Co-Cities Project

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= "a 5-year effort to investigate and experiment with new forms of collaborative city-making that is pushing urban areas towards new frontiers of participatory urban governance, inclusive economic growth and social innovation".

URL = (not online before fall of 2017)


Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione:

"These basic empirical observations are now the cornerstone of a much larger and scientifically driven research project that we established and call the “Co-Cities Project”. The Co-Cities Project is the result of a 5-year effort to investigate and experiment with new forms of collaborative city-making that is pushing urban areas towards new frontiers of participatory urban governance, inclusive economic growth and social innovation. The project is rooted in the conceptual pillars of the urban commons.

We have surveyed 100+ cities around the world and many examples of urban commons within them. From this study, we have extracted a set of design principles for governing urban commons and cities as commons. And we are creating a website as a resource and open platform to which additional data, or case studies, can be added as we become aware of them.

The results of our research will soon be available on a digital platform (" (

The Co-Cities report and dataset

Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione:

As part of the Co-Cities project, in collaboration with organizations like IASC, P2P Foundation, DESIS and key figures in the commons debate, we have been engaged in organizing and participating in scientific conferences, as well as identifying and evaluating commons-based projects and policies in European and American cities (where we have both worked) and in different geopolitical contexts. We have built thus far a dataset of more than 100 cities, which we surveyed over 18 months (from December 2015 to June 2017), and from which we have summarized more than 200 examples of urban commons projects and/or public policies from observed cities. The case studies we gathered come from different kinds of cities located all around the world, and include groundbreaking experiments in which we have been involved in Bologna and Turin (Italy), as well as those taking place in other Italian cities (e.g. Naples, Milan, Rome, Palermo, Bari, etc.). Our studies of various kinds of urban commons include global cities such as Seoul (South Korea), San Francisco (USA), Madrid and Barcelona (Spain), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Athens (Greece), Nairobi (Kenya), Medellin (Colombia), Bangalore (India) and many other cities (see the map below).

Among the better known recent examples considered by the scope of our research are the FabCity transition plan towards re-localized and distributed manufacturing, the Superblocks initiative, the Reglamento De Participación Ciudadana and the many other initiatives taken by the new Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau; the Bologna and Turin Regulation on Civic Collaboration for the Urban Commons; San Francisco, Seoul and Milan initiatives to transform themselves into “sharing cities”; Edinburgh and Glasgow as “cooperative cities”; and Naples’ regulation on urban civic uses.

The results of our research are discussed in a co-cities report to be released early in the Fall 2017 which aims to develop a common framework and understanding for “urban (commons) transitions.” These transitions include: patterns, processes, practices, and public policies that are community-driven and that position local communities as key political, economic and institutional actors in the delivery of services, production, and management of urban assets or local resources. The project focuses on emerging urban innovations and evolutions that are reshaping urban (and peri-urban) development and land use, urban and local economic patterns, urban welfare systems and democratic and political processes, as well as governmental decision-making and organization. Where we are able to identify a network of urban commons, or some degree of polycentricism in the governance of urban resources, then we can confidently begin to see the transformation of the city into a commons—a collaborative space—supported and enabled by the state.

From these examples, we have extracted the above described recurrent design principles and have identified common methodological tools employed across the globe and for different urban resources and phenomena. The report uses case studies to map where urban commons innovations are occurring, analyzes the features of each individual case, and presents the testimony of leaders or key participants in the case studies. One of the main goals in interviews with participants and leaders is to discern whether the projects captured here represent isolated projects or whether they represent a city that is experiencing a transition toward a co-city. The ultimate objective of this report is to raise awareness about the commonalities among these case-studies and to serve as guidance for urban policy makers, researchers, urban communities interested in transitioning toward a Co-City.


The forthcoming digital platform ( will contain the results of our studies as well as a map of co-cities. The platform also brings together the contributions of several global thought leaders who have been developing and refining the ideas underlying the conceptual pillars of the Co-City. On this open platform, local practitioners, local officials, engaged residents and others are able to “map” themselves by completing a simple questionnaire (available in the “Map Your Project” section of the website). Once mapped on the platform, participants will then receive access to the dataset. Those who lead policies, projects or practices will receive the text of the in-depth interview, allowing them to explain the specifics of policy, project or practice as a way of being included in the co-cities research project. In return, those participants’ projects will be analyzed and evaluated according to the design principles set out above, as well as receive general guidance and feedback on the policy, project or practice.

We intend to use the platform also as a means to establish Co-City projects in different cities (including Amsterdam, New York City, Liverpool, Accra) as a way to engage directly in the implementation of the above design principles in different legal/economic systems. We also hope to demonstrate their applicability across contexts and the particular forms of adaptation required, particularly so that we can improve and revise the overall framework and design principles. Towards this end, we are looking to work with cities in South America, Asia, Oceania that want to establish the co-city project. The ultimate goal of the research is to co-develop and improve the quality of the theoretical framework and to build a co-cities index." (

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