EUARENAS: A Luiss and LabGov project received a (new) Horizon2020 funding

EUARENAS: A Luiss and LabGov project received a (new) Horizon2020 funding

Luiss is the recipient of a European funding under the Horizon 2020 program (call H2020-SC6-GOVERNANCE-2018-2019-2020 (GOVERNANCE FOR THE FUTURE), for their project as a partner in “EU.ARENA.S – Cities as Arenas of Political Innovation in the Strengthening of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy”.

The project aims to experiment in different European cities (Reggio Emilia, Gdansk, Budapest and Voru) new forms of participatory governance that will transform cities into real laboratories for European citizenship. A transdisciplinary combination of law, business & policy competences, which is a fundamental component to stimulate the creation of new forms of economic participation and democratization, lies at the heart of the project. The Luiss’ research unit will contribute to different Work Packages and will lead the WP that will be dedicated to the definition of the work methodologies for the pilot projects in the above mentioned four cities, the WP that will create new legal and public policy instruments functional to the pilot projects and the WP dedicated to the measurement of the impact. Furthermore, two of the involved cities (Reggio Emilia and Gdansk) are already actively collaborating in engaged research’ projects in which Luiss LabGov.City is involved in: the “Reggio Emilia Collaboratory”, QUA – Quartiere Bene Comune (Neighborhood as a commons), and the Urbact transfer network “Civic eState”.

Immagine che contiene edificio, esterni, strada, vecchio

Descrizione generata automaticamente
Credits to Comune di Reggio Nell’Emilia, picture of Luca Gilli

Technological and digital tools are widely understood as key assets for sustainable and inclusive urban development. The city of Reggio Emilia (Italy) put in place a policy strategy aimed at developing an inclusive, collaborative, creative city by relying on the enabling features of digital tools and infrastructures. The Tech and the city approach adopted and experimented by the city government in Reggio Emilia builds on the most advanced theories on urban co-governance, the city as a commons, or “co-cities” theory. The City as a Commons approach is based on the cooperation of public, private, knowledge, social and civic actors (the so-called quintuple helix), established and regulated through public-community and public-private-community partnerships agreements enabling sustainable innovations and scientific experimentations in the city. This approach entails a strong focus on the valorization of local know-how and the recognition of community stewardship rights (rights of use, co-management, co-ownership) over urban critical assets and infrastructure, the so-called urban commons. These two elements are considered key ingredients to trigger inclusive urban sustainable development, especially in deprived neighborhoods.

The “neighborhood as a commons” program was the first policy tool forged to implement this approach and initiated in 2015 neighborhood labs as co-design moments that take place in neighborhood social centers to define urban innovation projects with the actors of the neighborhood. The aim is to close at the end of the co-design process citizenships pacts that set terms, conditions, investments to device the sustainable innovation projects. Within the neighborhood as a commons program, Reggio Emilia has used a scientific methodology to put in place a wide variety of community-based urban innovation and experimentation projects both in the historical center and in the more peripheral neighborhoods of the city. The most successful one is the Coviolo Wireless initiative which has successfully developed broadband infrastructures in an underserved neighborhood, extending broadband access to city inhabitants, and providing social and economic development opportunities by turning the neighborhood community centers into hotspots and managers of the digital infrastructure.

Luiss team is coordinated by Christian Iaione (Director of the MSc in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability, LabGov.City co-director and Luiss BILL Executive Director) and Luca Giustiniano (Director of the Master in Global Management and Politics and Luiss Clio Director).

Fernando Christian Iaione
Christian Iaione
Director of the MSc in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability”, co-director of LabGov.City and vice-director of BILL)
Luca Giustiniano
Luca Giustiniano
Director of the MSc in Global Management and Politics and director of the CLIO – Center for research on Leadership, Innovation and Organisation

The team is also composed by Elena De Nictolis (Adjunct Professor and Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, LUISS University, LabGov.city program), Alessandro Piperno (Researcher at Luiss Guido Carli University and LabGov.City), Alessandro Antonelli ( Teaching Assistant at Luiss Guido Carli University). Federica Muzi, Tommaso Dumontel, and Alessandro Ciro Cimmino (students and members of LabGov’s team) collaborating on the project.

