A week contributing to the co-governance of Dutch cities

A week contributing to the co-governance of Dutch cities


From Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 June Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam Metropolitan Area) will host the We Make The City Festival. Five days celebrating the urban living by collectively debate the challenge of making better cities. This huge event will erupt in the streets of Amsterdam with 30 urban talks, 50 workshops, 30 city expeditions, 15 special events, and 10 exhibitions bringing together 600 local, national and international speakers, and 30.000 participants including municipal workers, inhabitants, active citizens, commuters, and visitors to talk about the most urgent urban issues like climate, safety, affordable housing, and health.

LabGov will participate in the session – on Thursday 21 June – about Co-Creating the City contributing to answering the question “How does co-creation work in the urban practice?”. The notion of co-creation evokes and resonates the one of co-governance in raising awareness and addressing the need of a collaborative city-making approach able to include different type of urban stakeholders (knowledge institutions, businesses, start-ups, SMEs, welfare organizations, social innovators and the government) for a more inclusive, innovative and sustainable urban development.

In the context of a full day debate with representative of European municipalities, foundations, citizens and civil society associations – including  Amsterdam, Athens, Ghent, Groningen, Lisbon, Madrid, Nantes, Reykjavik, Rotterdam, and Vienna – a well as researchers from worldwide knowledge institutions – like Harvard University, LabGov São Paulo and San José State University – and international networks like the Project for Public Spaces; LabGov will share the added value of the Co-City approach leading a panel to discuss “Infrastructure and the Co-City: How Might We Make Urban Infrastructure Work for Everyone?”.

Christian Iaione (Professor of Urban Law and Policy at LUISS University, and LabGov Co-Director), Sheila Foster (Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Georgetown), Simone D’Antonio (URBACT), Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes (New Orleans Business Alliance), Marcella Arruda (Instituto A Cidade Precisa de Você, LabGov São Paulo) and Joachim Meerkerk (PhD researcher, Amsterdam University of Applied Science) – in a break-out session facilitated by Alicia Bonner Ness – will address the issue of how the Co-City approach can help city leaders and city-makers in serving collective needs leveraging public-community cooperation.

Key in the discussion will be the focus on infrastructures. Not only because urban infrastructures are the main resources in becoming urban commons if collaborative managed and collectively shared; but especially because this multi-stakeholder and democratic management of common goods is itself co-creating new infrastructure of urban governance. According with the Co-City methodology, in fact, the creation of a collaborative social and economic ecosystem will be transitioning urban governance from urban commons projects to the City as a Commons.

Another interesting highlight of the week will be the participation of Professor Christian Iaione in the EMMA experts event in The Hague on Wednesday 20 June that will also be focused on collaborative partnership between local public authorities, social innovators and civil society in the co-creation of the city that is the basis of the quintuple helix theory of the Co-City approach.

Find the complete program of the Festival on the official website: https://wemakethe.city/nl/programma

Dal 20 al 24 giugno Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam) ospiterà il We Make The City Festival: cinque giorni dedicati alla celebrazione dell’urban living attraverso un dibattito collettivo su come migliorare le nostre città. LabGov terrà, nella sessione “Co-Creating the City” un panel sull’approccio Co-Cities dal titolo “Infrastructure and the Co-City: How Might We Make Urban Infrastructure Work for Everyone” e una break-out session facilitata da Alicia Bonner Ness.

The real ‘Airbnb effect’ and Amsterdam Practices

The real ‘Airbnb effect’ and Amsterdam Practices

The fundamental challenge for cities is to be a welcoming environment for the people who live there – one that nurtures and makes them work. Since the economic stagnation, which has led a number of countries to a severe crisis, and as there has been little economic security, cities lost this welcoming environment. Airbnb, co- founded by Brian Chesky, is a home sharing initiative, which partly came up as a response to this. Under the sound title of sharing economy, it – by a click of a mouse – enables anyone to become an entrepreneur and make a new income in 60 seconds. However, sharing economy, usually illustrated by Uber and Airbnb, is believed to have an ambiguous effect on cities.

