Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons

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Regulation at

also: [1] ; Italian text


David Bollier:

How does the program work?

"It starts by regarding the city as a collaborative social ecosystem. Instead of seeing the city simply as an inventory of resources to be administered by politicians and bureaucratic experts, the Bologna Regulation sees the city’s residents as resourceful, imaginative agents in their own right. Citizen initiative and collaboration are regarded as under-leveraged energies that – with suitable government assistance – can be recognized and given space to work. Government is re-imagined as a hosting infrastructure for countless self-organized commons.

To date, the city and citizens have entered into more than 90 different “pacts of collaboration” – formal contracts between citizen groups and the Bolognese government that outline the scope of specific projects and everyone’s responsibilities. The projects fall into three general categories – living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures) and working together (co-production).

Phase I projects over the past year included a kindergarten run by parents, a “social streets” initiative, and an urban agricultural coop. In the coming year a new set of Phase II test projects selected by citizens will attempt to extend the scope of the efforts – perhaps with collaborative housing and new sorts of social services provisioning, perhaps with new co-learning programs in the public schools and neighborhood markets." (


By Daniela Patti:

"The City of Bologna has had a long tradition in terms of citizens’ participation in decision making over the city’s development, but especially as a result of the economic crisis and the subsequent reduction on welfare expenditure, citizens have become increasingly active in the city. Responding to such inputs, the City Council has over recent years developed a series of relevant participation processes, Open Data initiatives, a participatory budgeting platform and the Regulations of the Commons, this last having gained much visibility both at national level and abroad. The reason for the Regulation of the Commons having gained so much attention was because this was the first of its kind ever being developed and was then adopted, with small variations, by a large number of cities across the peninsula.

The Regulation of the Commons is an application of the Principle of Subsidiarity foreseen by the art.118 of the Italian Constitution, that foresees that public administrations should support citizens in the development of autonomous initiatives aiming towards the collective interest. Therefore in 2014, Bologna’s City Council officially adopted the Regulation on the collaboration between citizens and the public administration on activities aiming at the care and regeneration of urban commons. The Regulation acts as a general framework within which citizens, both individuals or groups, can submit proposals for projects to be developed on a spontaneous basis with voluntary effort for the involved parties, putting competences, resources and energy available to the collective good. Such projects are disciplined by the Regulation through a series of specific agreements, called Collaborations Pacts, in which both the citizens and the Public Administration agree to the terms of their cooperation for the safeguarding of the commons. The commons targeted by this Regulation are material spaces as public squares, green areas or schools, immaterial commons, such as education and social inclusion, and digital commons, such as applications and digital alphabetisation.

The value of this pioneering Regulation has been to attempt to provide a legal framework to the activities and projects promoting the commons that were taking place spontaneously in the city, often outside if not even in contrast to the existing regulations. At the same time, this Regulation has the limitation of addressing only the less problematic situations of collaboration between civic and public stakeholders when promoting the urban commons. In fact, collective cleaning of public spaces, paintings of murals or creation of street furniture have been valuable initiatives taking place even more frequently thanks to the legal clarity in which they can take place, but are rather unproblematic in social and political terms. Urban Commons involving higher stakes in terms of ownership, management and economic conditions, as in the case of public buildings or even private ones, are not part of the scope of the Bologna Regulation of the Commons." (


The English version edited by 2013/2014 Labgov interns is now the official version adopted by the City of Bologna. [2]:



Excerpted from the intro to the regulation:

"This Regulation was drafted by a working group appointed by the City of Bologna within the project “The city as a Commons” supported by Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna ( The Italian version can be downloaded here. Translation into English was prepared and edited by LabGov - LABoratory for the GOVernance of commons ( at LUISS Guido Carli. Through this acknowledgment note, LabGov would like to express its gratitude to all those who spent time and energies on this translation of what is now known as the Bologna Regulation on Public Collaboration for Urban Commons. Thus we extend our thanks to LabGov interns who translated single parts of this Regulation: Salvatore Borghese, Edoardo De Stefani, Elena de Nictolis, Alessandra Feola, Fabio Fioravanti, Rosaria Gimmelli, Lucia Mosca, Silvia Pianta, Gianluca Purpura, Marco Quaglia, Stefano Speranza, Margherita Sperduti. Also, LabGov expresses sincere gratitude to professors Sheila Foster and Giacinto della Cananea for commenting the regulation and its English version during the workshop on "Urban commons and the Bologna Regulation on public collaboration. An Inter-Atlantic dialogue" held at LUISS Guido Carli on October 31st, 2014." (

