Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons - Bologna

  • Posted on: 13 September 2017
  • By: David Steinwender

Short Summary
It all started in 2011: a group of local women were frustrated about their initiative to donate benches to their neighborhood park. With the help of LabGov the city administration then developed a framework that allows public-people-cooperations and support for citizens by the city to take care and modify urban commons which are defined as “tangible, intangible and digital” goods which are “functional to the individual and collective well-being”.

This declaration aims to enable cooperations between the city administration and engaged citizens, who want to take care and modify but also regenerate (abandoned) urban commons according to their and (of course) public needs. Urban Commons are e.g. parks, children playgrounds, public squares, abandoned sites but also (neighbourhood) infrastructure like bulletin boards, fountains and also digital environments like free wifi and online platforms. In contrast to public-private partnerships it’s not about individual gain but public well-being.

Further, the city administrative assists in bureaucratic stuff (which might be horrible for honorary workers) and provides resources. After handing in a proposal a contract is made between the citizens group or a legal entity and the city government.

Transformational Measures and Activities;

  • involve citizens to take responsibility to shape their neighborhood according to their needs with the assist and support of the city administration
  • addressing local needs with local knowledge and ambitions
  • creating new governance techniques
  • the city administration trusts their citizens to create vital and sustainable neighborhoods
  • the declaration of a city to support their citizens actively (which is a certain kind of distributing power)


  • higher citizens involvement
  • efficient and socially just approach to take care of the city / neighborhood
  • many initiative proposal and partnership agreements

Challenges, Opportunities and Transferability

  • dismantling bureaucratic obstacles which makes it hard for citizens to do something
  • pro-active encouragement of citizens to be part of city/neighborhood development - processes within the city administrative have to change and be made easier
  • the city administration has to get used to this new kind of governance and loss of top-down control
  • urban commons is a political topic since it opposes the private sphere that city politicians might not want to touch or tackle
  • meanwhile some Italian cities are considering this approach
  • this approach can be further extended to planning and development processes - the process of public-citizen partnerships can be experimented in certain areas

In Depth