To date, tens of millions travellers have chosen Airbnb for their temporary accommodation in a foreign city. It is an easy and convenient way, which provides the newcomer with an opportunity to experience places not as tourist, but as local. That is why Airbnb supporters have advocated that sharing home practices have tremendous positive social impact – it increases the circle of your friends. Furthermore, it has been proven that slightly more than half of Airbnb hosts are low or moderate income families, Airbnb guests tend to stay longer than regular hotel guests, and they usually use services in the local neighbourhoods. So, it supports residents and local businesses, encourages cultural exchange and this results in accumulating positive impact for local economies across the world. Thus, from Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Montreal, Budapest or Moscow to little towns in a countryside there hardly is a place without home-sharing practices. On the other hand, as Airbnb professionalises its effects multiply and the concern regarding the real ‘Airbnb effect’ becomes ever more present. Today multiple sources announce that Airbnb, which still has little consistent regulation, should be held accountable for growing property prices and community displacement – rather the opposite to the claims by Airbnb supporters. Not only the rise of property and gentrification, though, but also the rise of retailers using the service for company’s benefit, the rise of tourist rates in major cities count for the evidence in support for the negative ‘Airbnb effect’.
Under the Gentrified World Section this time the Guardian turns to Amsterdam where the question of Airbnb started disturbing local communities. Amsterdam, with a population of only 800 thousand, is the world’s most multicultural city, which, due to its appealing character, witnesses a yearly influx of about 5mln temporary guests. Thus far, with a well-developed tourism policies, this has not been an issue. To add, due to its limited size the housing shortage, rise of property value and even gentrification have been troubling the city even before ‘Airbnb affect’. That’s why city council together with researchers are quite hesitant in labelling Airbnb fully responsible for contemporary urban issues. However, it is evident that Airbnb adds up to this – the increase in a new available temporary housing on Airbnb platform has not only contributed to lower permanent housing affordability but also to an alarming mass-tourism rate – something that even Amsterdam is not ready to handle.

“It [Airbnb] drives up real estate prices that are already searing in Amsterdam. Neighbourhood business that creates ties between residents is replaced by businesses that only focus on tourists. Bike rental companies replace local grocery shops. And apartments that are continuously rented out to tourists are lost to people who want to actually live here,” the Guardian




The council welcomed it [Airbnb] at first because it meant an upgrading of the city. But now that it continues, you see the rise of very unilateral neighbourhoods. Families with children are leaving this city because they can’t afford to live in the good areas” Peter Boelhouwer, professor of housing systems at the University of Technology in Delft

Additionally, in Amsterdam Airbnb has become a threat to tourism as we know it. The unregulated tourism does not only contribute to the pain in local residents’ heads due to the noisy and partying tourists but it also destroys the unique atmosphere of the local culture.

“Overcrowding in key destinations is becoming a pressing issue. Without controls, we know tourism can kill tourism.” Mark Tanzer, chief executive Association of British Travel Agents


Fairbnb – Dutch alternative preserving the local culture

Amsterdam is known to be a leader in adopting new innovative practices. Despite focusing on being green and smart, Amsterdam is one of the strongest Airbnb partners also. Having been aware of Airbnb effect the city has respectively taken certain measures. Two years ago Amsterdam was the first to sign a multinational agreement with Airbnb. This agreement addressed issues like: Airbnb levying and handing over tourist taxes to the city, removing addresses where the council has intervened because of the resident’s complaints and setting some rules, such as, no longer than 60 days per year stay to not more than four guests at a time. Although, the actual enforcement of the agreement was more difficult than planned, and council currently focus on penalising any misconduct of the agreement. Furthermore, city’s innovators are trying to search for the right balance between visitors-residents life in a city experiecnce and even when the issue of liveability vs. mass-tourism does not have a clear answer yet, the Dutch alternatives present possibilities for setting new priorities for Airbnb. That’s why while steps are being taken to address the ‘Airbnb effect’ on the housing market, a new initiative has been taking shape: FairBnB – the alternative to work on the local, fair, non-extractive and collaborative economy.



“We would like to encourage visitors to stay in areas where they are not a disturbance, but could add something to the neighbourhood,” tells Sito Veracruz, co-founder of Fairbnb


Fairbnb confronts the same challenge for cities – to be a welcoming environment for the people who live there. It acts as a short-stay rental platform, but which is beneficial to the city and its inhabitants. This ‘upgraded’ Airbnb version only includes hosts who are registered with the council and neighbours who are involved in the management of the platform. The main questions raised by Fairbnb supporters are: ‘How these activities could be managed to be beneficial to local initiatives and be kept from extracting values only for investors and speculators? How could they be managed so that visitors are encouraged to stay in those areas where they are not a disturbance, but beneficial to the neighbourhood?’

