June 15th and 16th 2017 the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) of the Lund University (Sweden) hosted the 4th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy. A great venue for the European network of researchers working on the topic of the collaborative and sharing economy.
In two days 95 participants attended the workshop, organized in 10 multidisciplinary sessions, 3 very valuable keynotes speeches, 1 academic discussion and 1 stakeholders debate.
The workshop was opened by professor Oksana Mont of the Lund University who welcomed the participants and introduced the first keynote speaker: professor Julian Agyeman of the TUFTS University (Medford-Boston, MA) author, with Duncan McLaren, of the book “Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities”.
Agyeman started from the concept of just sustainability – to explain how the reinvention and the revival of sharing in our cities could enhance equity, rebuild community and cut resource use; and he presented the “sharing paradigm” proposed in the book: a paradigm which recognizes the shift from socio-cultural sharing practices to (inter)mediated ones as the central transition in contemporary cities, and also highlights a second spectrum from communal/intrinsic to commercial/extrinsic models. The book in fact explores more cultural then commercial, and more political then economic approaches, that are rooted in a broad understanding of the city as a co-created urban commons. The speech ended with some suggestions for governing the sharing city and developing the methodologies of analysis.
The workshop continued with the sessions exploring both conceptual, methodological and empirical questions, such as concepts, methods, impacts, operations, geographical contexts, actors and governance, gathering Ph.D researchers, research fellows and assistant professors from many European countries and universities, revealing a great variety of approaches, methodologies, fields of research. In the two days of the workshop 39 contributions and 3 pitches were presented.
The second keynote speaker was Michael Kuhndt, the executive director of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP), an international nonprofit Think and Do tank that works with businesses, policy makers, partner organizations and civil society towards a sustainable planet.
He gave insights and linkages for a sustainable living and presented a global survey on the sharing economy initiatives in North America, Europe and Latin America. He linked the sharing economy with four dimensions, giving data and explanations for each one: lifestyles, digitalization, circular economy and mainstream businesses.
The first day closed with an academic panel discussion titled “Sharing Economy: controversy in the making”. Moderated by Lucie Zvolska, a Ph.D researcher in the sharing and collaborative economy at the IIIEE, it involved Julian Agyeman, Michael Kuhndt, Karin Bradley – Associate professor of the KTH, expert on sustainable urban development, environmental justice and sharing economy, Hugo Guyader – OuiShare Connector Sweden, Ph.D at the Linköping University, Karin Salomonsson – of the Lund University, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, and Yuliya Votytenko Palgan – Assistant professor at the IIIEE, expert on new economies (bioeconomy, sharing economy and circular economy) and sustainable urban innovation and experimentation (urban living labs). The panel went through some relevant questions such as topics and issues on which to work today to analyze the sharing economy, and the best methods to use, as well as the social inclusion in the sharing economy as tool for a more sustainable economy.
The first day ended with a collective dinner at the Grand Hotel of Lund.
The second day saw the keynote speech of Martijin Arets, an international experts in the field of scalable online platforms, in particular in the sharing economy, crowdfunding, and the gig economy. He talked about sharing economy and entrepreneurship on the bases of more than 350 conversations he made in 13 countries in the last three years with businessmen and experts.
The speech was followed by a stakeholder debate (after academia a glimpse on the local landscape in terms of sharing economy). Moderated by Steven Curtis – a Ph.D student at the IIIEE researching on urban sharing organisations as a mechanism to realise sustainability transitions in cities, the panel wondered about the future of the sharing economy. Among the participants there were: Eva Eiderström, Director of the Department of Ecolabelling and Green Consumption at the charitable environmental organisation Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Emma Börjesson, project manager at the Environmental Department in the City of Malmö, expert on sustainable consumption, with particular attention on fair trade, textiles and food; recently, her work has brought her to the sharing economy, due to a project funded by the “European Regional Development Fund”, which focuses on job-creation and lowering living costs. Anna Wittgren, the Business Area Manager of Leisure Travel at Malmö Tourism, an organization that is part of the Malmö Municipality. Matthias Lehner, a Postdoctoral fellow at Lund University engaged in the study of the role of food retailers in promoting sustainable consumption; he is currently collaborating on two projects to examine the role of “the sharing economy” in empowering more sustainable consumer/user consumption behavior. Mattias Jägerskog, founder of the non-profit ridesharing movement Skjutsgruppen who for some ten years now gathers over 70,000 participants, working with over 30 municipalities, counties and regions in Sweden. Jane Olsson, founder of the company SWOPshop, located in central Malmö with the aim to allow people to barter clothes and focused on sustainable consumption in fashion.
