Co-City Turin: legal tools for citizen–municipal collaboration created to fight urban poverty

 

The City of Turin approved a Regulation for public collaboration on the urban commons in 2016, on the model of the Bologna Regulation with peculiar, context-related adaptation. In 2017, the City of Turin presented a project, admitted to funding within the context of the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) program. The “Co-City” project builds a policy program for the Co-City starting from the Regulation. The Co-City project builds on both previous experiences of the City with urban regeneration policies, fight against social inclusion, the Neighborhood Houses Network (Ferrero 2012), and on more recent proposals of innovative solutions for governing city commons or implementing a Co-City (Iaione 2016).

In particular, it looks at the transformation of abandoned structures and vacant land in hubs of resident participation, in order to foster the community spirit as well as the creation of social enterprises that will contribute to reduce urban poverty in different areas of the city. The implementation of the Regulation on the urban commons will be driven in Turin by the implementation of “pacts of collaboration” between residents or associations and local authorities, based in most of the cases on taking care of public spaces, or on the reuse of abandoned urban spaces and structures. The creation of new forms of commons-based urban welfare will promote social mixing and the cohesion of the local community, making residents actors of the urban change, while the local authority will act as facilitator of innovation processes already ongoing in the urban context.

The use of innovative ICT platforms, such as the urban social network First Life, developed by the University of Turin, and the active collaboration of the network of the Neighborhood Houses (Case del Quartiere),  will contribute to combine virtual and physical dimensions, involving different types of publics in the center, as well as in the suburbs of the city.

The regeneration of abandoned or underused spaces in different areas of the city will contribute to create new jobs in the social economy sector through the creation of new enterprises, which emerged along the process of residents’ participation initiated and facilitated by the city of Turin, together with the network of the Houses of the Neighborhoods. Moreover, the definition and the implementation of several pacts of collaboration will improve the participation of residents in different parts of the city, fostering the commitment of the citizens towards a more inclusive and cohesive city.

The role of the UIA program

It is through the «Co-City» Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) project that the City managed to invest in the urban commons as a lever for addressing key urban governance issues such as poverty, and target the most vulnerable communities in the city. In Turin, the UIA Co-City project is carried out through a partnership with the Computer Science Department and Law School of the University of Turin, the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI) and the Cascina Roccafranca Foundation as the leader of the Neighborhood Houses Network. It aims at coordinating the efforts of different urban actors in promoting the implementation of the Turin Regulation. The project provides the renewal of real estate and public spaces considered as urban commons, as instrument of social inclusion and poverty reduction in many deprived areas of the City. The project is coordinated by the City Department for Decentralization, Youth and Equal Opportunities.

The Neighborhood Houses is a policy and network that the city of Turin is implementing since 2006 (Ferrero 2012), which promotes the diffusion of community spaces all over the city. It represents a key platform for the project’s implementation. In the Neighborhood Houses Network, city inhabitants will find information on the Co-City project and the different opportunities it offers. There, they will find support for drafting proposals of pacts of collaboration as well as the opportunity to meet other city inhabitants interested in establishing a cooperation to take care or regenerate the same urban commons.

The first steps of the Co-City implementation

The first step of the UIA Co-City project was the public call for proposal of pacts of collaboration. The proposal addressed Turin’s city inhabitants. Launched by the City in June 2017, it was aimed at collecting citizens’ proposals for pacts of collaboration and therefore communicating with target beneficiaries and adopting a participative approach.

The call was a great success in terms of rate of civic participation with 115 proposals submitted. This result shows that the project stimulated civic participation and achieved quantitative success from the standpoint of the civic initiative for taking care of the public space. 54 pacts proposals out of the 115 submitted were admitted to the co-design phase. The majority of the proposals falls under measure C of the call, addressing the care of public space; the 37% of proposals falls under measure B, addressing the regeneration of platforms of public infrastructures; and the 6% for the pacts addressing measure A, peripheries and urban cultures. 54 proposals were admitted to the co-design phase. 1 proposal for measure A, 4 proposals for measure B, 12 proposals for measure B “schools”, and 49 proposals for the measure C were admitted to the co-design phase after the evaluation carried out by the City of Turin. The co-design phase started on the 28th of February and is still ongoing. The call for proposals for measure C is still open, so the number of pacts admitted to the Co-design phase will be constantly growing.

The pacts’ proposals are varied and rich (for a detailed analysis of the Co-City Turin process and the pacts of collaboration in particular, see the Co-City Project Journals). Among others, the Habitat proposal is aimed at intervening on a building in Via le Chiuse, District 4 of the City of Turin. The first floor of the building is occupied by the local health agency’s offices while the second floor is in disuse. The renovation work could change the internal disposition of the rooms, to host the pact’s activities.

The Casa Ozanam community hub proposal is presented by city inhabitants already active in the very same structure, who have previously revitalized it. The new program would allow to expand their offer, setting as its objective the realization of a new neighborhood house in District 5 of the city of Turin.

The proposals are distributed across Turin’s districts, although the peripheries received special attention. The neighborhoods often host former industrial areas that were interested in previous years by urban regeneration policies, or formerly rural areas turned into high-density residential neighborhoods. The typical case is the Falchera neighborhood, in District 6, that was already subject to urban regeneration policies in the nineties. The Falchera neighborhood is composed of two main areas, the Old Falchera built in the fifties and the new Falchera built in the seventies as part of a development project of the “INA-Casa” program, a state-level housing program which resulted in the creation of an isolated residential area for factory workers.

Christian iaione, UIA expert, carried out an analysis of the way the pacts’ proposals address the goal of counteracting urban poverty through an urban co-governance approach, rooted in the transfer of the governance of the commons theory to the city (UIA Co-City Turin Zoom in).  His analysis leads to two observations.

The first observation is that the goal of alleviating urban poverty is pursued through direct and indirect means: direct promotion of social and economic inclusion on the one hand, and urban regeneration on the other hand. The majority of the pacts, in fact, foresees low budget or medium budget interventions for the care of public spaces.  This is creating a key resource, namely social capital, which could be the stepping stone for new forms of non-monetary economies, and therefore strategies to fight urban poverty. Other pacts address urban poverty more directly by creating learning and income opportunities for the proponents (i.e. social cooperatives; NGOs involved in migrant’s integration), as well as offering forms of urban welfare to the neighborhoods inhabitants.

The second observation is related to the innovative legal and economic nature of the partnership created through the pacts of collaboration. A key turning point in this regard is the issue of risk aversion, a complex and priority issue faced by public officials at the urban level. The issue is of a primary importance for the EU, as the recently published Draft action plan of the Urban Partnership for Public procurement shows. The need for risk-takers inside any public administration is an issue that several scholars from law, economics, and policy studies are addressing. Mariana Mazzucato recently proposed to the European Commission a mission-oriented and public value approach to public investments to nurture innovation, which could be fruitfully applied to urban innovation processes like the UIA Co-City project.