Amsterdam, a Commons City?!

Amsterdam, a Commons City?!

In imitation of the city of Ghent, Amsterdam has expressed the intention to become a commons city. This happened during the annual Urban Management Conference of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (November 2018).

Stan Majoor, director of the Urban Management programme, was asked to explain the title of the conference ‘The selforganising city: confronting the commons’, since it contains a light critical note. Majoor warned for misuse of the term commons; not all civic initiatives become all of a sudden commoning practices. As a knowledge institution, the AUAS would like to play a role as knowledge partner in this ‘commons movement’ by facilitating, researching, monitoring and being part of commons cases in the city.

To learn from our southern neighboring city Ghent, we had invited Michel Bauwens as key note speaker. He is the author of the Commons Transition Plan of Ghent. In this document he describes the many initiatives in Ghent with a collaborative character and explores how Ghent could become a co-city; which policy changes and instruments are necessary?

The alderman Rutger Groot Wassink (Social work, diversity and democracy for the Green Party) was invited to react on Bauwens’ story. He was very clear from the start: he wants to support the commons in the city of Amsterdam; working together with knowledge institutions and other partners. He understands that you can not create commons as a municipality, but that you should rely on the bottom up initiatives in society. He is willing to facilitate four local commons experiments to learn what a local government should (not) do to strengthen these activities. This new, third way of governance might add new values to the city. Finally he stated that he would like to learn more from Ghent and other European cities.

The lively plenary session ended with many people on stage who subscribe the intention of supporting Amsterdam as a Commons City, among which Municipality Amsterdam, de Waag, Commons Network, Coöpolis en the AUAS.

During the several interactive working sessions the commons practices in Amsterdam were critically discussed. In the session LabGov at Plein 40-45 we played the new unique, Amsterdam made Game of Commons with the 30 participants. An exercise to move from thinking/acting based on individual interests to common interest. After taking into account some small changes, the game will be very suitable to play in different settings with all kinds of stakeholders.

Thanks to this conference the knowledge and discussion about commons and its opportunities have certainly grown in Amsterdam.

For an (Dutch) impression of the conference, watch:

Practice what you preach

We do not only talk about commons in Amsterdam. In some neighborhoods it is also already happening. At Plein ’40-’45 in the NorthWest of Amsterdam a group of citizens, (social) entrepreneurs, municipal employees and AUAS teachers, researchers and students are trying to design a new way of collaboration. Two years ago we started here the first LabGov pilot. During the last few months for example each Tuesday morning approximately 30 AUAS students Public Administration gathered in the Town Hall, located at Plein ’40-’45 to work on the project Open Plaza: How to make the lower part of the Town Hall a common place? They have interviewed many people and organisations in the neighborhood and designed new ways of involving the neighborhood in this project.

Local network

Thanks to the successful Urban Management Conference on Urban Commons, AUAS and local partners like the municipality of Amsterdam, De Waag and Commons Network are researching the possibilities of mapping the commons initiatives in the city and setting up a local network of commons practices and stakeholders, where people can ask for support and advise.

European network

Not only at local level the AUAS is trying to ask attention for the governance structure of commoning. Within the U!reka consortium, a European network of six Universities of Applied Sciences (Amsterdam, Ghent, Frankfurt, Oslo, Helsinki, Edinborough) will try to set up a joint programme with as a central theme: ‘Comparative Urban Commons’. In the following years the knowledge institutions will collaborate and exchange information and cases from their home-cities. In some cities ‘co-city’ is still an unknown concept. The research and joint programme will therefore include several stages of collaborative governance and civic participation. This spring AUAS will organise a first co-meeting in Amsterdam with these European colleagues and several Amsterdam commoners.

World Cities Culture Report 2018, openness and inclusivity for urban challenges

World Cities Culture Report 2018, openness and inclusivity for urban challenges

Culture is driving regeneration, creating the jobs of the future and diverting young people from crime. Culture makes us healthier, facilitates civic engagement and gives tourists a reason to visit. It continues to shape the heritage and identity of our cities. In short, culture addresses all the major city challenges we face today – it has moved definitively from niche to mainstream. (…) While there remain serious challenges in all our cities, there has never been a better moment to unlock the potential for culture to transform them. (Justine Simons, p.5)

