Talking about collaboration and urban commons at Forum PA

Talking about collaboration and urban commons at Forum PA


By Paola Brizi

Gregorio Arena and Christian Iaione presentations about collaborative economy and shared administration at 2014 Forum PA 

The XXV edition of the 2014 Forum PA took place from the 27th to the 29th of May. It is the main conference for the innovation and modernization of the Italian public sector,  this year titled “Let’s take commitments, let’s find solutions” which was attended by Professors Gregorio  Arena and Christian Iaione to present the Regulation on the collaboration among citizens and administration for the care and regeneration of urban commons and to discuss about collaborative economy.

Among the topics of discussion in the 2014 edition of the Public Administration Forum, which was held at the Palazzo dei Congressi in Rome, the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration have taken on great importance, aimed at building new relationships between government and society.

The Forum has involved politics, businesses, governments and all the innovator actors in public administration and, in two separate conference sessions, Professors Gregorio Arena and Christian Iaione illustrated the work carried out by Labsus to foster the collaboration between institutions and citizens, in particular through the drafting of the Regulation on the collaboration among citizens and administration for the care and regeneration of urban commons, recently approved by the two Municipalities of Bologna and Siena.


Arena: “From the open government to the partner state”

According to professor Gregorio Arena the administrations reflect the needs and the values ​​of the society they serve, so that their reform will have to be in tune with the major underlying trends of the society, at that particular moment in history.

Today, the main theme around which we have to build a new model of society is that of “sharing”, – adds the professor – a concept that requires a shift from “I” to “Together”. In fact, if we accept the idea that we are living in what is defined a “sharing society”, i.e. a society in which the use is more important than the ownership, this theme could become one of the inspiring souls of the administration reform which is so much discussed in this period in Italy, putting it in line with the society itself.

“In Italy this is feasible thanks to three elements”: the constitutional provision of Article 118, according to which the public authorities shall promote the autonomous initiatives of citizens carrying out general interest activities, which necessarily leads to the sharing; the organizational model defined “shared administration” by Arena himself in an essay of 1997 and which goes beyond a mere participation in decision-making but which means instead the sharing of general interest functions with the administration; finally, the third element is the paradox of a society like ours where there are those who want to actively take care of the commons, but cannot do it because they are not allowed to.

“For this reason Labsus – Laboratory for Subsidiary worked for two years within the City of Bologna aimed at writing a Regulation, setting in three districts of Bologna but with a look over the horizon, thinking about a tool that would have served all eight thousand Italian municipalities”.
The heart of the Regulation is the Covenant of Cooperation between the Municipality and the citizens to share the responsibility for the caring of the urban commons. “This is a fundamental concept, because we have lived for generations on the idea of the delegation, the idea that someone else will take care of our problems. We must instead recover a sense of collective responsibility, not in the negative sense of the term, but in the Latin sense: respondere, referred to those who give answers”.


Iaione: “Twist and Share, Public administration at the turning point of collaborative economy

Many public policy and administration scholars are questioning the new phenomenon of the Public Administration seen as enabler, and on how there can be innovation without excluding the institutions.

According to Christian Iaione the explosion of collaborative paradigm corresponds to a new role of the public administration: “We are in the third institutional revolution so, after the Leviathan state of the nineteenth century and the Welfare state of the twentieth century, now is the time for a state that no longer deals with every issue, but of a relational and enabler state”.
Within this social innovative phenomenon, not dictated by the economic crisis, the public administration should take on the necessary role of enabler by fostering strong partnerships with its citizens who hold competencies, resources and knowledge, thus discovering the value of collaboration and initiating new institutional paradigms to convey these energies toward civic objectives of general interest.

The Regulations for the care and regeneration of urban commons, drafted by Labsus in collaboration with the Municipality of Bologna, is just a tool to facilitate the deployment of these new techniques that allow the diffusion of positive impacts on the community.
The Article 2 contains a definition of the urban commons seen as “non-abstract but almost operational category, because they are both public and private goods of which the citizens together with the institutions decide to share the responsibility of care and renewal, through processes of participatory democracy, precisely because these are functional assets for the individual and collective welfare”.

“The Regulation is a manual for the collaboration between the outside and the inside of the government”, thanks to which the administration becomes an interlocutor between all the collaborative economy actors. It represents a platform used to enable the citizens motivation for the caring and regeneration of urban common tangible and intangible goods, together with the government and giving answers to the main community problems.
It is also a platform of economic policy: it implies in fact the idea of ​​a collaborative business model that creates value through the collaboration of different actors, whether individuals, associations or companies.

“This regulatory infrastructure is lacking, however, of two fundamental elements: the communication and training”, i.e. the construction of platforms for communication but also appropriate digital media and educational workshops for young people to involve them in the maintenance of the civic commons.

Since 2010 Labsus has launched a project involving two high schools in Rome, and it is now promoting it to other schools thanks to “Rock Your School“, the School of civic maintenance of commons. The leading idea is to create a shared city hall, in which the students are educated and trained for this cultural change through active schools and co-design laboratories, to make businesses, schools, universities and institutions collaborate, and to allow this cultural paradigm shift becoming a living reality.