Professor Oksana Mont closed the workshop highlighting the connections made in the event in terms of co-creation and co-sharing values: engaged academic community, engaged young researchers, interest from stakeholders. In line with this approach of co-creation and co-sharing all the sessions were spaced out with networking coffee breaks to give participants the opportunity to exchange opinions, to reflect together, to ask more questions even after the discussion space during the sessions.
Professor Mont also remembered that the workshop contributors can participate at the draft of a book to help in describing and understanding the sharing economy phenomenon, sharing organizations, sustainability impacts and institutionalization processes. In addition a Special Issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production will be issued. A legacy of the workshop will also be the creation of a Ph.D student network on the sharing economy, to connect diverse backgrounds, ways of working, places and perspectives, and to apply for funding for workshops and meetings.
At the end, Dominika Wruk, of the Mannheim University and member of the project I-Share, presented the date and the venue for the next edition of the workshop 5IWSE: University of Mannheim (Germany) , June 28th and 29th. A new opportunity to brainstorm about sharing and to connect researchers and ideas in an innovative city, a real sharing hotspot (there are more than 70 sharing organizations), easily reachable with public transportation from all the European countries. So, save the date!
[The workshop was arranged by IIIEE together with the department of urban planning and environment at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) and the funding support of the agency Formas (Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development)]
Il 15 e 16 giugno si è svolto presso l’università di Lund, in Svezia, il 4° International Workshop on the Sharing Economy. Un’importante occasione di confronto per i ricercatori europei che lavorano sui temi dell’economia della condivisione e della collaborazione in diversi ambiti accademici. 10 sessioni per presentare 39 ricerche e 3 pitch, che hanno visto la presenza di 95 partecipanti. Il workshop è stato impreziosito da tre keynote speakers d’eccezione: Julian Agyeman della Tufts University (Boston, MA), Michael Kuhndt del CSCP – Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production e Martijn Artes, esperto internazionale di piattaforme collaborative; oltre a un panel accademico e un tavolo di discussione tra stakeholders locali. Prossimo incontro: 28 e 29 giugno 2018 all’Università di Mannheim per la quinta edizione: save the date!
Since its birth in 1999, the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Milano-Bicocca has promoted sociological research and scientific investigation of contemporary society, following its changes, with a special focus on the city of Milan.
From May 4th to May 7th 2017, the sociologists and the social scientists of the Department shared and presented their researches, analysis and investigations to the citizens of Milan, within the framework of the initiative “URBANA. Quality of life and social innovation in Milan”. The initiative, coordinated by the Department Director, Prof. Giampaolo Nuvolati, was promoted and organized by the Department under the patronage of the Municipality of Milan and the University Milano-Bicocca; with the aim of bringing university and sociology from the suburban Bicocca neighborhood to the core of the city, and in this way to strengthen and consolidate the relation between the university and the city.