“How do cities use culture to provide solutions to our contemporary urban challenges?”. This is the question underpinning the World Cities Culture Report, a compendium of the most innovative programmes, policies, key trends and infrastructure projects in culture developed by 35 cities[1] across the world. The Report is the annual document of the World Cities Culture Forum, a collaborative network made up of 38 members from local governments and cultural sector of leading cities around the world, whose activities are delivered by BOP Consulting, on behalf of the Greater London Authority and the members of the Forum. The network was founded in London in 2012 by eight cities (London, New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Istanbul, Sydney and Johannesburg) convened by the Mayor of London, for the purpose of “advancing the case for culture across all areas of urban policy” and “sharing ideas and knowledge about the role of culture in building sustainable cities”. Beyond the annual Summit and Report, the network provides themed symposia, regional summits, policy workshops, collaborative publications and a Knowledge exchange programme.

Two major trends emerge from the 2018 Report, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies: the “critical role for culture in addressing the inclusion of all citizens and a new definition of how, where and by whom culture is experienced”.

As for the first trend, there seems to be a shared commitment across the cities in increasing participation to “culture for all citizens”, by means of different tools and programmes, recognizing Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. The report thus contains some examples of urban practices in access and inclusion, among which the TURN Project in Tokyo, Kulturpass in Vienna, the Agreement to Promote Reading in Milan, Neighbourhood Lives and Memories in Lisbon and many others.

As for the second trend, that is the “opening out of culture”, we assist to a change in both cultural spaces, places and forms and in the approach to support programmes and policies at the urban level. For instance, the Culture Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, the Bronx Creative District in Bogotá, as well as the Opera Camion in Rome, the Cultural Hotspots in Toronto and so on. At the same time, new governance and policy solutions have been envisaged, such as the Cultural Matching Fund in Singapore, the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact in New York, the Citizen participation shaping public art in Paris etc.

By providing “a city profile” containing data (45 indicators), trends and innovative programmes, the Report refers to more than 200 cultural programmes and practices (considered as the most innovative from the responding member cities), classified into 9 different categories:

  • Cultural Diversity and Representation
  • Cultural Access and Inclusion
  • Culture in the Outskirts
  • Citizen-Led Cultural Policies And Programmes
  • Making Space for Culture
  • Culture and Climate Change
  • 21st Century Cultural Infrastructure
  • 21st Century Cultural Event and Formats
  • 21st Century Cultural Governance and Strategy


Already in 2017, within the World Cities Culture Summit, the 27 participating cities signed the “Seoul Declaration”, with the following commitment: “To ensure that culture is a golden thread in all aspects of city policy (…); To make culture available to and empowering for all citizens (…); To generate and learn from evidence and research, in pursuit of an enlightened and progressive approach to policy development and implementation; To act as leaders in our field and to continue to collaborate in the face of shared challenges and shared opportunities (…)”.

A shift is ongoing in urban culture-related policy across the world, a valuable phenomenon as demonstrated in the Report, especially in a time where “The resilience of world cities resides in their capacity to envision a different future, one rooted in interdependency that reflects and supports all the people they represent. An open culture builds that capacity” (Richard Naylor, p.17).


[1] Amsterdam, Austin, Bogotá, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Chengdu, Dublin, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, New York, Oslo, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Seoul, Shenzhen, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw, Zürich

Georgetown University Celebrates & Highlights Recent Commons Scholarship

Georgetown University Celebrates & Highlights Recent Commons Scholarship

On October 5-6, 2018, scholars and practitioners from around the globe involved in cutting-edge research and projects were invited to participate in an unprecedented celebration of Commons Scholarship at Georgetown’s Law Center in Washington DC.  This two-day event was organized by LabGov co-founder Sheila Foster (Professor, Georgetown Law Center/ McCourt School), Brigham Daniels (Professor, BYU Law), and Chrystie Flournoy Swiney (JD/ PhD (ABD))- with the support of the International Association for the Study of the Commons.  The conference coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of Garrett Hardin’s famous 1968 article on “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which spawned a body of eclectic scholarship, largely spearheaded by Nobel Prize Award winner and political economist Elinor Ostrom who challenged Hardin’s claim that shared resources must be privatized or heavily regulated by governmental actors in order to prevent their depletion or decay.

