Third EU.CA.NET Project in Bologna 17 – 19 October 2017

From Tuesday 17th to Thursday 19th October 2017 the third EUCANET project will be held in Bologna, organized and hosted by the Urban Center Bologna.

The initiative, inaugurated in the presence of Valentina Orioli (Councilor for Urban Planning, Private Household, Environment, Protection and Reconstruction of the Historical Centre),  Giovanni Ginocchini (Director Urban Center Bologna), Valeria Barbi (Urban Projects Coordinator Urban Center Bologna), will include:

  • A public event, dealing with migrants and younger generations, inspired by the good practices of the cities of Skopje (Cluj-Napoca, Romania);
  • A day of visits to places considered as a symbol of urban regeneration and participatory processes;
  • A meeting about the role and the future of the Urban Agencies a few months after the signature of the letter of intent for the establishment of the Italian network of Urban Centers.

There will be on Thursday 19th a policy workshop that will address the roles of urban agencies within the Amsterdam Pact, named “The Amsterdam Pact: what are the main roles to be played by the urban agencies in implementing the pact’s goals? Could the agencies become a cross cutting instrument to be applied within each of the actions described by the Pact?”.

The workshop will start from 10 a.m..

Professor Christian Iaione will be a Keynote Speaker of the policy workshop.

Then, the participants will be divided in 4 groups. The focus of the workshop session will be to discuss on how to increase the commitment of urban agencies within the Amsterdam Pact.

The complete programme is available here.
At the end, from 2:30 pm to 7:00 pm, at the Urban Center Atelier Room, there will be held “New forms of participation”, a meeting of the Urban Center national network and a roundtable with the aim of understanding and tracing the new organizational forms needed to support citizens who want not only to be heard and informed, but also to be enabled for new ways of managing the commons.

EUCANET is the European Agencies Network for citizenship, inclusion, involvement and empowerment of communities through the urban transformation process; it has launched a call for best policies and practices. It is co-founded by the Europe for Citizens Programme and it involves five partners from four countries: Urban Center Metropolitano Torino and Urban Center Bologna from Italy, City of Marseille from France, city of Skopje from Macedonia and Cluj Metropolitan Area Intercommunity Development Association from Romania.


Da martedì 17 a giovedì 19 ottobre 2017 si terrà a Bologna, presso Urban Centre Bologna, il terzo appuntamento previsto dal progetto EU.CA.NET. Christian Iaione parteciperà in qualità di Keynote speaker al Policy Workshop che si terrà giovedì 19 a partire dalle 10.


Culturability: Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione on Urban Commons and City as a Commons

Culturability: Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione on Urban Commons and City as a Commons

On the 15th of July, Unipolis Foundation in collaboration with Fitzcarraldo Foundation and Make a Cube association organised a second mentoring workshop for the 15 finalists (the description of finalists see below, or at: who have been selected from the “Culturability” call – an Italian national call to support innovative projects in cultural and creative fields to promote urban regeneration processes (see more about Culturability at:




The third day of the workshop series was complemented by Urban Law professor at Fordham University Sheila Foster and LabGov coordinator, prof. Christian Iaione’s presentation as well as an interactive discussion with the audience. Scholars focused on bringing the attention of the 15 progressive cultural innovators to the idea of urban commons and, more specifically, addressing the collaborative governance of commons as the main target in the urban regeneration processes of today.

Coming from the school of thought on commons, Sheila Foster began with questions of what exactly an urban common is and what does it mean to the society and the city as a whole. “Urban commons are what city inhabitants share daily, in fact, these commons are of a deeply democratic nature, because they have an open access meaning that the usage of them is non-excludable”. From a property law perspective it is very important to distinguish urban commons from what is conventionally understood as common pool resources within the field of environmental law. Such distinction is necessary, because these commons differ in terms of their nature, characteristics and value that they create to the society, and hence this affects the character of their governance. “Urban commons are city spaces, such as squares, parks, abandoned or non-utilised buildings, streets, vacant lots, even cultural institutions, for instance, museums, and other urban open-access units – spaces of a truly common good nature”- addressed S. Foster. “These spaces are unique because they generate value, that is precisely of a social and cultural origin and a wide range of city actors have a stake or an interest in these urban commons. Thus, by preserving commons together, we can contribute to an inclusive and sustainable well-being co-creation by and for city inhabitants”.