EUARENAS: Luiss e LabGov si aggiudicano un (nuovo) finanziamento Horizon2020

Il 21 Gennaio alle ore 10:00 si è tenuto il primo Kick-off meeting di EUARENAS –  Cities as Arenas of Political Innovation in the Strengthening of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy. In Questa giornata sono stati presi in esame gli obbiettivi di EUARENAS per poi analizzare l’obbiettivo di ciascun work package. La giornata si è terminata alle ore 17:00. Il 22 gennaio, sempre alle ore 10:00, è cominciata la seconda giornata del Kick-off meeting. In questa giornata sono stati analizzati gli altri WPS mettendo a fuoco i loro obbiettivi. La giornata si è conclusa alle 17:00, nella parte finale del meeting sono state prese in considerazioni eventuali problematiche e necessità.

Kick-off meeting di EUARENAS

Luiss si è aggiudicata un prestigioso finanziamento europeo nell’ambito del programma UE Horizon 2020 per la ricerca e l’innovazione sulla call H2020-SC6-GOVERNANCE-2018-2019-2020 (GOVERNANCE FOR THE FUTURE) con il progetto “EU-ARENA.S Cities as Arenas of Political Innovation in the Strengthening of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy”.

L’obiettivo del progetto è sperimentare in diverse città europee (Reggio Emilia, Danzica, Budapest e Voru) nuove forme di partecipazione democratica che possano trasformare le città in veri e propri laboratori di cittadinanza europea. L’approccio del progetto si basa sulla combinazione di competenze law, business & policy necessarie per stimolare e combinare la nascita di forme di partecipazione democratica e democrazia economica.

L’unità di ricerca Luiss contribuirà in diversi Work Packages e sarà leader del work package che definirà le metodologie di lavoro dei progetti pilota nelle quattro città, di quello deputato a forgiare nuovi strumenti giuridici e di politica pubblica serventi rispetto a questi progetti pilota e, infine, di quello dedicato alla misurazione dell’impatto. In aggiunta, due delle città coinvolte, Reggio Emilia e Danzica, sono città che già collaborano attivamente con progetti di ricerca nei quali il team Luiss LabGov.City è coinvolto, quali “Collaboratorio Reggio Emilia” e QUA- Quartiere Bene Comune a Reggio Emilia e il transfer network Urbact “Civic eState” nel caso di Danzica.

Gli strumenti digitali sono considerati degli elementi fondamentali per uno sviluppo urbano sostenibile ed inclusivo. La città di Reggio Emilia ha avviato una strategia che mira alla sviluppo di una città inclusiva, solidale e creativa tramite strumenti ed infrastrutture digitali. L’approccio “Tech and the City” è fondato sulle teorie più avanzate di co-governance, in particolare sul modello delle co-città elaborato da LabGov.City che vede le città come beni comuni. Questo approccio vede la collaborazione di attori pubblici, privati, della conoscenza, e civici (organizzati e non) come un requisito fondamentale per la gestione delle risorse urbane. Questo tipo di collaborazione è definito modello della quintupla elica. Tale approccio, inoltre, si concentra sulla valorizzazione del know how locale e sul riconoscimento delle comunità come beneficiari e gestori chiave delle risorse urbane.

Il programma “neighbourhood as a commons” è stato il primo strumento di policy per mettere in pratica l’approccio delle co-città. L’obbiettivo è quello di elaborare dei veri e propri patti cittadini con l’obbiettivo di creare strumenti di policy, legali ed economici al fine di dar vita a progetti che siano al contempo sostenibili ed innovativi. Uno dei progetti più importanti da menzionare è “Coviolo Wireless initiative” che ha portato alla creazione di un’infrastruttura per la band larga in un quartiere svantaggiato garantendo una connessione internet ai cittadini ed inoltre ha fornito opportunità di sviluppo tramite la gestione diretta dei cittadini di tale infrastruttura.