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
Four days of city storytelling to describe its changes through different languages and perspectives, in some of the main representative locations of Milan, with more than 100 experts, social scientists, sociologists, journalists, artists and performers, for a total of 24 free entry appointments. The event, touched many different topics, such as violence, food, gender, ageing, mobility, sharing economy, health, security, job market, sustainability and metropolitan city among others. Not only conferences and workshops but also artistic installations, music and theater performances, that gathered more than 1000 enthusiastic participants. The events was divided into four main macro themes:
- a creative breakfast with sociologists and practitioners to talk about food policies, a topic of great interest in the current international debate;
- a seminar at ‘Fabbrica del Vapore’ on the international positioning of the city with the professor Roberto Camagni to reply to the question: is Milan a global city?;
- two interesting moments to discuss about flexibility, innovation and rights in the cognitive capitalism, with many experts from different fields: the first one at the new headquarter of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation to reflect on the new forms of self-employment and on the topic of the modern representation, and the second one hosted by Impact hub, one renowned local coworking, to analyze the new spaces of work that are rising in the sharing economy era with a special intervention of the council member Tajani (Labor Policy, Production Activities, Trade and Human Resources)
- Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation hosted also a round table on the topic of social innovation and on the current state of the sharing economy in Milan with some of the main experts in the city and the participation of local practitioners;
- the conference ‘Feed the City’ to discuss the relation between city and countryside, the topic of the waste of food, the innovations in agriculture and the political perspectives of the local government in the metropolitan city, hosted at the EU Parliament Headquarters of Milan;
- a double event inside Trotter Park to discuss of art and politic as transformative practices with the participation of the master Michelangelo Pistoletto (painter, action and object artist, and art theorist) together with experts on public spaces and musicians;
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- a conference on the topics of health, prevention, participation, promotion in the city hold at the local Health Care Agency;
- three events with prisoners at the three Milanese jails to connect the city and the jails and underline the importance of this connection: the first day a music performance of the San Vittore Choir (Memory House of Milan), the second day a theatrical show with the detained of Bollate Jail (Trade Union); and the third day an artistic happening with the Opera detained in collaboration with the Brera Academy (Ex Church of San Carpoforo);
- a conference to analyze the relation between economic competitiveness and social inclusion with the participation of council members and experts on the topic, to deepen the theme of the social city in the urban agenda and to present the second Report on cities: “ The Urban Agendas in The Italian Cities” by Urban@it;
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- three meetings to deep the issue of domestic violence with Caritas Ambrosiana, Rete Antiviolenza Milano and SVS Donna Aiuta Donna Onlus. For the occasion the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was transformed for a day in a labyrinth as violence metaphor: enter is easy, exit no;
- a rendezvous to discuss the opportunities for women in the city of Milan with many local success women in different field;
- a seminar to talk about active ageing with the main local stakeholders and to promote forms of elderly participation;
- a day voted to young people and their artistic abilities in terms of resilience with the participation of youth involved in the project MiGeneration Lab of the Municipality of Milan.
- at the presence of the Public Prosecutor of the Republic, Armando Spataro, a moment of reflection on the history of the local criminality and on the perception of citizens with speeches from criminologists, sociologists and journalists, at the ‘Casa della Memoria’ (Memory House of Milan);
Photo Credit: Simone Barbagallo
- a debate on the topic of mobility to reason of new urban populations, new uses of the cities and new forms of mobility hosted at Spazio Avanzi – Barra A @ Upcycle Milano Bike Café;
- continuing with the subject of mobility, the Rossignoli Atelier, one of the last place in Milan for the artisanal production of bicycles, hosted a workshop on the history and the evolution of the bike in the contemporary society, its use as geographical tool of exploration and its agonistic dimension, with a closing demonstration of how to assemble a bike.
- a conference to discuss the creation of the Metropolitan City, its potentialities and risks, with some contributors at the drafting of the Delrio Law and experts on the topic in partnership with the Centro Studi Grande Milano, the Metropolitan City of Milan and the Navigli Institute;
- The last event of the initiative was an incredible interactive performance with a local theater company (‘Teatro degli Incontri’) that guided 80 participants in the area of Via Padova involving people in finesse acts to re-discover the beauty of the city.
In addition, URBANA proposed also a metropolitan walk “So far, so close: walks in the Bicocca neighborhood” to explore the historical places that marked the life of this industrial area, and to understand its processes of regeneration. The walk was guided by Ph.D Student and researchers in Urban Studies.
As underlined by the Department Director, URBANA powered the subject of the quality of life identifying the needs of the population as well as innovative solutions and it has been the opportunity for many citizens to approach new topics or to deepen old issues. The Vice-Mayor, Anna Scavuzzo (also council member for education, university and research), took part to some of the events and stressed the important role of the universities also outside their doors, as engineer of innovation, research and scientific method underling their ability to text, experiment and activate, together with the local institutions and associations, new ways to make Milan more beautiful, open and livable.
