In 2010 the City of Ghent, together with other four cities – Aberdeen, Rotterdam, Montreuil, Ludwigsburg – engaged in the European project Music, aimed at catalyzing and mainstreaming carbon and energy reduction in urban policies, activities and the build environment. The project represented an opportunity for decisive local actions to address sustainability challenges. In particular, the City of Ghent pointed at becoming a climate-neutral city. To implement the project, the City gathered around twenty people of Ghent society, who were involved or interested in topics such as pollution, sustainability, urban livability, though in different ways and with different roles. After the first meeting the civil servants in charge of conducting the brainstorming within the group realized that the topics mentioned above were not cause of concerns, while mobility and the way through which urban streets get used by their inhabitants were fundamental in the conception of a livable city. Addressing these topics, indeed, the group found the inspiration to think about different possibilities to approach urban space, reducing parking slots and car access to streets, implementing socialization spaces and outdoor activities. Therefore, new ideas and proposals were presented at the final event of Music, with the hope to see them realized, but the reaction of the City and its representatives was cold and doubtful for a lack of resources and for the proximity to municipal elections.
Therefore, the group of frontrunners decided to set up the organization Lab Van Troje, in order to try out one of their proposals using their own resources and their own energies. The chosen idea was Living Street – Leefstraat in Dutch – with the aim to turn Ghent into a sustainable, liveable and climate-neutral region. Concretely this was translated into planning a different way to live the street of residence for few months: the street was closed, usually during the summer months, reducing the area dedicated to the traffic and the parking but increasing the green areas and creating spaces for socialization activities.
Living Street in Maurice Verdoncklaan, Ghent. Source: interviewed resident.
One of the fundamental aspects of Living Street is the voluntary engagement in the project. The first group of frontrunners gathered by the City accepted to meet and to spend time on the issue for free; as well the citizens were involved only if they were interested in the experiment. Lab Van Troje, indeed, never opens applications or contacts anyone, it just receives the request of citizens. The latter, after a first informative meeting, are asked to ring the bell of all their neighbours collecting dreams and fears related to the street, on basis of which a plan is projected and then proposed again to every resident. If everyone agrees, hence, it is possible to organize the activities to create the Living Street. As the website reports, Living Street functions as a common project and a learning-by-doing process. Citizens, indeed, have to communicate, collaborate and interact with many different actors living and experiencing urban spaces daily. Both the implementation of the idea and the concrete realization of the Living Street become processes of commoning, as the practice of the creation, preservation, and use of commons is called.
Citizens working for the realization of structures to install in Kozijntjesstraat, Ghent. Source: interviewed resident.
The activity duration of Lab Van Troje has been settled for five years until 2017, hoping in the meantime to spread its insights into Living Street to the current system of residential street design. In total 50 Living Streets have been experimented from 2012 to 2016, with an increasing involvement of the City of Ghent, that acted more as a spectator in the beginning, while it took part into the project as an active partner in the last few editions. Considering the imminent end of Lab Van Troje, in 2017 the latter and the City of Ghent collaborate for the transition of Living Street under the guide of the City. The Meeting and Engaging Department has been appointed to continue building on the experiment by creating a new Living Street 2.0 project. The intention is to try out the experience implemented by Living Street in different environments or situations, by involving partners with diverse roles and functions and focusing also on the social aspects of urban life. One of Lab Van Troje’s volunteers has been hired by the Department, together with another dedicated civil servant, in order to give continuity to the project. Moreover, citizens who already implemented Living Street in their streets are involved in the transition from Lab Van Troje to the City, during a completely accountable process used to explaining them the reasons of the change and to collect by them past experiences of the experiment, suggestions and ideas for the future, and expectations towards the City.