Section 1 : Purpose, subject and scope

TITLE I - General provisions Sec. 1 (Purpose, subject and scope)

1. This Regulation, in line with the provisions of the Italian Constitution and the Municipal Statute governs the forms of collaboration among citizens and the City of Bologna for the care and regeneration of urban commons.

2. The provisions shall apply in cases where the intervention of citizens for the care and regeneration of urban commons requires the collaboration or responds to the solicitation of the City.

3. The collaboration among citizens and the administration is manifested through the adoption of non - authoritative administrative acts.

4. Remaining firm and distinct from the subject matter of this Regulation, the regulatory provisions of the City govern the provision of economic benefits and instrumental support to associations, pursuant to Sec. 12 of Law no. 241 of August 7th, 1990.

Section 2 : Definitions

Sec. 2 (Definitions)

For the purposes of these provisions the terms are defined as follows

a. Urban commons: the goods, tangible, intangible and digital, that citizens and the Administration, also through participative and deliberative procedures, recognize to be functional to the individual and collective wellbeing , activating consequently towards them, pursuant to article 118, par. 4, of the Italian Constitution, to share the responsibility with the Administration of their care or regeneration in order to improve the collective enjoyment

b. City or Administration: the City of Bologna in its different institutional and organizational branches.

c. Active citizens: all subjects, single or associated, anyhow gathered in social formations, also of entrepreneurial type or with social vocation, which are active for the care and regeneration of urban commons, pursuant to this Regulation.

d. Collaboration proposal: The expression of interest, formulated by active citizens, in order to bring interventions about care or regeneration of urban commons. The proposal may be spontaneous or formulated in response to a solicitation of the City

e. Collaboration agreement: the agreement through which the City and active citizens define the area of application of the interventions about care and regeneration of urban commons.

f. Care interventions: interventions aimed for the protection, conservation and maintenance of urban commons to ensure and improve their quality and usability.

g. Shared management: care interventions of urban commons carried out jointly by citizens and administration with continuity and inclusivity.

h. Regeneration interventions: recovery, transformation and innovation interventions, carried out through co–design methods pursuant to social, economic, technological and environmental participatory, broad and integrated processes, that determine an overall improvement of the quality of life in the city.

i. Public spaces: green areas, squares, streets, sidewalks and others public spaces or open to the public, of public property or subject to public use.

j. Civic network: the citizenship space on the Internet for the publication of information and institutional news, the use of online services and the participation to interactive sharing processes.

k. Civic medium: communication channel, related to the civic network, for the collection, evaluation, voting and comment of proposals made by the Administration and the citizens.


Policy implementations in Bologna

via Neal Gorenflo:

"We heard from the leaders of three projects that had signed pacts. Michela Bassi spoke of the impact of her Social Streets project, which has moved from a network of neighborhood Facebook groups to a nonprofit with a set of tangible projects including an outdoor ad turned into a neighborhood bulletin board. Veronica Veronesi introduced Reuse With Love, a group of 50 neighbors who joined forces to fight waste and improve the lives of children and the poor. Annarita Ciaruffoli of Dentro Al Nido (Inside the Nest) spoke of how the regulation was helping to restore schools.

Stefano Brugnara, president of Arci Bologna and spokesperson for the Bologna Third Sector Forum, an association of local nonprofits, spoke of the durable role of nonprofits under the new regulation; that they don’t get subsumed by it, but rather can be strengthened by it, especially if there’s transparency in its application. His comments hinted at a concern that nonprofits would be weakened by the regulation.