In the 21st century, the concept of the “commons” has been expanded and reconceptualized in a variety of creative new ways to include many kinds of shared resources, beyond just pastoral land, which was the focus of Hardin’s article.  Agriculture, water sources, the global atmosphere, urban infrastructure, technology, and knowledge sharing are just of few of the many examples. Commons scholarship today focuses less on the tragedies that result from shared resources and more on the successful and alternative ways in which resource users, and others, come together to collaboratively govern and maintain a shared resource. As a result, a myriad of seemingly unrelated themes were explored at Georgetown’s “Celebrating Commons Scholarship” conference — economic inequality, stewardship, housing, development and gentrification, and the environment, among others—yet, all were explored through the lens of commons theory.

This vibrant conference included nearly 80 participants from more than 20 different nations presenting papers on a wide variety of interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary topics.  Case studies were presented from Barbados, Brazil, Indonesia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Italy, Poland, Israel, Hawaii, and beyond, and topics ranged from “Indigenous Perspectives in the Commons,” to “Reconceiving the Commons,” to “The New Commons: Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Beyond.”  Various other panelists applied the Commons Framework to water, cities, the environment, technology, biodiversity, and the media. The opening plenary featured three leading commons scholars–Professors Foster, Daniels, and Shi-Ling Hsu (Florida State University College of Law)–who each discussed recent innovations in commons theory.

Professor Foster described how she is applying the theory of the commons to her work on cities, a new area of commons research which she has further developed with LabGov co-founder Christian Iaione. “I argued in my early work that the same tragic tale can be told about cities, and different kinds of resources in cities,” she said. “Urban streets, parks, vacant land can mimic the tragedy of the commons that result from the self-interested actions of others…cities and their resources can become heavily congested, and resources strained and eventually diminished.”  Yet, if there’s a “tragedy of the commons” underway in urban contexts, Foster points out, there are also examples of “comedies,” where adding more people to resources results in more positive outcomes. “We share, with recent work on the commons in the urban environment, a desire to push back on the standard understanding of the commons as a need to avert the tragedy…in a desire to identify alternative economic visions that have the potential to address historic levels of inequality and stratification, particularly in cities.” However, there are problems with importing the theory of the commons into cities, Professor Foster notes: “To state the obvious, many kinds of urban resources, the infrastructure of the built environment, are quite different from traditional commons resources” such as depletable resources like forests and lakes.  Cities are heavily regulated, involve many private actors, and raise issues of distribution and inequality not seen elsewhere in such extreme degrees.

Adding to the richness and diversity of this conference was a “Practitioner’s Workshop” offered on the second day, led by Amanda Huron, a professor at The University of the District of Columbia and author of Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C., and Paula Segal, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Community Development Project.  This workshop specifically focused on Community Land Trusts (CLTs), a legal tool increasingly used as a way to solve the affordable housing crisis in cities throughout the globe.  Following three presentations by practitioners working on CLTs in New York City, Baltimore, and Rio de Janeiro, an interactive, hands-on CLT governance exercise was conducted involving participants in the creation and discussion of the various ways in which CLTs can be governed and structured.

This conference was meant to be a launching pad for future research and collaboration among commons scholars and practitioners.  Foster and Swiney, both at Georgetown, hope to cultivate a space for future collaborative efforts through LabGov Georgetown, which was launched in the fall of 2018 and hopes to be a place where innovative new scholarship on the commons can be featured and further celebrated.

by Chrystie Flournoy Swiney & Sheila Foster, Georgetown Law Center

The Sharing City Declaration: How Cities are fighting the uncontrolled expansion of the Sharing Economy

The Sharing City Declaration: How Cities are fighting the uncontrolled expansion of the Sharing Economy

Barcelona hosted the third edition of the Sharing City Summit from November 12 to November 15, organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, The Barcelona City Council and the Dimmons research group (IN3-UOC), with the support of City of Amsterdam and City of New York, BarCola, Sharing Cities Alliance and Shareable. After Amsterdam’s first edition in 2016 and New York City in 2017 for the second one, this year’s edition in Barcelona was featured by a massive participation of cities from all around the world, exceeding the previous numbers and showing how crucial this topic has become for cities all over the world. More than 50 cities, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Milan, Montreal, Toronto, Montevideo, Kobe, Vienna, Barcelona, Singapore, Seoul, Austin, Torino, Portland, Madrid and Valencia, among others, attended the 2018 edition.

