Today, cities are increasingly becoming the place where to experiment civic participation and the dialogue between administrators and local authorities, and the urban community. The effort of Italian Municipalities in engaging citizens has a long history enhanced by the participation to EU Programs like Urbact, Urban, and Innovative Actions. For these reasons the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) organized a meeting, gathering the most compelling local experiences on the field, to rethink and discuss about civic engagement and democracy in the city.
On the 24th of July, at ANCI headquarters in Rome, the working group meeting on Civic Participation and Urban Commons will take place. Mayors, assessors, other local government and ANCI officials from over 40 cities will debate together with urban experts, professionals, civil society representatives, active citizens and social innovators about how to enhance participation to the urban governance, analysing opportunities and challenges as well as learning from local best practices starting from the ones of the Urbact network.
Main speakers of the day event: Veronica Nicotra, ANCI Secretary-General, launching the works; and Professors Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, LabGov, introducing the concept of the city as a commons, a policy making strategy to connect and enhance participatory approaches to the management of urban commons towards a more complex and inclusive urban governance. Paolo Testa, Head of Research and Study – ANCI, will be debating with Rosalba Picerno, LUISS, about the evolution of civic engagement and participation regulations and the role of ANCI. Simone D’Antonio and Annalisa Gramigna, ANCI, will give an overview on local best practices about participatory governance scheme and legislation; and Tiziana Caponi and Valentina Piersanti, will talk about capacity building in local authorities to enable civic participation processes.
Finally, the meeting will end with greetings and speeches of Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna and Urban Agenda Delegate, and Antonio De Caro, Mayor of Bari and ANCI President.
The full programme here.
On April 18-20 Aarhus University, Denmark, hosted the international conference “Cultures of participation. Arts, digital media and politics”, organized by the Take Part research network on cultural participation. The conference aimed at presenting and discussing how participatory approaches are declined within both physical and virtual contexts, like cultural institutions and digital media platforms, urban spaces, artistic production, architectural design. It dealt with three main themes: 1) Participatory art & aesthetics, 2) Digital media & technology, 3) Cultural policy & participation.
In this context, LabGov participated, with its co-founder Christian Iaione together with Maria Elena Santagati, in the session that provided a reconstruction of the Italian context and initiatives, presenting the experience of the LabGov’s project Co-Rome promoting the participatory governance of cultural heritage in the framework of the Faro Convention, with a focus on the urban commons implemented in the Centocelle’s Archaeological Park in Rome
120 participants from all over the world had the opportunity to attend the three keynote speeches by Lisanne Gibson (School of Museum Studies-University of Leicester) “Museums and participation – Who goes… (and who doesn’t?)”, by Shannon Jackson (University of California, Berkeley) “Civic re-enactment and public re-assembly”, and by Zizi Papacharissi (University of Illinois-Chicago) “Affective publics: news storytelling, sentiment and Twitter”. The first one–starting from a recent study conducted in the UK showing that museum visitors are just a minority of the population (8.7%) who engage with State funded cultural activities–calls for a rethinking of museum practice and role to enhance the citizens’ interest and participation starting from the idea that “Museum can function as places where people can explore their own identities in relation to others, to reflect on how people are different and how they are the same” (Mark O’Neill, 2006: 109). The second one–based on the UC-Berkeley’s research platform on Public (Re) Assembly and the work of Aaron Landsman and Paul Ramirez Jonas–investigated the re-enactment in civic processes. The third one discussed about the concept of affective publics, the role and meaning of social media for the Arab Spring and occupy movements, together with data from recent studies by the University of Illinois at Chicago explaining the relevance of the platform for contemporary news storytelling, framing, and gate-keeping.
