“Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment” (Open Heritage): a research project funded by Horizon 2020 for theorizing and testing inclusive governance models for adaptive heritage re-use

“Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment” (Open Heritage): a research project funded by Horizon 2020 for theorizing and testing inclusive governance models for adaptive heritage re-use

The Public Archaeological Park of Centocelle

LUISS University and LabGov have achieved an important goal at European level! They are, in fact, involved in the project “OpenHeritage” admitted to funding in the Horizon 2020 program: LUISS University is part of the interdisciplinary EU consortium for the realization of the project.

The project “Organizing, Promoting and ENabling HEritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment, (hereinafter: OpenHeritage)” aims at creating, testing and optimizing an inclusive governance model of adaptive heritage re-use and an interdisciplinary toolbox which will be tested in six diverse Cooperative Heritage Labs (CHLs) to produce usable and transferable results. The main idea behind the project is that abandoned or underused buildings, areas, which have a symbolic or practical value for heritage communities, represent also important instruments and opportunities to increase social cohesion, introduce innovative bottom-up economic activities and create employment opportunities.

Starting from the assumption that the heritage preservation and management efforts are often inefficient and unsustainable, and from the assumption that local communities can play an important role in solving this lack, the starting point of the project is the possibility of empowering the local community in the redevelopment process of cultural heritage sites. Hence, the work will be based on the concepts of heritage community and participatory culture. The methodology adopted is built on a case-study approach on the one hand, and an action research methodology on the other. An important goal of the project is the development of innovative financial tools in order to develop alternatives and to enable local communities and their actions to be economically sustainable.

The partnership

The project will be realized throughout four years (starting in June 2018/2021) by a large and diverse consortium composed by 16 participating organisations: Metropolitan Research InstituteEutropianUniversiteit GentNewcastle University, Humboldt Universität zu BerlinOddział Warszawski Stowarzyszenia ArchitektówICLEIEuroditeStiftung triasUniversita degli Studi Roma TreCenter for Urban History of East Central EuropeLUISS Libera Universita Internazionale Degli Studi Sociali Guido CarliPlatoniq Sistema CulturalCentral European UniversityCamara Municipal de LisboaTyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust. The lead partner and project coordinator is the Metropolitan Research Institute based in Budapest. LUISS University is a partner affiliated to the project through LabGov (LABoratory for the GOVernance of the Commons) and will bring a trans-disciplinary set of scholars; Christian Iaione (UniMarconi and LUISS school of Political Science, co-director of LUISS LabGov); Michele Sorice; (School of Political Science) Emiliana De Blasio (School of Political Science); Francesco Rullani; (School of Economy); Daniele Gallo (School of Law); Elena De Nictolis; (Phd Candidate, School of Political Science) and will bring on board other Phd students and post-doc researchers that will be selected in the upcoming months.  

The work plan and the role of LUISS-LabGov

The work plan consists in 6 working packages and the work is built around the following guidelines:

  1. Diagnose what works, and what does not, in the adaptive re-use of cultural heritage currently
  2. Identify the micro and macro level conditionality of good practice transferability
  3. Explore, create and test new tools and methods that advance the more efficient adaptive re-use of cultural heritage assets in term of societal value, economic and environmental sustainability
  4. Disseminate the results

LUISS University is involved in work packages number 2, 34, 5, 6 and 7: in  WP2, it will lead the task on the analysis of 16 Observatory Cases (OCs). The OCs are existing re-use cases, dispersed across Europe that provide the micro level perspective in the multi-level analytical framework of OpenHeritage. The OC analysis will be based on three main pillars of OpenHeritage:

  • community and stakeholder integration
  • resource integration  
  • regional integration

and will contribute to establishing new tools to support adaptive re-use, will provide ideas for the 6 CHLs and help to  identify the main bottlenecks and drivers of adaptive re-use today, also contributing to the work on the transferability matrix as well . The Luiss-LabGov team will play a major role in work package 4, which consists of setting up, managing and evaluating the six Cooperative Heritage Labs, which are adaptive re-use laboratories aimed at creating transferable and adaptable models across Europe. They are set up in different European regions covering several heritage types, having as a common denominator their collocation outside of main urban and touristic centres. One of the six CHLs selected is the Roman case of the Parco Arceologico of Centocelle, which is part of the wider project Co-Roma, carried out by LabGov in collaboration with ENEA, LUISS University and the local community. It is aimed at developing an idea of collaborative city by applying the five key design principles for the urban commons (urban co-governance, enabling state, experimentalism, poolism, tech justice) and more in general the CO-City Protocol, and creating a smart co-district. In the framework of the project the role of heritage will be explored as well, and new methods of using heritage as a catalyst for social development will be tried.

Steering Committee Meeting, LUISS University of Rome, June 14th 2018

First steps: the Open Heritage Consortium Meeting in Budapest (24-26 June 2018).

