“Laboratorio Aperto”: an open call in Reggio Emilia

“Laboratorio Aperto”: an open call in Reggio Emilia

The Municipality of Reggio Emilia promotes a call for proposals for the “Open Laboratory“, dedicated to socio-economic development and innovation of the territories.

The laboratory is addressed to economic operators: through a public call presented on January 31 and accessible until March 2, 2018; it is aimed at identifying an entity managing – by October 2018 – that will take care of the start, development and management of the Laboratory, designed on the model of the European “living labs” . The actions will deal with social and technological innovation of the territory, and foresee the creation of new business and administration services able to respond to the needs of the area, fostering welfare, culture, education, and digital inclusion. In this regard, it will be a pole for both creation and dissamination of knowledge, involving citizens, enhancing talents, exchanging information and developing critical thinking, in order to improve the competitiveness, as well as the attractiveness of the territory within national and international scenarios. The start of the Laboratory is scheduled for January 2019.

The Open Laboratory is a public-private company, financed by European funds Por – Fesr, the program outlined by the Emilia Romagna Region and supported by the European Union for economic growth and the attractiveness of the territories (Por Fesr Emilia Romagna 2014_2020 – Asse 6 “Città Attrattive e Partecipate”).

The Laboratory is the result of a participatory planning put in place through the Collaboratorio Reggio, promoted by the Municipality and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. LabGov played an important role for technical support, along with Kilowatt. It “will allow Reggio Emilia to revive its policies and determine the attraction of intelligence and the success of urban development processes, without generating new urban inequalities, indeed helping to reduce them “. In October 2018, the manager individual identified at the end of the selection procedure will be determined, based on the operating proposal deemed most appropriate.

The public call is accessible here

The CO-Cities Series: #2 Reggio Emilia

The CO-Cities Series: #2 Reggio Emilia


The city of Reggio nell’Emilia (better known as Reggio Emilia), located in the hearth of Emilia Romagna, counts a population of 172.000 inhabitants. 27.000 of them are involved in activities promoting social cohesion.

These numbers, which highlight the existence of a strong social capital, help us understand the peculiarity of the approach adopted by the city administration. According to Valeria Montanari, Councilor for innovation, administrative simplification, participation and care of the neighborhoods, this peculiarity lies in the idea of “the city as an infrastructure that is made available to people”[1]In line with this view, the administration guided by Major Luca Vecchi, elected in 2014, has been promoting citizens’ participation in policy making, allowing for “the co-design not only of the actions, but also of the objectives that the city wants to pursue”[2].

The choice to adopt a governance paradigm based on participation and collaboration implies the willingness to challenge and to change the traditional role of the public administration and its relationship with citizens. A process of institutional and bureaucratic innovation is being developed by the administration, which rather than simply providing services to their citizens aims at becoming an enabler for participatory paths and practices, bringing citizens at the center of the decision-making process.  As explained by Nicoletta Levi[3], who is in charge of the service Policies for Responsible Protagonism and Smart City, what is being done in Reggio Emilia is strongly experimental, and this requires the administration to continuously stop to understand in which direction they are going. Collaboration might create a strong tension between the rigidity and division that characterize the public administration functioning and the strong flexibility and interconnectedness typical of the reality we live in. To be able to create a dialogue with the civil society the public administration should undergo a transformation and should learn how to work horizontally and be more flexible.

Being aware of this framework allows us to fully understand the innovative processes activated by the city in the last years.


The QUA Program – (Neighborhood as a Commons)

The city of Reggio Emilia has been directly affected by a law that entered into force in March 2010, which prevents cities with less than 250.000 inhabitants to organize their territory into districts (circoscrizioni in Italian). Rather than being an obstacle, this law became an occasion for the city Reggio Emilia to think of new forms of decentralization and city management and to focus on the needs of its citizens. What is particularly interesting about the approach adopted by the city of Reggio Emilia is the choice to work at neighborhood level and to adopt neighborhoods as the unit of measure.


During a visit to the community gardens managed by the cultural center L’Orologio

This is evident when we look at the project QUA (neighborhood as commons) which aims not only at strengthening citizens’ participation, but also at giving citizens a protagonist role, both as single individuals and as associations and informal networks. In December 2015 the City Council of Reggio Emilia approved the Regulation for citizenship labs (full text in Italian is available here). The Regulation establishes collaboration, stimulated and supported through participatory paths, as a crucial feature in the relationship between citizens and the local administration for the care of the city and of the community itself.

As explained on the official website of the city, this document is freely inspired to the Bologna Regulation, but it has a strong territorial connotation as it is adapted to the peculiarity of the local community and environment. Therefore, it underlines how neighborhoods should be understood as commons, meaning with this as fields where associations, informal networks, citizens and administration can connect and can develop together a new idea of participation and active citizenship.

The city has been divided into 19 neighborhoods, or territorial areas (ambiti territoriali), which are being the theater for the establishment of Citizenship Laboratories and Citizenship Agreements, that are being developed and coordinated by the new figure of the Neighborhood Architect.