A range of sessions provided different perspectives on the topic of participation in culture through the lenses of different disciplines, reflecting the ongoing practices trends across Europe and beyond, including digitized cultural institutions and experiences, participatory art, policies of participation, measurement and valuation of cultural participation, cultural activism, methods for engaging communities in cultural production, arts&media platform, spaces for civic participation, urban and public space, participatory management of cultural institutions, technological transformations, and (non)participation. With respect to participation in policy and management, the session concerning the European Capitals of Culture provided useful considerations emerging from a study on ECOC projects revealing that most of them had an instrumental approach to the participation instead of providing a base for participatory governance (Szilvia Nagy). The session also stressed the need of rethinking the participation with regards to the experience of Aarhus 2017 based on the Rethinking participation Report (Leila Jankovich and Louise Ejgod Hansen), shared an analysis of arts carnivals programmes and participation within Capitals of culture in UK (Angela Chapell), and, finally, displayed a very interesting project “2025€ x 2025”, concerning participatory projects for Dresden ECOC candidate city for 2025, including one based on the “table-theatre” method (Valentina Mercenaro).
With regard to participation in culture policy-making, interesting inputs were raised from: a critical perspective on Iceland’s official cultural policy and its confusing aesthetic of involvement (Njourour Sigurjonsson); an interesting critical analysis of newly rooted participatory cultural institutions in Poland (Marcin Poprawski); a case study of Leeds cultural policy making as a democratic space (Malaika Cunningham and Elysia Lechelt); and a reflection about cultural participation as a narrative in the German cultural policy (Claudia Steigerwald). Finally, another case treated the challenge of participatory management at the School-Museum of Pusol within the SoMus-Society in the museum project (Lorena Sancho Querol, Rafael Martinez Garci and José Martinez Jurado).
Meanwhile, on April 18th, the European Union published the final report of the OMC working group on “Participatory governance of cultural heritage”, containing both operational and policy recommendations. Moreover, within the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the European Cultural Heritage Summit will take place in Berlin on June 198h-24nd, with the slogan “Sharing heritage-Sharing values”. Among the next interesting meetings and events, some concern participatory issues like: the conference “Cultural heritage communities and audiences in today’s digital environment” dedicated to digital technologies and cultural heritage; the conference “Sharing as a chance. Private initiatives and cultural heritage”: “People want to participate in heritage and be involved in decision processes. It should no longer be a specific task of experts to decide about the future of our heritage but of all those who are engaged in it”; and the students’ summit “Culture Up Your Future – Living out European Heritage in the Digital Age” concerning students’ engagement with European cultural heritage.
Finally, another relevant meeting on the topic of participation will be held on June, 11th-12th in Manchester for the conference “Understanding everyday participation: Re-locating culture, value and inequality”, as the final step of Understanding everyday participation – Articulating Cultural Values, a five-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council advancing a re-evaluation of the link between participation and cultural value.
[…]the concentration of people and events in time and space is a prerequisite to make anything happen, but more importantly are what activities are allowed to develop […]
In Life between buildings are outlined the applications that must exist in the architectural proposals, so that human being begins to appropriate them. By extrapolating this analysis and relying on the concept established in The Right to the City, where it is considered that the gentrification caused by urban processes implies an impact on the present and the future of humanity. The construction and strengthening of social structures that complement the dynamics of interaction of the different actors begins to make sense.
This concept of change of social structure is broad and, at the same time, complicated to define by different actors involved in the subject Therefore, related processes that can be articulated from the academy result in the proposal of systematic variables that, far from wanting to intercede to achieve the purpose of a change of structure, what they seek is to detonate a collective process which add to the existing.
Proposal of social integration.
In this search to promote the use of space and social interaction, the approach to the community Barrio Pinto and its surroundings is proposed in the South of the canton of San Pedro de Montes de Oca, in the province of San Jose, Costa Rica; whose radius of action is located between the kilometer close to the Campus of Universidad Latina. This context contains many different realities. On the one hand, the central avenue has an established structure of commerce and services, in addition is the road that connects the center of the country with the Inter-American route, therefore, highly charged with vehicular flow.
This situation disappears entering avenue 2, 4 and 6. Residential use is giving space to the commerce and offices, but that still encloses a residential range that gives life to the parks of his around. This mutation of the space is reflected in the offer of related services between traditional commercial systems, such as tailors, sodas and informal commerce, as well as other emerging elements (biodegradable cleaning products).
