The City as  a Commons – How Democratic are the Urban Commons?

The City as a Commons – How Democratic are the Urban Commons?

The 1st IASC (International Association for the Study of the Commons) Thematic Conference on urban commons is approaching. The call for abstracts is out until Aug 10th at 12:00 AM PT. The Conference title unveils the complexity and the ambition of an event that wishes to gather for two days the most prominent scholars and practitioners on urban commons, social innovation, sharing economy, to talk about “The City as a Commons: Reconceiving Urban Space, Common Goods And City Governance”. The Conference is organized by LabGov – LABoratory for the GOVernance of Commons, a partnership between the Urban Law Center of Fordham University and the International Center on Democracy and Democratization (ICEDD) of the LUISS University of Rome ( It will take place in Bologna on  November 6-7, 2015. One of the track of the Conference concerns the Democratic Innovation and how governance of the urban commons could influence it. This is why we decided to interview one of the most prominent international scholars on democratic theory, Professor Nadia Urbinati.

On July the 5th, the Greek citizens went to the polls for the referendum announced by their Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. Greek people were asked to reply to a hard question, which then raised countless debates and opinions starting from the decision whether accept, or not, the austerity policies and economic measures proposed by the European Union and international creditors, to solve the issues about the Greek debt.

Many scholars, professors, writers and academics put the stress on the important fact that Greece is the cradle of democracy, the country where were born the most important historical thinkers of democracy.

Nadia Urbinati is one of those we are referring to. She is “Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies” at the Department of Political Science of the Columbia University, she is also a political theorist who specializes in modern and contemporary political thought and the democratic and anti-democratic traditions. She co-chaired the Columbia University Faculty Seminar on Political and Social Thought and founded and chaired the Workshop on Politics, Religion and Human Rights.

The day before the Greek referendum, the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” published an interesting article written by professor Urbinati. The title of the article is Greece and the European democracy myth which briefly but effectively analyses the history of democracy and the development of the political thought around this myth.

Some LabGov editors seized the opportunity and had the chance to build up a dialogue with professor Nadia Urbinati, trying to investigate the intersections between LabGov projects and  the academic thought of professor Urbinati:

1) The twenty-first century seems to be identified as “urban century”. Can you create a model of urban democracy in Greece, in Italy, in Europe, or in the world? What features should you get?

Aristotle writes in the collection of the Greek constitutions that there are urban democracies and countryside democracies. However, a good democracy is mostly urban. Democracy, historically speaking, had its roots and developed in urban areas. Cooperation among people is essential to achieve it, regular exchanges are needed. These features are all better achieved in a urban environment. It is even possible to say, that democracy is the best form of an urban policy.
In ancient Greece or during the American or French revolution, participation was limited and fluctuant. Ephialte and Pericles created daily indemnities to allow people to participate. Today the situation is completely different, and there is the co-existence of two apparently opposite trends: on the one hand, physicality is no longer necessary in order to share in power, (the social media allow us to participate without “being there”); but on the other hand, politics lost credibility and attraction at least at the national level. Yet we witness the rise to a re-discover of “locality” and as we know democracy lives in small spaces better than in large ones, closer to us better than far from us.

2) The twenty-first century seems to have also another feature, a prefix. The one of the Latin “cum” or the Anglo-Saxon “CO-“. There are many debate on co-operation, co-working, co-design of the commons (i.e. “beni comuni”), the regained centrality of the community, the importance of communication, the knowledge economy, etc. In Bologna, Mantua, Battipaglia, Palermo, Rome – as well as in other Italian and foreign cities – are emerging examples underlining the need for the community to get involved in public life through public actions and in daily collaboration of citizens. For example, in Battipaglia there is a process of collaborative planning, which puts around the same table to co-design services: citizens, institutions, businesses, civil society organizations, schools and universities. The main goal is to propose a new approach to the city’s development through a fostered channel of both citizens and institutions. In Bologna, we recently celebrated the first year of the Regulation on the collaboration between citizens and Public Administration for the care and regeneration of urban commons (i.e.Regolamento sulla collaborazione per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani“). In Mantua, it has been built a platform of collaborative governance for a development centered on local culture and knowledge. What kind of role can these experiments have in the broader process of rethinking the local democracy? Could – a model of this kind – be the right approach to give Mediterranean countries back the role of “cradle of democracy”?