Work has already begun and in the past June, the project’s partners met in Budapest to know each other better, harmonise the approaches and working methods, and set out the guidelines for upcoming steps.

Several key words and concepts have arisen during the Open Heritage First Consortium Meeting, hosted by CEU, such as the important role played by cities in the field of open innovation, the concept of partnership as a new way of working and the importance of the evaluation process. The concepts of participatory heritage management and the possible uses of crowdsourcing were also explored. The days have been organized into site visits and several working sessions, during which the participants have started to define the next steps and strategies to be adopted and implemented during the next four years. They were full and interactive days: during the first day participants visited one of the six Cooperative Heritage Labs, the Pomáz-Nagykovácsi Cooperative Heritage Lab, and learned about the challenges of this peri-urban archaeological site.  The working sessions, instead, were held at CEU, at the end of which participants have participated in guided tours to the discovery of heritage re-use practices in contemporary Budapest.

Christian Darr, from Stiftung Trias, commented on the meeting that: “Within our first european research project we expected three days of work in Budapest – we haven’t been disappointed. But most of all it was really good to see motivated people from all over Europe – with different languages, educations, professions and experiences, but mostly with a common point of view and a strong basis for common work and plans – a little bit like meeting friends. Therefore we are very motivated and can’t wait to start with OpenHeritage!”

Picture from site Visit in Budapest, 26th June 2018

Working Session at CEU, Budapest,  25th June 2018

Un importante traguardo a livello europeo è stato raggiunto dall’Università LUISS Guido Carli insieme con LabGov. Sono, infatti, attivamente coinvolti nel progetto “Open Heritage”, finanziato dal programma europeo Horizon 2020: l’Università LUISS Guido Carli è una delle istituzioni facenti  parte del consorzio interdisciplinare europeo che provvederà alla realizzazione del progetto.

Il progetto Open Heritage (Organizing, Promoting and ENabling HEritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment) si occupa dei processi di rigenerazione del patrimonio urbano con un modello di sostenibilità basato sul coinvolgimento delle comunità locali.

House as a commons: from collaborative housing to community housing

House as a commons: from collaborative housing to community housing

Housing is one of the most serious urban issues: the Housing Europe 2015 Report described a dramatic situation marked by the lack of adequate housing, the increasing of social and housing polarization, phenomena of housing deprivation and  the reduction of affordability. In Italy, the last Federcasa-Nomisma report too has let emerge a difficult situation: the housing discomfort in 2014 involved 1.7 million households, touching both the Public Residential Building (ERP), and the non-ERP rentals. The social housing, even if able to offer leases lower than the market, cannot keep up with the growing demand; the Real Estate Funds System did not create enough accommodation to meet the housing demand. In addition, the last ISTAT report (2018) revealed the highest peak of absolute poverty since 2005, foreshadowing a possible increase of the housing emergency.

An important gathering to reflect about the Italian housing situation has been held in Matera (Basilicata) during the General Assembly of Federcasa[1], last June 27th -28th. A two-day conference introduced by a seminar event “House as a common. Public housing as a social infrastructure for urban regeneration and development”, organized by Federcasa in collaboration with LabGov – LUISS Guido Carli University and the ATER of Potenza and Matera. The event, with an international approach, was opened by the Federcasa President, Luca Talluri and moderated by the General Director, Antonio Cavaleri. It saw the presence of institutional actors and academic experts discuss the potentiality and critical issues of the new management and financing models for the public real estate. Among them also Professor Christian Iaione, which coordinated a recent research developed in collaboration with Federcasa to understand how to make the use of the existing housing stock more efficient and to investigate new models able to increase the availability of housing units and guarantee new ways of access.

The research “House as a Common: from collaborative to community housing”, presented during the conference and to be published in the next months, focuses on the analysis of new forms of living, currently under testing both in Italy and abroad, able to promote or facilitate initiatives of urban regeneration through processes of social, cognitive and technological innovation and to generate new forms of urban governance. In particular the national and European contexts, both in terms of legal systems and practices, analyzed in the report, have highlighted the relevance of new housing models in which the cooperation, sharing and collaboration are predominant. The report started from the Elinor Ostrom’s design principles, glimpsing in the cooperative and collaborative management model of living and in self-organized communities of residents an alternative way potentially able to give a new and effective answer to the housing problem. The Ostrom’s approach has been developed by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione to adapt it to the urban context and the research used the five design principles identified by the two scholars through the field work of the “City as a Commons” approach to analyze the housing sector. Applying the Co-City approach to the housing sector means reading the current problematics through a different lens paving the way for the hypothesis that new housing models based on cooperation and collective forms of management can represent a concrete answer to the current housing shortage.