Il team Luiss è coordinato da Christian Iaione (Direttore del Corso di Laurea Magistrale Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability”, co-direttore di LabGov.City e vicedirettore di BILL) e Luca Giustiniano (direttore del Corso di Laurea Magistrale in Global Management and Politics e direttore del CLIO – Center for research on Leadership, Innovation and Organisation),

Il team di ricerca sarà composto da: Elena De Nictolis (professoressa associata e ricercatrice post-dottorato presso il dipartimento di scienze politiche all’università Luiss Giudo Carli), Alessandro Piperno (ricercatore presso l’università Luiss Guido Carli e LabGov.City), Alessandro Antonelli (teaching assistant presso l’università Luiss Guido Carli). Collaboreranno sul progetto Federica Muzi, Tommaso Dumontel e Alessandro Ciro Cimmino (membri del team di LabGov).

Hydrogen: The Internet of Energy

Hydrogen: The Internet of Energy

Introduction

The “internet of energy”. This is the definition given for hydrogen by Marco Alverà the CEO of SNAM, an Italian energy infrastructure company. But what is the reason for this comparison?

This article seeks to explore the reasons behind such peculiar assimilation while analyzing the potentials of this groundbreaking option for the implementation of an efficient carbon-neutral energy mix.

In its plan to reach climate neutrality in 2050, the EU Commission has identified hydrogen as a priority area especially for what attains to a clean and circular economy. This is why both Next Generation EU and the European Green Deal strongly rely on energy system integration and hydrogen to implement strategies for a cleaner planet and a stronger economy. [1]

Hydrogen’s applications are plenty, but, before going deeper into detail on its future use and applications, considering how such an element is produced and works is useful to understand why it represents the internet of energy.

A very colorful element

Green, blue, brown, grey, pink and yellow. No, these are not the colors of the rainbow but the different types of existing hydrogen. Describing the most abundant chemical in the universe is not easy. I could start by considering its atomic weight, for example, but, for the sake of this discussion, it is fundamental to underline what the role of this element is in the energy sector.

First things first, hydrogen is not an energy source but a carrier. Hence, this means that it needs a primary source of energy to be produced such as solar, electricity, hydro, nuclear power, or gas.[2]

Starting from the basics, hydrogen can be created by decomposing water molecules thanks to the use of electricity. This process is called electrolysis. Based on the type of electricity used in such process, hydrogen can be green when the energy source used for the electrolysis comes from renewables, blue when hydrogen is extracted from natural gas and from other fossil fuels. When blue hydrogen is produced, though, it emits CO2, which is then captured and stored to mitigate the impacts on the environment. Differently from blue hydrogen, grey hydrogen is produced in the same way, but CO2 is released into the atmosphere and not captured.[3]

There are over forty ways of producing hydrogen but, as you can see, not all alternatives represent environmentally friendly solutions. Nowadays, hydrogen is nearly exclusively produced by using fossil fuels. As a matter of fact, according to data from Wood Mackenzie, 71% of the entire hydrogen produced is grey whilst the remaining part is mostly made up of brown hydrogen, which means it is produced by coal. Thus, it is clear that currently, if hydrogen is produced as it is, it cannot become the pivotal element the EU is counting on in reaching climate neutrality. Then, how is it possible that this simple element is destined to become the enabler of a zero-emission society?

The role of hydrogen in a zero-emission society

When thinking of a zero-emissions society, probably the first image that drops into our mind involves houses with solar panels and fields with wind turbines in the distance. This is definitely not a distant fantasy, but solar panels and wind turbines alone will not be sufficient in creating a carbon-neutral scenario. As a matter of fact, electric energy alone is not able to decarbonize industries that rely on a great amount of energy neither is it suitable for airplanes, ships, or, in some cases, cars. These are the so-called “hard to abate sectors” meaning that cutting emissions for these sectors is particularly challenging. Another issue is given by the fact that the cost of green energy is still higher than non-renewable resources as it is difficult to transport such energy from where it is produced to where it is needed for consumption. This is where hydrogen kicks in.

In order to cut down a great part of the costs for the green energy transportation system, hydrogen can be produced by using green electricity surplus (green hydrogen, remember?) and then redistributed where needed. This is why many recent EU projects involve a strong connection and partnership between the European continent and Africa. To give an idea, if only 0,8% of the Sahara desert’s surface was to be covered by solar panels, the energy produced would be able to entirely satisfy Europe’s demand for energy.[4] Transportation of such energy, though, could only be made possible thanks to hydrogen. Furthermore, as mentioned before, some sectors, such as aviation, cannot rely simply on solar power. Such power can be exploited in airplanes by using hydrogen-powered fuel cells. 