Is under these dynamics – between the behavior of the inhabitants of the sector and the users of the services that are beginning to develop in the area – that the interaction between students of the area and the institutions (who are unaware of the processes, routes, services) arises. For example, there is a coffee shop that offers bike rental per hour and per day, as well as the organization of recreational circuits in the sector.
Then, the question arisen is: how to provide a tool to citizenship that allows articulation in the public space between the collective memory of a specific place and emerging uses that change the image of the city?
It is at this point, where the definition of common goods and Collaborative Economy (Cañigueral, 2014), together with the use of the technological tool Agora PIC (Plataforma de Integración Ciudadana, 2017) developed by the NGO team PIC, that these are taken as the basis of the research, to identify the possible elements to be taken into account, and to define a path that provides information on tangible and intangible variables. Trying to unify the social processes of the inhabitants of the sector, with visitors and users of the different activities in the radio, near to the community of Barrio Pinto.
Within the concrete analysis of the peculiarities of the community, the gap that exists between space of the Square Máximo Fernández- on the north side of Franklin D. Roosevelt School – and El Retiro Park (650 meters Southwest of Máximo Fernández Square) -, as a hub that makes possible the social connection of a situation different from the current, whose goal is immersed, as Gehl points out – is taken into account, to generate not only the space of transition, but of interaction.
Citizen participation has been necessary for the construction of this project. Across workshops and interviews, as well as different visits to the community to establish collaborative and individual services, the rescue of collective memory, stories and accounts of the citizen for the visibility of the human and sensory part of the area began, as well as the delimitation of the emerging uses that change the dynamic preset in the area, and generate a social movement toward the appropriation of common space.
Conclusion of a job, start of a route.
In conclusion, it is possible to counteract the thinking and analysis of Gehl, about the dynamics of use of public spaces, with the contributions of Zaida Muxí and Joseph María Montaner on the substantial changes that surround the phenomenology of the city for the adequate enjoyment and use of the various variables of the Commons. Processes that lead to interpret the change of the image of the city must occur in an intrapersonal way, understanding that this isolated element is part of an articulated social system.
On this premise, it is part of this personal relationship, of collective memory and the individual task, for the strengthening of pre-existing social layers. It may not induce a community to take a change in its structure, but it strengthens when an external user can deviate from their daily life to rediscover its immediate context. For this reason, and waiting for the use of the technological tool (Ágora PIC) to boost social skills to community, this intervention has been completed with the start of a journey raised with the student community of the Universidad Latina.
On this basis, we should start from this relationship between the collective memory and the individual task, to strengthen the pre-existing social layers. It is not possible to induce a community to adopt a modification in its structure, but it can be strengthened, when an external user can get away from their everyday life to rediscover their immediate context. For this reason, the use of the Ágora PIC technological tool was envisaged so that it could stimulate the social capacities of community making, ending this intervention with the beginning of a journey through the community.
A circuit that seeks, every four months, that is to say with the opening of the academic semester, to offer the newly admitted student the possibility of knowing their immediate context, and at the same time generate interaction with the dynamics of their area and with its inhabitants. This wants to contribute to the creation of a collective memory and local participatory networks that bring the academy closer to its own territory.
Il progetto pilota del LabGov Costa Rica comincia da esercizi accademici mirati che hanno l’intenzione de rispondere alla domanda: come facilitare uno strumento alla cittadinanza che permetta l’articolazione tra i beni comuni spaziali e la memoria collettiva di un determinato luogo; con una particolare attenzione agli usi emergenti che mutano rapidamente il volto frenetico della capitale e il ricordo di un passato, non troppo passato, campestre e bucolico? Come possiamo conservare la memoria dei beni comuni intangibili promuovendo contemporanemente l’hic et nunc dei commons tangibili attuali?
 Gehl, J. (2011). Life between buildings: using public space. Washington, DC: Island Press.