The research in particular analyzed and codified 73 Italian case studies, using the five design principles (urban co-governance, enabling state, economic and social pooling, experimentalism and tech justice) as empirical dimensions operationalized with qualitative indicators, taking inspiration from the Ostrom’s institutional analysis and from the Co-City database analysis, together with a hypothesis-generating and refining case studies methodology (Yin, 2014; Swanborn, 2010; Stake, 1995). In addition, an in-depth analysis through semi-structures interviews was made on 9 cases considered significant, extracted among those better able to show the main features and the dynamics to monitor under the Co-City protocol, and the main patterns emerged from the case selection.

In particular, in terms of co-governance, translating this Co-City reasoning at the housing level, allowed to retrace a three stages model: the simple building sharing (first degree of the co-governance gradient, sharing), collaboration or co-production of services operated by the actors involved in the housing project (second degree: collaboration) and co-management and co-ownership of the buildings by the actors involved (third degree: plycentrism). From the analysis emerged a tendency towards the polycentrism even if there are not completed forms of it. In Italy, in view of interesting experiences, they still situated at the first and second degree but allow to understand some crucial aspects: first of all how the implementation of complex levels of co-governance in the housing sector required to develop new multi-actors social partnerships forms (i.e. public-civic, public-private-civic, etc.) and an ecosystemic approach to realize the transition towards new forms of affordable housing. The role of the public actors (enabling state) appears as a key element that favors the success of the housing projects and the presence of economic and social pooling processes through collaboration enables positive externalities of public utility for the local community. In addition, the civic element seems to be a better guarantee in the creation of truly collaborative projects and the presence of the private actor can influence the development of the project especially in economic terms.

Nevertheless, there are some critical aspects underlined by the research: 1. A geographical imbalance in the distribution of the innovative experiences (the main innovative projects are located in the North and Central Italy, while the South still strive to find solutions in terms of housing affordability, the involvement of the public actor is still very marginal and the offer proposed by the active actors on the housing sector remains mainly private in nature); 2. Beneficiaries are mainly part of the so-called grey segment of population (people that cannot access to the traditional real estate market and not even to the public housing) and not the weakest; 3. Urban regeneration does not necessarily go through the re-circulation of disused public or private buildings; 4. With the Integrate Fund System often the public actors provide the land or the real estate but at the end the public resource benefits mainly the private actors and the fund becomes in this process a kind of privatization of the ERP system, hence the system should be rethought in order to avoid the risk to reproduce the same market fails of the public-private partnerships.

What emerges from the research is that the public support becomes more effective when combined with the private sector and the civic component in order to favor the shared use of the commons, maintain a high level of experimentalism, encourage the use of technological innovations and the spirit of collaboration. What is still missing is a widespread administrative favorable context, that is the enabler infrastructure required to spread these emerging models (Aernouts and Ryckewaert, 2017). Therefore implementing models that enhance the universalistic role of the public housing agencies considering the activation of multi-stakeholders partnership inside new co-governance models, could help to face the more dramatic situations and cover more segments of population looking for a housing solution (Aernouts and Ryckewaert, 2018).

From the analysis, the research identified the Community Land Trust[2] as the tool better able to reach the level of polycentrism, since it is a model of property cooperativism able to realize stable partnerships among the public institutions and the so-called “public as community” – inhabitants, civil society organizations, cognitive institutions). The CLT is a community-centered model that tends to connect the diverse autonomous centers of a city, foreseeing a property scheme; while the sharing and collaborative experiences observed in Italy are mainly based on the use and management of the housing property without opening to the wide community. The research suggests that in Italy this solution could be introduced experimenting the potentialities of legal forms such as the community cooperatives, the participatory foundations, and other forms of social partnership and administrative tools already existing in the Italian legal background. What is required is a contextual-based method applied through a preliminary experimental process inspired by the principle of the administrative self-organization of the local authorities and by the civic autonomy considering the specific variables of the urban social context and the institutional capacity. In this sense adopt an Advisory Board could be helpful to support the local governments and the agencies of public housings.

Besides the research “House as a commons: from collaborative to community housing” the conference saw the speeches also of other experts: Laura Fregolent from the IUAV University presented a research on Venice estimating the crisis impact on the housing sector and suggesting to rethink the city starting from a wide-ranging knowledge of the local contexts. Alice Pittini, research coordinator of Housing Europe, explained how the principles of self-management, empowerment and co-creation can be integrated in the housing theme. Joaquin the Santos from the CLT Brussels presented the Community Land Trust operating in Brussels.  Nestor Davidson, professor of law at the Fordham University, via skype call, explained how the American public housing works, going throw historical and political steps, stressing the concept of neighborhood effect, highlighting how the crisis is generating new housing models, talking about the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, presenting some best practices such as the Common Property Funds or the New Yorker’s legislation to provide low-income citizens with access to counsel for wrongful evictions. In particular Nestor Davidson emphasized how the uncertainty of federal funding, as well as the political polarization, have led to social innovations and new models demonstrating that public and private can work together simply finding new tools to do it at best. Edoardo Reviglio from Cassa Depositi e Prestiti remembered the success of the old GESCAL founds and the importance to rethink the Piano Casa in order to consider the weakest segment of population.