‘We believe that any sharing economy platforms need to be transparent and accountable in order to be advantageous to citizens and the city. For this reason, we want to work towards a “FairBnB”. FairBnB is a movement that seeks to encourage vacation rentals that comply with the principles of a fair, non-extractive and collaborative economy.’ – meet up.com
LabGov Amsterdam | Masterclass by Sheila Foster at Pakhuis de Zwijger

LabGov Amsterdam | Masterclass by Sheila Foster at Pakhuis de Zwijger


On the 13th of September Sheila Foster had a visit at Pakhuis de Zwijger (PDZ) to share her insights and experiences from the Laboratories for the Governance of the Commons in Bologna and New York, as well as, in the light of a new project – LabgGov Amsterdam, organise a masterclass with a full room of active urban innovators from The Netherlands to talk about urban commoning in Amsterdam.

Sheila Foster and Joachim Meerkerk have welcomed Dutch urban enthusiasts from various sectors and emphasised that the Governance of the Commons goes hand-in-hand with New Democracy series organised by PDZ. These series aim attention at the democratic renewal as a transition phenomenon, which underlines both major global social and economic trends, such as, digitisation, and also niche practices, like initiatives at a grassroots level or other bottom-up practices in the city. The crucial aspect of this is to investigate how both global and bottom-up currents simultaneously put pressure and force the current government regime, which is based on public-private governance, to transit to sustainable public-private-community governance structures.


“This sheds a light on the distinction between urban commons and city as a commons. Urban commons is the set of practices on the ground and city as a commons is about changing the way city has been governed”– tells S. Foster.

Thus, talking about City as a Commons, it is important to think about a cultural shift in a city at large. This implies that the commons should be a leading way of thinking how to govern the city. The idea of the city as a commons is actually to have it so largely spread that it becomes the way of doing business. The crucial step in between though is translating the community-led practices, such as the urban community gardens, redevelopment of a park or a street to a hyper-local regulatory that makes it sustainable and protects against the market or any political changes in a democratic system (e.g. elections). And this is where LabGov comes in to facilitate the process.

Still having in mind Saskia Sassen’s overarching meta-analysis on economic, social and democratic exclusion of people in many different countries and many different layers of society (see more about it here), S. Foster stresses that it is important to see how it actually plays out on the communities on the ground. Thus, while talking about commons empirical analysis is significant, but it is not enough, the bottom-line is how, for instance, climate change affects the communities and which communities does it affect.

“It is worth emphasising that commons-related practices have been there for a while, we are not talking about something that hasn’t been done yet. What we need is to focus on how to make this a sustainable movement. There are so many small-scale initiatives, which in a multiple ways address issues related to environmental challenges, migration and inequality. It is important to support them, identify where they are lacking expertise and then scale-up – this forms a new paradigm that challenges the way our old system has been regulated” – S. Foster says.  

Thus, the discourse on commons illuminates that by getting things done on the ground already has a major impact, and properly facilitated, has the full potential to lead to the new governance structures based on: social pooling i.e. pool of means and resources, enabling state and polycentricism or collaboration among and between 5 actors (the private, the public, knowledge institutions, civic social organisations and the unorganised public).

Foster and J. Meerkerk agree that the community, not the experts, should have the leading role here. “The model is less interested in the work that the communities do, because a lot of the communities are already doing it right and it’s not that we have to go to the communities and tell how to manage their commons”– stresses S. Foster. LabGov’s role is to help to sustain the practices, provide a network of experts and a toolbox to do this in different contexts.


Since commons are identified as city resources upon which a number of stakeholders rely (they could be tangible, intangible or digital goods such as knowledge, culture, security, infrastructure, and neighbourhood commons, among others, which are functional to the individual and collective well-being), the solutions to commons-related issues are various. Regarding the tools to facilitate the progress towards the city as a commons, again, there are many and various, what is necessary is to rediscover them in different localities. Being a property law expert S. Foster has put the most of her energy into administrative and legal ones – “property is a powerful framework while talking about the commons, because this is how things have been managed” – adds S. Foster.