Why the “internet of energy”?

After briefly considering the potentials of this extraordinary element, let’s see why Mr. Alverà sees hydrogen as the internet of energy. At the very beginning of this article, it has been underlined how hydrogen should not be considered as an energy source per se, but as a way to carry and store energy. Hence it is wrong to consider hydrogen as a technology, but it is actually a way to enable existing technologies.

Thanks to such peculiarity, hydrogen is able to connect all sectors of the economy and society while stimulating competition and innovation among sectors and geographical areas. Hence hydrogen will make energy more convenient, available and plentiful for a constantly growing world population and will represent the protagonist of a carbon-neutral revolution just like the internet did by revolutionizing the way information is shared.


[1] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1259

[2] https://www.petrofac.com/en-gb/media/our-stories/the-difference-between-green-hydrogen-and-blue-hydrogen/

[3] https://www.petrofac.com/en-gb/media/our-stories/the-difference-between-green-hydrogen-and-blue-hydrogen/

[4] https://media.africaportal.org/documents/Backgrounder_No._4.pdf

Building urban commons through action research

Building urban commons through action research

Explaining the research method we used for the Plein ’40-’45 case in Amsterdam

Co-creation session

Since late 2018 AUAS researchers of Urban Governance and Social Innovation are involved in the development of the Zero Waste Lab of the street market on Plein ’40-’45 in Amsterdam Nieuw West. The aim of the Zero Waste Lab is to establish better management of the market and the square, with the reducing of plastic packaging material and litter and the development of a circular waste management system. Our activities as researchers are targeted at supporting the involved stakeholders in their ambition to solve these challenges through cooperation, leading to the collective management that is urban commons. Because action research is an important ingredient of our approach and because we think that this method can contribute to the realization of the cooperation that is needed in cities today, we wrote down our experiences in a chapter for the book Seeing the City of Nanke Verloo and Luca Bertolini.

Unlike more conventional forms of research, action researchers actively participate in the practices they study. Participation not only results in a better and deeper understanding, but action researchers also aim to contribute to change. For instance, action researchers investigate situations where practices are stuck or search for the knowledge that is lacking amongst stakeholders. By directly sharing their results with the people they work with, they enrich these practices and further development. In the case of the Zero Waste Lab we, for example, analyzed the interpersonal relations between different stakeholders to find that there was a lack of collectivity amongst stallholders and that their relationship with the municipality was rather problematic or even conflictual. We, therefore, applied forms of community building and mediation.

Building a collective on the market

In particular action research attempts to contribute to fundamental and systemic change. This means that we have a special eye for the context in which specific problems occur. We investigate to what extent these issues are related to, for example, patterns of thought people have adopted, values people adhere to, the culture they have been brought up in, institutional structures and processes they are part of, or overarching provisions and regulation. We then team up with involved stakeholders to help them reflect on their own behavior and that of others. And we work on reflexivity, i.e. creating an understanding of how thoughts and behavior are shaped and oriented by this systemic context. The insights arrived at through reflexivity are then the starting point to explore the possibilities for systemic innovation and, possibly, realizing this transition step by step. In the case of the Zero Waste Lab we have found that, amongst other things, central policies are frustrating the process of self-organization, such as standardized levies for waste disposal. Possibilities to implement variable levies following the ‘polluter pays principle’ would allow local stakeholders to develop an own waste disposal system that stimulates reduction, but moreover, it highlights important questions concerning the relationship between a central government and local governance arrangements around places and practices in the city. The goal is to develop governance that allows local stakeholders to develop practices fitting the local context of users and other circumstances in a collaborative and constructive relationship with overarching institutions, for example through acknowledging the principle of equality, striving for inclusivity, and taking into account the conflicting interests of others and by coordinating logistic and organizational elements with other practices.