Professor Iaione proposed some closing food for thought for the future:

  1. Knowledge: it’s important to note that a new social pact is already being re-established between those who manage the housing projects and those who live there and today there are already new solutions in the housing sector, hence we should start from the critical issues to understand how overcome them;
  2. Pluralism: the public actor is not alone, it can count on the communities and on a plurality of emerging solutions, actors and tools, from which the public houses should be reconceived as social infrastructures;
  3. Neighborhood effect: the housing agencies can be urban, but also social end economic, regeneration agents acting as engine of local development;
  4. Institutional capability: testing before and evaluating after, should be the guiding concepts before any concrete action or change in the normative frames.

The conference was closed by the President of Federcasa which also stressed the importance to start from what already exist in the Italian context to experiment new solutions, looking to processes of regeneration that are urban as well as social and economic.

[1] Federcasa is an association bringing together 114 public housing companies and housing bodies at the provincial, communal and regional level. Members of Federcasa provide over 850.000 social dwellings to low and middle income households, partly financed by public funding.

[2] TCP’s articles about CLTs available here.

Il mondo delle case popolari si è incontrato a Matera il 27/28 Giugno 2018 in occasione dell’Assemblea Generale di Federcasa. Un appuntamento arricchito dal convegno “Casa Bene Comune. Le case popolari come infrastrutture sociali per la rigenerazione e lo sviluppo urbano”, organizzato da Federcasa in collaborazione con l’Università LUISS Guido Carli e le ATER di Matera e Potenza. Diversi esperti, tra cui anche il prof. Nestor  Davidson in collegamento skype dalla Fordham University di New York, sono intervenuti per discutere delle potenzialità e delle criticità delle nuove formule di gestione e finanziamento dell’edilizia residenziale pubblica. In particolare è stata presentata la ricerca “Casa Bene Comune: dall’housing collaborativo all’housing di comunità”, coordinata dal prof. Christian Iaione che ha investigato nuovi modelli di abitare capaci di aumentare la disponibilità abitativa e garantire nuove formule di accesso.

Buenos Aires (in)formal waste pickers’ cooperatives:  a new governance model for waste management?

Buenos Aires (in)formal waste pickers’ cooperatives: a new governance model for waste management?

di Cosima Malandrino

Urbanization, economic development and exponential demographic growth have maximized urban services problems in many cities around the world. Just like in the case of water and sanitation systems, providing waste management services to millions of people requires complex institutional and technical arrangements. Compared to other utilities however, waste stands out for its multifaceted characteristics and its fluctuating nature. Indeed, while waste is commonly considered as « garbage » – i.e. something no one wants and that cannot generate any benefits –, it can also become a resource, acquiring commodity features since its management and recovery generate profits. Such is the bipolar nature of waste that Jeremy Cavé highlights in his studies (Cavé, 2015). Considering waste a resource allows us to understand the reason why so many conflicts arise when it comes to its appropriation. Many stakeholders are in fact involved in its collection, processing and disposal, competing to extract value from it. For instance, in countries like India, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, poor urban populations often revert to informal waste picking as a survival strategy in order to extract value from recycling materials found in the streets. Far from only being a survival strategy, informal waste picking has in many cases become an occupation carried on from generation to generation by entire families. The high number of informal waste pickers in cities like Cairo, Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, and Buenos Aires has increasingly spurred the debate on the legitimacy of this informal practice, highlighting the need to start implementing or re-thinking recycling waste management systems. Indeed, in the past 20 years, more and more municipalities around the world have adopted recycling schemes in order to manage the entirety of the solid waste stream, not only its unrecyclable component.  The so called ‘modernization’ processes of Solid Waste Management systems (SWM) often follow the necessity to cope with dumping sites congestion and to implement environmentally sustainable policies. However, modernization schemes generate disputes over the appropriation of waste among the many actors involved in extracting its value. Informal waste pickers often become victims of new public policies on waste management that prohibit their activity, and either centralize collection and disposal services, or delegate them to private companies. Appropriation conflicts arise among private companies, municipalities, and informal workers due to the very nature of waste as a good. Neither fully public nor private, garbage is an object that by definition is rejected and abandoned, therefore intrinsically carrying undefined property rights. Moreover, its value fluctuates, as from being an abandoned object it can be recovered and acquire value due to this re-appropriation. Analyzing the governance of solid waste in Coimbatore, India and Vitória, Brazil, Jérémie Cavé thus calls for the need to abandon the dichotomous approach that treats waste as either garbage or resource, and start considering solid waste as a common good. Being a rival and non-excludable good, waste requires a governance model that goes beyond the public/private dichotomy.   To overcome the classic governance solutions that either opt for a centralized municipal system or a delegated private service, we hereby analyze a third option, which allows us to truly apprehend waste as a common good. The case of Buenos Aires, Argentina, shows the possibility of forging public- civil society agreements, enforcing a system of waste management based on cooperatives rather than private companies or public entities alone. In the words of Sheila Foster, “a third option for managing common resources is a regime in which a community self-manages or assumes a greater role in governing those resources in a sustainable way” (Foster, 2009: 280).  