On the other hand, scholar stressed that commons are not a simple concept in law or theory. “Commons are neither private nor public, it is something in between. Therefore, the question of governance of the commons is condemned to be a challenge from both practitioners and scholars’ viewpoints”. Having addressed the “Tragedy of Commons” (see H. Garrets), S. Foster emphasised that urban commons are not something that should be governed either by private or public, because these commons are not necessarily in threat of over-consumption or degradation like natural commons, as some scholars suggest. The opposite – open-access urban spaces, which increase multi-stakeholder usage, even enhance shared social, economic and environmental value and contribute to the so-called “Comedy of Commons” (see C. Rose).  “The issue is that today every urban common is overly regulated, today nothing is an open access  and non-excludable anymore and having mentioned the value of urban commons the re-opening and collaboratively governing urban commons is a highly valuable process for all stakeholders. The opening urban commons – contributes to the stimulation of a social value to the community. To add, the value of opening up the commons is directly linked to the production of culture, of housing. Commons are not about tragedy, rather about solidarity and shared value” – stressed S. Foster.

Christian Iaione took over the debate stressing that today there is a growing need to rethink economy, institutions and focus on the energy that the community possesses. “The community should recognise the value of commons. It is not the tangible commons that matter, it is the collaborative governance of commons and the value to the community that it produces”- said C. Iaione. Professor focusing on governance of commons stated that between the state and the market there is a room for experimentation and this is the space of commons that connect different stakeholders. So far, what the overly regulated cityscape has produced is scarcity and collaboration, or collective action, as stressed by E. Ostrom, yet in an urban context, is the way to introduce new approaches to governance and eliminate the problem of scarcity. Despite the fact that “[w]orking on commons requires constant experimentation, what we have accomplished thus far is writing the Regulation which is a strong step towards the recognition of urban commons at the city level and the introduction of collaborative urban governance”.




Lastly, by sharing experiences from the Parco Centocelle project in Rome and the project on #CollaboraToscana, C. Iaione emphasized that the governance of commons is an arrangement between 5 different actors (or “quintuple helix” model, see more about this in “City as a Commons“), where (1) the unorganized public (e.g. social innovators, active citizens, urban regenerators, urban innovators, etc.), (2) public authorities, (3) businesses, (4) civil society organisations, and (5) knowledge institutions (e.g. schools, universities, cultural institutions, etc.) work together to establish public-private-community partnerships and contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage and the co-creation of the social as well as economic value.

Laboratory for Collaborative Governance of Urban Commons appreciates the energy and the ideas that 15 finalists of the Culturability Call possess. These finalists are promising examples of urban regeneration processes and therefore are strongly supported by LabGov.

The information about the finalists:

An initiative which regards culture in proposing a hybrid agricultural production system which creates a lively ecosystem. This, while restoring the role of not only agricultural production, but also of culture, contributes to the creation of welfare and strong community. This is a biological and social farmhouse of innovation and agriculture to improve the integration and employment, aggregation of space and the production of cultural places. It creates a sustainable local supply chain between farmers as well as it is a museum contributing to the regeneration of an area.


A non-profit organisation, founded by people who share a dream: to return the Cascina Sant’Ambrogio – an important place of agriculture and economy. This place regarded as poor and outdated due to the transformation of society is just an error of perspective. The Cascina is place rich in culture, memory and practices that need to be rethought by integrating them with the needs of present times. Citizens must not just be consumers and voters, but producers and active citizens able to concretely transform a portion of reality. This path does not come from nothing, but by a gradual emergence of the collective application that, with more and more insistently, asks sustainable and alternative lifestyles, as well as adequate opportunities.


  • Caserma Archeologica + Art Sweet Art – San Sepolcro (Arezzo) |

This is a platform of artists to display their works in private homes to visitants. A homeowner can choose an artist via the website from those who have joined up to the initiative. After assessing the home, the artist decides what type of art work to display in the new location. The art has to fulfil both the customers’ needs (the house as a location, the artwork’s theme, etc.) as well as those of the artist (who is invited to carry out a piece of art which fully respects their artistic expression). The initial drafting phase is followed by the artist creating their work. The artist is hosted in the customers’ private home, an unprecedented experience which influences the creative process. During the artists’ stay, the organisers-together with the hosts’ family- promote the art in construction and facilitate workshops in schools, local cultural guides, gatherings with friends, etc.