Taking a look at the type of actors involved from the beginning – UE, City of Ghent, Lab Van Troje, research institutes, private companies, citizens – it is notable that the project crossed many different levels, depicting the concept of multi-level governance. In this particular case, I believe it is possible to use the notion of bottom-linked governance, achieved when bottom-up initiatives combine with top-down policies, including alternative mechanisms of negotiation between various groups and networks, potentially empowering local government and embracing alternative creative strategies. I add, though, that the subdivision of society in top-down and bottom-up actors is not sufficient anymore to explain the current complexity and therefore it needs to be substituted by another representation. A complementary and parallel process can be identified in the conception of citizenship: in the last twenty years, debates about the re-scaling of individual rights and duties at transnational or local levels different from the nation-state level, have increasingly arisen; connected with the movement of the right to the city, also the vision of citizens claiming actively rights and responsibilities is more acknowledged. However, I argue that neither an idea of citizenship received as a “package” from the State or an idea of citizenship achieved by citizens as consequence of their activation in the making of the city are fully satisfactory. Citizenship is, nowadays, a set of rights/duties co-shaped by different actors, tracing various dynamics at multiple scales to obtain or to concede benefits and responsibilities in the public arena. Thus, it is necessary to find a model that, always maintaining the idea of peer actors, interacting on horizontal basis, with principles of subsidiarity and accountability, in a reflexive and dynamic process, can better help in representing both this type of governance and this perception of citizenship.
L’articolo riflette su processi di governance urbana e sulle trasformazioni riguardanti il concetto di cittadinanza attraverso il progetto Living Street, implementato dal 2010 ad oggi nella città di Ghent, Belgio. Principale scopo del progetto è trovare soluzioni innovative al fine di rendere la città maggiormente vivibile da un punto di vista socio-ecologico. Dopo aver descritto lo sviluppo del progetto come pratica di commoning, viene sottolineata la necessità di andare oltre sia la ripartizione, ormai inadeguata, tra attori bottom-up e top-down sia l’idea di cittadinanza concessa dallo Stato o ottenuta attivamente dai cittadini. È indispensabile, infatti, trovare un nuovo modello che descriva la complessità attuale delle dinamiche sociali e la diversità degli attori che ne prendono parte.
 Linebaugh P. 2008, The Magna Carta Manifesto. Liberties and Commons for all, London: University of California Press.
 Eizaguirre S, Pradel M., Terrones A., Matinez-Celorrio X., Garcìa M., 2012, Multilevel Governance and Social Cohesion: Bringing Back Conflict in Citizenship Practice, Urban Studies, 49(9), 1999-2016.
 Isin, E., 1997, Who is the new citizen? Toward a genealogy, Citizenship Studies, 1, 115–132; Sassen S., 2000, The global city: strategic site/new frontier, in: E. Isin, Ed. Democracy, Citizenship and the Global City, New York: Routledge;
 Baubock R., 2003, Reinventing urban citizenship, Citizenship Studies, 7, 139–160; Smith M. P., McQuarrie M. Eds. 2012, Remaking Urban Citizenship. Organizations, Institutions and the Right to the City, London: Transaction Publisher.
 Lefebvre H., 1996, Writing on Cities, Cambridge (MA): Blackwell; Harvey D., 2003, The Right to the City, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(4), 939-941; Purcell M., 2003, Citizenship and the Right to the Global City: Reimagining the Capitalist World Order, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(3), 564-590.
 Dahlgren P., 2006, Doing Citizenship. The Cultural Origin of Civic Agency in the Public Sphere. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(3), 267-286.
The idea of proactive citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making has recently attracted the institutional interest at the European Union level. In particular, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has often dealt with the topic in recent years. Worth to be quoted is the JRC Science for Policy Report “Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making” released in 2016 . The report shows an open and welcoming approach from the Commission towards citizen-driven contributions to science and policy. The JRC explicitly affirms (JRC, 2016, 3) that citizen engagement in heavily ‘expert-based’ sectors can “boost in democratic legitimacy, accountability and transparent governance”. Furthermore, the JRC acknowledges the potential of citizen involvement for enhancing “trust building among citizens and institutions as well as ownership of policy outcome. The Centre recognizes a shift from the mere “info-giving” to increasingly participatory deliberation practices “at each stage of the policy-making process” (JRC, 2016, 3) and, even more relevant, a push from “asking the citizens” to “co-creating with citizens” (JRC, 2016, 32).