The case of Buenos Aires’ cartoneros

El Alamo Cooperative, Buenos Aires. Cosima Malandrino, 2018  

The research I conducted in Buenos Aires, from January to May 2018, stresses the political potential of informal actors organizing when it comes to the governance of urban waste services. Through the analysis of Buenos Aires informal waste pickers’ political organization, my study re-centers social sciences’ focus on the informal sector, a socio-economic stratum that is often overlooked or underestimated due to its marginality. Especially when it comes to waste picking however, this sector is all but marginal. An estimated 20 million people around the world work in the waste recycling sector (ILO, 2013). UN Habitat data highlights that between 15% and 35% of the world’s waste is recovered by these informal workers (2010). In Argentina, far from being a “new social actor”, informal waste pickers have accompanied the urban development of the city of Buenos Aires since the 19th century (Schamber and Suarez, 2007). It is however due to the economic crisis that hit the Argentinian economy at the turn of the century that their presence in the city’s streets has heavily increased. As of 2006, informality made up 39% of total employment in Argentinian urban areas, an increase that started in the 1980s, reaching its peak during the crisis years (World Bank, 2008). From repressing informal waste collection as an illegal activity, the City government has reacted over the years to a waste crisis that led to a radical transformation of Buenos Aires waste management system. Between 2002 and 2013 the city was the theatre of continuous mobilizations and negotiations between cartoneros (1), non-governmental actors, and public authorities. A conflict that started as a ‘usage rights’ dispute over waste (2) (Cavé, 2015) developed into a profoundly political struggle that epitomizes the conflictual nature of waste management politics and symbolizes the transformation of labor-state relations in the past 30 years. Previously excluded from any negotiation with the State, informal workers have indeed succeeded in being recognized as a legitimate actor by the local government. Thanks the progressive formalization of their labor by the City government, a majority of cartoneros have entered and created recycling cooperatives, acquiring sale power, rights and regulations, which have improved their working conditions and quality of life. Today, more than 5300 recuperadores urbanos (urban collectors) officially manage the collection of recycling materials in the city of Buenos Aires. The City has contracted 12 cooperatives, which collect around 600 tons of waste per day out of the 6000 tons of waste produced in the city.     










Fig. 4: The cooperatives divided by area of waste collection and the classification centers also managed by some of the cooperatives. In orange is the biggest cooperative of CABA. Source: Cosima Malandrino, 2018

This regularization or ‘formalization’ did not unfold as a peaceful process of policy change. Filled with political conflict, the process of legitimation of informal waste picking lasted more than 10 years, and it is still ongoing. Notwithstanding the contracting of the 12 waste picking cooperatives in 2013, the fieldwork I conducted for this research highlights the controversial nature of the formalization instruments implemented by the City. Our findings question whether the City actually formalized Buenos Aires waste pickers in a substantial way. If we define formalization as legalization, the City has indeed succeeded in formalizing a practice that was before illegal and persecuted. However, if formalization means acquiring full formal labor rights like the ones granted to any other formal occupation, our research finds that Buenos Aires waste pickers cannot be considered fully formalized yet.  


Cooperatives as a successful governance tool?

At the center of this controversy lies the figure of the cooperative as the instrument chosen by both waste pickers and the City in order to formalize the activity. Our interviews show that cooperatives represented an accessible organizational structure for waste pickers, who came from a complete individualistic organization of labor, and who didn’t have enough resources to fund an enterprise.   The organization of labor with rules and regulations introduced through cooperatives has allowed waste pickers to recognize themselves and be recognized by society as legitimate workers. The formalization of their status therefore led to a process of consciousness building that in turn stimulated an organized movement of political mobilization. Since 2001, waste pickers have progressively politicized their workers identity, demanding the full recognition of their labor rights to the City. Such politicization has further prompted major waste pickers organizations to extend their mission, and mobilize for the recognition of other informal occupations like street vending and seam stressing, among others.


“Unity, in defense of workers”. February 21st, solidarity march called by Hugo Moyano – Camioneros, CGT, 21/02/2018. Photo: Cosima Malandrino, 2018

However, if on the one hand formalization engendered this process of collective identity activation and sector-wide organization, on the other hand it also relegated waste pickers to an ambiguous worker status. The cooperative system adopted by the City indeed allowed authorities to delegate a public service to a third party, without having to pay for it as much as for a private subsidiary company, and without having to respond to the obligations deriving from a traditional labor contract (Parizeau, 2015). Thus, the system set up in 2013 contracted cooperatives to manage recycling waste in exchange of a monthly incentive or subsidy granted by the City, well below minimum wage standards, and further excluding waste pickers from traditional models of labor negotiations. Waste pickers are therefore de jure self-employed – they are granted social security as such – , but they are de facto dependent on the City’s monthly incentives and logistical support (machinery, equipment, uniforms). If the membership in cooperatives granted welfare rights and fostered a process of identity building, it also positioned them in an ambiguous situation, in-between being formalized but not yet becoming formal workers.  


