To judge from the fascinating crowd of 200-plus commoners who converged on Bologna, Italy, last week, it is safe to declare that a major new front in commons advocacy has come into focus – the city. The event was the conference, “The City as a Commons: Reconceiving Urban Space, Common Goods and City Governance,” hosted by LabGov (LABoratory for the GOVernance of the Commons), the International Association for the Study of the Commons, the Fordham Law School’s Urban Law Center and the Roman law school LUISS.
While there have been a number of noteworthy urban commons initiatives over the years, this event had a creative energy, diversity of ideas and people, and a sense of enthusiasm and purpose.
The City of Bologna was a perfect host for this event; it has long been a pioneer in this area, most notably through its Regulation on Collaboration for the Urban Commons, which invites neighborhoods and citizens to propose their own projects for city spaces (gardens, parks, kindergartens, graffiti cleanup).
What made this conference so lively was the sheer variety of commons-innovators from around the world. There was an urban permaculture farmer…..a researcher who has studied the conversion of old airports into metropolitan commons….an expert on “tiny home eco-villages” as a model for urban development…..Creative Commons leaders from the collaborative city of Seoul, Korea….an expert describing “nomadic commons” that use social media to help Syrian migrants find refuge with host families in Italy.
We heard from a city official in Barcelona about Barcelona en Comú, a citizen platform that is attempting to remake the ways that city government works, with an accent on social justice and citizen participation. As part of this new vision of the city, the Barcelona government has banned Airbnb after it drove up rents and hollowed out robust neighborhoods into dead zones for overnight tourists.