The founding fathers had this intuition. Altiero Spinelli thought of the unification starting from the local not only the national. Subsidiarity tells us that what can be solved at the local level, should not be solved at the national level. Take the issue of immigration, which is wrongly always thought as a national problem. However, it is in each municipality that lies the seeds of a possible solution: we should involve marginalized people; there are many things they can do, and many sector in which they can play a big role as participant. But in order to do so, a strong local community is needed.

3) Greece, and even more its citizens need to work in order to reactivate their economy: how can an investment in democratic innovations turn into a positive economic investment for the welfare of the local community?
Let’s think of the referendum recently held in Greece; it did not turn out to be what many believed it ought to, but at least it was a strong statement by the Greek people. Most of us had no idea of ​​the meaning of public debt (who owns what to whom?). We need a stronger Europe, with less bias by Norther States against Mediterranean States. And above all we would need bright leaders and with strong European belief. In the US, when the State of California when bankrupt, Washington took the lead of a process of economic regeneration — we have to do the same in Europe too. Innovations, even democratic ones, may have a positive impact on our life; and so we would need to invest in our community, and unleash all their potentiality. Cooperation is the only way forward.


4) According to Professor François Garçon, author of Knowing Switzerland, the debt crisis reflected the indifference of the sovereign people. Greece, which has already taken a first step through a referendum, towards a model of direct democracy on economic and financial choices, could now explore new ways to regain possession of their relays and by doing so revive the economy itself, starting from small urban and regional economies. What is your opinion on that?

On an European dimension: we can and we must criticize the actual governance in Europe. The member states have no equal power and have no equivalence among them. There is not a European demos capable of expressing beyond the states. Treaties are no longer enough, especially in a time of economic crisis. The whole European construction was allowed by very lucky circumstances, like economic growth and reconstruction after WW2. Unfortunately, today’s circumstances are dramatically different. We must return to strengthen the local even more than the national if we want to have a political EU. The state should be an enabler of this change, and lately a partner.

5) How would it be possible, for local community inspired by the Rules of Bologna to interact with each other, and so give their contribution in the creation of democratic and horizontal network of local communities? Can they really change democratic and economic premises

It is a matter of education. Legality begins in interpersonal relationships, and cooperation is already a sign of education. American pragmatist thinkers had understood that for the management of a public good coordination was necessary to make everyone fell responsible. We often use the wrong words. For example the word “owner” is improper. We use the word for understanding reasons, but we rarely “own” something; we rather “borrow” or “share”. The key to success is to set good rules so as to make all the people who are involved in some communal enterprise feel they are partners on a equal foot.

Be ready for the first civic Collaboration Fest in Bologna!

Be ready for the first civic Collaboration Fest in Bologna!

collaboIt is more than a year since the municipality of Bologna adopted the Regulation for the care and regeneration of Urban Commons, that was also translated into English few months later (you can read it here).

Since that moment, the idea behind the project itself has rapidly spread not only in Italy, where tens of municipalities decided to adopt the Regulation, but also all over the world.
Indeed, this regulation, that is part of a greater project based on the idea of the
“City as a Commons”, has been appreciated by international commons activists such as David Bollier and Michel Bauwens, here and here.

So, after a year, Virginio Merola, Bologna’s mayor, has established the Civic Collaboration Fest, a whole day dedicated to celebrating the spirit of the city of Bologna, which is already called by many “civic collaboration”, with the aim to mobilize Bologna’s citizens who get to work every day in order to make the city more liveable and beautiful.

Virginio Merola’s words are emblematic: “I would like to see Bologna full of enthusiasm every second Saturday of May, every year, with all the people realizing what could be our potentials. For this reason, the Civic Collaboration Day is dedicated especially to our indisputable right to look for happiness, fighting every day against our biggest enemy, that is the resignation. We all know that collaborating together for the common good is what has made of Bologna a special and different city. We face every problem in this way, working together in every field and facing every prospective obstacle. And it is in this context that the first Italian Social streets and the Iperbole Civic Network were born”.

So far, thanks to the regulation adopted, more than 100 collaboration pacts have been signed between the Administration and the citizens. Doubtless, these pacts have triggered a new civic sense.

That is why next month, on the 16th of May, Santa Viola neighbourhood is waiting for more than twenty-thousand people for the first Civic Collaboration Fest, occasion in which the visitors will enjoy the many events thanks to the efforts of more than three hundred volunteers.