Visit of Professor Christian Iaione

Our action research method elaborates on the conclusion of Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione in ‘The City as a Commons’ that urban commons require collaborative governance. The method aims to develop and enhance such governance arrangements and is shored by a conceptual model that can be used to analyze and value practices in terms of collaborative governance used for the collective management of common resources by the community of stakeholders. Collaborative governance is a dynamic and ongoing process of interaction between different stakeholders to come to policy choices. Policy thereby becomes a fluid phenomenon, the flexibility and adaptivity of which suit the complexity and contingency of the urban reality. Precisely because action research is relating to the continuous development and change within the practices it investigates and because it holds an interactive and iterative working method, it is an outstanding method to be used for policy analysis within settings of collaborative governance. Thereby it is also a valuable instrument for researchers and practitioners who are committed to realizing urban commons.

The book chapter elaborates on the activities action researchers perform in their work and the attitudes and routines they need to adhere to. It also gives insight into the role and function of a conceptual model for action researchers and how systemic is strived after, illustrated by examples of the Zero Waste Lab case. Nanke Verloo’s and Luca Bertolini’s book Seeing the City offers a rich collection of innovative research methods that have been particularly developed for use with the urban context. Our research is part of the Future Proof Equilibrium project that is supported by SIA-RAAK. It is also part of the Interreg Europe ABCitiEs programma.

How green spaces can influence employees’ productivity and happiness

How green spaces can influence employees’ productivity and happiness

Abstract

When entering the job market, most people will find themselves in an indoor workplace. Indeed, we spend 90% of our lives indoors, in buildings with air quality that is, on average, five times worse than the air quality that can be found outdoors. According to the UN Urbanizations Prospects, 55% of the world population lived in cities in 2018. This makes one’s life easily disconnected from nature. Such disconnection has a heavy impact on wellbeing even though people are not completely aware of it. Yet, one does not necessarily have to escape from their city life to regenerate their soul with the help of nature: vertical farming technologies, IoT and biophilic design can bring nature directly into the workplace and thus improve productivity, as well as personal and professional satisfaction. It is still rare to think about employees’ well-being as something important to reach greater success for firms and businesses, which is why this article will explore the link between company performances and the environment that can be found in workplaces.

Introduction

Employers and business managers are starting to acknowledge and embrace the importance of wellness at work and the economic benefits of working in a place that is somehow more connected to nature. The growth of such a connection can not only help create a greener future for businesses but also have a positive outcome on people’s wellness. When talking about their wellness, 76% of employees report a struggle with wellbeing. After entering the job market, people pass half of their waking hours at work. As a consequence, the office space is often perceived as being the biggest source of stress in a person’s life, thus impacting their health and lastly the business financials. When organizing their human resources, many firms do not take into consideration their employee’s wellbeing, even though they are connected to 90% of their expenses. On the other hand, many studies have shown that improvements in staff’s physical and mental health have a positive financial impact. In economic terms, the loss brought by an unhealthy employee is roughly €25K per year and on average there is a rise of 37% in the costs for an unhealthy workforce. On the other hand, the loss for an overall healthy employee is only of €5K per year. Healthy employees have more energy, can get more work done in less time and are more likely to be engaged and in a good mood when they are at work.

Methods

The theory of biophilia, created by Edward O. Wilson, demonstrates that human beings possess a biological need of being connected to nature from a physical, mental and social perspective. When people lose such a connection, then their personal well-being, their capacity to socially interact with others and thus also their job performance are all negatively impacted. Still, people are not aware of identifying these negative consequences straight away.
Over the last few years, different case studies have demonstrated the advantages of incorporating nature into the work environment through biophilic design, including improved stress recovery rates, cognitive functions, mental health and focus, better mood, and an increased sense of belonging along with higher learning rates and bigger productivity.
These metrics can be easily linked with monetary values and thus can be translated into cost savings for every business. As previously stated, 90% of businesses’ expenses are linked to human resources: biophilia and biophilic design can recover the losses from unproductive behavior, which comes from the workplace, and also eliminate health-related issues which undermine the total profit per year of a business or firm.