The Regulation sets a procedural path, made of 9 phases, to be followed by the Laboratories. The Architect plays a fundamental role in the whole process as he is, using the words of Nicoletta Levi[4], an “activator of social resources and a mediator between center and periphery and between public and private”.

The project has been met with great interest by citizens, and the participation has been high. By December 2016, 9 agreements had already been signed, 896 people had taken part in the participatory paths and 64 projects had been defined. Between these projects we find really different experiences, ranging from the creation of a book-crossing network involving local libraries, community centers and citizens, who imagined and produced structures to be placed in public spaces that allow for the book exchange, to the development of Participation Houses (an example here), places located in the neighborhood that can facilitate interaction and dialogue between a variety of local actors. Furthermore, these projects also include the creation and management of urban gardens (one example are the gardens managed by the cultural space L’orologio) and the development of Wifi communities, like the one that has been put in place in Villa Coviolo, an area located at the South-West of the city .


CO-Reggio Emilia and the path of #CollaboratorioRe

The S.Peter Cloister, object of the #CollaboratorioRe co-design path

The commitment of the Municipality towards participation and collaboration in decision making processes and in city making is at the bases of the CO-Reggio Emilia [5] project, that was promoted by the local administration in collaboration with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and with the scientific, strategical and organizational support of LabGov and Kilowatt.

The process began with the activation of the participatory path of #CollaboratorioRe, which brought together citizens, associations, private actors, cognitive institutions and members of the local administration (as envisaged by the quintuple helix[6] approach of urban co-goverance) and allowed them to collaboratively shape the future of the “Chiostri di San Pietro” area, a urban commons holding a particular relevance for the city and for its inhabitants.

As explained by Valeria Montanari “#CollaboratorioRe aimed at creating the first incubator of sharing and pooling economy of Reggio Emilia, a new urban actor that will revolutionize the way we think about the city and will emphasize the role that civic collaboration should play in the care and management of the urban commons”.

What makes the experience of #CollaboratorioRe particularly relevant is that while working on the regeneration of a physical space and on the creation of this new urban actor, the city is also activating a broader reflection on the idea of knowledge and culture as commons[7] by working on the relationship between technology and culture and by attempting to reduce technological inequality through education and informal exchange of information.


The experience of Reggio Emilia shows us that when institutions are willing to accept the challenge and to transform themselves, a paradigm change is really possible. By adopting a view of the city as an infrastructure that is made available to people, institutions and citizens are able to come together and collectively design the future of their neighborhoods, of the urban commons and of the city itself.

This article is part of the CO-Cities Series



[1] As explained by Valeria Montanari in a short interview with LabGov.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Nicoletta Levi presented the experience of Reggio Emilia and of the project QUA – Quartiere Bene Comune in occasion of  the CO-city project presentation in Turin,on March the 31st 2017.

[4] Ibid.

[5] A complete overview of the CO-Reggio Emilia project and of the #CollaboratorioRe experience is available here (in Italian).

[6] The quintuple helix approach is explained in C. IAIONE, E. DE NICTOLIS, La quintupla elica come approccio alla governance dell’innovazione sociale, Brodolini Foundation, 2016. The document is available at this link: https://www.labgov.it/2017/01/25/la-quintupla-elica-come-approccio-alla-governance-dellinnovazione-sociale/

[7] Y. BENKLER, Commons and growth: the essential role of open commons in market economies, The University of Chicago Law Review, 2013, and  C. HESS, E. OSTROM, Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, from theory to practice, The MIT Press, 2007


Reggio Emilia è una città caratterizzata da un grande capitale sociale: su 172 mila abitanti, 27 mila sono impegnati in attività di coesione sociale. Questi numeri ci aiutano a capire la particolarità dell’approccio adottato dell’amministrazione locale che, come ci spiega Valeria Montanari, Assessora ad Agenda digitale, partecipazione e cura dei quartieri, è legata all’idea della città come infrastruttura a disposizione delle persone.


A 2-days event in Reggio Emilia to discuss “Social innovation, commons, collaboration models”

A 2-days event in Reggio Emilia to discuss “Social innovation, commons, collaboration models”

On Tuesday the 15th and Wednesday the 16th of March 2017, the city of Reggio Emilia will host the 2-days conference “Social innovation, commons, collaboration models. Cities and local communities development”.

The event will bring together experts, policy makers, social innovators and citizens, and will be a valuable occasion to reflect on the transformations that contemporary cities are undergoing and on the challenges they are facing. Furthermore, it will be a moment to discover and analyze the numerous practices and experimentations which are being developed by Italian cities, which are trying to provide an answer to the complex and overlapping issues experienced in the urban environment. Cities are being transformed thanks to social, economic and cultural initiatives, which are activated by a variety of urban actors, from institutions to private actors, universities and members of the civil society (associations and citizens). These actors are collaborating and finding new ways to work together in different sectors of urban policies, creating in this way a community of urban innovators.

During the conference, taking as a starting point the experiences of Collaboratorio Reggio and QUA (Quartiere bene comune), activated by the Administration of Reggio Emilia, different topics connected to social innovation, collaboration and urban development will be discussed.

The conference will begin on the 14th of March at 11am with a discussion about the role of social innovation in the national Urban Agenda, which is being promoted by ANCI.

