Ten Points on The City as Commons

Ten Points on The City as Commons

IASC

The City as a Commons” conference has produced a body of knowledge that can guide future research and policymaking on which we can build. Specifically, after some reflection, we came away from the conference with at least 10 lessons for the developing field of the urban commons:

1. There are many kinds of urban commons, some existing for many decades (e.g. housing cooperatives) and others just emerging. Social innovation is important for designing some types of urban commons and the conditions for commoning;

2. We must embrace the diversity of commons and commoning yet still be careful about what we call the commons; so more work is needed on analyzing what is an urban commons and what is not;

3. In addition to many resources being held or managed in common, in a collaborative fashion, the city itself must be considered a commons–both as an urban space and as a governing entity. The governance of the urban commons can be a framework to update political and bureaucratic decision-making processes at the city level;

4. The commons is an emerging framework for inclusiveness and equity in cities as the world is urbanizing and cities are the place where different cultures, classes and people come to live together, work together and grow together;

5. The role of technology is important for the commons, but technology is a means and not an end. It must enable and support the urban commons, and the ability of people to come together and collaborate in the interest of the community or communities;

6. Collective action for the urban commons should be enabling existing communities, stakeholders, and city inhabitants as much as creating new urban communities, formal and informal groups, movements, traditional stakeholders and social or collective organizations;

7. Urban commons need an “industrial plan” and new economic and/or social institutions to help transition some cities, and some areas within them, away from an old economic model to one that leverages the power of commoning and collaboration to support sustainable, flourishing as well as more inclusive, just and democratic communities;

8. The urban commons governance principle is not self-government, nor decentralization. It is rather distribution of powers among public, social, economic, knowledge and civic actors and therefore it implies a significant investment in the design of new forms of collaboration and partnerships among these actors;

9. Design principles for the urban commons should be written to reflect the design principles created by Elinor Ostrom, but adapting them to the challenges and characteristics of the more political, confrontational, and overregulated space which cities represent. The study of the commons in the city should be the focus of future research beyond the study of the urban commons. More attention should be put on experimentation, institutional diversity, spreading of social norms within urban contexts;

10. There should be safeguards against opportunistic, exploitative, and short-sighted behaviors, as well as escapist flights and utopian or ideological visions, in developing and sustaining the urban commons. A bottom-up, as well as a circular, approach is crucial for the urban commons and confirms Focault’s argument that power is “not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of non egalitarian and mobile relations”.

This is just a tiny part of the huge body of knowledge generated by “The City as Commons” conference thanks to your support and cooperation. We look forward to building new advancements in the study of the urban commons hope that we can continue to partner with you towards this end.

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La conferenza “The City as a Commons” ha prodotto un patrimonio di conoscenza che negli anni a venire fungerà sicuramente da fonte di ispirazione per la ricerca e la formazione e dal quale si potrà partire per costruire nuove politiche pubbliche e immaginare nuovi strumenti di coesione sociale e sviluppo economico locale. I materiali per i quali gli autori presteranno il proprio consenso verranno resi gradualmente disponibili alla pagina: www.labgov.it/urbancommons/press/. Nello specifico, dopo alcune riflessioni svolte a valle della conferenza, abbiamo pensato di distillare “dieci lezioni sui beni comuni urbani”, consapevoli che si tratta solo di una possibile “mappa nautica” in un campo di studi con ancora enormi margini di esplorazione:

1.     per commons (o beni comuni) devono intendersi anche e soprattutto le istituzioni abilitanti l’azione collettiva. Ci sono tipologie diverse di queste istituzioni, alcune esistono da molto tempo (ad es. le associazioni di volontariato, le cooperative), altre stanno emergendo solo adesso. L’innovazione sociale è un fattore importante per il design di alcune tipologie di istituzioni per i beni comuni urbani e per le condizioni che favoriscono il commoning (o collaborazione civica) a livello urbano;

2.     dobbiamo abbracciare la diversità dei beni comuni, delle loro istituzioni e delle pratiche di commoning (o collaborazione civica) e porre molta attenzione quando definiamo i beni comuni: c’è bisogno, quindi di un approfondito lavoro di analisi per comprendere cosa è e cosa non è un bene comune urbano;