The projects seeks to reform the system of support the cultural industry in Italy. It highlights the critical issues and illustrates the best solutions.


  • DLF: cantieri interculturali per una città inclusiva –  Pisa |

The project promotes different cultural tradition lines belonging to all Italian regions. Through musical concerts, plays, lectures and seminars, many of the popular culture heritages met within the framework of demonstrations made in Pisa, which due to its characteristics naturally prepares to host a dialogue between diverse communities and different cultures.


The project that seeks to create a network of people and spaces, such as, the abandoned buildings and underused of sites, with the objective of denunciation of situations of abandonment and then revaluation of the buildings by putting the spotlight on forgotten places, abandoned or fallen into disuse, showing its potential for reuse, it will foster a new collective interest in these spaces. This is a project that wants to revolutionise the way of seeing and understanding the assets disposed of a city, turning it into a resource.


This is a residence project that was born in a former industrial factory, able to provide hospitality for the whole year to travellers and tourists, and simultaneously transform into a school on urban regeneration: a “training of the mind” in the heart of central Italy, where two cities, Terni and Rieti meet. The idea is to experiment with new solutions and re-design territorial integration policy.


  • LAB+: Piazza Gasparotto Urban Living Lab –  Padova |

The project that focus on workers with different skills to meet, share ideas and expertise in urban regeneration practices. Gasparotto Square in a space of co-design living between citizens, private organisations and public institutions. To achieve this objective, the project makes the system a series of micro-actions of re-appropriation of public space: the urban expansion, construction of a weekly market of organic producers, involvement of local residents through the social theatre and community, realisation of works public art, use of storytelling and the creation of micro-community events.


  • Mana Grika – Hub Culturale della Grecìa Salentina –  Calimera (Lecce) |

It is a Cultural Hub of the territory that will be made available to local communities to create initiatives with a strong cultural and social impact spaces. The main objectives are the territorial promotion and enhancement of the local culture through affiliated initiatives for social activation of communities and by creating a synergistic network among all organisations working in the area.


  • MUFANT, MuseoLab del Fantastico e della Fantascienza di Torino – Torino |

This is a project by a team of professionals and industry experts, academics, journalists and researchers who are aspired to imagine a world, in which people are aware that this is just one of the possible worlds. This is being accomplished by the multiple permanent or temporary exhibitions, performances, conferences, events, and such, in the MusueoLAB.


Piazza dei Colori is one of Co-Bologna “construction sites”, and the aim is to turn it into a collaborative district that could later include different realities from Croce dei Biacco and all the migrants that live there.


The project aims to put an end to the progressive abandonment and degradation of one of the most prestigious and representative testimonies of the assets of the industrial archaeology resulting from the old age epic mining of Sardinia, which UNESCO declared a universal value in 1997 . With the completion of the project they intend to preserve and make available the public buildings of great architectural value at the Sella Well located in the mining complex-Monteponi on the outskirts of the city of Iglesias. The work of protection and restoration of the industrial archaeological heritage will accompany the exhibition. The abundance and beauty of the available space will also allow to set up an area for conference activities with its audiovisual and multimedia equipment. With the completion of the project, as well as regeneration of the museum space, the site will be returned to the local community.


Station Chiaravalle project focuses on the regeneration of the unused gym of neighbourhood school and creation of a hybrid space in order to host a community hub: operational production based on cultural content, artistic home and an urban laboratory. Additionally, it reinterprets the disused railway line along the Vettabbia channel as space in transformation. Lastly, it activates a participatory observation with the local community and generates landscape projects and custody of places and common open spaces for the enjoyment of the area as a landscape for immersive experiences.


The project which has an aim to enter into the social and productive fabric of Rome and spread to further cities. It focuses to put in place cultural practices and job opportunities that would promote inclusion and integration of those individuals who are in need for help and solidarity. It is a job creation, but also the artistic expression, which can also become a source of income, are the ways in which we intend to intervene in the social and cultural fabric of Rome.