The first day of the Sharing City Summit represented an in depth moment of reflection among Mayors and Vice Mayors, together with all the actors of the sharing ecosystem (companies, nonprofits, foundations, networks, cooperatives, research centers and other actors which are reshaping the future of collaborative oriented platform economy) in order to discuss how the continuous growth of the digital economy platforms is impacting the life, sovereignty and economic development of cities. The Summit was opened by Mayo Fuster, from the UOC, as moderator, Gerardo Pisarello, First Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Pastora Martinez, Vice Rector OUC, Udo Kock, Deputy Mayor for Finance of Amsterdam and Sonam Velani from the NYC Mayor’s Office. The event moved from a very clear premise: there is a radical difference between the so-called horizontal platforms – based on peer-to-peer exchanges and able to generate new forms of collaboration and mutualism among citizens -, and so-called “extractive” platforms, quoting Bauwens, i.e. platforms that often act in a non-transparent way in terms of data usage, services offered to different segments of population and impact generated in the communities.

The day was therefore organized around the aim to reach common principles to tackle the phenomenon of the sharing economy, co-creating a common declaration, the so-called “Declaration of principles and commitments for a Sharing City”. In concrete, the summit focused on boosting concrete commons outcomes and collaboration measures, including: the co-creation of a set of common principles to reach a joint declaration; collaboration between cities on the regulation and negotiation with large platforms that generate disruptive impacts in the city; definition of criteria to distinguish between platforms; promotion and occupation policies on platform models inclusive and beneficial for the general common interest; and, knowledge’s policies and a sharing common data platform between cities.

Why? Because the technological and digital innovation are not bringing just opportunities; they are also opening new spaces of discrimination, generating new inequalities. The digital platforms indeed, are more and more orienting the economic processes, but also influencing our way of living and working, especially in the urban contexts. The city level becomes crucial. As remembered during the inspirational talk of professor Yochai Benkler (Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society) technologies allow changes only in the context of a more general socio-relational change: “now we need an alliance between governments, and the commons, the civil society to pull back power from the major platforms… an alliance based on transparency and democracy”. The results coming from the dynamic interaction among technology, ideology and institutions can be improved by specific choices: do we want a city as a service provider or as a democratic community? This is the choice. Cities, indeed, can make a difference in people’s day-to-day experience. They can offer a real lived experience of socially-embedded production and meaningful participatory democracy. Cities are the places where to combine technological freedom with participatory public administration. Building community is a practice and cities can be a perfect laboratory, remembering that without a robust city commons, cities would not be cities. Professor Benkler gave also interesting suggestions to structure the debate about the Sharing Cities Declaration (see the picture)

After Benkler’s speech, the city governments’ encounter was then moderated by Alvaro Porro (Barcelona City Council), and saw the participation of Susan Riley (Councilor of Melbourne), Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir (Deputy Mayor of Reykjavik), Matteo Lepore (Vice Mayor of Bologna), Saskia Bruines (Vice Mayor of The Hague), Im-Guk-hyun (Seoul City Council) and Gianfranco Todesco (Torino City Council). It represented a showcase of cities linked to the principles of the Declaration of the Sharing Cities, then discussed during the day through ad hoc working table and cities’ evidences.

The Declaration resulted from the previous summit in Amsterdam and NYC and represents a co-creation process with the cities prior to the summit (2 full round and 3 versions). It aims at being a framework to support actions of collaboration among cities and to build upon common strategies and a valuable resource to communicate cities’ common views. The principles are thus inspirational: the Declaration indeed is not legally binding, but represents a symbolic massage delivered globally about cities’ general approach towards platforms and the sharing economy. It is meant to ensure that platforms and other institutions take into consideration cities role and perspectives on these issues. The 10 principles propose an action plan and a coordination strategy among cities in order to gain negotiation power in the relationship with digital platforms and to address a joint action on national and supranational decision and regulation levels. Below are the 10 principles (the Declaration can be read here)

  1. Platform models differentiation: distinguish between the different models of digital platforms regarding their functioning and impacts, in order to design public policies according to these differentiations.
  2. Labour: empower people to have opportunities to earn or increase their income through new work, agreements and adapted fiscality without contributing to social precariousness or constituting an administrative burden
  3. Labour: provide fair working conditions and access to benefits and rights for workers
  4. Inclusion: prevent discrimination and bias by supporting fair and equal access to work for people of all incomes, genders and backgrounds
  5. Public protection: ensure and support health, safety and security standards along with effective institutional mechanism in order to protect them.
  6. Environmental sustainability: promote sustainable practices less oriented on the marketization and commodification of goods than on shared, to share within the framework of a circular economy, to foster and promote development of these activities in order to reduce emissions and waste.
  7. Data sovereignty and citizens’ digital rights: protect citizens’ digital rights through the implementation of Technological Sovereignty policies and ethical standards
  8. City sovereignty: guarantee respect for the legal jurisdictions of cities given the potential disruption from the digital platforms, create a coordination mechanism and tools to support cities and encourage changes in regulatory and framework policies.
  9. Economic promotion: promote the development of local collaborative economic ecosystem, and particularly small and medium enterprises (SME, based on positive impact in cities (as described in the first principles), through entrepreneurship support programs, participative tools , funding or other promotion tools.
  10. General interest: preserve the Right to the City and Urban Commons, strengthen communities, protect General Interest, public space, and basic human rights, such as access to affordable and adequate housing.