In the afternoon of the same day the discussion will turn to analyze the topic of “collaborative cities and local development” and the experience of Collaboratorio Reggio (a co-design path through which the identity and functions of a new urban actor, the Open Laboratory, were collectively imagined – more information on the path are available here) will be compared and connected to experiences developed all over the country.

The Collaboratorio Reggio path will be illustrated and analyzed thanks to the contribution of Valeria Montanari (Council Member for Digital Agenda, Participation and Care of the Neighborhoods), Massimo Magnani (Director of the Competitiveness and Social Innovation Area), Fabrizio Montanari ( Professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia) and Christian Iaione (LabGov coordinator and Public Law Professor at UNI Marconi and LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome). Other experiences developed in different parts of the country will also be presented: from the case of CAOS in Terni, to that of “La città zero gare” in Brescia, from the development of the Urban Center of Siracusa to the social innovation experimentations activated in the field of education in Milan.

The morning of the second day will be dedicated to the topic of Open Urban Laboratories, which are being financed by the POR FESR Emilia Romagna with the aim of fostering innovation and participation as key components of a transformation process aiming at the creation of sustainable, smart and inclusive cities.

Afterwards, through a roundtable which will see the participation of, among the others, both Christian Iaione and Sheila Foster (LabGov co-founders), it will be possible to analyze the fundamental role of collaboration and social innovation in cities and community development, and in the improvement of citizens’ life.

The complete program of the event is available at the end of this article (in Italian).


Martedì 14 e mercoledì 15 marzo 2017, presso il Centro Internazionale Loris Malaguzzi di Reggio Emilia si terrà il convegno “Innovazione sociale, beni comuni, modelli di collaborazione. La città e lo sviluppo delle comunità locali”. 

Le pressioni che i sistemi urbani subiscono in ragione dei processi di mutamento demografico, climatico, economico impongono alle città di dare risposta a sfide vecchie e nuove. Le città italiane non si sono fatte trovare impreparate, e hanno messo in campo una pluralità di pratiche e sperimentazioni all’insegna della collaborazione e riguardanti i diversi settori delle politiche urbane, attivando così una community dell’innovazione urbana.

Al protagonismo delle istituzioni si è accompagnato un crescente protagonismo delle comunità nella tutela dei beni comuni urbani. Le città sempre più si vanno trasformando grazie a iniziative sociali, economiche, culturali che nascono e sopravvivono tramite l’attivazione di nuove reti e relazioni. A partire dai progetti Collaboratorio Reggio e QUA – Quartiere bene comune, realizzati dal Comune di Reggio Emilia, parleremo con esperti della sfida dell’Agenda Urbana legata ai temi dell’innovazione.

Ecco il programma dell’evento, disponibile anche qui.

#CollaboratorioRe: a path to co-design a new space and a new urban actor

#CollaboratorioRe: a path to co-design a new space and a new urban actor

CO-Reggio Emilia is a process promoted by the municipality of Reggio Emilia in collaboration with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and with the scientific, strategical and organizational support of LabGov (LABoratorio per la GOVernance dei beni comuni) and Kilowatt.

The first phase of the project is centered upon the creation of a collaboratory, #CollaboratorioRe, a path that will lead to the creation of the Open Laboratory (Laboratorio Aperto) of Reggio Emilia. November the 8th and Wednesday the 9th of 2016 the partecipants will come together to engage for the last two co-design sessions, with the aim of assessing the proposals that emerged during the first phase and of drawing the path that will be followed in the phases to come. Those sessions are the closure of a 3 months process, with four workshops and a public launch event.



Valeria Montanari, Councillor for innovation, administrative simplification, participation and care of the neighborhoods of Reggio Emilia, defines the collaboratory as the new “incubator” for the sharing economy, a reality that will generate a new way of thinking about the city. The path of #CollaboratorioRe will enable us to define the subject that will take care not only of a physical space (The Chiostri di San Pietro, that were completely regenerated thanks to an investment of the Municipality) but also of a new economic institution. The Open Laboratory will be a space to experiment, a space where new forms of democracy and economy will be practiced, a space where employment and competences will be created, a space where  innovative solutions will be created to answer to the needs of individuals and of the community. For this place to come into existence #CollaboratorioRe has imagined a path of collaborative planning, composed of three different phases.

The process

The first phase consisted in launching a public call to allow all the actors to express their interest in participating in the co-design process and to propose their ideas. Alongside with this, a series of thematic workshop of presentation took place and saw the participation of hundreds of citizens. The two days of co-design that close this first phase will be the occasion to reflect on the themes, values and suggestions that emerged from these initiatives and to identify the elements that could become the foundations of the Open Laboratory.

Following the co-design sessions a second phase will open, a phase that will see the transformation of Reggio Emilia into a field of experimentation for collaboration, where the multiple realities involved will work together to produce immediate solutions to the needs that have been identified.

Building on what will emerge from the whole process, in the third phase it will be possible to define the guidelines for the Open Laboratory and to design the identity, the methods and the form of governance of the future actor.

More informations on the #CollaboratorioRe process are available on the official website, where it is also possible to find the calendar of the next activities.