Results

Hence, studies show that when employees are happy, there is an increase in the company’s overall productivity by 31%; the increase in sales is by 37% and the capacity to achieve goals goes up by 19%. The presence of plants and edible nature improves self-reported wellness by 15%, productivity by 6%, and creativity by 15%. Lastly, absenteeism goes down by 10%, thus biophilic design stimulates workers to show up at work and allows businesses to save up to €1.8M every year.
The presence of natural elements increases wellbeing by stimulating each of the five human sense, reducing stress levels, blood pressure and Sick Building Syndrome symptoms, the latter being a disease, where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or become infected with chronic disease from the building in which they work or reside.

Best practices – Italian and international companies investing in corporate gardens

Timberland Headquarters, New Hampshire

source: Timberland website

Timberland created Victory garden; a 112 square meters garden run by its employees. The garden is operating since 2008. The employees are welcome to purchase the fresh produce in exchange of a donation. All Victory Garden donations support the NH Foodbank, a food bank that distributes food to more than 425 non-profit organizations throughout the state.

Unicredit Tower, Milan

Since 2014, there are two vegetable gardens located on the terraces of the two towers. Here, the bank’s 50 employees who have joined the ‘Coltiva il tuo spazio’ initiative can cultivate a small plot of land and follow it throughout its entire life cycle, from sowing to harvesting. Everyone can grow what they want managing their space in total autonomy and can go to the garden at any time of the day.

Bottega Veneta Eco-Food garden, Milan

Source: La Repubblica

In 2014, the company created a green area of 2,400 square meters designed to offer employees a relaxation space in contact with nature and at the same time to supply the house company restaurant with fresh products at zero kilometer.

Google Super HQ Central Saint Giles, London

In London, the Giant created a garden on the 9th floor of a building designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Staff can sign in on the waiting list to grow their own vegetables. Once they are in, they can nurture root vegetables and herbs in small tubes made from responsibly-sourced timber and cook them at home

Conclusion

It has been demonstrated that a healthier workplace, in terms of the presence of natural elements, brings many evident benefits

That is why a start-up, called Hexagram Urban Farming SRL, was founded in Milan in 2017 by a team of professionals coming from different work fields, such as engineering, agronomy, design, marketing, project management and gastronomy with an innovative idea: the Living Farming Tree.
This team designed and developed the Living Farming Tree: an automated vertical garden characterized by a stylish biophilic design, which was made in Italy, that can be adapted and customized to any interior. Their system allows medicinal plants and aromatic herbs to grow three times faster and reduces water consumption by 90% thanks to aeroponics, which is the most advanced and sustainable indoor farming technique in the market.
Thanks to the combination of IoT technology and indoor farming, their products offer a holistic experience to interact with the natural world. All of this is possible even if a person is hardly a green thumb type of individual.

This article has been written by the students of the Luiss new Msc in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability in the context of the class of Law and Policy of Innovation and Sustainability taught by Professor Christian Iaione. The cluster “Life and Human Kind” is composed of the following students: Julie Bernès, Chiara Cirucca, Julianne Heusch, Mothas Anwar Modier, Lorenzo Murgo, Desideria Pezzella and Francesco Trombetta

Bibliography

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Fata A. “La felicità sul posto di lavoro? Contano le relazioni umane, benefit e salari più alti non bastano”, 2018 accessible at : https://www.linkiesta.it/2018/09/la-felicita-sul-posto-di-lavoro-contano-le-relazioni-umane-benefit-e-s/
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The Economics of Biophilia: Introduction, 2018 accessible at: https://prismpub.com/introduction-economics-biophilia/
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HUMAN SPACES REPORT: Biophilic Design in the Workplace, 2015 accessible at: https://greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Human-Spaces-Report-Biophilic-Global_Impact_Biophilic_Design.pdf
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Treedom “l’Italia e gli orti aziendali: un colpo di fulmine”, 2016 accessible at: https://www.treedom.net/fr/blog/post/l-italia-e-gli-orti-aziendali-un-colpo-di-fulmine-1690/
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Urban heterogeneity of Covid-19 in Rome: is it really a ‘great equalizer’ between core and periphery?

Urban heterogeneity of Covid-19 in Rome: is it really a ‘great equalizer’ between core and periphery?