All the information about the event are available at the link: www.urbana.sociologia.unimib.it
Dal 4 al 7 maggio 2017 Milano è stato un palcoscenico diffuso per la sociologia e le scienze sociali. Il Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale dell’Università Milano-Bicocca ha infatti promosso ed organizzato, con il patrocinio del Comune di Milano e dello stesso Ateneo, una rassegna per portare la sociologia in città e affrontare i temi del cambiamento urbano, le problematiche sociali e le soluzioni possibili. 24 eventi in 4 giorni con oltre 100 esperti, tra sociologi, scienziati sociali, antropologi, criminologi, giornalisti, performers ecc hanno animato la città coinvolgendo oltre 1000 partecipanti. La rassegna ha rappresentato una grande occasione di conoscenza, confronto e connessione tra l’università e la città.
Source: author’s pic
We have already presented the Community Land Trust’s model (CLT), as a membership-based, non-profit organization chartered to hold and manage land in trust for the benefit of a given community, underling how the three elements, land, trust and community, are at the core of the model itself. The main goal is to provide long-term model affordable housing to low-income families using a resale-restricted model and to promote community control over development, while revitalizing neighborhoods (Dwyer, 2015). The land is held in trust by the CLT for the benefit of the community in different ways that ensure that homes remain affordable for future buyers over time. A low income individual or family looking for a house becomes member of the CLT, buys a house in the CLT and leases the land on which the house from the CLT lies. The CLT is always in contact with its member (Gray and Galande, 2011), also after the sale, and in case the residents default on the mortgage it can intervene to prevent foreclosure. Its democratic governance structure reflects the idea that the CLT operates within a community, whose members are part of the decision processes.
In Boston, in the Roxbury and North Dorchester area, there is one of the oldest and most acclaimed urban CLT in the US, the DSNI, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Its history dates back to 1984, when some brave residents, with crucial support from a few local funders and community leaders, decided to revive their neighborhood, which was devastated by arson, trash and disinvestment.
Boston has always been one of the most expensive cities in the US, with the highest income inequality, partially linked to the lack of affordable housing, and in recent years housing prices have not been decreasing (Bluestone et al. 2015); so much so that, even today, the demand for affordable housing far exceeds the city’s supply and recent data reveal that the real estate market is getting even more expansive. As a result, strong processes of gentrification and displacement invested the city, increasing housing costs for low and moderate income families (who have always been the heart of Boston’s neighborhoods) (Cho, Li and Salzman, 2016). According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Boston has one of the highest rates of gentrifying census tracts (Hartley, 2013). Those who used to be affordable neighborhoods went through a gentrification process, becoming inaccessible.
The Dudley Street area was not excluded from these trends and the neighborhood was full of vacant lots and boarded-up buildings, abandoned cars and dumping. The risk was that all these properties could be sold by the city or their private owners and the area, could be cleaned up and converted into high-price condo, hotels, offices and luxury homes serving downtown Boston. This would have pushed out the numerous lower-income residents of the Dudley neighborhood (that is historically a black and latino area).
Source: author’s pic
This was the reason at the origin of the DSNI’s birth. The priority soon became to make “development without displacement” (The Dudley Street Neighborhood Revitalization Plan 1987), building new affordable houses and distributing additional housing vouchers for low-income families, incentivizing long-term ownerships among low-income residents and reducing speculative purchasing of homes and vacant lots. Black, Latinos and Cape Verdeans residents became involved in identity-based organizations expressing an active desire to redevelop the area. A tripartite board of governance was established. It was made of equal numbers of representatives of the four main ethnic groups inside the community (African-American, Cape Verdean, Latino and White) and it had 3 main features:
- Sustained emphasis on community organizing and empowerment;
- Long-term comprehensive view of planning;
- Active community governance.