Apart from increasing legitimacy and trust, the JRC stresses the benefits for the EC’s strategic planning itself, by underlining that people’s inputs “can offer a unique understanding of societal concerns, desires and needs” and thus a better targeting of EC’s actions. Moreover, the value of this contribution is identified in the provision by citizens of “evidence for policy-making and evaluation of policy decisions” as well as “ideas for new policies or services.”
The JRC in its report (JRC, 2016, 4) identifies also the main challenges to a proper inclusion of inputs from laymen’s knowledge in science and policy. First, the Centre stresses how the “predominant paradigm for policy-making is based on expert inputs (evidence based) in detriment of non-expert or lay knowledge coming from other parts of society.” The advice from the JRC to the Commission seems encouraging for more participatory practice and for a reconsideration of the “usefulness and validity of non-traditional inputs coming from citizens, communities or other groups”.
However, data quality and reliability of the knowledge fed by the lay people when it comes to inclusive science and policy seems crucial, together with transparency and disclosure of possible conflicts of interests. The modalities for gathering laymen’s input should be clearly defined and integration strategies properly agreed. Lastly, the need to go “beyond usual suspects” (the tech-connected wealthy citizens) in this inclusive science and policy is underlined by the report. At p.9 of the document (JRC, 2016, 9) a series of practical examples of citizen engagement in EU’s policy and science are illustrated, such as the initiatives ‘MakingSense’, ‘MyGEOSS’ and ‘DigitalEarthLab’.
The call of the JRC for a “dialogue across co-existing worldviews and knowledge production spaces in science, society and policy” (JRC, 2016, 7) seems particularly timely in present times in which the need of a dialogue between top and bottom stakeholders seems increasingly urgent. Facing Science and Policy-Making challenges through an inclusive and open-minded approach would contribute to the establishment of this dialogue. In the end, both top and bottom players share common interests or, at least, can constructively face each other’s needs to reach together a compromise, towards the establishment of a shared interest. In cases of post-normal science problems, the achievement of this shared or common interest will be even harder. However, those problems are highly of public interest and demand for the inclusion of all the concerned stakeholders in their governance.
 Figueiredo Nascimento, S., Cuccillato, E., Schade, S., Guimarães Pereira, A. 2016. Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making. EUR 28328 EN, doi: 10.2788/40563.
Il presente articolo illustra la crescente necessità di coinvolgere il cittadino nei processi politici e scientifici, come percepita dalle istituzioni a livello europeo. In particolare, l’articolo focalizza l’attenzione sulla prospettiva del Joint Research Center (JRC) dell’Unione Europea sul tema. Viene illustrata la posizione del JRC, il quale incoraggia la creazione di un dialogo condiviso nell’interazione tra scienza, società e politica. Tale appello sembra di particolare attualità oggigiorno, in considerazione della complessità dei problemi che la nostra società deve affrontare. In effetti, le sfide odierne spesso riguardano interessi comuni a più attori sociali, ed il compromesso tra loro, come anche il reciproco ascolto, sembrano gli unici mezzi per raggiungere una definizione di “interesse comune”.
Nowadays, we are experiencing a sharp and progressive decrease of oil and gas prices.[i] Nevertheless, irresponsible and only profit-driven extractive activities continue to expand and to impose their toxic footprint on the environment and the society. The extent to which these practices conflict with the sustainability goals stated at the international level is significant. Furthermore, initiatives from state authorities and international organizations often disregard local impacts on marginalized communities, which are frequently the most exposed to extractive exploitation. From the imperative of involving communities in making companies accountable for their bad practices, arose the idea of applying advanced technologies for enabling communities to detect environmental hazards, and safely spread alerts. [ii]
When discussing bottom-up monitoring, the case of Indigenous communities living in rural and remote areas must be made. These communities indeed are particularly threatened[iii] by expanding hydrocarbon and mining industries. In this context, environmental liabilities generated by extraction practices continue to create adverse environmental and public health impacts. As a response to this challenge, a series of ongoing initiatives have been launched by Digital Democracy, an US-based organization working at the intersection of human rights and technology with marginalized communities around the world.
