CO-Bologna is the main field of experimentation of the CO-Cities project, a research project aimed at developing, testing and adapting to the urban environment the design principles for the governance of the commons located by the Economics’ Nobel prize Elinor Ostrom to the urban context.
Since 2011, the City of Bologna initiated a policy process to introduce collaboration as amethodology for governing the urban commons. After two years of field experimentation in three city neighborhoods, in the context of the “City as a commons”1 project supported by the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna and Ravenna, the City of Bologna adopted a regulatory framework, the Bologna Regulation on civic collaboration for the urban commons, in February. The central regulatory tool of the Bologna Regulation on Public Collaboration for the Urban Commons is the pact of collaboration, through which the city and citizens (informal groups, NGO’s, private entities) agree on an intervention of care and regeneration of an urban commons (green space, abandoned buildings, squares). Since the approval of the Regulation, 280 pacts of collaboration have been signed.
The second phase of the Bologna Collaborative City program, the CO-Bologna process, aiming at applying the same design principles of the governance of the urban commons to other local public policies started in 2015. CO-Bologna, an open pact of collaboration between the City of Bologna and the Foundation Del Monte of Bologna and Ravenna and operated under the scientific coordination of LabGov (The Laboratory for the Governance of the Commons) builds upon the experience of the Regulation for the urban commons and intends to transform City government into an institutional ecosystem based on public-commons/people/community partnerships through the quintuple helix approach (which implies the involvement through loosely coupled systems of the local private entrepreneurs, the knowledge institutions, the civil society organizations) to enable collective action in the city and the birth of institutions based on the three dimensions of urban co-governance: sharing, collaboration and polycentricity.
The CO-Bologna project consists in the experimentation of co-design of governance institutions in three fieldworks, corresponding to three city area that mirrors the pillars of a CO-city; Pilastro (making together, urban commons) Bolognina (living together, social innovation) and Croce del Biacco (growing together, collaborative economy district).
Another core pillar of the CO-Bologna process is the establishment of an Office for Civic Imagination. The Office for Civic Imagination is a policy innovation lab, structured as a co-working area internal to the municipal administration, through which the civil servants can work together in order to find innovative solution to common problems and implement the principle of civic collaboration. Finally, the CO-Bologna process also includes the evaluation of the Bologna Regulation, in order to understand the impact of the public policy on the urban democracy. The evaluation is indeed one of the crucial phase of the CO-city protocol, that describe the cycle of a collaborative public policy to implement the city as a commons. Evaluation is conceived as an intermediate phase between prototyping and modeling, that is realized in order to enrich the understanding of the evolving of the policy process and introduce appropriates corrections. This methodology is coherent with the principles of experimentation and adaptiveness as crucial characteristic of an innovative collaborative policy making at the urban level.
The field experimentations
The experimentations share a commitment to the idea of the city as a commons and are rooted in the belief that a paradigm shift in the way we think about cities is needed. Instead of law and bureaucratic programs being independent of the urban culture within a city constructed on the principle of separation, it is fundamental to develop a culture of cooperation based on communing. This policy has the double ambition of coordinating different projects of urban regeneration, social innovation and collaborative economy while also working on the creation prototypes that will allow to strengthen the dialogue between all the collaborative forces active in the city. The CO-Bologna process intends to transform city government into an institutional ecosystem based and on the three dimensions of urban co-governance: sharing, collaboration and polycentricity5.
The engine of the CO-Bologna process is the technical unit for civic imagination, the “Polytechnic of the commons” composed by civil servants from the City of Bologna and other cities and experts of collaborative governance and urban commons This technical unit in addition to having taken part in the process of mapping the collaborative energies and urban communities already existing had also the fundamental role of guiding and overseeing the experimentation processes. Such processes have been structured around three sites, each one representing one of the three pillars of the CO-City and corresponding to area of the neighborhoods selected: making together (collaborative city making), living together (social innovation) and growing together (collaborative economy). Bolognina, Pilastro and Croce del Biacco, that consists in conducting co-design processes in three Bologna neighborhoods in order to develop prototypes of local/neighborhood- based institutions, characterized by adaptiveness and diversity, to enable collective action for the urban commons.