As we can see, the declaration introduces a series of “conditions” that promote the successful collaboration between city governments and platforms and touches different aspects: respect for workers’ rights, competition (especially with regard to SME), environment, current legislation, provision of services that do not discriminate by gender, age, nationality, collaboration and sharing with local authorities, fair and correct use of collected data, up to the recognition of the sovereignty of the city governments and their right/duty to preserve the common goods, the general interest, the public spaces, services and sustainable accommodation for the communities of reference.

The action plan linked to the declaration consists of an action task force and structure to support the continuation for communications and collaborations between cities after the summit and until the following summit in 2019. It is a plan of concrete actions to favor the preservation of the Principles by cities, kept flexible to be further developed through the cities suggestions, active in terms of common strategies to be proposed to the European Commission to face the platforms challenges, and technological in order to share information among cities through a public platform inspired by the principles of the Open Innovation. This last aspect becomes extremely important since it is related to the power distribution between public and private sectors: the current sovereignty of the elective institutions is indeed linked to the ability/possibility to own and manage the huge amount of data – coming from citizens that use digital supports -, for public goals.

A special focus was devoted to the 8th and 9th principles. For the former, some cities intervened sharing their own experiences: Klemes Himpele of the Vienna City Council, a representative of the Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Udo Kock for the city of Amsterdam and Tracey Cook from the Toronto City Council. The principle was further analyzed and developed through six working tables:

  1. EU lobby vocation rental
  2. Data sovereignty and citizens’ digital rights
  3. Labour platforms and impact on labour
  4. Criteria to differentiate platforms
  5. Collaborative public services: partnership with platforms
  6. Government structure and sharing/platform economy

The latter principle was introduced by the speeches of Cristina Tajani, Deputy Mayor of Milan, Hidetoshi Terasaki, Vice Mayor of Kobe, and by Mariana Sampaio, Deputy Secretary of São Paulo. It was further discussed in seven working tables:

  1. Entrepreneurship programs and internationalization programs
  2. City challenges and innovative promotion policies
  3. Collaborative policy design and city labs
  4. Social inclusion
  5. Platform cooperativism
  6. European project
  7. Nehotiation standards and collaborations among cities in the global task force

The activities closed with a follow up from the working groups and with a speech of Pieter van de Glind and Harmen van Sprang of the Sharing City Alliance about the state of the art of the alliance, about the new monthly journal they created and the database Alex (Alliance Lex) that gathers information about social innovation and sharing economy.

The day ended with the “Procomuns meetup”, a public event on collaborative policies for the collaborative economy, open to everyone, with institutional presentations and processes of co-creation of policies and ecosystem networking. In particular it saw the institutional welcomings of Alvaro Porro who presents Innova from Barcelona Activa, Joseph Planell, Rector of the UOC, Udo Kock from Amsterdam and Sonam Velani from NYC. Then Mayo Fuster from Dimmons moderated the last session of interventions: Professor Juliet Schor from the Boston College deepened the topic of the challenges posed by the platform economy questioning if the sharing economy is disrupting of reproducing inequalities presenting the results of her research team (MacArthur); the entrepreneurship program of Communicadora was also presented with some inspirational cases (Moodle, Wikiloc, Som Mobilitat).


