The Local and Regional Dimensions of the Sharing Economy, by Christian Iaione

This document is an official CoR opinion that was drafted by LabGov coordinator prof. Christian Iaione, as an expert of the EU Committee of the Regions. It was examinated in the 115th plenary session of 3-4 December 2015

The opinion contains some policy recommendations to the European Union in the subject of sharing economy, based on an analysis focused on the potential benefits that could spread from the enhancement of sharing economy on a local basis.

If you are interested in this subject, please explore the full document here.

Local public entrepreneurship and judicial intervention, by Christian Iaione

“Local Public Entrepreneurship and Judicial Intervention in a Euro-American and Global Perspective” is an article written by professor Christian Iaione and published in 2008 on the 7th volume of the Washington University Global Studies Law Review.

In this article, prof. Iaione investigates the subject of local public entrepreneurship, which encompasses a variety of activities carried out by local governments and designed to foster local economic development. In this article, prof. Iaione presents local public entrepreneurship as a windfall of the right to local self-government. In Part II, he discusses the competing scholarship on the role that local governments take in competing with each other by creating incentives to entice citizens and businesses into their jurisdictions. Then, in Part III, he presents the concept of local public entrepreneurism and detail how local governments utilize such activism in competition with other governments. In the following three parts, he examines the intersection of local self-government and local public entrepreneurism in the Italian, European, and American legal frameworks. Prof. Iaione explores the impact of globalization on this phenomenon in Part VII. In the following part, he presents two cases—one from the European Union (EU) and one from the U.S. – in which local public entrepreneurship played a major role. He then examines how the European Court of Justice has discouraged local governments from engaging in such activities, thereby undermining the right to local self-government. By contrast, the U.S. legal system actively encourages a high level of local public entrepreneurship for the production of urban services and infrastructure. Finally, he advocates for the formal recognition of the economic liberty of local governments and the implementation of democratic counterbalances to such liberty as an alternative to judicial intervention. 

If you are interested in this subject, please explore the full article here

The Commons 4EU

The Commons 4EU

It is not a news that cities are facing new and daily challenges to become smart cities. The term ‘smart’ has been described widely as a reality that involves the coordination of investments in human and social capital, sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of resources through participatory action and engagement. From these statements of experts and international organizations emerges this number of factors that can works only in a coordinate process. Indeed, The EU, Governments and associations such as Code for America consider the connection and collaboration among these elements, as new interdisciplinary opportunities to improve services and encourage development. However, what happens when this new wave of smartness, meets internet and technologies advances?  Such new players in the path toward smart cities definitely enlarge geographical economic and social boundaries. Real time and worldwide are the parameters of measuring, and this contribute to create communities around collaborative the sharing economy where base of commons in code is larger than ever before. Users generated contents, even modern communication infrastructures foster the emergence of Bottom-up-Broadband networks, giving answers to the challenges that cities are dealing with, and most of the time cannot manage with traditional methods. A larger and deeper involvement of the community around commons goods seems to reduce the gap between the need of becoming smarter cities and offer to this demand, which is provided by citizens themselves. Thus, the combination among businesses, services, housing, leisure and lifestyle and ITCs,  social involvement of citizens in public services, high technology used as a means to coordinate and facilitate urban growth, is the key to develop a  network of people dedicated to making government services and cities simple, effective, and easy to use.

The Commons4EU project, indeed, is about a new way toward the opening innovation concept. It has the purpose to foster this new wave of innovation in cities and create new cutting-edge digital services. This project is building two main areas of technological services, which would provide citizens participation toward the path of smartness and sustainability. An initial core team of seven cities will be the pioneers of this project: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki, Manchester, Rome and UK-NESTA (UK cities involved in the project through NESTA). These cities will work together in two main areas, for the implementation of this ambitious vision:

  • Code Commons

This is about the development of collaborative web projects following the methodology of Code for America based on principles such as the empowerment of residents to take an active role in their community, the collaboration between government staff and foster forward-thinking approaches to solving city problems. These collaborative web projects will work by opening existing code in the participating cities and leveraging the European EPSI platform, following a certain model. In particular, web/mobile applications should enable cities to connect with their constituencies in ways that reduce administrative cost and engage citizens more effectively. This kind of support would help to move in the direction transparency and collaboration, and would be replicable for other cities.