It seems particularly worth of attention the approach that the organization adopted, as based on three steps. First, in the ‘Direct Implementation’ stage, the community training aimed at capacity building is carried out. Subsequently, the ‘Tool Building’ stage intervenes with the aim of co-creating technological solutions in response to community’s needs. All the tools created are made available under open-source format, and are suitable for use by other interested communities. Finally, in the ‘Local-to-Global Engagement’ the local initiative is scaled up by its presentation to the broader world community, through e.g. events, workshops, and tool-kits.
Particularly timely to exemplify community-driven solutions using technology[iv] is one of the Digital Democracy’s project implemented in the Ecuadorean Amazon Rainforest. The project analysed was aimed at combining drones’ monitoring of oil spills with a mobile reporting platform to allow Indigenous communities to safely report oil contamination alerts. Sparks for further research include the need to explore the level of people’s engagement, their acceptance and trust in the process, and the goals fulfilled by the people engaged in the intiative. In addition, the legal risks and criticisms hidden in the monitoring system should be evaluated, and possible ways to neutralize them inspected.
An analysis of this case suggests that community-based early-warning systems aimed at monitoring environmental liabilities could encourage the state and corporate actors to intervene more promptly and effectively to mitigate socio-environmental impacts of environmental hazards. Pushing this analysis further, one can affirm that technology brings the potential of achieving a transformative change by giving voice to those communities who are often silent victims. As Digital Democracy uses to proclaim, “empowerment from within, rather than involvement from outside actors” is the key. Ultimately, it seems worth to reflect on the potential that such projects have in creating bridges between remote communities and the outside world, enabling them to spread denounces and awareness on environmental liabilities. Yet it must be stressed that change does not come from the technology per se, but from how people use it. Therefore, a human-centred and ethical approach result in being crucial for making such monitoring technologies in the hands of Indigenous communities a positive, responsible and sustainable innovation.
Community Monitoring, from Digital Democracy
Il presente articolo discute una serie di iniziative vertenti intorno all’uso da parte di comunità indigene di strumenti di monitoraggio remoto, al fine di tracciare rischi derivanti da attività estrattive. L’attenzione si focalizza sulle comunità abitanti zone remote, spesso lontane dagli occhi dell’opinione pubblica. Tali popolazioni sono spesso le più esposte al rischio di abusi corporativi. In riposta all’esigenza di fronteggiare tali pericoli, un’organizzazione statunitense, Digital Democracy, ha deciso di affidare droni in mano a comunità interessate al fine di tracciare in maniera sicura cattive pratiche legate all’estrazione di idrocarburi. Un’iniziativa in particolare, realizzata nell’Amazzonia Ecuadoriana, viene discussa nell’articolo. In conclusione, si sviluppa una riflessione sul potenziale, ma anche le sfide, di simili iniziative volte alla co-creazione di soluzioni tecnologiche in risposta a rischi socio-ambientali.
[i] H. Halland et al., “The Extractive Industries Sector”, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The World Bank, 2015 (ISBN 978-1-4648-0492-2).
[ii] F. Danielsen et al., “Environmental monitoring: the scale and speed of implementation varies according to the degree of peoples involvement”, Journal of Applied Ecology, 2010.
[iii] E. Skinnider, “Effect, Issues and Challenges for Victims of Crimes that have a Significant Impact on the Environment”, International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Police, Vancouver, March 2013.
[iv] A. Kumar Pratihast et al., “Application of mobile devices for community based forest monitoring”, Sensing a Changing World, 2012. http://www.geo-informatie.nl/workshops/scw2/papers/Pratihastetal.pdf
The second day of co-working session, held on October the 15th begun with Eloisa Susanna’s general outlook about other active projects, similar to #coRome, spread all over Italy.Eloisa,a young architect,rapidly commemorated the G124 project,launched by Renzo Piano in which great relevance is given to peripheral areas and the imperative need of maintenance trough micro-surgical interventions,this is what the Otranto project of 1979 was about.In general,this procedure implies two fundamental principles:first of all it has to be interest-based,secondly it has to be performed through a collaborative process that consist in framing and contextualizing the city of Rome and its surrounding territory,focusing on those areas that constitute a patrimonial identity.