Each board member could (and still can today) vote about every decision taken for the benefit of the community, none can change the rules or decide in behalf of the community. The focus is always on maintaining culture and building community spirit through new opportunities, housing, and youth involvement, making local residents always the primary beneficiaries. Today the board is composed by 34 members (the number can vary at each election), community-wide elections are held every 2 years and the DSNI holds an Annual Meeting. The structure is so organized: 16 residents from the whole area, and then members of non-profit agencies representing the Health and Human Service fields from the core area, members of the Community Development Corporations from the core area, small businesses representatives from the core area, religious organizations from the core area, youths (15-18) from the core area, non-profit organizations from the secondary area and residents appointed by the newly elected board. To note: John Barros, the longest-serving executive director, involved in the DSNI since the age of 14, is now the City of Boston’s Chief of Economic Development. Another aspect worth underlining is the importance given to youth, an investment that can bring enormous long-term benefit. Furthermore, the DSNI partners also with universities (the Tufts University is the more involved, the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning is carrying out a specific project with the neighborhood, CoRe, Co-Research/Co-Education Partnerships).
Source: author’s pic
The support of other local entities, at the beginning especially of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) also concerned about both community-building and affordable house (such as Nuestra Comunidad CDC, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, Madison Park Development Corporation), was crucial. Organizations like the Project Hope also partnered with DSNI and contributed to housing stability in the area, and of great importance was the support of foundations, like the Riley Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The stable affordability of houses is made possible because the land trust owns the land and leases it to the homeowners who just owns the housing structure, but not the land; if they want to move away, the land, property of the CLT, is reassigned to other families (usually through a lottery, in order to avoid discretionary choices). It is important to underline that DSNI is the only community organization in the US to have obtained the city’s power of Eminent Domain, that allows it to manage 64-acre core area (Dudley Triangle) to redevelop it. This allows them to own the land and makes it possible to realize the vision of a development without displacement.
The 1987 comprehensive masterplan in 1996 was updated adding important refinements and renewing the commitment of creating an “urban village”. Today inside the DSNI there are many different groups, communities and institutes working to achieve the community’s goals. The most famous is the Dudley Neighborhood Inc. (DNI), a CLT created in 1988 by DSNI to implement and develop DSNI’s masterplan. Then there are the Resident Development Institute (RDI), the DSNI Sustainable and Economic Development Committee, the FCC – Fairmont Cultural Corridor, the Dudley Real Food Hub, the Dudley Youth Council (DYC), the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network, the Community Development Children (Dudley Children Thrive – DCT), the College Bound and the Boston Parent Organizing Network, as well as initiatives like the No Child Go Homeless Campaign, the Dudley Workforce Collaborative, the GOTCHA (Get off the Corner Hanging Around) Youth Jobs Collaborative, the Neighborhood Safety and Beautification, and the most famous, the Multicultural Festival that has held every year to celebrate the vibrancy of the community within the Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods.
In 30 years the DSNI transformed vacant lots into bike paths, community centers, playgrounds, community gardens fountains, art programs, a town commons, youth programs, parent meeting, college opportunities, a food project, a school: a real and thriving community. There are more than 3,600 members, and over 400 new homes; each program and communication is held in English, Spanish and creole and the projects managed by the CLT are many and touch different topic, from jobs to academic education help, from youth development to children activities to parents training and support, from food, gardening and urban agriculture, to affordable housing, local facilities and community building. In addition, in the last years the Boston Promise Initiative (BPI) was implemented. It is a strategy designed to create a community of opportunity – centered around strong schools, families, and resident leadership – that allows every child to learn, grow, and succeed. The goal is to transform the Roxbury and North Dorchester neighborhoods into the Dudley Village Campus (DVC), “a learning environment where children are wrapped in high-quality and coordinated health, social, educational, and community supports from cradle-to-college-to-career”.
The DSNI’s mission, as one can read on the website, is to empower Dudley Street residents to organize, plan, create and control a vibrant, diverse and high quality neighborhood, in collaboration with community partners. And what the DSNI did in the last 30 years shows that the goal was not out of sight. Of course there are still problems to face, but the success of this model is demonstrated by the decision of the Mayor Walsh to include the land trusts as the first of six goals for Boston neighborhood development, as presented in the planning report “Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030”, that specifically lauds the DSNI model. As explained in the report, through the neighborhood development program Boston will “Mitigate impacts of gentrification through targeted home buying programs, strategic acquisitions, community land trusts, tenant assistance, and expanded outreach to seniors” (2014) (Dwyer, 2011).