  • Bottom-up-Broadband Commons

Exploring with users in real-life environments, new technologies, such as: Community networks, Sensor integration into Wi-Fi networks and fiber deployment as commons.

The entire experience of the project will be capitalized by giving birth to two pan European organizations: Code for Europe and BuB for Europe that will carry further implementations of the project. This would mean making significant steps toward the idea that cities smartness is not only a common good itself, but also a European common good, and that each citizens could make the difference.

Sustainable development hand in hand with social inclusion: EU’GO!

Sustainable development hand in hand with social inclusion: EU’GO!

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Once again the European Union has been the driving force of social innovation, through the so-called Grundtvig Programme. Often underestimated in its innovative and cohesive potential, since 2000 the European Union has regularly funded projects devised at the national level which succeed in providing the adult population “with ways to improve their knowledge and skills, keeping them mentally fit and potentially more employable”. An honorable goal, but what does it have to do with the commons?

Simple. In 2011, the Grundtvig call for proposals ended with 56 winning multilateral projects, among which “The EU’rban Gardens Otesha project“, better known as EU’GO. It seems that the fashion and , more interestingly, the social value of the urban shared gardens has been finally recognized at a supranational level. The result is that out of the  €337.330 budget required to carry out this project, exactly 75% was provided directly by the European Union. An astonishing result that reminds us the need to develop alternative ways to enhance and improve the human capital, while also tightening interpersonal relations in discrimination-free contexts.

But what did “Piste-solidaires” – the promoter of EU’GO – devise?

In few words, EU’GO represented a bridge; a bridge that connected at once not only five countries – Italy, Germany, France, Spain and UK – but also all those local associations of citizens fully convinced that urban gardens might become propagation centers of best practices and of social inclusion, of education and of urban well-being. Social cohesion, cultural integration, sustainable development: these, thus, are the pivot themes of the EU’GO project, paying special attention to the most vulnerable segments of the society – immigrants, women, youth, disabled and elderly. The cities are meeting place par excellence. At least in theory. In fact, it was from the very reflection upon urban marginalization, isolation and discrimination that EU’GO took shape.

Transnational by nature and educational in its aims, EU’GO set an online platform in order to share the know-how and the skills developed (literally) on field in the so-called Otesha gardens. The latter, in the words of the promoters are “green spaces, innovative and active learning spaces that promote […] the collective creation of social, generational and intercultural bonds“. And so it is, in fact. Successful gardens blossomed like flowers and by word of mouth, an ever-increasing number of people devoted their time to the earth.  Even indirectly, benefits were brought to the cause, by simply focusing the attention of the general public on the sustainable development issues and on the importance of social cohesion.

Too good to be true? Yes and No. Yes, because the project lasted two years only. A too short lapse of time, even to assess some results, if we consider that the effects on a community’s way of thinking can be ascertained only in the long run.

No, because notwithstanding, EU’GO might represent a starting point, a benchmark for the States’ policy-making and for active citizens. In the light of EXPO 2015 and the latter’s focus on nutrition, poor and developing countries, together with the developed ones in the need to rethink their relationship with the planet and their strategies to foster social inclusion, might then see in EU’GO a successful experiment.

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Sviluppo sostenibile a braccetto con l’inclusione sociale: EU’GO!

Quando lo sviluppo sostenibile incontra l’inclusione sociale: il progetto EU’rban Gardens Otesha, finanziato dall’Unione Europea, ha riportato risultati sorprendenti. Risultati limitati dalla breve durata del progetto, ma che potrebbero rivelarsi un utile esempio per chiunque voglia rivedere il proprio rapporto con la terra e al contempo sviluppare strategie innovative volte alla coesione sociale. 