This is a non-profit organization active in the field of contemporary art and culture both at a local and international level. It produces and organises art exhibitions, theatre shows, publications, audio-visual works, training and residency programs with the aim to encourage artistic mobility and the promotion of artists on an international scale. It intends to invent original devices in order to promote projects and enable processes that mobilise unconventional strategies and plans of intervention in the artistic and cultural system. The members of the core working group are artists who chose not to limit their activities and their identities to “the creation of artworks”, but to work actively – and independently – for the activation of shared processes and the redefinition of the role of the artist in society. The project starts from an idea of hospitality and sharing to create a symbolic place where experience and the individual journey are set aside to make way for the development of a collective strategy. The network of people intertwined constitutes a network able to  relate with institutions, questioning established practices and models, with the aim of generating concrete outcomes/results in the community.


LabGov congratulates all finalists and looks forward to new collaborations!




Secondary sources:

  1. Garrett, Hardin, (1968) The Tragedy of the Commons
  2. Iaione, Christian. (2016) “The CO-City: Sharing, Collaborating, Cooperating, and Commoning in the City.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2: 415-55.
  3. Ostrom, E. (1990) “Governing The Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action”, Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, Volume 6, Issue 4, 235-252
  4. Rose, C. (1986) The Comedy of the Commons: Custom, Commerce and Inherently Public Property, 53


Ten Points on The City as Commons

Ten Points on The City as Commons


The City as a Commons” conference has produced a body of knowledge that can guide future research and policymaking on which we can build. Specifically, after some reflection, we came away from the conference with at least 10 lessons for the developing field of the urban commons:

1. There are many kinds of urban commons, some existing for many decades (e.g. housing cooperatives) and others just emerging. Social innovation is important for designing some types of urban commons and the conditions for commoning;

2. We must embrace the diversity of commons and commoning yet still be careful about what we call the commons; so more work is needed on analyzing what is an urban commons and what is not;

3. In addition to many resources being held or managed in common, in a collaborative fashion, the city itself must be considered a commons–both as an urban space and as a governing entity. The governance of the urban commons can be a framework to update political and bureaucratic decision-making processes at the city level;

4. The commons is an emerging framework for inclusiveness and equity in cities as the world is urbanizing and cities are the place where different cultures, classes and people come to live together, work together and grow together;

5. The role of technology is important for the commons, but technology is a means and not an end. It must enable and support the urban commons, and the ability of people to come together and collaborate in the interest of the community or communities;

6. Collective action for the urban commons should be enabling existing communities, stakeholders, and city inhabitants as much as creating new urban communities, formal and informal groups, movements, traditional stakeholders and social or collective organizations;

7. Urban commons need an “industrial plan” and new economic and/or social institutions to help transition some cities, and some areas within them, away from an old economic model to one that leverages the power of commoning and collaboration to support sustainable, flourishing as well as more inclusive, just and democratic communities;

8. The urban commons governance principle is not self-government, nor decentralization. It is rather distribution of powers among public, social, economic, knowledge and civic actors and therefore it implies a significant investment in the design of new forms of collaboration and partnerships among these actors;

9. Design principles for the urban commons should be written to reflect the design principles created by Elinor Ostrom, but adapting them to the challenges and characteristics of the more political, confrontational, and overregulated space which cities represent. The study of the commons in the city should be the focus of future research beyond the study of the urban commons. More attention should be put on experimentation, institutional diversity, spreading of social norms within urban contexts;

10. There should be safeguards against opportunistic, exploitative, and short-sighted behaviors, as well as escapist flights and utopian or ideological visions, in developing and sustaining the urban commons. A bottom-up, as well as a circular, approach is crucial for the urban commons and confirms Focault’s argument that power is “not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of non egalitarian and mobile relations”.

This is just a tiny part of the huge body of knowledge generated by “The City as Commons” conference thanks to your support and cooperation. We look forward to building new advancements in the study of the urban commons hope that we can continue to partner with you towards this end.


La conferenza “The City as a Commons” ha prodotto un patrimonio di conoscenza che negli anni a venire fungerà sicuramente da fonte di ispirazione per la ricerca e la formazione e dal quale si potrà partire per costruire nuove politiche pubbliche e immaginare nuovi strumenti di coesione sociale e sviluppo economico locale. I materiali per i quali gli autori presteranno il proprio consenso verranno resi gradualmente disponibili alla pagina: Nello specifico, dopo alcune riflessioni svolte a valle della conferenza, abbiamo pensato di distillare “dieci lezioni sui beni comuni urbani”, consapevoli che si tratta solo di una possibile “mappa nautica” in un campo di studi con ancora enormi margini di esplorazione:

1.     per commons (o beni comuni) devono intendersi anche e soprattutto le istituzioni abilitanti l’azione collettiva. Ci sono tipologie diverse di queste istituzioni, alcune esistono da molto tempo (ad es. le associazioni di volontariato, le cooperative), altre stanno emergendo solo adesso. L’innovazione sociale è un fattore importante per il design di alcune tipologie di istituzioni per i beni comuni urbani e per le condizioni che favoriscono il commoning (o collaborazione civica) a livello urbano;

2.     dobbiamo abbracciare la diversità dei beni comuni, delle loro istituzioni e delle pratiche di commoning (o collaborazione civica) e porre molta attenzione quando definiamo i beni comuni: c’è bisogno, quindi di un approfondito lavoro di analisi per comprendere cosa è e cosa non è un bene comune urbano;

3.      oltre alle sue risorse, da gestire con un approccio collaborativo, la città stessa deve essere considerata come un bene comune sia come spazio urbano, che come entità di governo. La governance dei beni comuni può essere un framework adeguato per aggiornare il processo decisionale politico e amministrativo a livello locale;

4.     quello dei commons è un framework emergente che si sta affermando per migliorare l’inclusione e l’uguaglianza nelle città, tenuto conto del fatto che il mondo si sta urbanizzando e le città sono oggi quei luoghi dove culture, classi sociali, persone differenti si insediano per vivere, lavorare e crescere insieme;

5.     il ruolo della tecnologia è importante per i beni comuni, ma la tecnologia è un mezzo e non un fine, il cui compito è abilitare e supportare i beni comuni urbani e la capacità delle persone di collaborare nell’interesse della comunità o, ancora meglio, delle comunità;

6.     l’azione collettiva per i beni comuni urbani dovrebbe essere abilitante tanto per comunità, attori sociali, gruppi formali e informali, abitanti delle città preesistenti, quanto per nuove comunità urbane, nuovi gruppi formali e informali, nuove formazioni sociali e nuovi movimenti e attori e organizzazioni sociali o collettive;

7.     i beni comuni urbani necessitano di un “piano industriale“ e di una nuova istituzione  economica e sociale che aiuti la transizione di alcune città e di alcune aree urbane all’interno di esse da un vecchio modello economico ad un nuovo modello che faccia leva sul potere del commoning e della collaborazione civica per supportare comunità sostenibili, prospere nonché inclusive, eque e democratiche;

8.     il principio generale di design della governance dei beni comuni urbani non è l’auto-governo, nè il decentramento. Il principio generale è piuttosto la distribuzione del potere tra attori pubblici, sociali, economici civici e cognitivi e pertanto implica un investimento significativo nel design di nuove forme di collaborazione e partenariato tra questi attori;

9.     i principi di design per la governance dei beni comuni urbani o dei beni comuni nella città dovrebbero ispirarsi ai principi elaborati da Elinor Ostrom per il governo dei beni collettivi. Essi tuttavia vanno modulati e adattati alle sfide e alle caratteristiche di quello spazio politico, conflittuale e sovra-regolato che le città rappresentano. Lo studio dei beni comuni nella città, più che lo studio dei beni comuni urbani, dovrebbe essere uno dei focus verso i quali indirizzare le ricerche future.  Si dovrebbe porre un’attenzione maggiore alla sperimentazione, alla diversità (o differenziazione) istituzionale, alla diffusione di norme sociali all’interno dei contesti urbani;

10.  nello sviluppo e nel sostegno ai beni comuni urbani dovrebbero essere inserite delle clausole di salvaguardia contro comportamenti opportunistici, strumentali e di breve termine, così come si dovrebbero evitare fughe in avanti e costruzioni utopiche o ideologiche. Un approccio dal basso e circolare è cruciale per i beni comuni urbani e conferma la visione di Michel Foucalt, secondo il quale “il potere non è qualcosa che si acquista, si strappa o si condivide, qualcosa che si conserva o che si lascia sfuggire; il potere si esercita a partire da innumerevoli punti, e nel gioco di relazioni disuguali e mobili.

