Urban commons charters in Italy, lessons to be drawn

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Ressource(s) objet de commun : Chartes des communs Bologne 
Enjeu(x) : Politisation des communs Commons washing 
Action(s) : État partenaire LABGOV 
Résultat(s) attendu(s) : Communs urbains Démocratie 


Auteur(s) IAIONE Christian
Producteur(s) Remix the commons
Date de publication 2017/01/02
Durée 00:23:52
Langue du contenu EN
Fait partie de Commons Space
Média Vidéo
URL de diffusion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f--a2GTKoCc
Service de diffusion youtube
Identifiant de diffusion f--a2GTKoCc
Pays Italie
Contexte de production Commons Space (Global Social Economy Forum 2016, Montréal)
Participant(s) AMBROSI Alain
Contributeur(s) LESSARD-BÉRUBÉ Stéphanie
Type de licence CC-BY-SA


A: so first thing you present yourself and the organization you work with?

C: ok so I am a professor of law, public law and I work for the university Guglielmo Marconi Rome and I direct this project that is established at Luiss University which is called LabGov – laboratory for the governance of the commons – which is a project that aims at basically fostering the rule of universities, knowledge institutions, to enable the governance of the commons in cities. It was established five years ago and it started by working in Rome, Bologna and now it is working in several other Italian cities. It was later and joined by Fordham University, Sheila Foster who is now co-director of LabGov and we are going to work in other cities around the world. We are starting two new experimentation grounds, one in Amsterdam and one in New York.

A: But talking about Italy first maybe... I think that there is a movement of commons charters now in Italy – the last thing I heard is that 97 cities already have a commons charter. And all of this started in Bologna. Can you comment on Bologna and the history of this movement?

C: so I think that in Italy there is a movement around the commons. It’s not a movement around the commons charters and I am very skeptical about the idea of the regulation on urban commons being copy-pasted because if there is something new about the commons it is adaptiveness (adaptability) and diversity – in the design of governance and regulations and laws and rules. And so it is true instead that in Italy there is a movement around the commons that has also diverse experiments going on in different cities that are working on different legal tools. So Bologna started this idea of a regulation on urban commons but you have Naples that is working on a similar issue but for instance on occupied spaces in a truly different regulatory solution. You have Messina; now Rome is going to find it’s way to the commons; Milan and… and I think that it’s not important the fact that there are 97 cities that are just copy-pasting because it is also a very difficult and sophisticated regulation that needs a lot of expertise and if the regulation is not accompanied – as it is in Bologna – by an architecture, a project architecture that is working on the city government to change the governance of the city and by fostering forces of the commons, enabling institutions and solutions, then it’s really dangerous. For instance, I think that it is a problem if the regulation is copied in the south of Italy because you don’t have the same institutional capacity; you don’t have the same level of public ethics that was given for granted in Bologna when the regulation was designed. So for southern cities – I am from the south of Italy – you need different tools. And in fact Naples is one example: I did something for the city of Battipaglia which is around legality as a commons, and so you need maybe the same approach, the same methodology, the same process, but you need to co-design with city inhabitants the commons governance tools – otherwise you are just basically reasoning and using the same rational that the Levi athan (???) state used to use of boilerplate and top-down kind of structures and solutions to the commons which are instead able to or should be able to write their own rules, should be able to find their own governancer devices (05:47).

A: I am happy to hear that it is not only an idea of copy and paste but the number of charters in Italy is still impressive if you compare to other countries

C: But is it about the number or about the quality? Because I think the commons is about the quality of the process that you infrastructure and you need to constantly safeguard the process and measure how much power is getting distributed in the city, otherwise it is not commons so just by applying and copy pasting the regulation you’re not really deciding or establishing whether power is being redistributed in the city. I fear that some of these cities are using this regulation and this language for opportunistic reasons just as a political narrative and just to reinvent themselves – because you know the policy-makers at the local level are not always the kind of policy makers that you and I have in charge.

A: Let’s take the example of Bologna where this movement started. Bologna had its own social and economic history and political background that allowed to have this kind of charter . If you compare what’s going on in Bologna with for example what is going on in Barcelona, how could you compare this?

C: So the difference between Bologna and Barcelona if I can elaborate on this is that in Bologna it started in 2011 on the basis of the background that I and other scholars developed, on the idea that we should find new ways to govern the city, so that we would need to work on the city administration and the city regulations. And that was a way to also elaborate a new thinking beyond the classical public private divide. So it was not a political narrative, it was not the basis of a political movement, it was a research project to understand how institutional change can be brought at the city level and to foster commons and to foster the action of local communities and local collectivities. Because as you know Bologna has always been famous for its social capital and one of the needs that I was told to address at the beginning was that maybe this social capital was at risk of being lost because the government was even too efficient in some way, or because the government was even too present; or because maybe the private sector was taking over some other aspects of this city life that could have been addressed through the action of the social movements, the social organizations, the local coops .

It was also a way to treasure the social economy, the social entrepreneurs, the cooperative movement


Entrevue réalisée à l'occasion du GSEF (Global Social Economy Forum) tenu à Montréal du 7 au 9 septembre 2016 .
Entrevista realizada en ocasion del GSEF (Global Social Economy Forum) realizado en Montreal del 7 al 9 de septiembre de 2016.
Interview taped at the GSEF (Global Social Economy Forum) in Montreal, Septembre 7 to 9th 2016.