Truth is, no one could have ever imagined living in such an unamenable historical moment. And yet, in this unprecedented historical moment, our crusade for normalcy must be akin to something outstanding.
As the global pervasiveness of the Coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage economies across the world, one popular perception that has sustained is that the virus doesn’t discriminate. As rich and poor are equally vulnerable to this contagion, within urban landscapes core and periphery stand the equation as well. Hence, an egalitarian perspective would most probably denote it as a double-edged sword as well as a mixed blessing. In like manner, I admit having particularly noticed this oddness in my own city landscape, Rome.

A swift gaze at the current state of affairs helped me to formulate this research’s heuristics: we will try to infer whether there is a presumed homogeneity in destinies or otherwise a broadening gap between rich core neighborhoods and poorer and less-equipped peripheries in the city of Rome; data retrieval will be almost entirely satisfied by the national statistics released on a daily basis.

Source: The Economist


The idea of city space has become a quite redundant one throughout historical narratives. We are used to considering cities as ageless and primordial entities, antecedent to human beings. This statement is, obviously enough, false. “Before the city, there was a land” (Cronon,1991).
Cities are not structures, cities are people, or better, they are the people who live them. This is why their destinies are so dissimilar one from the other. And yet, the current health crisis has radically altered the picture without discrimination.  Normally chaotic and busy, with its roads characterized by the screeching rumble of cars, buses, or motorcycles, in the latest Spring also the city of Rome appeared suspended in a limbo between the Dark Ages and a sci-fi future. A disheartening scenario that is most likely repeating itself. Nonetheless, when we talk about destinies, the partitioning of goods and bads is ofttimes neither equal nor fair. The temporary curtailment of liberty and the impact of generalized lockdowns surely varies significantly across sectors, skills, and economic strata in an unequal world.
Evidently, statistics do not constitute an index for human suffering, but still, they can give us instruments to enrich and refine our inferences.
During last Spring, a densely populated city as Rome seemed surprisingly blessed from the massive and brutal spread of the virus; markedly, a more fortuitous destiny than the one reserved for cities of Northern Italy. However, such a narrative reflects how things can change quite rapidly too.

According to data updated to the 21st October, at the summit of the top five of the districts at risk of contagion within the Great Ring Road is Primavalle. Here, the number of positives reaches 253. They follow in order: Centocelle (249), Trieste (226), Torpignattara (220), Val Melaina (219). For Primavalle a significant increase with 62 cases more than last week. The increase in the other four zones, at the top of the negative classification of the virus spread, is definitely more contained: in Centocelle +38 positive cases; in Trieste +43; in Torpignattara +30; in Val Melaina +40. But it is just outside the Gra that there is a greater incidence with Torre Angela at the top of the ranking and conquers the black jersey at a galloping pace of 320 total cases, and an increase, compared to last week, of 54 positive cases. Hence, if we frequently tend to describe a quite heterogeneous and scattered trend among outlying areas and city center/rich areas, these cold figures seem to describe a virus running in the periphery and slowing down more in the center.

A glimpse of daily contagions by districts (table listed by neighborhoods, total inhabitants, total contagions, and contagion trends)
source: La Repubblica

The virus has been de facto a great equalizer in its incipient semester and still is in terms of absolute risks of local community spread. Ergo, we need to question what is changing the ongoing trend.

A major factor of incidence is represented by the plight of public transports in Rome. Even in an ex-ante Covid-19 scenario, Rome’s public transportation system has always been deemed to be poorly organized and overtly under-equipped to sustain the phrenic rhythm of the city and its inhabitants. The scarcity of buses and personnel has unceasingly led to ramshackle overcrowding of passengers which obviously nullifies personal space and mutual distance. To couple with the aforesaid quandary, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Italian Government set a general rule for establishing a maximum accepted capacity of buses (80% of its full capacity, ndr), a rule which has nonetheless been almost entirely ignored.

Evident congestion in public transports in Rome, August 2020
source: Il Messaggero

The idea then is that peripheries are not only poorly connected but also its residents may find no other valuable alternatives to reach their workplaces. Hence, forced travel on public transport, the harshness of living and working conditions, the complexity of social relations, and the radical changes in lifestyles, all contribute to tip the balance in this regard.
Even so, somehow, the virus increases inequalities. A fact that also springs to mind when looking at the incidence of contagion compared to the resident population. And with a trend that, broadly speaking, maintains the gap. 

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