 Lefebvre, H. (1973). Le Droit à la ville. Paris: Ed. Anthropos.
 Costes, L. (2012). Del ‘derecho a la ciudad’ de Henri Lefebvre a la universalidad. Urban, 1-12.
 Lucas, M.A. (2006). Estructura social. La realidad de las sociedades avanzadas. Madrid: Pearson Education.
 Fundación Heinrich Böll (2008). Genes, bytes y emisiones: Bienes comunes y ciudadanía. Ciudad de México: Ediciones Böll.
 Cañigueral, A. (2014). Vivir mejor con menos. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.
 Gehl, J. op.cit.
 Cañigueral, A. op.cit.
 Fundación Heinrich Böll, op.cit.
 Gehl, J. op.cit.
 Muxí, Z., Montaner, J.M. (2011). Arquitectura y política. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili.
 Lucas, M.A. op. cit.
“I have been picture-gazing this morning at the famous Domenichino and Guido, both of which are superlative. I afterwards went to the beautiful cemetery of Bologna, beyond the walls; and found, besides the superb burial-ground, an original of a custode, who reminded one of the grave-digger in Hamlet (…).”
George Gordon Byron, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron with a Notice of his life, 1831
Not only the world-renowned Père Lachaise in Paris (more than 3 million visitors per year), the evocative Okunoin Cemetery in Japan (in the sacred Mount Koya), or the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm (UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994, although built in the 20th century). Historical cemeteries represent anywhere in the world a peculiar type of urban spaces, both tangible and intangible heritage, while providing funerary services.
In 2001 a European network was created in order to raise awareness about their sometimes neglected importance: ASCE-Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe. The network counts 179 cemeteries in 22 countries, specifically those public and private entities that care for this specific heritage. The association, born thanks to an Italian initiative, also aims to share experiences and best practices among members and to cooperate in order to protect, restore and enhance these open-air museums.
“Cemeteries as places of life, settings that, as urban spaces, are directly linked to the history and culture of the community they belong to and where we will find many of our references”. This is how the European Route of Cemeteries, promoted by ASCE and supported by the European Commission under its Europe for Citizens Programme (project “Remembrance in European Cemeteries”), refers to this heritage. The Route, comprising 63 cemeteries in 50 cities in 20 European countries, is mainly in charge of the touristic promotion of the sites, and, by raising awareness, it also stimulates dissemination activities and encourages restoration actions. Among the main results achieved by ASCE, we could also mention the establishment of the “Week of Discovering European Cemeteries (WDEC)”, whose activities in 2018 (May 18-June 3) will support the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and a mobile guide presenting members’ heritage thanks to the ARtour platform.
In Italy, we assist to an increasing attention toward the enhancement and management of historical cemeteries, as witnessed by the memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism and SEFIT-Servizi Funerari Italiani (the Italian public funerary services): “Protocollo d’intesa per la valorizzazione culturale e turistica dei cimiteri monumentali”. The memorandum also led to the elaboration of a first version of an Atlas of monumental cemeteries in Italy, published few weeks ago. On December 14, 2017, SEFIT, in partnership with Fondazione MAXXI, organized in Rome a workshop dealing with new urban and architectural challenges related to cemeteries: “I cimiteri nella città. I cimiteri come città – Una svolta culturale per la città dei morti pari a quella in atto nelle città dei vivi?”. In 2017, almost 19.000 participants attended cultural events in the four cemeteries of Bologna, Milan, Genoa and Turin.
Practices of participation and citizens engagement are an ever growing phenomenon in the enhancement of these public spaces, that have to balance the protection and development of its cultural heritage with its primary function. The role of citizens, volunteers and not for profit actors turns out to be crucial, especially to ensure the sustainability of enhancement activities, as we will see in two Italian cases: the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa and the Certosa Cemetery in Bologna.
The cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa (330.000 mq.) was officially opened to the public in 1851. It is one of the most important historical cemeteries in Italy: hundreds of sculptures, but also chapels, galleries and porticoes, with a diversity of styles that contributes to its outstanding historical and artistic value. For the enhancement activities, the cemetery relies on the contribution of different actors, among which an important partnership with ARCI Genova, Auser Liguria e Genova, University of Genoa and CNA-Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media impresa (National Confederation of Artisans and of the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises), that led to the creation of “La fabbrica di Staglieno”. Financed by Fondazione Telecom, the project is aimed at enhancing the restoration activity carried out within the cemetery by creating a restoration laboratory opened to the public, and combining the guided tours with practical activities and workshops, involving restorers, artisans, researchers and students. In August 2017 the Municipality launched a call for proposals to co-design the enhancement activities, through a “Patto di sussidiarietà”, a juridical instrument within the Third sector regulation allowing not for profit organisations to carry on public interest activities. In this case, the project should involve volunteers, disadvantaged or unemployed people in a variety of activities, with in kind and financial support of the Municipality.
The Certosa Cemetery in Bologna was created in 1801 from a former Chartusian monastery founded in 1334. Its architectural structure is very rich and comprises galleries, cloisters, halls, added to which are frescoes, sculptures, an Etruscan Necropolis and the San Girolamo Church. Starting from 1999, an important enhancement project has been carried out, leading to the restoration of many monuments and to guided tours, special initiatives, a summer programme of events. The entire project is managed by Museo del Risorgimento, which is part of the Municipality museums department, in partnership with the Funerary service provider “Bologna Servizi Cimiteriali”; the cultural association of touristic guides “Didasco”, in charge of the guided tours; the volunteers’ association “Amici della Certosa”, founded in 2009 and relying on more than 90 volunteers that contribute to the maintenance, conservation and enhancement activities and to the opening of the Infopoint; “Fondazione Collegio Artistico Venturoli” for the study and research activities. The summer program of events is conceived through a public call for proposals for cultural and not for profit associations, whose projects are annually evaluated and eventually selected. The Call for projects for summer 2018 has been recently opened (deadline March 11). From each entrance fee of the summer events, 2€ are allocated to the enhancement and restoration project. As regards the collaboration with volunteers, in 2016 the Municipality signed a “Patto di collaborazione” with “Amici della Certosa” association within “Collaborare è Bologna” policy and the Bologna Regulation on public collaborations between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons. Recognising the value of both the cemetery heritage and the role played volunteers so far, aims and actions are defined for both actors with a collaborative approach.
Significant cemeteries are more and more serving as catalyst for citizens, associations and volunteers that would take care of these fascinating urban spaces, at the same time maintaining and enhancing its outstanding heritage and raising awareness about its value for the local community.
Pratiche partecipative e di coinvolgimento dei cittadini sono un fenomeno crescente nella valorizzazione dei cimiteri monumentali, particolari spazi urbani che si trovano a dover conciliare l’impegno per il proprio patrimonio culturale con l’originaria funzione funeraria.
photo credit: Shareen Elnaschie @shareenee
As presented in a previous article of LabGov, in March 2017 the City of Madrid, together with the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and the Connected Action for the Commons hold the Innovative City Development Meeting. A gathering of innovative city makers – researchers, activists, experts and city officials – distinguished for a progressive approach to cultural issues, social innovation, urban development and participatory governance processes with city governments.
The meeting started from the assumption that today institutions should co-make the city with local people, and it represented the chance to reflect upon the way to reach this collaborative perspective. A growing commons movement indeed is spreading in Europe and more and more institutions are trying to involve local people in making co-decision when it comes to issues closely affecting their neighborhoods and cities. In the last years Connected Action for the Commons has been co-working to scale up collaborative working practices and services for people in their locality, and from a small group of like-minded organisations today it represents a growing and influential network of cultural change-makers that inspired the meeting.
Many sessions were facilitated by the LabGov’s co-founder, Christian Iaione, who also contributed with advises and suggestions to the final report of the meeting, written and compiled by Nicola Mullenger, with contributions also from Katarina Pavić and Igor Stokfiszewski. The report, presented in July 2017 at the International Association for the Study of the Commons conference, details the main reflections emerged during the meeting and three case studies, as well as some recommendations for city makers.