Bluestone, B. et al. (2015). The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2014-2015. Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy Northeastern University, 2015. Available ate the address: http://www.northeastern.edu/dukakiscenter/wpcontent/uploads/2015/03/Housing_Report_2014-15.pdf.
Cho, S., Li, K. and Salzman T. (2016). Building a Livable Boston: The Case for Community Land Trusts. Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department. Available at the address: file:///C:/Users/Utente/Downloads/Building+Livable+Boston+final+5.13.16.pdf
Dwyer, L.A. (2011). Mapping Impact: An Analysis of the Dudley Street
Neighborhood Initiative Land Trust. Master Degree in City Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, Boston. Available at https://dusp.mit.edu/news/student-research-mapping-impact-bostons-dudley-street-neighborhood
Gray, K.A. and Galande, M. (2011) Keeping ‘Community’ in a Community Land Trust.
Social Work Research 35, no. 4 (December 2011): 241–48.
Hartley, D. (2013). Gentrification and Financial Health. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Available at the address: http://www.clevelandfed.org/research/trends/2013/1113/01regeco.cfm.
 Of the neighborhoods 24,000 residents, 40% are African-Americans, 30% Latin Americans mostly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, 24% Cape Verdeans, from islands off the coast of West Africa, and 6% Whites mostly elderly Irish and Italians who have lived in the neighborhood since the 1950s.
A Boston, nell’area compresa tra i quartieri di Roxbury e North Dorchester si trova il DSNI – Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, uno dei più vecchi e acclamati CLT d’America. Il community land trust (CLT) è una sorta di trust fondiario che mira a garantire alla comunità circostante la disponibilità a lungo termine di alloggi a prezzi accessibili. Nel triangolo intorno a Dudley Street, a partire dal 1984, si è sviluppata una coraggiosa comunità che si è battuta per evitare l’innescarsi di processi di gentrificazione e trasferimento della popolazione locale, a basso reddito, e si è mobilitata per consentire a tutti di avere accesso ad un’abitazione a prezzi contenuti, ripulendo l’area, creando un CLT, e avviando processi di community building incredibili. Oggi, oltre 60 acri sono di proprietà del DSNI, unica organizzazione americana ad aver ottenuto l’eminent domain, la terra è di proprietà del CLT e le case sono date invece ai membri dell’iniziativa a prezzi accessibili. Ma ancor più rilevante è stata la capacità dei residenti di creare in 30 anni una comunità attiva, capace di organizzare, pianificare, creare e controllare un quartiere vibrante ed eterogeneo, in collaborazione coi tanti partner locali, avviando progetti per il sostegno dei giovani e delle famiglie locali.
In urban development, gentrification is a very important process that can transform the city, both socially and economically. Gentrification process in urban areas has several positive aspects (buildings are renovated and beautified, there are more jobs opportunities, more retail and service business, etc.) but also some negatives ones such as the loss of affordable housing and public assets (including parks, park buildings, former schools, library buildings, community gardens, etc.) and city-owned vacant lots are in the crosshairs of developers. This is the case of the Lower East Side in NYC that it is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Manhattan.
According to Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, the state chapter of the national civic engagement and government accountability organization, in urban development, communities play the role of underdog, on the contrary, the government and real estate developers run the show (especially the latter).
So, it is important to analyze what set of organizing tools community-led organizations have built to help grassroots groups compete with private real estate developers when it comes to determining the future of publicly owned assets across the city.
An interesting example is given by Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, a group that provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression and 596 Acres, an organization that builds tools to help neighbors see vacant lots as opportunities and create needed green spaces that become focal points for community organizing and civic engagement. These groups, in collaboration with Common Cause New York, are working on a huge project, named NYCommons.