“Collaborare è Bologna”: the new way to think of the city

“Collaborare è Bologna”: the new way to think of the city

“Collaborare è Bologna” is a project of the City of Bologna, managed with the Bologna Urban Center and various partners to promote a “culture of collaboration” with continuous and consistent community involvement,and to make technologies, resources, spaces, knowledge, skills and information more accessible. In this framework, on 19 May 2014, the Municipality of Bologna approved the “Regulations on the collaboration between citizens and the Administration”, for the treatment and regeneration of the commons. This is an instruction manual for a collaborative dialogue between the public, private and community spheres, a tool that seeks to simplify and promote forms of collaboration in the management of the commons, implementing the principle of subsidiarity provided for by the Constitution in its 118 article.

The project is divided into three sub-projects, designed by listening the citizens and letting them cooperate with associations, institutions, firms and interest groups:

> Fare_insieme: projects for the treatment of public spaces (i.e islands for underground waste collection, new lighting and upgrading of the main public spaces of the center, projects for cleaning the urban spaces, contrasting graphic vandalism, teaching citizens the shared care of open spaces).

> Vivere_insieme: projects with an innovative approach on many issues. Starting from mobility, for a city in which citizens are moving on foot, by bike and on public transport until the creation of projects in areas with specific problems (Pilastro and Bolognina are the interested zones).

> Crescere_insieme: projects in which public places become collaborative spaces and engines of economic development. The project provides a digital network infrastructure in step with Europe, to promote Bologna as a City of Food and renew the relationship between the university and the city.

From October 22 to December 3, 2015 a series of meetings will take place in different neighborhoods and with an online consultation for the citizens to define the priorities of the city.

The path was created in order to strengthen the collaborative ties and develop priorities, to implement the energy of the city and the ability of citizens to collaborate.

The Municipality is organizing six meetings, one for each district to activate a digital platform where citizens, schools, businesses and associations of Bologna will contribute to the emergence of the urban commons and draw a map of the urban regeneration projects and future actions. The aim is to design together a view of the commons to implement the available European funds, with the support of the regional and municipal authorities.

The round tables are organized with the direct participation of the citizens; the focus is on discovering the priorities of citizens and neighborhoods. Which are the places that need special attention?

Each meeting tries to answer to practical questions, and the participation of Neighborhood Presidents and the Mayor is an unique opportunity to present the measures already implemented and funded (relative to the district headquarters of the meeting) with a strong focus on the regeneration projects in progress and current demographic changes.

Each meeting is built on working groups, and for two hours all present citizens can intervene and bring out, area by area, problems and potential solutions.

The project “collaborare è Bologna” is organized by the city of Bologna with the collaboration of the Neighborhoods, Urban Center Bologna, ASP – Company Public Services for the person, IES – School Education Institution and the Institution for Social Inclusion and Community. The official hashtag is #collaborarebologna— search it on Social Media. For more information, write an email to The next meeting’s programme of December 3rd is already online on the website: Change begins with participation, and participation begins with you!


Poolism: sharing economy vs. pooling economy

Sharing economy builds on new or revived social patterns having important business, legal and institutional implications: the social practices of sharing and collaboration. They both build on the well known social practice of co-operation.

Given its innovative and dynamic nature, the concept cannot be ultimately defined. It encompasses however phenomena presenting the following features:

(i) its main agent does not act as the standard economic agent, the homo oeconomicus;

(ii) the sharing economy adopts a platform approach whereby relations, reputation, social trust and other non-economic motives within a community become one of the main drivers;

(iii) on a large scale the sharing economy makes intensive use of digital technologies and data collection. Data becomes primary raw material. Fixed costs are mostly externalised;

(iv) on a smaller, local scale some sharing economy initiatives might be limited to the common use or management of physical assets (e.g. co-working spaces, urban commons, etc.) or to new forms of peer-to-peer, sometimes street or building level, welfare systems.

Many think that the main actor of sharing economy is no longer the “consumer” willing to own something or buy some service, but rather a citizen, commoner, user, maker, producer, creative, designer, co-worker, digital artisan, urban farmer willing to have access to some service or asset that is needed to satisfy some of her needs. However, others argue though that the sharing economy actor is in many instances also someone willing to act and take care of, manage, generate or regenerate a common, open access resource, material or immaterial, without the intermediation of a public or private provider, on a peer-to-peer, person-to-person small scale level. Thus in the sharing economy the actor is not a mere “economic actor”. It could rather be a social or personal or civic actor for whom traditional economic motives are secondary or entirely absent. Some of the SE realms are not necessarily “economies” in the strict sense, but social communities and networks of collaboration that generate new economic ventures or are functional to existing economic activities.