Additionally, S. Foster refers to the tragedy of commons at the city, like what has happened to Detroit or what happens to the park that is not well managed, or what happens to an informal settlement (more about this here). There is a lens to say how we address the tragedy of the commons at the city, and one of the ways to do it is by using a normative claim, rather than a description of a problem (tragedy of commons) that needs solution, or, as conventionally addressed, a regime of ownership. By normative claim S. Foster means that, for instance, urban land should be held for the people, not bought and sold by private companies or state to make profit out of it. Commons is a resource that is commonly owned or not owned at all, but available to all. Thus, urban land is commons. Therefore, if the rules of property remain the same, then it is hardly possible to sustain the Governance of the Commons. This particular approach – “using the legal language”- is meant to protect and consolidate ground-up movements, make them sustainable with a fully protected status. J. Meerkrek agrees that later on “by having similar practices with an ample of initiatives creates an opening for a “virus” and when replicated, not only sustainability, but also scaling-up could be achieved.”

City is not a pre-political space, it is a highly regulated space hence the story of commons is a story of a value of collective production and consumption where regulation or a governance structure with a local government involved is necessary. There is no commons narrative yet for the use value and positive value of co-creation – collectively governing the resource that is commonly ours to co-create cities, which is a notion that goes hand-in-hand with the City Makers movement. Therefore, first it is important to address whose resource is it, and as S. Foster stresses the claim, it should be recognised that the city is our collective resource.

The social function of the property supports the commons based claims, unfortunately, people cannot just claim the common, communities have to have a legal right to the commons and the governance of it. “If you don’t work with the system that regulates it, commons is very fragile and a community can easily loose the access to it. That is the thing of “protecting” the commons” – tells S. Foster.


In an urban context, which is all built, the tools that S. Foster has emphasised during the masterclass were the public trust doctrine, park conservancies, park trusts or community land trusts, which are legal entities in and of themselves.  Community land trust emphasises the collective governance structure that has its own legal instruments, checks and balances, to assure affordability of a common in a highly speculative market. This, as a matter, of fact is one of the main co-design issues : “how do you design an inclusive governance structure of a common?” As a follow-up, another question comes out: “how do you finance the commons?” One of the practices that S. Foster has introduced during the masterclass wasparticipatory budgeting (watch a video about it here), but it is necessary to figure out other ways as well.

At the masterclass S. Foster has shared her experiences from New York, where LabGov has worked with 3 different community-led initiatives related to environmental issues. The focal point of S. Foster work is to focus on community based adaptation and resilience. LabGov NYC has facilitated these communities by framing and shaping their activities in civil right, legal terms, by listening and understanding their needs, identifying where they need more power and legal support, as well as, bringing other actors to the play and figuring out how to bring all of this to the city’s administration bodies – elevate issues and force the local decision makers to change. Thus far, it has been indeed a great success, because now the state agencies have environmental justice and climate action plans implemented in their agendas. “Environmental action plans now include community land trusts and local grids, and this was not the case before”- presents S. Foster.

Nonetheless, environment-related problems and community based-resilience that S. Foster has been working on is not an isolated issue, and it should be addressed through the lenses of inequality at the neighbourhood level. S. Foster stressed that communities that usually suffer the most from climate change have experienced gentrification, they are poor, and with a high migrant population. Aspects like immigration status, access to services, built environment among others are significant here. Of course, macro-analysis can capture this, as there are set of factors that determine the vulnerability, which differs even within the communities, see Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). However, this requires micro-analysis and a close contact with people. This also illuminates the fact that, for instance, legal tools are significant to open up opportunities for commons, but as eventually it comes to the question of governance and how to manage a collective resource, it is important to investigate the needs of communities, exact causes of their vulnerability and then design policies that respond to that. The commons model is a model of collaboration that brings together the right actors. Collaboration with people can truly influence change, and as LabGov is a strong group of experts who speak the language of communities and are able to articulate it at the city level, in the end the way city’s resources are allocated depends on LabGov’s findings and a city has live up to that.