As regards the programme, the Fest will start at 10 a.m. at the MAST, with the “Cities as Commons” international conference with the mayor Virginio Merola, professor Sheila Foster – Vice Dean and Albert A. Walsh Professor of Real Estate, Land use and Property law at Fordham University School of Law – the international commons activists David Bollier and Neal Gorenflo, and professor Christian Iaione – LabGov’s coordinator.

In the afternoon, at the Pontelungo sport complex, it will be time for the “Bologna Collabora” co-design session for the collaborative governance of Bologna. The session will follow the three aspects that public policies must consider, that is to say living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures) and making together (co-production), which are the three axis through which Co-Mantova too was designed.

Finally, from 7 p.m. on, in via Emilia Ponente, the “Purple Night” street fest will take place.

To join all the activities, please fill in the following form! And, to take a look to the full programme and to obtain any further information, please follow this link.

Save the date, see you in Bologna! 



A distanza di poco più di un anno dall’adozione da parte del Comune di Bologna del regolamento sulla cura e la rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani, il prossimo 16 maggio si terrà a Bologna la prima festa della collaborazione civica.

L’evento è stato fortemente voluto dal Comune poiché, citando le parole del sindaco Virginio Merola: “la Festa della Collaborazione civica è dedicata soprattutto al nostro sacrosanto diritto di ricercare la felicità, combattendo ogni giorno il nostro nemico più grande che è la rassegnazione. La Collaborazione per il bene comune, lo sappiamo, è ciò che ha sempre reso speciale e diversa Bologna. In ogni campo e di fronte ad ogni ostacolo, noi i problemi li affrontiamo così, collaborando insieme”.

La giornata inizierà con una conferenza internazionale al MAST alle ore 10, la quale vedrà come relatori il sindaco Virginio Merola, la professoressa Sheila Foster, il professor Christian Iaione e due dei più importanti attivisti dei Commons a livello internazionale, David Bollier e Neal Gorenflo.

Nel pomeriggio, presso il centro sportivo Pontelungo, i cittadini avranno l’opportunità di partecipare ad un workshop per promuovere la partecipazione e la co-progettazione di pratiche e politiche pubbliche collaborative tra la città e il Comune.

La giornata si chiuderà con la Festa di strada in collaborazione con il Comitato Santa Viola con giochi, musica e fuochi artificiali in via Emilia Ponente, per l’occasione chiusa al traffico, a partire dalle ore 19.

New strategies for legal order: is collaborative governance the way to go?

New strategies for legal order: is collaborative governance the way to go?

LOCANDINA 17 marzo - A4  (11)On March 17th, 2015, LabGov will host the Conference Land and new forms of legal order at LUISS University of Rome. The Conference – that will start at 4:30 PM in Aula Nocco, Via Parenzo 11, LUISS School of Law – will address the issue of collaborative governance for the commons as a tool to fight corruption and organized crime, safeguard the territory and promote legal economic growth and social progress.

Following the experiences developed in Mantova with the CO-Mantova, a collaborative governance territorial pact, and in Bologna with the Regulation on public collaboration, participants will focus on new forms of collaboration between public institutions, social innovators, businesses, civil society organizations and knowledge institutions.

The conference is part of the LabGov workshops series that this academic year has been focused on Land as a commons: environment, agriculture and food.

Giovanni Lo Storto, LUISS General Director, and Roberto Pessi, professor of Labor Law and LUISS Vice Provost for education, will open the Conference. Main session will see the keynote addresses of Paola Severino, professor of criminal law and LUISS Executive Vice Provost, and Giancarlo Caselli, president of the “Osservatorio Agromafie” scientific committee. Antonella Manzione, Head of the Council of Ministries Presidency Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department, will act as discussant. Second session will be a roundtable with LUISS professors Melina Decaro (professor of public comparative law), Gian Candido De Martin (professor of public law), Antonio La Spina (professor of public policies) and Bruno Frattasi (Head of the Interior Ministry Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department).

Raffaele Bifulco, professor of constitutional law at LUISS, will chair the two sessions of the conference. The conference will end with the closing remarks of Claudio Rossano, professor of public law.

Full program of the conference is available at the following link:

Territorio e nuove forme di legalità – programma


Territorio e nuove forme di legalità: la governance collaborativa è la strada?