The Bolognina experimentation field, supported by Federcasa, is located in an area characterized by exemplar experiences in the care and regeneration of the commons and in the field of social and cultural innovation, and sets for itself the objective of generating connections between the already existing projects, increasing their potential and offering new occasions of collaboration in the use of space. The ultimate goal is the creation of a neighborhood direction, on the model of the French Règies des quartiers et des territoire, based on a public-private- community partnership formula, and the path will be modelled on the successful experience of Pilastro 2016. The next action will address the living spaces and will activate a co-design path involving two typologies of apartment buildings (public and private) with the aim of locating collaborative forms of management of common spaces and services. The reflection on private spaces will be followed by one on public spaces, thanks to the involvement of businessmen and subjects who are active in the innovation field. This process will aim at sharing common initiatives to promote the area, presenting new proposals for the care of the community and identifying actions that can answer to the needs expressed by the locals. The process enjoys the support of Federcasa, that considers it an experimentation useful to bring innovation in housing policies at national level. It is coordinated by LabGov and benefits from the collaboration of ACER Bologna, ASPPI, the neighborhood Navile and from the competences of Kilowatt e CBS-Abito.
Thus far CO-Bologna had contributed to the creation of a Community Association composed by the businessmen from the artists’ streets of Bolognina, while in the long run it aims at supporting the local actors in the construction of a Urban District for the Improvement of Bolognina (DUMBO). The text of the bylaws of the community association, named “Committee of Bolognan’s Artists streets” is available here.
A detailed account of the process, including the lab’s report and the governance outputs available here.
In Pilastro the CO-Bologna experimentation built on the strategic plan “Pilastro 2016”, a project promoted by Bologna’s municipality within the framework of the public policy “Collaborare Ë Bologna,” supported by the Emilia Romagna Region and the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna and is coordinated by the cooperative Camelot – Officine Cooperative. The main goal of the Pilastro fieldwork is to constitute a public private commons partnership for the community led commons – based neighborhood development. This result might be achieved also through the constitution of a neighborhood institution, a community cooperative that includes all the actors of the quintuple helix of innovation, involving social institutional and economic local actors. The community cooperative will be the ground of a public-private-commons partnership for the neighborhood development. Other local agencies are going to be built to do the same work in almost every neighborhood or district of the city with the help of the Office for civic imagination.
The objective of Pilastro 2016 is to generate a connection between the high social and cultural capital existing in the area and the economic needs emerging in the North-Eastern part of the city. Within the framework of Pilastro 2016 the group “Mastro Pilastro” was created. The group offers neighborhood services to the residents and is composed by inhabitants of Pilastro aged between 18 and 30 and selected between those who are in search for a job. The project aims at bringing together the social, cultural and entrepreneurial capital and at matching it with the economic vocation of the neighborhood. Within this field CO-Bologna has contributed to the birth of the first neighborhood actor based on the public-private-community institutionalized partnership, which takes the name of local development agency “Pilastro Nord-Est District Local Development Agency“, constituted in March 2016, as a new local agency for local development. The founding member are the City of Bologna, the San Donato Neighborhood, ACER Bologna, the bank Emil Banca, the Agricultural Center of Bologna, the Meraville Mall Consortium and Unipol Foundation. The Agency is an Open association, constituted as the result of the path paved by the Pilastro 2016 process and it will also be a founding member of the Pilastro Neighborhood Community Cooperative. The Statute of the Agency is available here
CO-Bologna has also activated a co-design process, from January through June 2016, organized with the supervision of professional facilitators from the social enterprise Social Seed and the support of the Camelot Cooperative. The aim of the laboratory was to facilitate the Mastro Pilastro group to achieve the construction of an urban community cooperative. Through CO-Bologna the Mastro Pilastro group has organized itself in the new “Urban Community Association”. The output of this process are the bylaws and a business plan model of the Urban Community Association. A detailed account of the co-design process and the outputs, are available here.