Thus, commons brings a new vision of a city, which is sustainable in  economic, social and environmental terms. Yet, the progress to city as a commons is rarely linear. Cities need to help communities to co-create – mayors should focus on how their cities can sustain governance of the commons and facilitate resilient communities. LabGov hence by identifying communities at the grassroots level and having a strong relation with the city can hence provide the right knowledge, know-how, principles and how-to’s in order to locate the expertise in different contexts. The toolbox thus could point people and say “Listen, you want to turn that building in your neighbourhood into a commons? Here is what you need to do”.

The Amsterdam City Makers Summit: the new way to connect Europe

The Amsterdam City Makers Summit: the new way to connect Europe

The City Makers Summit will be held from May 27 to May 30,2016. LabGov, with the presence of Professor Christian Iaione, is getting ready for four days full of innovative inspiration, unlocking know-how and setting agendas, and reflections on the (Im)pact of the city of Amsterdam on the development of the New Urban Agenda.

Professor Iaione will lead two session. The first, more general in character, will consist in a philosophical dialogue on the values and ambitions of the New Europe and on the idea of a Europe managed by People. The second one instead will be one part of the New Democracy series. It will be focused on governance and on the concept of the co-city, with reference to the experience of the Co-Bologna project, and the partecipants will be encouraged to start their own projects and become part of a learning network in Amsterdam.

The City Makers Summit pools knowledge from City Makers from all over Europe and presents innovative ways of creating more livable, thriving, resilient and inclusive cities. City Expeditions all over the Netherlands’ territory will showcase emerging initiatives focusing on urban farming, social design, the redevelopment of industrial heritage, co-housing, the makers movement, social entrepreneurship, inclusion of refugees, the development of collaborative areas, community enterprises, the circular economy, and so on.

Best practices and models of collaboration with multiple stakeholders will be explored and feed into the City Makers Agenda. While the EU member states are adopting the EU Urban Agenda thought the Pact of Amsterdam, City Makers will pay their contribution, share inspiration and know-how, present their input and work towards further co-creation. Do not miss this incredible experience!


Il City Makers Summit si terrà ad Amsterdam dal 27 a 30 Maggio. LabGov, grazie al prezioso contributo del Professor Iaione, è pronto a partecipare a questi quattro giorni pieni di ispirazione per la costruzione di nuovo originale know-how e d’approfondimento dell'(Im)Patto che la città di Amsterdam sta avendo sull’agenda Europea. Non perdetevi questa incredibile esperienza!

We are already on our way to Amsterdam: Countdown to the new EU Urban Agenda

We are already on our way to Amsterdam: Countdown to the new EU Urban Agenda

eprs-briefing-565865-developing-eu-urban-agenda“Europe is one of the most urbanised continents in the world.”

75% Europeans live in urban areas, where 77% jobs and 53% companies are concentrated. They are the place where daily life takes place with challenges and demands to face every day in an increasingly complex matrix. With regards to climate change, social innovation, transport, poverty and economic development, cities are key partners to a successful formulation and implementation of policies answering to those problems.

Since last year Riga Declaration, the European Union has come to grasp the full potential of European cities in the achievement of its objectives. The Council of the European Union provided the political support for the development of the first effective, coordinated, truly integrated, place-based, coherent European Urban Agenda in full respect of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and of the EU Urban Acquis. From that moment on, the Dutch Presidency committed itself to take the lead of the process, making the new EU Urban Agenda one its top priority for the first half of 2016.

“Cities should be fully included in the mainstream policies. They should be seen as engines for economic growth and creators of jobs; cities as the frontrunners in Europe. It is about time to put forward the statement: Cities in Europe need to step out of the shadow and into the spotlights.

(Lambert Van Nistelrooij, Dutch MEP and promoter of the process)


Adjusting EU policies to citizens’ needs and make them count

The objective of the new EU Urban Agenda is to exploit the potential of European cities in terms of knowledge, expertise and resources by involving them in the formulation and implementation of a wide set of EU policies. By complementing policies at different levels (European, national, local), it aims at fostering (less and) better regulation, better funding opportunities and better knowledge exchange. The key of the whole process is a new, truly multi-level and shared approach, where no actor acts as the leader of the process.

A long process of consultation between EU institutions, Member States, local authorities, stakeholders and civil society representatives led to the selection of twelve thematic areas addressing the major challenges faced by cities today with the aim to promote the development of smart, green and inclusive cities.