The findings that this article has tried to briefly illustrate reflect the realization that urban actors such as waste collectors represent at once the transformations of the labor market, and the challenges at stake in the coordination of service provision in large metropolis. Moreover, they highlight the particular nature of waste as a common good, which calls for innovative governance tools able to distribute usage rights to different stakeholders. In this sense, cooperatives constitute an interesting organizational tool, capable of channeling citizens and associations’ collective action efforts in order to more equally dispose of a resource. Therefore, the study on cartoneros’ mobilization not only sheds light on new patterns of political organization among informal actors but it also indirectly informs us on how to improve workers conditions, services, and governance structures in large urban agglomerations.   Finally, Buenos Aires waste pickers’ formalization allows us to introduce a new perspective in a field like waste management studies that is often dominated by environmental and overtly technical approaches. Bringing politics back into the study of infrastructures and urban services means deconstructing the apparent technical decisions of urban governments and underlining their socio-political implications (Lorrain, 2014; McFarlane Rutherford, 2008; Le Gales and Lorrain, 2003). Analyzing utilities networks constitutes a “gateway to the issue of governing large cities” (Lorrain, 2014), as their construction and management requires an out of the ordinary institutional coordination effort. If utilities represent a key governance tool in the large metropolis, it is important to analyze the policy instruments and regulations that control their organization (Lascoumes and Le Galès, 2007). Formalization processes and the instruments that are chosen to implement them, therefore acquire a political significance as they often reproduce “existing set of power relations within urban societies” (McFarlane and Rutherford, 2008: 365). The waste management sector is especially prone to such political dynamics due to its enormous incidence on local governments’ budgets, and to the diverse array of stakeholders that often pursue opposing interests. It is estimated that an effective waste management system makes up 20 to 50% of municipal budgets (World Bank, 2012). Considering that urban residents’ per capita waste generation will increase from 1.3 billion tons per year in 2012 to 2.2 billion tons in 2025, waste management will continue to constitute a serious challenge for urban governance worldwide (World Bank, 2012).  


  1. Cartoneros is the Spanish term used in Argentina to refer to informal waste pickers especially in the post-crisis years. It first carried a negative undertone. It has progressively been re- appropriated by the very waste pickers.
  1. Jeremy Cavé refers to usage rights as granting “privileged access to a flow of resource units” (p.174). When we talk about usage rights disputes in the case of Buenos Aires we therefore highlight the appropriation conflicts that arise among different urban actors who seek to access a resource – i.e. waste – and eventually obtain the right to access waste and dispose of it. Private companies and informal waste pickers were notably taking part in this appropriation conflict in Buenos Aires, both trying to extract value from waste.


This article is an adapted and (very) summarized version of my Master’s thesis: MALANDRINO, Cosima. (In)formal Workers Organizing: The Politics of Buenos Aires Waste Pickers . Master’s Thesis: Political Sociology. Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris – École Urbaine , 2018. English, pp. 104.

CAVÉ, Jérémie. A political economy of urban solid waste management in emerging countries : Learning from Vitória (Brazil) and Coimbatore (India). In COUTARD, Olivier. (Ed.), RUTHERFORD, Jonathan. (Ed.). Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure reconfigurations and urban change in the North and South. London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 159-181

FOSTER, Sheila R. “Urban Informality as a Commons Dilemma”. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter, 2009), pp. 261-284.

LASCOUMES, Pierre, and Patrick LE GALES. Introduction: Understanding public policy through its instruments – From the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation, 2007, Governance, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1-21.

LE GALES, Patrick, LORRAIN, Revue française d’administration publique. 2003/3 (n 107), pp 305-317.

LORRAIN, Dominique. Governing megacities in Emerging Countries. New York: Routledge, 2014.

McFARLANE, Colin, and Jonathan Rutherford. “Political Infrastructures: Governing and Experiencing the Fabric of the City.” 2008. International Journal Of Urban & Regional Research 32, no. 2: 363-374.

PARIZEAU. Kate. Re-representing the city: waste and public space in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 2000s. Environment and Planning. 2015, Vol. 47, Issue 2, pp. 284 – 299.

SCHAMBER, Pablo, SUÁREZ, Francisco M. (eds). Recicloscopio: Miradas sobre recuperadores urbanos. Buenos Aires: Prometeo, Universidad Nacional de Lanús, 2007 pp. 324.




BERTRANOU, Fabio, CASANOVA, Luis. Informalidad laboral en Argentina: Segmentos críticos y políticas para la formalización. Buenos Aires: ILO para Argentina, 2013. 155 pp.