Il prossimo 17 marzo 2015 LabGov – LABoratorio per la GOVernance dei beni comuni organizza la conferenza “Territorio e nuove forme di legalità” presso la LUISS Guido Carli. L’incontro, che avrà luogo nell’Aula Nocco della Facoltà di Giurisprudenza, Via Parenzo, 11, Roma, indagherà il rapporto fra legalità e salvaguardia del territorio attraverso forme di sperimentazione ispirate alla governance collaborativa, come il Regolamento sulla collaborazione per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani di Bologna e CO-Mantova, il patto di collaborazione territoriale per uno sviluppo economico locale orientato ai beni comuni.

I lavori saranno aperti dai saluti istituzionali del dott. Giovanni Lo Storto, direttore generale della LUISS Guido Carli, e del Prof. Roberto Pessi, Prorettore LUISS per la didattica. Le relazioni principali sono affidate alla Prof.ssa Paola Severino, ordinario di Diritto Penale e Pro-Rettore Vicario LUISS, e al dott. Gian Carlo Caselli, Presidente del Comitato scientifico dell’Osservatorio Agromafie. La dott.ssa Antonella Manzione, Capo Dipartimento per gli affari giuridici e legislativi della Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, agirà in veste di discussant. Seguirà una tavola rotonda con la Prof.ssa Melina Decaro, il Prof. Gian Candido De Martin, il Prof. Antonio La Spina e il prefetto Bruno Frattasi. ll Prof. Claudio Rossano concluderà i lavori della giornata.

Il Prof. Raffaele Bifulco coordinerà i lavori dell’incontro.

Per consultare il programma della giornata:

Territorio e nuove forme di legalità – programma



Italian collaborative cities launch from Rome the Matera Sharing School

Italian collaborative cities launch from Rome the Matera Sharing School





The sharing economy is growing faster than ever and becoming a hot policy issue these days. Casa Netural, CollaboriamoRENA and LabGov have for this reason decided to launch the “sharing school”. Thanks to the collaboration between these entities and partners like Ouishare, Avanzi and Societing, the school will be able to host highly qualified professionals and experienced innovators. The main star will be Neal Gorenflo from Shareable.


The school will be held in the city of Matera, 2019 European Capital of Culturefrom January 23rd, 2015 through January 26th, 2015. The four day full immersion program is based on a “learning by doing” approach, which aims at forming participants on sharing economy. The possibility to experiment collaboration among participants is the pivotal practice of the school. Through active participation, cooperation, inclusion and strong theoretical background, the program aims at analyzing recent trends and best practices of the sharing economy and to provide the necessary instruments to designing and manage community services and assets through sharing and collaborative schemes. The school is thus recommended for all those civic innovators, nonprofit leaders, economic development professionals, city builders and entrepreneurs, public officials which seek to deepen their knowledge of practices related to the commons, as well as to the sharing practices in a city. The school will provide them with the skills, expertise, and insights they need to create, implement and measure to build upon the creativity, innovation, and human capability of their local communities.

In Rome, Neal Gorenflo will launch the school at an event on collaborative cities as a model for urban transformation and local economic development. The audience will be made up of Roman and Italian sharing world actors. The conference will be held at Porta Futuro on January 22nd at 10:00 AM. Representatives from four collaborative cities (Milan, Florence, Bologna and Rome) and other important experts and practitioners will be there too. The aim is to open 2015 with a thorough discussion on how cities could be turned into collaborative cities or co-cities, that is to say places where people share urban commons, city governments collaborate with citizens and collaborative businesses flourish, all thanks to a commons-oriented economic approach.

Event program is available here.

You can enroll here

To get more info on the Sharing School:




Le città collaborative lanciano da Roma la Sharing School di Matera

La sharing economy sta crescendo più velocemente che mai e sta diventando un tema di politica pubblica molto caldo negli ultimi mesi, anche grazie a eventi come Sharitaly. Per questa ragione, Casa Netural, CollaboriamoRENA e LabGov hanno deciso di lanciare la Sharing School. Grazie alla collaborazione tra queste soggetti e partner come  OuiShareAvanzi e Societing,  la scuola potrà ospitare professionisti altamente qualificati e innovatori di grande esperienza. Neal Gorenflo, co-founder di Shareable, sarà ospite della scuola per tutta la durata dell’iniziativa.