The first day was full of inspiration and great moments of networking and led to the opening of the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC 2018) the next day. This edition gathered more than 700 cities and 21.000 participants and ShareBarcelona promoted the continuation of the Sharing City Summit during the three-days manifestation. In particular, November 13 saw the public presentation of the Sharing City Declaration with mayors and vice mayors attending the Summit, an opportunity to institutionalize the declaration and to stress how the declaration is just a first important step in a common path. As said by Mayo Fuster “today is the start of a new journey”. The SCEWC saw for the first time a specific program on Sharing and Inclusive Cities that hosted several interventions and speeches from cities from all over the world, while the sharing city stand (ShareBarcelona) worked as an agora offering a rich program of encounters and talks, with the main actors of the sharing ecosystem (companies, foundations, researchers, entrepreneurs, civic society…). On November 14 was also presented the book: “Sharing Cities. A worldwide cities overview on platform economy policies with a focus on Barcelona”, edited by Mayo Fuster from the Dimmons Research Group; the book provides an overview of current policy reactions and public innovation by cities in the field, a quality balance of platforms to differentiate models and a focus on Barcelona as a reference model for its vibrant ecosystem and its innovative policies.

In the last three years the number of cities reflecting and also acting to manage and integrate the sharing economy in the daily life of their citizens has incredibly grown and today a network is committed to start a common path to face the presence of the phenomenon in the urban contexts. Let’s see what will happen. Meanwhile, congratulations to all the cities that took part in this new international process.

For a video summary have a look here:

Warriors Without Weapons,  a Brazilian immersion to learn how to positively impact communities

Warriors Without Weapons, a Brazilian immersion to learn how to positively impact communities

Warrior Without Weapons (1) is a 32-days leadership immersion for social entrepreneurs to enhance their ability to positively impact communities – a program created by Instituto Elos (2), a Brazilian institute focused on community building through bottom-up and collaborative approaches to placemaking.

Every year around 40-60 participants from all over the world are selected to partake in the program, based on their readiness to take action. I was ready and lucky to be part of the 2018 edition and to live for the whole month of July 2018 in the city of Santos, state of São Paulo, to learn and act alongside amazing people from 10 different countries including Brazil, Congo, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Turkey, Germany, Italy, The Caribbean, USA, and Mexico, while absorbing Elos philosophy which was develop over the course of 20 years of practice of Elos Institute.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Over three months after the completion of the program, I still feel I am in the process of truly becoming a Warrior Without Weapons. It is not easy to describe what it takes to becoming a Warrior, a deep transformation that allows being attentive to how we can collectively recreate the world around us; I will make my best to tell you this story.

It all started with a dream, a collective dream. Instituto Elos emerged out of the dream of young architecture students to make of the design and construction phases a collaborative process that brings value in the building of not only places, but also (and mainly) of communities. Elos Phylosophy gradually became a channel for groups of people and communities to dream together their spaces and development processes.

Elos Philosophy (3) is based on a 7-step methodology, that being:

1 – Gaze (Olhar); as stated in The Little Prince, “what is essential is invisible to the eye”; we can only see with our hearts and when we silence our minds and judgment. This first step proposes to not only see, but to feel the energy of a community before acting in it, finding its visible and invisible beauties and resources.

2 – Affection (Afeto); a call to walk around the community being open to meaningful conversations with local people. A time to listen more than talk, to be carried throughout stories of those who dwell in the place being discovered; a time to offer not only open ears but mainly open hearts for real connection.

3 – Dream (Sonho); we are all driven by dreams. There are both individual and collective dreams, all worth being shared. Some say happiness is only real when shared; we, Warriors, must agree…this is why we go around a community and instigate the sharing of dreams, supporting the dreamers to trust that, if it can be dreamt, it can be accomplished. And this takes us to the next step…

4 – Care (Cuidado); this is the moment to match dreams and plan their collective accomplishment. A time leading to making dreams tangible by planning their strategic steps and creating opportunities for community action.

5 – Miracle (Milagre); here, people, resources and action all come together to make the dream come true. A time for hands-on, collective effort and to reassure that, yes, it is possible to transform the world we live into the world we dream of.

6 – Celebration (Celebração); gratefulness matters. This is why celebrating accomplishments – the miracle itself – is an important part of the path to development. It is when people acknowledge their collective efforts and invite more action and change into their community.

7- Re-Evolution (Re-evolução); what is needed to keep working on all the dreams that were brought to life in action or thoughts? Each community has its own paths…this is what the Re-Evolution step proposes – finding out which strategies work best in a given place to keep the ‘dreams come true’ process alive.

Elos methodology into 7 steps (Image source:

Experiencing this 7-steps in the path of becoming a Warrior Without Weapons at Santos in July 2018 has shown that beyond the methodology itself, so much more happens that cannot be predicted in the script; each step presents myriad of surprises both for individual and collective learning, while making the process richer and more intriguing. The 38 Warriors-to-be were divided into 3 different communities to take action during 21 days.