The twelve themes:

• Jobs and skills in the local economy
• Urban poverty (in particular child poverty, deprived neighbourhoods and homelessness)
• Housing
• Inclusion of migrants and refugees
• Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions
• Circular economy
• Climate adaptation
• Energy transition (in particular energy efficiency and local renewable energy systems)
• Sustainable urban mobility
• Air quality
• Digital transition (in particular data collection, data management and digital services)
• Innovative and responsible public procurement

In addition, eleven cross-cutting issues will have to be taken into account when weighting action in each of the afore-mentioned twelve domains.

The eleven cross-cutting themes:

  • Good urban governance
  • Governance across administrative boundaries and inter-municipal cooperation
  • Sound and strategic urban planning
  • Integrated approach
  • Innovative approaches
  • Impact on societal change, including behavioural change
  • Challenges and opportunities of small- and medium-sized cities;
  • Urban regeneration
  • Adaptation to demographic change
  • Availability and quality of public services of general interest
  • International dimension

The political agreement we are heading to will set forth the start of multi-level, cross-sectoral partnership delivering specific Action Plans on each theme based on an open, transparent and bottom-up approach. Four pilot partnerships (Air Quality, Housing, Urban Poverty, and Inclusion of refugees and Migrants) were launched last December. All partnership will be characterised by a concrete, case-based and result-oriented approach to tackle the bottlenecks and potential of each area and deliver results.


Re-thinking the working method: Community-based Urban GovernancePP_Image-2

Beyond the priority areas and their objectives, the final version of the Pact will provide the definition of the working method of partnerships. Actions, actors, governance principles, monitoring and evaluation indicators will be included. As already stressed in Riga, actions will be assessed in terms of local and urban impact. Public-private partnerships and citizens’ participation will be championed through a multi-level, multi-sectoral and place-based problem solving approach.

“Ministers invite local and regional authorities:

[..]24.2. provide partnership in sustainable integrated urban development on the ground involving local community and stakeholders, and aiming to deliver effective urban solutions to challenges that go beyond one sector and administrative borders;

24.3. elaborate and implement integrated local strategies using a participatory approach, that is responsible and well-balanced in terms of spatial planning, respecting local assets and using existing tools for promoting sustainable development of urban area and its hinterlands.”

The last draft of the Pact shows the full endorsement of community-based participatory initiatives, stating:

“The Ministers agree:

[..]To encourage Urban Areas to stimulate community-based initiatives and cooperate with civic

urban developers (City Makers), who play an important role in creating innovative, resilient,

inclusive, economically stable and inspiring neighbourhoods and Urban Areas.”


Road to Amsterdam: what is next

The Urban Development Group just met on April 7th to discuss the third and last draft of the document, and it will gather again on May 12th to adopt its final version. On the same day, the Committee of the Regions delivered its opinion stressing three criteria that have to be taken into account to develop a truly successful bottom-up, multilevel approach, namely transparency, participation and the binding force of the Pact.

maxresdefaultOn May 30th the EU Ministers for Regional Developments will sign the Amsterdam Pact establishing the EU Urban Agenda. At a later stage, the EU Council will endorse and formalise its commitments though its binding Conclusions.

It will be an historic moment, re-writing the history of urban governance in the European Union after years of inaction. However, despite the fact that it  is the outcome of a large-scale effort to an open dialogue involving stakeholders in its formulation, the new document will represent only half of the puzzle. There remain doubts about the political fuel, powers, capacity, incentives and sanctions necessary to deliver results (see Professor Michael Parkinson’ opinion). As a matter of fact, an EU eager to recognize the importance of the city as the crux of policy implementation indeed represents a big achievement.

Betting on urban governance means contributing to a new, responsible and inclusive political culture, making citizens’ participation and active cooperation with both private and public sectors structural features of a new form of governance and a new meaning of “citizenship” at the neighbourhood and city level. Current institutional settings are still inappropriate to embrace the structural, qualitative transformation that such an ambitious idea entails.That is why a need-based, integrated, cross-sectorial approach built on creative processes and social innovative projects is necessary to start an urban revolution from the bottom.

Which is exactly what LabGov promotes.

We are already on our way to Amsterdam.