Co–making the City. Ideas from the Innovative City Development Meeting

 

    photo credit: Shareen Elnaschie‏ @shareenee

As presented in a previous article of LabGov, in March 2017 the City of Madrid, together with the  European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and the  Connected Action for the Commons hold the Innovative City Development Meeting. A gathering of innovative city makers – researchers, activists, experts and city officials – distinguished for a progressive approach to cultural issues, social innovation, urban development and participatory governance processes with city governments.

The meeting started from the assumption that today institutions should co-make the city with local people, and it represented the chance to reflect upon the way to reach this collaborative perspective. A growing commons movement indeed is spreading in Europe and more and more institutions are trying to involve local people in making co-decision when it comes to issues closely affecting their neighborhoods and cities. In the last years Connected Action for the Commons has been co-working to scale up collaborative working practices and services for people in their locality, and from a small group of like-minded organisations today it represents a growing and influential network of cultural change-makers that inspired the meeting.

Many sessions were facilitated by the LabGov’s co-founder, Christian Iaione, who also contributed with advises and suggestions to the final report of the meeting, written and compiled by Nicola Mullenger, with contributions also from Katarina Pavić and Igor Stokfiszewski. The report, presented in July 2017 at the International Association for the Study of the Commons conference, details the main reflections emerged during the meeting and three case studies, as well as some recommendations for city makers.

Here below, the main outcomes of the report are briefly illustrate.

The design of the meeting. Each city maker gave a four-minutes speech highlighting a challenge they are working on and focusing on concrete issues in their own communities. Smaller facilitated groups discussed challenges and possible solutions “for collaborative city change-making with the aim to find practices that can encourage community and institutional participatory city-making processes”. Among the various presentations the report lists the case of A Coruña (Spain), Chişinău (Moldova) and Naples (Italy), showing the “diversity of issues and geographical areas in Europe where citizen participation and commoning practices” face many challenges but are already making a difference.

  • Ideas for bottom–up transnational municipal reform. From the case studies and their challenges the reflection converged on the required conditions to pave the way for urban co-governance or urban commons participatory governance, as well as city making. The groups of discussion try to answer to two main questions:
  1. what are the values that could inspire commons-based assets and service management schemes?

Trust, transparency, equality and diversity within institutions, as well as a right balance between values and coordination should be pursued creating a system carefully balanced with the need for an open process that makes the space for experimentation and in which solutions and information are shared. This system should relies on a definition of common interest, like a charter of the “Value of Commons”, as in Naples. As underlined in the report “the institution needs to sustain engagement with core individuals and communities, and continuously attract diverse opinions, as well as finding evaluation models to communicate and replicate successes and acknowledge failures”.

  1. what are the methodologies, legal and financial tools and linchpins that could make a commons-based solution work?

Holding regular gatherings of different stakeholder to co-decide and plans actions appears to be a relevant aspect, and the report suggests to use shared spaces and reflect on the role of moderation. In addition, it recommend: 1.to make clear how decisions are made by using city referendums with clear goal posts to make decisions and make usership; 2. to start with a realistic aim of collaboration (such as the participatory budgeting) and to create information packages (such as a “how to co-budget” guide); 3. to support public servants in acquiring the necessary skills (define tools and operations and share/build skills); 4. to protect public services; 5. to implement a public consultation process across several cities and use an accessible tool to show and compare the results, involving citizens (which see the impacts in first person).

  • First considerations and next steps. The first highlights of the meeting should be developed further (both within the institutional work setting and outside in a peer-to-peer context). But some of them can be already taken forward and applied as a pilot experience or can help in developing or scaling up existing experiences. An idea that would be able to enhance equality in our society could be the development of a series of flexible models applicable in different contexts and people, considering sustainability, legality and financial roles. The creation of a clear chart, with clear information, can help communities to activate informed civic decision-making processes.

According to the report “institutions need to decide what is a public good” and define the public interest and the private thing, clarifying how participation can help them. Shared information and transparency can lead to a deeper trust between all stakeholders and to a better balance in welcoming different voices. “Keeping the door open to experimentation could lead to further impact and also help to create a similar language to explain value”; it can also help in recognizing different values that will have a lasting impact on social cohesion.

  • The group found beneficial the peer examination of the challenges and suggested to meet again in order to deepen and exchange practices, projects and policies on participatory governance or co-governance and city making. “They recommended that the formation of a space for exchange, experimentation, mutual learning and co-working could enable the sharing of tools that city makers need going forward”.

The organizers hope this collaborative methodology of work and these results can serve as a guide for institutions that want to start co-design process, inspiring new commoning processes with local people more involving and democratic.

The full report is available here.

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Marzo 2017. Madrid ospita l’Innovative City Development Meeting all’interno dell’Idea Camp 2017. Un’occasione di incontro per innovatori e city makers per discutere di co-creazione collaborativa della città, governance partecipativa dei beni comuni e co-governance urbana. Da quell’incontro è nato un report che riassume alcune delle considerazioni e delle raccomandazioni emerse durante il meeting e che è stato presentato in Luglio alla Conferenza dell’Associazione Internazionale  per lo Studio dei Beni Comuni (IASC2017). Il post ne ripercorre i punti salienti.