The community where I lived this process with a wonderful group of 16 Warriors is called Vila dos Pescadores (Fisherman’s Village), located next to Santos in a city called Cubatão, right into the mangrove ecosystem. A community with a population of more than 30 thousand people, most dwelling on stilt-houses with structures that go as deep as 10 meters into the sand to allow stability. While the village is considered to be an irregular occupation, the question of replacing the population elsewhere is delicate to consider (like in many other communities in Brazil).

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

We were invited into this community to establish a relationship of mutual learning; they have taught us so much during the 21 days we spent together, and so much energy we brought to support the collective accomplishment of a dream of theirs. But mainly, hope is what was exchanged of most valuable. We have brought the hope that, as a community, they can act to accomplish their dreams and there that are people from outside the community who are there to support them. Meanwhile, Vila dos Pescadores taught us, Warriors-to-be, that there is so much more beyond what we can see with the eyes, that a lot can be made out of little, that we all have the capacity for resilience…

Experiencing Elos methodology at Vila dos Pescadores allowed us to get to know the story of that wonderful place and of the wonderful people who dwell there. Their culture of fishing which is passed from father to son, the meditative state of mind that takes local fisherman to seek not only fishes but also peace and contemplation while alone in the sea, the mangrove regeneration effort that was carried by a local fisherman who is now remembered with pride and which has brought back a species of bird called Guará that was extinct, the care of an elderly lady who lives with her cats and gives plants to her neighbours as a way of showing affection, the infinite love and curiosity from the local children, the wise man who owns ten dogs and collects discarded objects on the streets to upcycle them into new objects…so many stories were discovered in the process of being open to that community and to a way of life that was unknown for most of us becoming Warriors.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Once we, Warriors, became more familiar with the place, and the local community more familiar with us, it was time to Dream; we went out on the local streets offering people a Brazilian desert called sonho (which means dream) in exchange of them telling us a personal or collective dream. We came to learn that the community dreamt of having a space for their children to play, learn and flourish. So we started to work on this plan! In the Care-step we invited the community to collectively design the space they dreamt of, supporting the definition of strategies for collective action and identifying a place inside Vila dos Pescadores to materialize the children’s center.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Plan defined, place defined; it all seemed right and ready to go. But then, the unpredictability factor came in – namely the inability to use an area for building the children’s center that the local municipality initially granted permission, but then went back on the decision (this unpredictability factor is something that usually happens when working in communities and that invites presence and lightness for a new plan to emerge). One day before the Miracle-step, consisting of a 4-days hands-on collective intervention, we did not have it all figured out any longer. But still, Warriors are warriors…we were there the next day, ready to do whatever needed to be done to serve the Fisherman’s Village and to support the building of their dream. And then, really like a Miracle, it all came together. How? This is what I wrote by the end of our 1st day of hands-on action: “…last night, the lack of clarity of a path to follow was very present. But today I realised that it was all part of something bigger, which was a call to fit the puzzle together with the community and at the right time. That was it, letting the puzzle fit in a spontaneous and genuine way – as it happened, and which made me realize that whatever happens is right. ”

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

From painting the floor and walls, to building new public space furniture, all was created jointly by the hands of locals at Vila dos Pescadores, the Warriors, and people from other communities (with joint efforts also in the donation of construction materials). What came out of the Miracle were a regenerated plaza, a sports court and playground with new furniture, and a temporary container where the children can now play and learn. The awe in the eyes of the children and of all the community who took part in this process showed that the faith factor was being reinforced by each collective accomplishment. Deep inside, they always knew they could do it, and we Warriors were there as a catalyst to redirect this faith into action (both their faith and our faith of empowered communities). There are many reasons why, at the end of the 4-days of hands-on action, we Celebrated with a sense of joy and gratefulness the work that had been done on the physical and subtle level of both the place and the expanded community that helped build it.

Photo: Isabela Senatore

Photo: Isabela Senatore

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Photo: Isabela Senatore.

Right at this moment, the Fisherman’s Village is in the Re-Evolution process. This means that the hands-on was not the final piece but a seed and a prototype of what can be done through community action. Instituto Elos and the Warriors Without Weapons are now working with the community via different meetings to help potentialise community action and make it into more tangible dreams. So much awareness of their capability to act is coming out of this process and it has been beautiful to see how they find their own ways of organising new strategies.