CORAGGIO, José Luis. La presencia de la economía social y solidaria y su institucionalización en América Latina. UNRISD Occasional Paper: Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy, 2014. No. 7, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva.

WORLD BANK. Labor Market Study Informal Employment in Argentina: Causes and Consequences. March 27, 2008. Report No. 36092-AR.

WORLD BANK. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. Urban Development Series, 2012.



New websites, new tools to advocate for the governance of the city as a #commons

New websites, new tools to advocate for the governance of the city as a #commons


Urban commons studies and policies are increasingly acquiring public interest, giving a stronger transformative potential to the concept of the governance of the city as a commons.

This potential also relies on our ability as a community of urban commons researchers, practitioners, social innovators, public authorities, institutions and representatives to communicate the shared vision to advocate for a just and democratic city by generating new urban storytelling from the common work we are committed to.

The Co-City approach – consolidated in Europe and North America and experimented in cities of the Global South –  enhancing local authorities’ capacity and leveraging value of collaboration within local communities, represents an original and proactive approach to implement the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

LabGov, in this moment of transformation and evolution, found strategical to put a special effort in communication to have a stronger voice in contributing to the common goals of promoting shared, collaborative and polycentric urban governance.



Renewed and redesigned, the websites will become platforms to coordinate all LabGovs’ works, insights and news form partners and best practices we are involved in as well as latest theoretical and academic publications.

Discover new sections and features like:

To be consistent with its evolution, LabGov also renewed its visual identity and created new communications tools.

Find the guidelines here and download the new brochure here.

For us each step represents a new start, built on the past but with all challenges and opportunities to come. Confident in our partners willingness to join us in spreading urban commons messages, more tools, media buzz and networking activities will follow to the launch of today, so, please keep connected and stay tuned!

LabGov Comms Team



Youth & Cultural Heritage – the pioneering projects of IBC Emilia Romagna

Youth & Cultural Heritage – the pioneering projects of IBC Emilia Romagna

The Institute for Cultural Heritage – Istituto per i beni artistici, culturali e naturali (IBC)of the Emilia Romagna Region, founded in 1974, operates as an advising body for the regional government and local authorities in policy making related to cultural heritage. It promotes projects in the field of architectural and environmental heritage, museums, libraries and hierarchies, for different purposes: restoration, protection, enhancement and enjoyment of cultural heritage.

The IBC Emilia Romagna has been developing best practices in youth engagement to the enhancement and management of cultural heritage goods, involving both schools and young associations.

We interviewed Valentina Galloni, coordinator of the pioneering project “I love cultural heritage”.

How the project “I love cultural heritage” works and how does it fit with the IBC’s activities

In Emilia Romagna, The Institute for Cultural Heritage has adopted a new policy to actively engage youth to their local cultural heritage. This policy is realized through two already consolidated initiatives: one devolved to youth cultural agencies of the region – the “Youth for the Region” contest – and the other – the contest “I love cultural heritage” – aimed at targeting students in schools.

The “I love cultural heritage” starts in 2011 to ensure the regional reach to a European project, where at the time IBC was a partner, called “Acqueduct”. The aim of the project was to train teachers and cultural institutions’ operators to understand the value and the importance of cultural heritage as a vital tool to spread key transversal competences to students. Those competences, as established by the Panel of Reference adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2006, are: learn to learn, social and civic competences, initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural expressions and consciousness. In order to effectively meet those goals, several pilot projects started in partner countries in collaboration with schools and cultural institutions actively involving students. Given the effective methodology employed and the successful results achieved by students, a new regional initiative has been envisioned by IBC. This is how “I love cultural heritage” came to life,  encouraging every year new schools to join the partnership together with museums, libraries and archives, and to present a project adding value to local institutions and/or cultural assets. The active students’ involvement and the development of transversal competences are themselves two key goals of the project.

Which are the projects’ evaluation criteria? Which supporting activities IBC offered in addition to funding, if any?

For the projects’ evaluation we use the following criteria: innovation and originality of the project proposal and communication; clarity and coherence in its articulation; the active participation of students in its implementation; the capacity and modality of schools and other local stakeholders’ engagement; the proposal reproducibility in other scholastic contexts or museums, and libraries. Thus, we support the project not only financially but also in terms of training, documenting and promotion. The referents take part in meetings with initiative’s coordinators, with those who previously implemented projects and with the MOdE’s – Museo Officina dell’Educazione dell’Università di Bologna – professors, for what concerns the documentation and the evaluation of the projects. At the end of every year, results are collected, published, and spread in affiliated websites, in as much they can inspire future projects; they will be further presented by the same students in the final conference.

Which are the main innovations introduced by students in the project’s partners institutions?

During these years, students have achieved extremely original and innovative projects: board games, eBooks, audio guides, videos, interactive and emotional maps, bas-reliefs, design objects, xylographies, didactical routes, web sites, promotional projects for tourism, virtual reconstructions, catalogues and exhibitions, monitoring attentively every phase of the process.