In any case sharing economy seems to question the homo oeconomicus, a self-interested profit or utility maximizing individual, as its main agent[1] and be able to give rise to a new economic identity. An individual not guided by the perpetual quest to maximize its own material interests, an individual unwilling to act alone[2]. It is an archetype of individual who, while not giving up the pursuit of her passions and interests, understands that her individual freedom is nothing if it is not associated with a commitment to the community, if the “acting alone” is not paired with the “acting in common”[3]. Sharing economy main agent might be thus framed more as a “mulier activa”[4]. An individual able to act in the public – social, economic, political – arena and to place herself in relation to others in order to take care of the general, common interest which is the main of the three pillars of a “vita activa”[5]

A distinction between the various forms of sharing economy is however needed. They all use the same social paradigm, the act of sharing, collaborating, cooperating. Yet they are very different from one another. There is room to spell out those forms of sharing economy that perpetuate in some way the same social and economic dynamics of the pre-existing economic model and apply to each of them a different legal regime. The profit/non-profit divide does help in reading sharing economy initiatives, but it is not sufficient to draw the line between different forms of sharing economy. There are forms of profit/non-profit activities in almost each of the sharing economy realms. Also the profit/non-profit criterion is increasingly questioned even by standard economics as new hybrid forms of business arise.

A first distinction could be drawn between “sharing economy in the strict sense” and collaborative forms of sharing economy by framing collaboration and cooperation as added layers of sharing. As a matter of fact a distinction could be made between sharing economy initiatives that create and ossify a distinction between different typologies of users (consumers-users vs. providers-users) and sharing economy initiatives that foster peer-to-peer approach in which every user could be provider and consumer at the same time or even be involved in the platform governance. Even further cooperation could suggest a commons-based approach to sharing economy[6]. If the actors involved do not just share a resource but collaborate to create, produce, regenerate a common resource for the greater public, the community, they are co-operating, they are pooling for the commons.

Two main realms of sharing economy and four forms of sharing economy seem to emerge:

  1. “sharing economy in the strict sense” composed of:
  • “access economy”, for sharing economy initiative whose business model implies that goods and services are traded on the basis of access rather than ownership. It refers to renting things temporarily rather than selling them permanently;
  • “gig economy”, for sharing economy initiatives based on contingent work that is transacted on a digital marketplace;
  1. “pooling economy” composed of:
  • “collaborative economy”, sharing economy initiatives that foster peer-to-peer approach and/or involve users in the design of the productive process or transform clients into a community;
  • “commons-based economy”, “open cooperativism”, “open platform cooperativism” [7] for sharing economy initiatives that are collectively owned or managed, democratically governed, do not extract value out of local economies but anchor jobs, respect human dignity and offer new forms of social security.

Finally, the growth of sharing economy should only partially be considered a revolution and/or a consequence of the crisis[8]. For some aspects it might also represent, thanks to information technologies, the reverse-transformation[9] or the transition[10] of some sectors of the current economic model to long-standing economic traditions and economic models’ (e.g. cooperative economy, social economy, solidarity economy, handicraft production, commons economy etc.) and even to ancient forms of economic exchange (e.g. the bartering economy), which are alternative to capital-intensive forms of market economy.



[1] Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on care for our common home (24 May 2015). See paragraphs 13, 14, 90, 211. See also L. Trotsky, Attention to small things, (1 October 1921).

[2] For an archetype of individual willing to collaborate or “reciprocate” see for instance  the “homo reciprocans” of S. Bowles, H. Gintis, Homo reciprocans, 2002.

[3] A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835.

[4] See C. Iaione, Economics and law of the commons, 2011.

[5] H. Arendt, Vita activa, 1964.

[6] D. Bollier, Think like a commoner: a short introduction to the life of the commons, 2014. S. Foster, Collective action and the Urban Commons, 2011; C. Iaione, The Tragedy of Urban Roads, 2009.

[7] J. Schor, Debating the sharing economy, 2014.

[8] K. Polanyi, The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our time, 1944.

[9] M. Bauwens, A commons transition plan, available at:

[10] See P. Conaty, D. Bollier, Toward an open cooperativism, 2014, available at See also T. Scholz, Platform cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy, available at