Here below, the main outcomes of the report are briefly illustrate.
The design of the meeting. Each city maker gave a four-minutes speech highlighting a challenge they are working on and focusing on concrete issues in their own communities. Smaller facilitated groups discussed challenges and possible solutions “for collaborative city change-making with the aim to find practices that can encourage community and institutional participatory city-making processes”. Among the various presentations the report lists the case of A Coruña (Spain), Chişinău (Moldova) and Naples (Italy), showing the “diversity of issues and geographical areas in Europe where citizen participation and commoning practices” face many challenges but are already making a difference.
- Ideas for bottom–up transnational municipal reform. From the case studies and their challenges the reflection converged on the required conditions to pave the way for urban co-governance or urban commons participatory governance, as well as city making. The groups of discussion try to answer to two main questions:
- what are the values that could inspire commons-based assets and service management schemes?
Trust, transparency, equality and diversity within institutions, as well as a right balance between values and coordination should be pursued creating a system carefully balanced with the need for an open process that makes the space for experimentation and in which solutions and information are shared. This system should relies on a definition of common interest, like a charter of the “Value of Commons”, as in Naples. As underlined in the report “the institution needs to sustain engagement with core individuals and communities, and continuously attract diverse opinions, as well as finding evaluation models to communicate and replicate successes and acknowledge failures”.
- what are the methodologies, legal and financial tools and linchpins that could make a commons-based solution work?
Holding regular gatherings of different stakeholder to co-decide and plans actions appears to be a relevant aspect, and the report suggests to use shared spaces and reflect on the role of moderation. In addition, it recommend: 1.to make clear how decisions are made by using city referendums with clear goal posts to make decisions and make usership; 2. to start with a realistic aim of collaboration (such as the participatory budgeting) and to create information packages (such as a “how to co-budget” guide); 3. to support public servants in acquiring the necessary skills (define tools and operations and share/build skills); 4. to protect public services; 5. to implement a public consultation process across several cities and use an accessible tool to show and compare the results, involving citizens (which see the impacts in first person).
- First considerations and next steps. The first highlights of the meeting should be developed further (both within the institutional work setting and outside in a peer-to-peer context). But some of them can be already taken forward and applied as a pilot experience or can help in developing or scaling up existing experiences. An idea that would be able to enhance equality in our society could be the development of a series of flexible models applicable in different contexts and people, considering sustainability, legality and financial roles. The creation of a clear chart, with clear information, can help communities to activate informed civic decision-making processes.
According to the report “institutions need to decide what is a public good” and define the public interest and the private thing, clarifying how participation can help them. Shared information and transparency can lead to a deeper trust between all stakeholders and to a better balance in welcoming different voices. “Keeping the door open to experimentation could lead to further impact and also help to create a similar language to explain value”; it can also help in recognizing different values that will have a lasting impact on social cohesion.
- The group found beneficial the peer examination of the challenges and suggested to meet again in order to deepen and exchange practices, projects and policies on participatory governance or co-governance and city making. “They recommended that the formation of a space for exchange, experimentation, mutual learning and co-working could enable the sharing of tools that city makers need going forward”.
The organizers hope this collaborative methodology of work and these results can serve as a guide for institutions that want to start co-design process, inspiring new commoning processes with local people more involving and democratic.
The full report is available here.
Marzo 2017. Madrid ospita l’Innovative City Development Meeting all’interno dell’Idea Camp 2017. Un’occasione di incontro per innovatori e city makers per discutere di co-creazione collaborativa della città, governance partecipativa dei beni comuni e co-governance urbana. Da quell’incontro è nato un report che riassume alcune delle considerazioni e delle raccomandazioni emerse durante il meeting e che è stato presentato in Luglio alla Conferenza dell’Associazione Internazionale per lo Studio dei Beni Comuni (IASC2017). Il post ne ripercorre i punti salienti.