Giovanni Ginocchini of Bologna’s Urban Center commented on urban transformation from a physical standpoint including fighting graffiti, renovation of the city’s famous arcades, green lighting in public spaces, and better social housing." (

Adapation in Co-Turino

By Daniela Patti:

"Urban Commons involving higher stakes in terms of ownership, management and economic conditions, as in the case of public buildings or even private ones, are not part of the scope of the Bologna Regulation of the Commons.

Such a challenge was instead recently taken on by the City of Turin, which as many other Italian cities adopted the Bologna’ Regulation of the Commons with very small adjustments in January 2016. Within the framework of the Co-City project supported by the Urban Innovative Actions program, Turin aims at developing the experience of the commons towards the creation of an innovative social welfare that will foster the co-production of services with community enterprises. Low cost urban regeneration activities in open spaces as well as buildings will take place and will be financially supported through the European-funded project. Having the project officially started only at the beginning of 2017, it is still early to appreciate any results but it is nevertheless worthy to say that its ambition is strongly embedded within a longer experience in terms of civic-public collaboration, as testified by the experience of the Network of the Neighbourhood Houses, which are also a key partner in the Co-City project. This network of community spaces, started in 2007, gathers eight spaces across the city with different functions and management models, some being public and others privately-run. For example, Cascina Roccafranca is a multi-functional community centre operating in a building owned by the City of Turin. Partly financed by the municipal budget, the centre is managed through cooperation between public and civic actors: a scheme that offers a valuable governance model while providing a wide range of social and cultural activities. As the staff member Stefania De Masi stated: “Our status as a public-private foundation is an experiment, an attempt of close collaboration with the municipality.” (

Adaptation in Naples

By Daniela Patti:

"An experience stemming from a different background to the one of Bologna is the Regulation of the Commons in Naples. It was in this city that for the first time in 2011, the juridical definition of Commons was introduced in the City Council’s Statute, referring especially to the case of water, which had been object of the national Referendum that same year. The following years, the “Regulation for the Discipline of the Commons” and the “Principles for the government and management of the Commons” were established. According to these, “each citizens should concur to the natural and spiritual progress of the city”. The focus towards the urban commons was explicit in 2013, when the City Council adopted the Public Space Charter, elaborated by the Biennial of Public Space held that same year in Rome, which aims at the creation of concrete processes towards the promotion of the urban public spaces.

It is in 2014 that the current regulation deliberating on the urban commons in Naples was approved by the City Council. This regulation outlines the identification of the commons and the process of collective management for their civic use and collective benefit are outlined. This regulation has foreseen the recognition of ongoing civic initiatives pursuing projects in spaces identified as urban commons. This approach therefore attempts to foster a logic of self-governance and experimental management of public spaces, aiming at recognising these spaces as commons of collective interest and fruition. In 2016 seven locations in Naples were identified as commons because of the collective commitment of citizens in their regeneration after a long period of abandonment. Before such recognition these spaces were officially identified as illegal occupation of public properties, for which all people involved were subjected to legal persecution. The innovation of what is happening in Naples stands basically in the fact that the ancient tradition of the Usi Civici (Civic Uses) applied since medieval times to the forests for people to access and harvest wood or collect food, is now applied to urban spaces. This is the case of the Je So’ Pazzo initiative taking place in the old mental asylum in the city centre of Naples, where a group of inhabitants, many of whom youngsters, have taken over the space to provide a series of local services, such as music classes, sports facilities and many other community-run activities. Currently the agreement with the Municipalities implies that utility costs of the space are paid by the City Council but all activities related expenses are responsibility of the users. In terms of property rights, the space remains in public ownership and users are granted freely access as long as the activities remain of public interest and open to all citizens." (


Jay Waljasper:

"Bologna’s urban commons initiative began in May 2014, when the city council passed landmark legislation, Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons. “A new era was dawning where citizens are active co-managers of the resources they use in cities instead of passive recipients of services,” wrote Neal Gorenflo in Shareable after visiting Bologna at the first anniversary of the project.