Many projects connect students coming from different schools linking their different competences to reach a shared goal. For example, in a recent project students made a short film to highlight the value of some paintings hosted in a museum: students from high school not only acquired knowledge in various disciples (e.g. art, history, cinema etc.) but also developed the new competences like film-making, writing and acting. Older students from a cinematographic institute helped and guided them in this venture; students from fashion school crafted their costumes while students from art school helped with the scenography of the movie.

Which are project’s main objectives achieved? And which the main criticisms?

The different editions of the contest involved thousands of students who have worked with hundreds of cultural institutions, organizations and associations from all over the region. Museums, archives and libraries are the institutions where students work as a group, learn, create, play and make use of their learned competencies and their talents; each one of them is given the possibility to have an active role in the achievements of a cultural project; each one understands the role he or she can have in taking care of a cultural asset and how this can impact future generations. Students have the possibility to actively experiment the museum, the archive and the library as areas for active learning. Here they can develop new forms of communication to enhance their cultural heritage’s value. Now other cultural institutions are involved as well: initially the project was designed only for museum, later on archives and libraries were involved too. The funded projects have increased (currently 20) as well as the funds allocated for each project (at the moment 4000 euros: 2000 for the school and 2000 to the cultural institution).

Some criticisms are due to the fact that these activities are extremely challenging, since they develop through the whole academic year. Therefore, they require commitment and energy in task accomplishment and organization between the different involved actors. Nevertheless, the overall evaluation is very positive and enthusiastic from the part of the students.

Over the years, also a project called “Youth for the Region” has been developed. What are the objectives and results obtained up to date?

In this case as well, the main objective lies in the active involvement of the youth, in order to create new forms of management and communication of cultural assets. Youth associations are invited to partner up with agency, possibly owner of a cultural good, to present an innovative project with regard to the governance of the asset.

Each year, several projects compete in the contest and, in order to select the 10 best projects, the criteria employed are among inventiveness, active participation and capacity to involve the entire local community. Moreover, a necessary condition for the admission is to receive either from the respective agency or from a third subject, a contribution of at least 2000 euros. As a matter of fact, the capacity to attract new resources is ultimately considered a further the criteria. Each project financed with a 10.000 euros funding, is further monitored and followed up by the Institute for Cultural Heritage becoming example for next projects.

These projects represents occasions to research and to collect historic material, to learn how to use new technologies, to strengthen the link between cultural assets and the surrounding landscape, to give new inputs and awareness to the local community about the importance of cultural heritage. They foster civic engagement in cultural heritage commons’ management, fostering social inclusion and job retrieval.

The participation to the contest can constitute an impulse for some associations, evolving them from start-ups into concrete realities; for others, it has been an occasion to value and acquire recognition for their own work while enlarging the local partners.

As demonstrated with these projects, Culture & Participation are key part of the IBC mission and activities at the cutting edge of in the current debate. Which are the main obstacles encountered? And which the potentialities still to experiment?

Unfortunately, students are often committed to other activities which obstacles the possibility to make a real job from these projects. They should be supported more and for a longer period. A public – private partnership should be promoted to create a financial system to support their activity.


Italian Municipalities gathered to rethink the civic participation and urban commons

Italian Municipalities gathered to rethink the civic participation and urban commons

Today, cities are increasingly becoming the place where to experiment civic participation and the dialogue between administrators and local authorities, and the urban community. The effort of Italian Municipalities in engaging citizens has a long history enhanced by the participation to EU Programs like Urbact, Urban, and Innovative Actions. For these reasons the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) organized a meeting, gathering the most compelling local experiences on the field, to rethink and discuss about civic engagement and democracy in the city.

On the 24th of July, at ANCI headquarters in Rome, the working group meeting on Civic Participation and Urban Commons will take place. Mayors, assessors, other local government and ANCI officials from over 40 cities will debate together with urban experts, professionals, civil society  representatives, active citizens and social innovators about how to enhance participation to the urban governance, analysing opportunities and challenges as well as learning from local best practices starting from the ones of the Urbact network.

Main speakers of the day event: Veronica Nicotra, ANCI Secretary-General, launching the works; and Professors Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, LabGov, introducing the concept of the city as a commons, a policy making strategy to connect and enhance participatory approaches to the management of urban commons towards a more complex and inclusive urban governance. Paolo Testa, Head of Research and Study – ANCI, will be debating with Rosalba Picerno, LUISS, about the evolution of civic engagement and participation regulations and the role of ANCI. Simone D’Antonio and Annalisa Gramigna, ANCI, will give an overview on local best practices about participatory governance scheme and legislation; and Tiziana Caponi and Valentina Piersanti, will talk about capacity building in local authorities to enable civic participation processes.

Finally, the meeting will end with greetings and speeches of Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna and Urban Agenda Delegate, and Antonio De Caro, Mayor of Bari and ANCI President.

The full programme here.