How can the recognition of the fundamental right to collective action of city inhabitants and local communities foster the sustainable development of cities and urban innovation thereby promoting social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and prosperity?

The book Co-cities. Innovative Transitions toward Just and Self-Sustaining Communities, authored by Sheila Foster (Georgetown University) and Christian Iaione (Luiss University), just won the 2023 Prose Awards for Social Sciences Category -Architecture and Urban Planning. (https://publishers.org/news/association-of-american-publishers-announces-finalists-and-category-winners-for-2023-prose-awards/)

The volume walks readers through the new, emerging models of urban governance, such as Community Land Trusts, community coops and pacts of collaboration or civic uses, aimed at ensuring a more equitable and sustainable management of both the city as a complex system and some of its specific essential resources such as parks, abandoned or underused buildings, and basic technological infrastructure such as broadband network and local renewable energy production infrastructure such as energy communities. The contribution seeks to tackle the daunting challenges of 21st century urbanism from an equity, inclusivity, and justice perspective. By so doing, it has developed a common framework and understanding of recurrent principles and shared methodological tools employed in different contexts and for multiple urban resources and assets.   

The concept of a “co-city” moves from the legal recognition of the right to use, manage, own city assets and infrastructure but calls for a wider range of tools such as innovation policies, new skills of local bureaucracies and new administrative structure, as well as emerging technologies, community-based business models and financing schemes. As a matter of fact, the Co-Cities book adopts an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach to address urban challenges in a more holistic approach. Nonetheless, it is based on very strong theoretical premises rooted in Elinor Ostrom’s work on the governance of the commons and the scholarship on urban commons initiated by scholars such as David Harvey and Stefano Rodotà.

The work is structured into five chapters. The first chapter, “Rethinking a city”, capitalizes on Polycentrism and the Quintuple Helix Approach for approaching governance issues (public, community, civic, knowledge, and private). The second chapter, “Urban Commons”, focuses on Elinor Ostrom’s groundbreaking studies on natural resources commons as they translate to the city level, and it grounds the theory of the Co-city on the rich literature on urban commons. The third chapter, which reflects a more legal approach and is dubbed “City as a Commons”, discusses some examples of urban public policies that enable collaborative and collective actions between private, civic, knowledge and public actors. The fourth chapter, “Urban Co-governance”, reveals an interaction between urban policies, the main private & public actors and community members to co-create and co-govern urban resources. The fifth chapter enucleates from the previous discussion and presents a case study analysis of the five key institutional design principles of a potential Co-City model in detail: collective governance, enabling State, pooling economies, urban experimentalism, and tech justice.  The book ends by presenting challenges that this innovative framework has to face, as well as opportunities for its further development. An empirical appendix is also provided, but for more information on concrete practices, see a previous work here: www.commoning.city

The hope is that the co-cities framework will offer useful insights to cities, civil servants and activists across the globe, despite the contextual differences amongst cities.

The book is available on Open Access here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262539982/co-cities/.  

Find out more information about the projects here:

Commoning.city 

LabGov.City

Stay tuned for next posts. We will go through the book together and with the authors, delving deeper for a better understanding of the Co-cities theory and practice!  

Benedicta Quarcoo