The origins of the idea date back to 2011 when a group of local women contacted the city about donating benches to their neighborhood park, which lacked any place to sit. The women grew frustrated as their generous offer was bounced from one municipal department to another until finally they were told it was impossible. In fact, it was illegal for citizens to contribute improvements to their hometown.

As one of Italy’s most progressive cities, home to Europe’s oldest university and with a regional economy based on cooperative enterprises, this incident caused a stir around Bologna and spurred city officials to partner with the Rome-based organization LabGov (Laboratory for the Governance of the Commons) which applies the work of Elinor Ostrom to city life. Conference co-chair Christian Iaione, a legal scholar, was instrumental in bringing the project to life. Similar projects sprouted in the Italian cities of Palermo, Montova, Battipaglia and Rome. In North America, Toronto is looking at implementing Urban Commons policies and LabGov is partnering Fordham Urban Law Center to launch a project in New York City." (


by Christian Iaione:

"The approval of the so-called Bologna Regulation on the collaboration between citizens and public administrations for the care and regeneration of urban commons has given impulse to a local regulatory movement. Having greatly contributed to the drafting of this regulation I could not be less happy to see public collaboration ideas spreading. Unfortunately to elaborate and pass a reform is not sufficient in order to recognize and protect the commons.This subject requires a cultural change in the administration of public and private goods and implies the shift from government logic, centered on the bipolar paradigm, to governance logic (1) based on the circular subsidiarity paradigm (2). Moreover it requires also a shift of methodological approach, from theoretical to experimental. The cultural leap needed by the commons highlights the necessity to create several kinds of initiatives to persuade, train, follow and assist public administrations and its officials in the concrete application of the model of shared administration of the commons. By doing so it will be possible to promote the paradigm of the governance in which the practice of the shared care of the commons is part.

This means that for promoting the spread of a culture of the governance of the commons is necessary to restart from the tools of the “institutional communication” intended as public policy centered on the one hand on the sharing of a common worldview, on the other hand on the governance of the networks and the valorization of the energies of the society.This proposal requires the creation of a “space” or “hub” in which the public administration that intend to be involved could get techniques of governance of the commons. This in the perspective to provide activities of “learning-intervention” based on the alternation between class and field to their employees.The educational method adopted aims to combine: a) dispensation, also via computer, of lessons of technical/operational kind and high professional level; b) support in the project management and practical experimentation of the models of governance of the commons; c) elaboration and spread of the results of the activities, research and analysis made within these experimentations.The final objective is the establishment of a coordination center for the governance of the commons. A public-private institution able to promote and support, mainly the public administration, in the achievement of experiences of governance of the commons. It will be necessary a cultural dissemination within public administration in order to raise the general competences for involving citizens in the implementation, maintenance and financing of the commons." (

David Bollier on the LabGov experiment in Bologna

David Bollier:

"What would it be like if city governments, instead of relying chiefly on bureaucratic rules and programs, actually invited citizens to take their own initiatives to improve city life? That’s what the city of Bologna, Italy, is doing, and it amounts to a landmark reconceptualization of how government might work in cooperation with citizens. Ordinary people acting as commoners are invited to enter into a “co-design process” with the city to manage public spaces, urban green zones, abandoned buildings and other urban issues.

The Bologna project is the brainchild of Professor Christian Iaione of LUISS University in Rome in cooperation with student and faculty collaborators at LabGov, the Laboratory for the Governance of Commons. LabGov is an “inhouse clinic” and think tank that is concerned with collaborative governance, public collaborations for the commons, subsidiarity (governance at the lowest appropriate level), the sharing economy and collaborative consumption. The tagline for LabGov says it all: “Society runs, economy follows. Let’s (re)design institutions and law together.

For years Iaione has been contemplating the idea of the “city as commons” in a number of law review articles and other essays. In 2014, the City of Bologna formally adopted legislation drafted by LabGov interns. The thirty-page Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons (official English translation here) outlines a legal framework by which the city can enter into partnerships with citizens for a variety of purposes, including social services, digital innovation, urban creativity and collaborative services.

Taken together, these collaborations comprise a new vision of the “sharing city” or commons-oriented city. To date, some 30 projects have been approved under the Bologna Regulation. Dozens of other Italian cities are emulating the Bologna initiative.

