/2022.