3.      oltre alle sue risorse, da gestire con un approccio collaborativo, la città stessa deve essere considerata come un bene comune sia come spazio urbano, che come entità di governo. La governance dei beni comuni può essere un framework adeguato per aggiornare il processo decisionale politico e amministrativo a livello locale;

4.     quello dei commons è un framework emergente che si sta affermando per migliorare l’inclusione e l’uguaglianza nelle città, tenuto conto del fatto che il mondo si sta urbanizzando e le città sono oggi quei luoghi dove culture, classi sociali, persone differenti si insediano per vivere, lavorare e crescere insieme;

5.     il ruolo della tecnologia è importante per i beni comuni, ma la tecnologia è un mezzo e non un fine, il cui compito è abilitare e supportare i beni comuni urbani e la capacità delle persone di collaborare nell’interesse della comunità o, ancora meglio, delle comunità;

6.     l’azione collettiva per i beni comuni urbani dovrebbe essere abilitante tanto per comunità, attori sociali, gruppi formali e informali, abitanti delle città preesistenti, quanto per nuove comunità urbane, nuovi gruppi formali e informali, nuove formazioni sociali e nuovi movimenti e attori e organizzazioni sociali o collettive;

7.     i beni comuni urbani necessitano di un “piano industriale“ e di una nuova istituzione  economica e sociale che aiuti la transizione di alcune città e di alcune aree urbane all’interno di esse da un vecchio modello economico ad un nuovo modello che faccia leva sul potere del commoning e della collaborazione civica per supportare comunità sostenibili, prospere nonché inclusive, eque e democratiche;

8.     il principio generale di design della governance dei beni comuni urbani non è l’auto-governo, nè il decentramento. Il principio generale è piuttosto la distribuzione del potere tra attori pubblici, sociali, economici civici e cognitivi e pertanto implica un investimento significativo nel design di nuove forme di collaborazione e partenariato tra questi attori;

9.     i principi di design per la governance dei beni comuni urbani o dei beni comuni nella città dovrebbero ispirarsi ai principi elaborati da Elinor Ostrom per il governo dei beni collettivi. Essi tuttavia vanno modulati e adattati alle sfide e alle caratteristiche di quello spazio politico, conflittuale e sovra-regolato che le città rappresentano. Lo studio dei beni comuni nella città, più che lo studio dei beni comuni urbani, dovrebbe essere uno dei focus verso i quali indirizzare le ricerche future.  Si dovrebbe porre un’attenzione maggiore alla sperimentazione, alla diversità (o differenziazione) istituzionale, alla diffusione di norme sociali all’interno dei contesti urbani;

10.  nello sviluppo e nel sostegno ai beni comuni urbani dovrebbero essere inserite delle clausole di salvaguardia contro comportamenti opportunistici, strumentali e di breve termine, così come si dovrebbero evitare fughe in avanti e costruzioni utopiche o ideologiche. Un approccio dal basso e circolare è cruciale per i beni comuni urbani e conferma la visione di Michel Foucalt, secondo il quale “il potere non è qualcosa che si acquista, si strappa o si condivide, qualcosa che si conserva o che si lascia sfuggire; il potere si esercita a partire da innumerevoli punti, e nel gioco di relazioni disuguali e mobili.

The city of Orvieto approves the regulation on urban commons

The city of Orvieto approves the regulation on urban commons

Map of Regulation
Ever since the City of Bologna approved in May ’14 the Regulation on Collaboration Between the Citizens and the City for the Care and Regeneration of the Urban Commons, twenty municipalities have approved the Regulation and fourth-three more are examining it. In this sense, the city of Orvieto has numerous predecessors, but this does not change the fact that it should be considered a success in itself.

Every little, medium and big city that voted in favor of a collaborative governance of the urban commons represents an important achievement along the way towards the end of the practice of devolving power. Active citizens have the chance to take care by themselves of the place they live and to do it hand in hand with the public administration, in a constructive cooperation that brings benefits to the whole community.