The Bologna Regulation takes seriously the idea that citizens have energy, imagination and responsibility that they can apply to all sorts of municipal challenges. So why not empower such citizen action rather than stifling it under a morass of bureaucratic edicts and political battles? (On this point, check out David Graeber’s new book,The Utopia of Rules.)

The conceptualization of “city as commons” represents a serious shift in thinking. Law and bureaucratic programs are not seen as the ultimate or only solution, and certainly not as solutions that are independent of the urban culture. Thinking about the city as commons requires a deeper sense of mutual engagement and obligation than “service delivery,” outsourcing and other market paradigms allow.

But consider the upside: Instead of relying on the familiar public/private partnerships that often siphon public resources into private pockets, a city can instead pursue “public/commons partnerships” that bring people together into close, convivial and flexible collaborations. The working default is "finding a solution" rather than beggar-thy-neighbor adversarialism or fierce political warfare.

To Iaione, the Bologna Regulation offers a structure for “local authorities, citizens and the community at large to manage public and private spaces and assets together. As such, it’s a sort of handbook for civic and public collaboration, and also a new vision for government.” He believes that “we need a cultural shift in terms of how we think about government, moving away from the Leviathan State or Welfare State toward collaborative or polycentric governance.”

Besides more public collaborations, the Regulation encourages what Iaione calls “nudge regulations” -- a “libertarian paternalism” that uses policy to encourage (but not require) people to make better choices. The term, popularized by behavioral economist Richard Thaler and law scholar Cass Sunstein in their book Nudge, is seen as a way of respecting people’s individual freedoms while “nudging” them to (for example) save enough for retirement, eat healthier foods and respect the environment.

The Regulation also encourages “citytelling” – a process that recognizes people’s “geo-emotional” relationships with urban spaces in the crafting of rules for managing those spaces. And it elevates the importance of “service design” techniques for meeting needs. Thus, information and networking tools, training and education, collaboration pacts and initiatives, and measurement and evaluation of impact, all become more important.

For a lengthier treatment of Professor Iaione’s thinking and the Bologna Regulation, check out Michel Bauwens’ recent interview with Iaione at the Shareable website. Iaione explains how his studies of the tragedy of urban roads and experiments in Bologna led him to develop the theoretical framework for local public entrepreneurship, which is the basis of the CO-Mantova project and the idea of the city as a commons.

Iaione sees commons-related policies as ways to tap into the talents and enthusiasm of an emerging new social class – active citizens, social innovators, makers, creatives, sharing and collaborative economy practitioners, service designers, co-working and co-production experts, and urban designers. Conventional governance structures cannot effectively elicit or organize the energies of these people. Thinking about the "city as open platform" works better.

With the CO-Mantova project, in Mantua, LabGov has been trying to develop “a prototype of a process to run the city as a collaborative commons, i.e., a ‘co-city.’” It is building a new kind of collaborative/polycentric governance with five key sets of actors: social innovators, public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations, and knowledge institutions. Although it is a formal, institutionalized process – a public-private-citizen partnership – its beating heart is the trust, cooperation, social ethic and culture among the participating parties.

The goal is to build peer-to-peer platforms – physical, digital and institutional – to advance three main purposes: “living together (collaborative services), growing together (co-ventures), making together (co-production).” The CO-Mantova project may soon start a CO-Mantova Commons School.

An exciting aspect to LabGov is its reconceptualization of the catalytic role that universities can play. LabGov is a nonprofit based at a university, but it works with all sorts of outsiders. Instead of considering the university, industry and government as the only important players, LabGov subscribes to “a Quintuple Helix approach" (expressed in LabGov logo) where the university "becomes an active member of the community and facilitates the creation of new forms of partnerships in the general interest between government, industry and businesses, the not-for-profit sector, social innovators and citizens, and other institutions such as schools, academies, plus research and cultural centers.”

