Sharing Cities Action Encounter 2019

Collaboration among cities as an efficient strategy to face the platform economy. 

The 2019 edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) in Barcelona has just ended (November 19-21); like last year, the exposition hosted a dedicated track about inclusive and sharing cities, exploring five specific themes: future of work and education; bridging the gap, ensuring digital, social and gender inclusion; circular economy; sharing cities with a focus on platform labor in urban spaces; and right to cities in terms of housing, gentrification and urban justice.

In addition, in the Exhibition Area (as happened in the 2018 edition), the topic of sharing cities had a dedicated stand, the Sharing Cities Stand Lab. The stand was organized by the Barcelona City Council and the Dimmons Research Group of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC-IN3). It proposed a special program and an innovative laboratory of three days for policy co-creation, with presentations, debates, hackathons and work session, focusing on key topics such as future of work, inclusion, gender equality, data policies and commons, and sustainability goals.

  • About future of work: Several sessions took place departing from the Platform Labor in Urban Spaces (PLUS) H2020 project framework, both at the Sharing Cities Stand Lab and in the Congress Area of the SCEWC: the debate was on platform economy’s impact on work, welfare, social protection and the right to the city through a ground-breaking trans-urban approach to promote collaboration among cities.
  • Inclusive platform and feminist economy: During the Sharing Cities Encounter 2019 several sections reflected on the impact of digital transformation on achieving an egalitarian society; on the feminist digital economics; on the relevance of doing gender impact evaluations and gender-sensitive budgeting to urban sharing practices/initiatives, ecc.. The commitment to equality of this edition has been materialized through the creation of a Code of Conduct and Good practices with gender perspective.
  • Data commons: Worried by corporate data extractivism, several initiatives against technological determinism are appearing in the public sphere with the aim to foster individual and collective rights towards data uses; i.e. last April, more than 50 experts signed a Manifesto for data sovereignty and commons; during the Encounter several sessions took place surrounding data issues, including a debate on the principles agreed in this Manifesto and a Data Commons Workshop, as well as debates about gender gap in this field.
  • Climate change and sustainability: The Encounter hosted a panel and a collaboration with Viable Cities, the largest research and innovation initiative taken in Sweden so far in the field of smart and sustainable cities, which aims to help cities in transiting into Climate Neutral Cities through digital innovation and civic engagement.

The stand and the 3 days-event was also the occasion for the sharing cities to meet and reflect together, one year after the launch of the Declaration of Common Principles and Commitments for Sharing Cities during the Sharing City Summit 2018 and the creation of the Sharing Cities Action Task Force, which born as joint action of the Barcelona City Council and the UOC. The aim of the Sharing Cities Action was, and still is, to support cities in the implementation of the principles and in moving forward with concrete actions [such as: supporting city sovereignty and data commons; sharing regulatory efforts and empowering cities in front of disruptive platforms; promoting sustainable and inclusive platforms to achieve cities’ and global goals, while preserving rights; incorporating sharing dynamics in urban planning and fostering citizen engagement]. LabGov reported about the Declaration and the Sharing Cities Action in an article that can be found here.

With the Sharing Cities Action Encounter 2019 cities renovated their willingness to collaborate and define together an Action Plan for 2020 to make a step forward regarding the challenges and opportunities of digital platforms and sharing potential. The Encounter congregates 30 cities representatives around the world (that met and work also in closed operative meetings) and 150 actors from the international sharing ecosystem of business platforms, civic society, networks, experts, activists and research centers. Representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission and the Committee of Regions and Cities also joined the Encounter. The Sharing Cities Stand Lab, indeed, has been awarded to be part of the European Social Economy Regions Plan 2019 (ESER 2019) by the European Commission General Directive of Grow. The award implied an active involvement of the European Commission in the promotion of the Sharing Cities Encounter itself. Also present was, with a specific panel, the Sharing Cities Sweden project with its representatives from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Umeå.

In the 2018-2019 period the Sharing Cities Action kept alive the communication between cities and the network expanded from 50 to 77 cities, from 36 different countries. It contributed, collecting opinions from the cities, to the Opinion for the European Committee of the Regions and Cities (CoR) on platform economy. The document (launched by a own initiative of the city of Vienna) has been discussed October 22th at the 25th ECON Commission Meeting and the Opinion will be presented for adoption at the Plenary Session of 4-5 December 2019. Key insights of this initiative and the CoR positioning have been presented in the Sharing Cities Encounter 2019 by Klemens Himpele, Head of Department for Economic Affairs, Labour and Statistics, of Vienna City Administration.

The year saw also action researches to empower cities: departing from the Summit 2018, Sharing Cities Action developed the report: An Overview of Public Policies of the Sharing Economy by Cities. The report presents an analysis of cities conceptions and approaches regarding sharing economy definition, its challenges and opportunities, criteria used to differentiate platforms and cities’ main goals and policy interventions. It also focuses on governance structure, participatory methodologies, collaborations among cities, connections between different stakeholders and cities administrations, and pays special attention to gender and inclusive policy interventions. Lastly, it develops an analysis on cities’ typology regarding their reactions towards Sharing Economy.

Sharing Cities Action has also established a collaboration with the Corporate European Observatory (CEO), supporting it in the launch of the report about platforms lobbying in Europe: Über-influential? How the Gig Economy’s Lobbyists undermine Social and Workers Rights. Kenneth Haar, the CEO, presented key insights during the Sharing Cities Encounter 2019. 

Another research implemented and presented during the Encounter has been the study on Data Strategies for Cities to facilitate Negotiation with Platforms. The study results from the collaboration with Murray Cox from Inside Airbnb (Open Data Platform with data scraped from Airbnb). This collaboration is framed within the goal of promoting common actions between cities to defend the sovereignty of cities in front of large platforms. The goal of the study is the systematization of knowledge about negotiation with platforms to inform possible actions and strategies that cities may develop in each responsible department. Murray Cox presented key insights of this study during the Encounter.

Lastly, Sharing Cities Action has been cooperating and supporting with the European Cities Network on Short Term Holiday Rental, a network of 19 European cities and regions working together on the challenges of the short-term rental platforms. It aims at reorienting the growth on touristic activities mediated by platforms towards sustainable growth. In other words, it pursues to foster the social and economic sustainability of the housing market, as well as, to ensure and improve the quality of life in both cities and regions. Key insights of the European cities network on short term holiday rental have been presented in the Smart City Expo World Congress and in the Sharing Cities Encounter 2019 by Albert Eefting, Senior Policy Advisor on housing affairs City of Amsterdam and coordinator of the European cities network on short term holiday rental.

In addition, during the Encounter has been announced that Seoul will take the testimony of Barcelona (Summit 2018), New York (Summit 2017) and Amsterdam (Summit 2016) to support the program of collaboration between cities and organize the Sharing Cities Summit 2020.

While waiting for the next year’s summit, we wish to the sharing cities involved and, to those new cities that are willing to come on board, a year of researches, strict and productive collaborations, and collective actions!