On December 29th, 2014, thus, Orvieto joined the list of the cities that decided to completely revolutionize the way of thinking about the commons, and in particular about the urban ones. The Municipal Council endorsed the Regulation by a unanimous decision. A fact, this, which highlights that behind themes like this, there is a common background able to eliminate the differences between the various political factions in favor of a shared agreement. Furthermore, the approval in itself helps avoiding all those cases in which the active citizenship is blocked and even punished (e.g. the emblematic case of Mrs. Ilaria Montis who was fined for having cleaned the seaside of Is Solinas (CI) and for throwing the garbages in dumpsters far away from her house). To regulate a phenomenon does not mean to block it or to establish boundaries and limits, but rather to let it flow according to its characteristics and according to the different realities it takes place in.

The Regulation found its origin in the work carried out also by LabGov experts in Bologna and is centered upon the principle of horizontal/circular subsidiarity enshrined in the Italian Constitution (Art. 118) in an innovative way. Article 118 should not be interpreted as a way of merely dividing the responsibilities between the private sector and the public one, but rather as a shared background on which a new model of society shall be built. A society where active citizens can practically contribute to the renewal of the reality they live in. Obviously, this implies that the Regulation cannot be applied everywhere in the same form. Changes are firmly supported in order to adapt the goals to the concrete situation and to the history and values of the city at issue.
The analogies and differences between the four different versions of the Regulation approved in the cities of Bologna, Ivrea, Siena and Chieri were already analyzed, through seven parameters. Now, with the same methodology, it has come the moment to present the vision that the city of Orvieto decided to offer with the approval of the Regulation, in comparison to the original version of Bologna.

  1. Principles. The Municipality of Orvieto maintained all the original principles that constitute the foundations of the original version of the regulation. However, an interesting voice was added by the City Council of Orvieto during the drafting phase: art. 10 makes an explicit reference to the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, approved in Faro in 2005. In the words of Paolo Maurizio Talanti, the Democratic Party councilman of Orvieto “a city with such an artistic and cultural heritage like ours shall know that the knowledge and use of the cultural heritage is an individual right […]”.
  2. Subjects. For both Bologna and Orvieto, the subjects taken into consideration are the active citizens, namely “all subjects, single or associated, anyhow gathered in social formations, also of entrepreneurial type or with social vocation, which are active for the care and regeneration of urban commons”.
  3. Organizational aspects. Unlike the case of Bologna, Orvieto does not explicitly provide a unique office for the evaluation of the proposals of the active citizens, thus provoking an organizational gap that risks to provoke overlapping procedures and ambiguity during the implementation. In fact, according to the topic, each proposal will be submitted to the competent office.
  4. Type of administration. The kind of administration that takes shape in Orvieto is based on the authorization by the public offices, which are competent to technically evaluate the feasibility of the projects.
  5. Relevance of the private assets. The Regulation of Orvieto puts a particular emphasis on the public spaces as objects of the care of the active citizens, leaving however the possibility for a shared management of the private spaces for public use. Worth mentioning is the fact that the regulation merges the provision about the public spaces with the one about private ones in a unique norm.
  6. Forms of support. This is probably the most interesting aspect of the whole Regulation of Orvieto. In fact, the text completely eliminate all forms of exemption and relief from levies and local taxes and of administrative facilities, such as in obtaining permits. The Municipality may contribute to the reimbursement of costs only in those cases where an in-kind support is not possible.
  7. Disputes. Contrary to the Bologna Regulation, which provided for the creation of a Conciliation Board in order to solve future disputes, the City Council of Orvieto did not, thus leaving open the possibility to submit the arising cases to the ordinary jurisdiction instruments.

Strongly adapted to the local situation, the Regulation of Orvieto, with its strengths and weaknesses, constitutes a remarkable example of how much our society is changing and how well the Regulation fits in this challenging and stimulating environment.

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Il Comune di Orvieto approva il Regolamento sulla collaborazione fra cittadini e amministrazione per la cura e la rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani!

Il Comune di Orvieto ha due settimane fa approvato il Regolamento sulla Collaborazione tra Cittadini e Amministrazione per la Cura e la Rigenerazione dei Beni Comuni Urbani. Seppur con un testo adattato alla realtà della città, l’approvazione del Regolamento dimostra un rinnovato modo di pensare sui beni comuni urbani che si sta diffondendo velocemente in tutta Italia.

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“.