Not only Vila dos Pescadores, but also we Warriors are living a Re-Evolution process. I can say that one does not suddenly become a Warrior Without Weapons after the 32-days immersion…one gradually becomes a Warrior while allowing the learning to mature in its own timing and practicing it on the day-to-day life. For me, this has been a multiple experience of practicing the dream muscle, being more attentive to the abundance and the beauties presented daily, and caring more for the needs of all around me. Becoming a Warrior Without Weapons has taught me that the more I give, the more I feel complete and that serendipity (unplanned and fortunate discoveries) will always come along in the beautiful complexity of community action, and of life. More and more I believe that the world we dream of is being built, right now, while we put our love – which is something natural – into action.


Guerrieri Senza Arme è una immersione di 32 giorni creata dal Istituto Elos (1), che succede a Santos (Brasile) per che imprenditori sociali possano assorbire tecniche di leadership per il lavoro in comunità, imparando la metodologia creata tramite la pratica del istituto per 20 anni in varie comunità. Sono stata fortunata di partecipare dell’immersione a Luglio 2018 con altri trentasette giovani di dieci paesi, un’esperienza che ha causato un impatto veramente positivo e mi ha insegnato che è possibile, collettivamente, creare il mondo in cui sogniamo.


Cities Tech and Policy Solutions to fight Climate Change

Cities Tech and Policy Solutions to fight Climate Change

In recent years, climate technologies have been deployed on an unprecedented scale around the globe. In particular, renewable energy technologies are grown in importance at the expense of fossil fuel, especially in Europe. In that scenario, the Paris Climate Change Agreement states the importance to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius and spreading the use of climate technologies on a much greater scale. Therefore, addressing the problem where more than 70 per cent of global gas emission are produced, namely the cities, is the priority.

In recent years, all around the world, decision-makers, urban practitioners, social innovators and academics have planned, implemented and assessed several solutions in urban context. With the aim of accounting and empowering cities, and collectivizing urban innovation across the globe, different conferences have been taking place.

In May 2017, UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee organized Bonn Climate Change Conference to reinforce the importance of innovation and inspire countries (especially the developing ones), organizations to enhance their climate efforts. The key factor is to shift from an incremental approach to one that effects transformational change; but it is also crucial that every country and city should have the freedom of choice how to implement this change: one-size-fits-all approach is definitely wrong.

Last March, Cities and Climate Change Science Conference was the first summit organized with the aim of bringing together urban representatives to address climate change. Here, key stakeholder (ICLEI – Local Governments for SustainabilityC40Cities AllianceFuture EarthSustainable Development Solutions NetworkUnited Cities and Local GovernmentsUN EnvironmentUN HabitatWorld Climate Research Programme) debated around the importance of specifically address urban level action, the impact and vulnerabilities from urban emissions the transition to low carbon, resilient cities and the creation of an enabling environment for transformative climate action. At the end of the conference, participants have understood that best practices in urban climate change management must adopt similar pathways, such as

  1. the integration of climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives;
  2. the linking of disaster and adaptation planning;
  3. generation of climate action plans in partnership with non-governmental stakeholders;
  4. attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and most vulnerable;
  5. the advancement of good governance, partnership networks, and solutions to gaps in financing.

Last September, City Climate Leadership Awards by the C40 City Climate Leadership Group (C40) and Siemens have awarded cities in different categories such as urban transportation; carbon measurement & planning; energy efficient built environment; air quality; green energy; adaptation & resilience; sustainable communities; waste management; intelligent city infrastructure; finance & economic development. In terms of climate change, it is important to remember the city of Copenhagen has planned ambitious targets and has detailed strategies to achieve a significant reduction in building emissions (75% of the total) with the aim of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025, following the example of another Danish city, Sønderborg. Here, from 2007, local politicians have worked directly with residents to become completely zero-carbon by 2029 thanks to the adoption of onshore and offshore wind farms, residential solar PVs, and the use of biogas for industry and transport.

In conclusion, conferences such as ones described before, help in establishing partnerships and in identifying business opportunities, and promoting awareness and critical reflection among inhabitants of different cities. In this respect, we are keen to see the impact of Smart City Expo World Congress 2018 that is taking place in Barcelona in these days. According to the official website, five main topics will be addressed: Digital Transformation, Urban Environment, Mobility, Governance & Finance, and Inclusive & Sharing Cities. The conference is focused on working towards creating efficient, inclusive and sustainable cities, especially thanks to the Towards Zero Waste project that aims to use fewer materials, reuse and recycling of products, and produce no food waste.