The Social Business Initiative: social enterprises into the foreground

The Social Business Initiative: social enterprises into the foreground

Social Business InitiativeWe often hear people talking about them, but still there is not a definition upon which scholars and experts agree. However, when the discussion is about social business and social enterprises, we should take into consideration Muhammed Yunus, the Bangladeshi entrepreneur, pioneer of the microcredit and awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. It goes without saying that his credentials are astonishing and he succeeded in listing a set of characteristics common to all social enterprises.
They are not-for-profit legal persons providing goods and services on a permanent basis, whose social element is intrinsic and they can either serve the community’s interest or the interest of its members. They are independent entities that are democratically managed through participatory models, which involve also the civil society.
We can easily imagine the benefits this kind of enterprises might bring both to the labour and product market and to the European community as a whole, and these benefits were thoroughly analyzed in May 2011, when the European Commission first launched the “Social Business Initiative (SBI)”. The aim was that of recovering the citizens’ confidence in the Single Market and to meet the expectations of the social business community throughout Europe. Not only. There were and still there are great expectations as regards the job-creation potential, the improvement of the work integration and the creation of sustainable models of business in an innovative way. Without the need to read between the lines, the SBI is directly linked to the goals of the 2020 Strategy.
For this reason, a series of workshops and roundtables were organized with a two-fold mission. On the one hand, they had to define the phenomenon of the social business and to present the advantages of fostering its economic presence in the marketplace. On the other hand, they had to list concrete proposals to be submitted to the European Commission. All this represented the preparatory work that led to the adoption of the “Social Business Initiative” in October 2011.
Surprisingly, most of the proposed solutions were embraced by the final text of the initiative and all the aspects that are related to the universe of the social business were tackled. Among them, we should recall the financial aspect, micro-finance, the European regulatory framework, the need for better visibility of social businesses and the education and capacity building topic.
First, in fact, the action plan of the SBI provides for the improvement of the access to funding. One of the most important hindrances for the social entrepreneurs is the mismatch between the supply and the demand sides, which obviously makes them less attractive when we speak about access to credit. Moreover, an insufficient clarity on both the European and the State laws on the matter and the continuous difficulty in setting up new microfinance institutions (MFIs) add big hurdles for the social enterprises willing to enter the marketplace and to offer innovative and useful services. Therefore, the SBI provided for a € 90 million financial instrument able to respond to the needs of the European social business community, together with the creation of a European regulatory framework for social investment and of the Progress Microfinance Facility, which was launched in 2010 and increased the availability of microcredit – loans below € 25 000. The funding will be allocated in the European Union programme for Social Change and Innovation and the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will support the SBI’s projects in the Member States.
Furthermore, as usual when we talk about social innovation, the compelling need that everybody faces is to increase the visibility of the best practices. The SBI, thus, promotes the creation of a European platform and database, where social entrepreneurs and in general, the civil society might exchange replicable models of social entrepreneurship, fostering this way a mutual learning practice and transparency as a value.
Finally, from a legal point of view, the European Commission detected the need to review and reform the then-existing regulatory framework, with regards to the social business at large, in order to improve the capacity of individuals to orientate among the numerous and sometimes overlapping rules. The consolidation and simplification of the European laws has then become the fil rouge of the SBI, which moreover had the aim of enhancing the element of quality in awarding contracts, especially in the case of social and health services.
In sum, the Social Business Initiative represented in 2011 a courageous attempt of tackling a deficiency of the economic system that never promoted social businesses or even threatened their existence, because of the market rules. In this sense, the SBI might be the driving force for a drastic change that might put the social enterprises into the foreground. Doing this at the European level gives an added value to the whole initiative, because “public policies at the European level can help ensure that there is a real Single Market with a level playing field for all economic actors, including social businesses. EU level action represents a cost-effective way to collect in a structured way information on the nature, scale and dynamics of social enterprises and thus provide a basis for an unbiased political dialogue with Member States and stakeholders”.