Croce del Biacco
Croce del Biacco is a public housing cluster with a high percentage of foreigners inhabitants. In close proximity to Croce del Biacco there is the Bologna main migrants’ first hospitality center, the Mattei Regional Hub. So, there is a FabLab and a network of cultural and creative spaces in Piazza dei Colori, as well as a pact of collaboration in a nearby area. The CO-Bologna project is now leveraging both the Incredibol policy and the Bologna Regulation to involve the migrants and the people from the public housing compound and the Hub of the migrants in creating a collaborative economy district in which they can all manage the public space through the pact of collaboration and at the same time produce, manage, and manufacture by working in the FabLab or in those spaces. Croce del Biacco was already the object of an urban development city plan, “Bella Fuori 3”, supported by Fondazione del Monte and focused on the regeneration of a central square for the public housing cluster, Piazza dei Colori.
The CO-Bologna experimentation that took place in Croce del Biacco was focused on providing the community with the support needed to design a form of governance that could allow to manage a collaborative economy and social innovation district. The process that CO-Bologna activated intended to involve a wide range of actors in a co-design path regarding Piazza dei Colori. Among the actors we can find the local associations and the residents that signed the Collaboration pact of Croce del Biacco, the social innovator selected through the Incredibol call (a project promoted by the city of Bologna, Incredibol is a public call for grant to support cultural and creative enterprises) the migrants hosted in the Via Mattei hub. The main output of the co-design laboratory, conducted with the support of a professional facilitator that took place between June and October 2016, is the Preliminary Protocol of Collaboration, that unifies the community of the lab participants around common objectives, values, timing and actions.
A detailed report of the process and the full text of the Preliminary Protocol of Collaboration is available here.
Scientific research and dissemination
The field experimentation conducted in different urban areas and the efforts done to support the public administration in implementing the regulation and in establishing civic collaboration as a design principles for local public policies are only a component of the CO-Bologna project. Co- Bologna is, as a matter of fact, a scientific research project characterized by the ambitious goal of contributing to the definition of international standards for the creation of tools for the governance of the urban commons.
Because of its scientific vocation CO-Bologna has devoted countless energies to the creation anddiffusion of knowledge on the urban commons and on the governance principles envisaged to regulate them. This cognitive acceleration process generated a series of conferences and seminars aimed at producing broader knowledge of these topics and at stimulating a confrontation between all actors involved in the field.
It is within this framework that the first international conference on the urban commons, titled “The city as a commons”, which took place in November 2015. The event, organized under the aegis of IASC (International Association for the Study of the Commons), brought together around 200 participants coming from all over the world and sharing a deep commitment to the study and active and advocacy of the urban commons. Within this continuous research process CO-Bologna has also generated important seminars for the dissemination of the project outputs and to promote further discussion on the project’s topic between experts (academics, professionals, practitioners, policy makers, civil servants), which allowed for a deeper exploration of the role of collaboration and urban cooperativism. The first dissemination event was organized in November 2015, with the above mentioned IASC Conference “The city as a Commons”.
During the following year other dissemination events have been organized at national level. On March 22th 2016 the seminar “Bologna collaborative city – The Regulation on Public Collaboration for the Urban Commons” took place in Bologna and allowed for an important moment of reflection on the Regulation and on its consequences. The event aimed at assessing the state of the art of the Regulation’s implementation from a juridical-administrative point of view. On April the 26th 2016 a second the conference “The cooperative city for peripheries’ development” took place, an event which brought different experts to reflect on the role that commons and collaboration can play in processes of urban regeneration, in fighting inequalities, in social innovation and in community development.
Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons
Patto di collaborazione aperto tra Comune di Bologna e Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna “PROGRAMMA CO-BOLOGNA”