Than,Claudio Gnessi explained the explosive role of the Ecomuseo Casino Ad Duas Lauros (www.ecomuseocasilino.it). This institution owns much to the “comunità di eredità” which actively engaged in several partecipative laboratories,with the common goal to define the space in which cultural and natural sites have previously been identified.The actual plan is focused in Tor Pignattara,a neighborhood where around 130 cultural resources were mapped,thanks to the fruitful work of a social network composed by inhabitants of that neighborhood but also public and private actors.It is important to underline the social consequence brought by this initiative:cooperation was promoted among different religious and cultural realities,unified by a shared interest and motivated by common moral values.
Right after the Labgovers productively engaged in a workshop that consisted in reporting on a widespread map four different topic developed with the aid of expert mentors and of Alessandra and Urio, the co-founders of the newborn Community for the Public Park of Centocelle.The participants were divided into four groups,namely:Mobility, Accessibility, Potentialities and Public Services.
The first group,”mobility”,identified which public transport are easily available both from the center and the outskirt of Rome:the main one are the “trenino laziale” and the tram “19”.Than the participants focused over the potentialities that the park could offer if,in one hand,the pedestrian accessibility was open on both sides of the park’s perimeter and,on the other side,the bicycle route,know as GRAB, could pass trough the park instead of in its proximity.
The second group,”accessibility”,listed more accurately all the potential resources that the park could make available.Surprisingly the V Municipal seems to be blessed by so many cultural sites that could re-animate the entire area from a touristic perspective,but also for the sole purpose of embellish the neighborhood.
A third group ,”potentialities”,brought to light many critical matters such as security and sanitary issues,in fact the park has several abusive occupied zone,not omitting the wasted paper and rubbish that pollutes the park everywhere.
The fourth group;”public services”,classified and mapped all the accessible public services around the PaC zone,such as churches, schools,parks,cultural attractions,theaters and cinemas.-
As it emerges from the images,the V Municipality has extraordinary potentialities,however,due to its marginalized position,its shabby’s first appearance,and the elevate conglomeration of immigrants and religious identities, its efficiency is completely unexploited and its integrity is gradually decreasing and deteriorating running the risk to fall in the oblivion.
The meeting ended up with Stefania Favorito’s speech over the importance of the park from an archaeological point of view,the park is surrounded by historical sites such as the Villa Ad Duas Lauros,il Forte Casino,la Villa della Piscina,la Vecchio Osteria,all dated back from the republican era until the XIX century,plus the natural resources of l’Agro Romano,il Canneto,l’Agri-Fauna and the whole park of Centocelle.It is important to be mature the awareness to understand what this park does symbolize for the cohabitants of the V Municipality, how this zone reflects their feeling of social marginalization and how this project give them the possibility to join a community in which moral and civic values are promoted and cooperation constantly active.( http://parcocentostelle.net )
On October the 14th, LabGov started the first co-working session in which Paola Santoro, an expert designer, exposed the “hero’s journey” having as protagonists Alessandra and Urio: the spokespersons of the raising Community of the Public Park of Centocelle. This is the #Co-Rome project (www.co-roma.it): an audacious initiative in which achievements and failures characterized the essence of the challenge.
The core topic of the meeting was to understand,also through creative games, what is “la facilitazione dei beni comuni”, more specifically how LabGov assisted the community as mentors, not imposing themselves as superior entities capable of solving problems, rather as an enterprising group that can offer them all the means to improve the environmental situation of a public park, with the common goal to fill-in the gap between the community’s unsatisfied social reality and the dreamed one. This “green” forgotten area, that at a first glance might appear as common as any other park in Rome, deep inside has embedded all the shared values that gradually arose once that a touch-point between the park’s users and the object used was fixed.