La scuola si terrà a Matera, Capitale Europea della Cultura 2019 , dal 23 al 26 gennaio 2015. Quattro giorni di full immersion basati sull’approccio “learning by doing”, che mirano a formare i partecipanti sui temi e le pratiche della sharing economy. La possibilità di sperimentare la collaborazione tra i partecipanti è la caratteristica principale della scuola. Attraverso la partecipazione attiva, la cooperazione, l’inclusione e un forte background teorico, il programma mira ad analizzare i trend più recenti e le best practices della sharing economy per fornire gli strumenti necessari per progettare e gestire servizi e beni di comunità attraverso schemi di condivisione e collaborazione. La scuola è pensata per tutti gli innovatori civici, leaders nel settore del non-profit, professionisti dello sviluppo economico, city builders, imprenditori, e funzionari pubblici che intendono approfondire la conoscenza delle pratiche relative ai commons, così come delle pratiche collaborative in una città. La scuola fornirà loro le skills, l’esperienza, e indagherà i loro bisogni di creare, implementare e misurare per costruire sulla creatività, l’innovazione e il capitale umano delle loro comunità locali.

A Roma, Neal Gorenflo lancerà la scuola in un evento sulle città collaborative come modello di trasformazione urbana e sviluppo economico locale. L’evento richiamerà molti attori del mondo dello sharing a livello italiano e globale. La conferenza avrà luogo presso Porta Futuro il 22 gennaio alle ore 10:00. Saranno presenti i  rappresentanti di quattro città collaborative (Milano, Firenze, Bologna e Roma) e altri importanti esperti e professionisti. L’obiettivo dell’evento è aprire il 2015 con una riflessione su come le città possono essere trasformate in città collaborative o  co-città, ovvero luoghi dove le persone condividono i beni comuni urbani, l’amministrazione collabora con i cittadini e imprese collaborative fioriscono, tutto grazie a un approccio economico orientato ai beni comuni.

Il programma è disponibile qui.

Puoi iscriverti qui.

Per maggiori informazioni sulla Sharing School:


Bologna regulation on public collaboration for urban commons

The Bologna Regulation on public collaboration for urban commons is part of the “The City as a Commons” project that started in 2011 in Bologna with the support of Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna and the City of Bologna. It ultimately led to the adoption of the “Regolamento sulla collaborazione per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani“. LabGov interns prepared and edited the translation of the Bologna Regulation which is now the official version adopted by the City of Bologna (see “Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons“).

The Bologna Regulation was drafted after two years of field work and three “urban commons governance labs” run also by LabGov Coordinator, Professor Christian Iaione. The Bologna Regulation is a 30 page regulatory framework outlining how local authorities, citizens and the community at large (SMEs, non profits, knowledge institutions) can manage public and private spaces and assets together. As such, it’s a sort of handbook for civic and public collaboration, and also a new vision for government. It reflects the strong belief that we need a cultural shift in terms of how we think about government, moving away from the Leviathan State or Welfare State toward collaborative or polycentric urban/local governance. This calls for new regulatory and governmental tools, namely public collaborationnudge regulation, and citytelling.

Christian Iaione, participated actively to the design and implementation activities of “La città come bene comune” (i.e.The city as a commons“) project in Bologna. Iaione developed the theoretical fraework, carried out and coordinated the research activities, training programs and co-design sessions and was also one of the most active members on the committee appointed by the Comune di Bologna to draft the regulation.

Iaione has been researching the topic of urban commons for quite a long time, and at some point  realized that the city could actually be interpreted as a collaborative commons. Iaione’s research on urban commons is synthesized in the  “City as a Commons” paper presented at a conference in Utrecht in 2012 and later published on the Indiana University Digital Library of the Commons. Earlier studies were published in Italian as “La città come bene comune” and “Città e beni comuni“.  Iaione had the opportunity to work and develop his academic studies as a research fellow at New York University School of Law. While at NYU he developed the theoretical framework for local public entrepreneurship, which is the basis of the CO-Mantova project and the idea of the city as a commons. His study on the tragedy of urban roads is the prequel of the Bologna experiment and the first conceptualization of urban infrastructure and assets as commons.

The City as a Commons project recently entered a new phase and evolved into the CO-Bologna project. The turning point is the 1st IASC Conference on urban commonsThe City as a Commons“.