According to the website, NYCommons is basically a new online map and database of all the public assets that helps New Yorkers impact decisions about public land and buildings in their neighborhoods and provides some type of potential real estate development opportunity. According to this statement, it’s hard to define precisely what it includes, but Paula Segal, founder of 596 Acres claims that, if it is true that in cities most of infrastructure and assets are shared (the subways, the roads, the sidewalks, the water, housing, etc.) so, the platform goes on and on to the point where privately owned property can start to seem like the real outlier.
This idea was born about three or four years ago, Mrs. Lerner says, when NYCommons partners started to see a pattern in the organizing around the future of public assets (i.e. a proposed soccer stadium in Queens, the Midtown Library in Manhattan and the main Brooklyn Public Library Branch). They “started thinking about the fact that all of these separate challenges had similar underlying policy issues that have to do with how does government think about commonly owned, shared assets.” In fact, although residents were spending a lot of time and energy, often they didn’t received benefits from these proposals involving public assets.
At the same time, there was some movement: 596 Acres supported some grassroots groups that organized around 36 former publicly owned vacant lots, which turned in declared permanent parks at the end of 2015. In addition to this, 596 Acres has developed a number of tools and created resources around city-owned vacant land: we are talking about Living Lots NYC and Urban Reviewer. The former is an online map and database that provides a useful platform for organizers to connect and maintain records of organizing activity around each lot, the latter is a catalogue of over 150 urban renewal plans that NYC adopted to get federal funding for making way for new public and private development.
In accordance with that, the specific purpose of NYCommons is indeed to create an expanded tool set to serve grassroots organizing around the broader universe of public assets in NYC. They decided to start by asking people in 10 neighborhoods and they finally found a great deal of interest for sharing best practices and connecting with others doing similar work. For testing their job, NYCommons chose three neighborhoods for pilot including the Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Lower East Side. This park presents a very strong story of citizen empowerment and, over time, that participation has contributed to the creation of Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition (SDRPC) with the aim to bring “together local stakeholders who seek to foster community-based stewardship by providing a voice for all who love the park and the communities it serves”.
Kathleen Webster, long-term resident on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and president of the SDRPC affirms that documentation, workshop facilitation and other resources to begin developing a tool kit provided by NYCommons were very helpful as a draft basis from which to go. The fact that all pilot sites will continue to shape the final NYCommons tool kit and the online platform and this pushes other sites to upload their data into the platform is the strenght of this project. Organizing track records provide vital talking points for future hearings and op-eds and community meetings.
In conclusion, the words of Mrs. Lerner are suitable to describe the characteristics of this projects: “Hopefully NYCommons can provide an entrée into a fairly sophisticated, experienced, citywide network of groups who are all thinking along the same lines, putting pressure on government to be responsive, with a similar vocabulary and set of expectations about public assets serving the public”.
NYCommons è solo l’ultimo degli strumenti forniti ai gruppi grassroots di New York che lavorano per garantire ai cittadini la libera fruizione di spazi pubblici con un alto valore sociale. Nello specifico, si tratta di una mappa e un database online continuamente aggiornati secondo la dinamica bottom-up per mappare gli assets pubblici di NYC.
An other important workshop in Centocelle, in the framework of the CO-Roma project, will be held on Wednesday, October 5th, in the hall of Rome’s V Municipio. The representatives of the various associations active on the territory will meet to discuss the creation of a cooperative of community that reunites all of them to manage together the redevelopment of the PAC (Archeological Park of Centocelle).
The workshop will be held only two days after a meeting (held on Monday, October 3rd) where the representatives of the associations counted themselves and started clarifying the priorities that have to be solved soon. The key focus of the path that we have undertaken together has not changed: the n.1 priority is to bring people back to the park, and to let it become usable again. But in order to achieve this objective, there are two issues that have to be solved soon: ensuring both a safe environment and the restoration of the activities that revolve around the park.
The participants focused around the identification of a small, but complex, action to be developed in a quadrant of the park: an action that could both solve an existing problem and test them as a collaborating team. Once that the quadrant was identified, thanks to the facilitation of Paola Santoro, the team listed the stakeholders that have to be involved in the process and the activities that can be proposed to them.
More info about the CO-Roma project are available here: http://co-roma.it/