There are so many urban commons projects emerging these days that it would be great to assemble them into a new network of vanguard players. In the meantime, I will be closely watching the progress of LabGov and the Italian cities that are boldly experimenting with these new modes of governance.” (

Bologna as a City of Collaboration

David Bollier:

"Bologna’s self-declared ambition to become a “city of collaboration” has deep roots in its culture. It has long favored decentralized political authority and encouraged active citizen participation. Mayor Virginio Merola explained the city's unusual stance toward development: “Our city relies upon common assets and social relationships – but we are also a city based on human rights and duties. Our traditions as a city have been based on collaboration.”

When Merola addressed the conference, he got quite emotional: “Being an attractive city means first of all, loving each other and not excluding,” noting that lots of Bolognese residents come from southern Italy and that there are 120 different ethnic groups in the city. In an apparent slap at fashionable technocratic management ideas, Merola said, “We are an intelligent city because we believe in feelings,” adding that “smart cities can be stupid.”

Unlike so many politicians who remain committed to tight, centralized control, Merola and his staff understand the virtues of decentralized participation: “The less that central administration is doing, the more things are working,” he said. “Everybody needs to have power to do something for their lives.” In this, a venerable Bolognese ethic meets up with Internet sensibilities, yielding a new model of city management.

The City of Bologna is quite serious about becoming a “city of collaboration.” City officials regard it as a unifying vision, and almost a brand identity – one that aligns Bologna with some of the larger trends sweeping global culture today, such as open source software, social networks, and DIY innovation. The City has even developed a "personalized logo" that allows anyone to produce a unique symbol that is graphically integrated with the general city logo -- as if to say, we are all different, but we can all be Bolognese.

Luca Rizzo Nervo, the city’s development officer, explained that Bologna’s community development model “goes back to the real meaning of community. We need a collaborative ecosystem – a new way of living and working together.” Nervo hopes to create a national and international network of collaborative cities. Torino is already in the process of adopting the Regulation, and a number of other Italian cities, including Alessandria, Muggia and Rome, have expressed interest in the concept.

Of course, it’s not as easy as passing a new city ordinance. What’s really needed is a new cultural orientation and cultivation of new social practices – and those take time and commitment. It requires a retreat from bureaucratic formalism and an appreciation for the power of informal process and personal relationships.

Becoming a “collaborative city” requires that various stakeholders find new ways to work together, moving beyond political gamesmanship and bureaucratic maneuvering. Citizens, business, schools, and government, among others, have to learn how to make long term, good-faith commitments to each other and the process. Inevitably, any city will have to do its own experimentation and adaptation to learn how to make collaboration work within its distinctive culture.

This process, however, has the distinct advantage of limiting political conflict and ideological factionalism. Because goals are mutually set and programs co-designed, everyone's focus is more on working through differences than on trying to "beat" the political opposition. The openness of the process also helps avoid NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard) and refresh the legitimacy of government action in an ongoing way. Unlike a bureaucracy, the system is designed for rapid citizen feedback and constant iteration. In time, citizens realize that they can adopt a different attitude toward government and become meaningful participants in the process of self-governance. The city truly does belong to them." (

The different take of the Naples model

By Daniela Patti:

"At first sight the Regulations of the Commons of Bologna and Turin and the one of Naples could appear to be rather similar, having been developed at the same with an overall same objectives, yet they greatly differ in terms of concepts of property and usage of the commons. Bologna and the blueprint in Turin, do not effectively intervene on the property model of the public estates, that remain an asset exclusively managed by the Authority, albeit in the public interest. Even in terms of what is the usage model of these properties, this remains unaltered as the Authority is ultimately responsible for the refurbishment of the estates or for the development of social and economic functions. For this reason, it can be said that the civic-public collaborations to be activated tend to take place in open public spaces with a low conflict threshold. Instead, Naples has attempted to pursue a different model of property and management of the commons. in fact, to be identified as a commons are the buildings themselves, based on a series of social and cultural elements, and not the communities operating in them, therefore avoiding conflicts in terms of public procurement in assigning tenants to a public property. The activities currently taking place within these identified Urban Commons are accepted by the Administration as long as they respect the Commons ethics and guarantee access to citizens." (