This chapter looks at how public policies have developed in a few places that allow both public and private players to jointly or cooperatively generate and then manage shared urban resources across the city. It gives varying definitions of collaboration and how much it has evolved from mere governance. Since it is unclear if the examples described in the chapter represent engaging ad hoc experiments, unconnected to a city’s everyday operations and administration, the compelling question is: whether these policies, institutional procedures, and social infrastructure can spread and scale throughout a city, supported by the public administration? Are there laws or practices that enable a city, or specific areas of a city, to function as an urban commons?


Although this chapter contains seven sections, they are organized to enable the free flow of understanding. In this excerpt, two types of policies—declaratory and constitutive—are discussed concerning the establishment and maintenance of urban commons in local communities. Foster and Iaione explain that declaratory policies formally acknowledge the existence of locally controlled institutions or individually managed resources as urban commons. They support communities’ right to self-organize and fortify community efforts to collectively govern themselves. Declaratory policies may entail approving the collectively accepted social norms or the community’s contributions to the public good. The main examples of such policies are the cases of Naples and Barcelona. Local governments also have the power to contract with collectives, giving credibility and stability to their efforts and promoting similar projects around the city. Constitutive policies, on the other hand, adopt a more top-down strategy and seek to provide communities with the power to manage the city’s resources, infrastructure, and services. By providing new legal power or amending existing laws, these policies establish the necessary framework for cooperative government. The objective is to encourage the development of urban commons across the entire city.

The early city policies identified in the chapter place a strong emphasis on agreements for cooperation as a form of group action and shared administration of urban resources. The first city to implement collaborative pacts was the Italian city of Bologna. The Co-Bologna initiative adopted a new regulatory framework for the urban commons to integrate other local public policies with the co-governance of urban resources using the same design principles. That regulation provided for citizens, social innovators, business owners, members of civic society, academic institutions, and the municipal administration to work together to define the governance of specific urban spaces and services. With additional sectors joining later, this strategy aimed to make the public sector and the unorganized public the main players in the collaborative process.

The experimental process was called the Bologna Regulation, and the city used the Cities as a Commons project to carry it out. The project was supported by the Centro Antartide, a regional non-profit, the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna, and a group of legal and PR experts from the Labsus non-profit, where one of the authors of this book, Iaione, served as managing director. The first substantial regulatory innovation to encourage cooperation as a way of managing the city and its resources in Italy, Europe, and globally, this rule has won numerous awards. This prompted an analysis of the regulatory race toward the commons that carefully examined the regulation and its goals. Later, LabGov researchers evaluated to arrive at the Bologna rule, analyzing the first many partnership pacts were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies (De Nictolis & Pais, 2018).

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, also implemented a similar approach through its Seoul Sharing City policy. That policy, initiated in 2011 and still ongoing, promotes the sharing and collaborative economy at the city and district levels. It included the enactment of the Seoul Metropolitan Government Ordinance on the Promotion of Sharing and supporting various sharing-based services, such as car sharing, bike sharing, meal sharing, and housing sharing. The policy evolved through three phases, focusing on expanding users’ access to the sharing economy, consolidating international standing, and catalyzing efforts to turn residents into proactive actors in co-producing sharing economy services.

Other cities’ adoption of the Bologna Regulation has sparked a regulatory arms race without taking Bologna’s lessons into account. While some Italian localities adopted the rule without question, others adopted it more cautiously. The Bologna experiment piqued the interest of cities like Amsterdam, Ghent, and Madrid, which tailored it to their circumstances. Madrid adopted a law that is very similar to the Bologna rule, while Ghent created its common governance principles. Participatory methods have a history in Ghent, which is now working on pilot programs to support citizen-led initiatives. The objective is to establish a cooperative relationship between the city and its citizens for the management of urban commons.

The declaratory approach acknowledges the right of the community to self-organize and exert control or management of important resources for local communities. This manifests through two types of practices or policies: urban civic uses and civic management. Urban civic uses include “use rights” belonging to the members of a given community over public or private property (Casprini et al; 2023). These policies allow communities to self-organize, be proactive, and manage a local public service that they need. Civic management policies, also known as civic stewardship, allow assets to be stewarded by non-governmental organizations and community organizations that protect, manage, observe, inform the public, promote, and alter their local ecological and socioeconomic surroundings (Caggiano et al; 2022).

Blending The Constitutive And Declaratory Approaches

Although different cities have adopted different legal approaches, the chapter points out that the Co-City Turin project, sponsored by the UIA initiative, embraced a new version of the “Regulation on Governing the urban commons in the City of Turin”. The New Turin Regulation’s innovation is its endorsement of two forms of co-governance for urban commons: shared governance and self-governance.

Both constitutive and declaratory approaches cannot stand alone but instead are interdependent and interrelated for supporting the urban commons in the Italian system and globally if it is adapted to suit the city or communities’ context. It is necessary to acknowledge the role of partnership alongside blending and working with these policies and regulations. Both are vital in managing urban commons in the general, public, and common interest. This chapter has provided various examples of cities that are experimenting with different legal tools that enable and empower urban communities to utilize city resources and infrastructure to collectively create and sustain different forms of urban commons. The subsequent chapter will examine whether the suggested legal tools are enough to promote the reduction of power asymmetries in the city and to enable urban communities to leverage legal and financial mechanisms that ensure the sustainability of urban commons and the survival and flourishing of the communities relying on them.


With the agreements for cooperation supported by the Co-City Turin project sponsored by the UIA initiative.

Short List of References

Casprini, D.; Oppio, A.; Torrieri, F. Usi Civici: Open Evaluation Issues in the Italian Legal Framework on Civic Use Properties Land 2023, 12, 871. 10.3390/land12040871

Caggiano, H; Landau Laura F.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Johnson, Michelle L.; Svendsen Erika S.: Civic Stewardship and Urban Climate Governance: Opportunities for Transboundary Planning, 2022

Pais, I., & nictolis, E. D. (2018). Valutare una politica pubblica urbana sui beni comuni. La valutazione dei patti di collaborazione approvati per effetto del regolamento per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani di Bologna. In La Co-Città. Diritto urbano e politiche pubbliche per i beni comuni e la rigenerazione urbana. (pp. 203-242)


Author: Benedicta Quarcoo