Civic Commons

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= Concept and specific project


1. Charlotte Hess:

"Peter Levine has written extensively on the civic commons (Levine 2002a&b, 2003, 2007a&b; Gastil and Levine 2005). A very interesting and useful text for business managers was put out by the Institute for the Future in 2005 (Saveri et al.). The authors explore emerging fields of knowledge and practice, looking for ways to think about two key business questions: “How can new insights about the dynamics of cooperation help us identify new and lucrative models for organizing production and wealth creation that leverage win–win dynamics; and How can organizations enhance their creativity and grow potential innovation with cooperation-based strategic models?” The authors draw heavily from the commons and collective action literature of Ostrom and colleagues." (


“In the wake of COVID-19, public spaces are becoming critical havens for people across the country. As we continue to manage living in an era of physical distancing, our parks, plazas, trails, greenways, sidewalks and even our streets have provided fresh air, exercise, reduced stress and much-needed, safe interaction with neighbors. More and more, city leaders around the country are recognizing that what brings us together — a robust and accessible civic commons — is the key to us all emerging stronger together from COVID-19.” (


Levine, Peter. 2001. "Civic Renewal and the Commons of Cyberspace." National Civic Review 90(3):205-212.

Levine, Peter. 2002a. “Building the Electronic Commons: A Project of the Democratic Collaborative.” (Report)

Levine, Peter. 2002b. “Can the Internet Rescue Democracy? Toward an On-Line Commons.” In Democracy’s Moment: Reforming the American Political System for the 21st Century. R. Hayduk and K. Mattson, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Levine, Peter. 2003. “A Movement for the Commons?” Responsive Community 13(4):28-39.

Levine, Peter. 2007a. “Collective Action, Civic Engagement, and the Knowledge Commons.” In Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. C. Hess and E. Ostrom, eds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Levine, Peter. 2007b. The Future of Democracy: Developing the Next Generation of Citizens. Lebanon, NH: Tufts University Press and University Press of New England.


USA: Akron, Ohio; Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia

"We have seen transformative results over the last four years in these cities.

- In Akron, Ohio investments in three civic asset areas along a major trail line are connecting previously isolated neighborhoods, and bolstering civic engagement and new levels of civic trust. For instance, a formerly neglected lake in one of the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods has become a gathering place to experience nature. Summit Lake is now a point of pride for the community. Ninety-four percent of visitors believe the previously isolated neighborhood now has a bright future.

- In Chicago, investments in unique civic spaces like the Stony Island Arts Bank Campus and the formerly vacant St. Laurence School led by Rebuild Foundation are sparking a South Side neighborhood revitalization. Through a new partnership model, more than 650 free programs were offered, drawing over 26,000 people to these Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood spaces

- In Detroit, a brand-new community park and greenway aligned with investment in a neighborhood commercial corridor, including converting an empty storefront into Neighborhood HomeBase, a welcoming community hub. This has resulted in green infrastructure jobs for neighbors, sparked the opening of local businesses in formerly vacant spaces, and inspired new hope for a better future among residents of a long-disinvested neighborhood.

- Memphis has embarked on transforming a set of all but abandoned spaces — a branch library, public parks and a disconnected trail — along the Mississippi River into an active, revitalized waterfront. Following the removal of Confederate monuments, the team reconsidered the design, program, operations and staffing of these sites to ensure the spaces are welcoming to all. Resulting in average visitorship to River Garden nearly doubling prior to the pandemic, with visitors coming from more than 40 zip codes. - Philadelphia’s work, as the pilot city for this groundbreaking initiative, resulted in a new riverfront bike and pedestrian trail, a renovated public library and park space, an elevated park, a nature and youth education center and neighborhood-oriented gathering spaces in five different neighborhoods of the city. It also created a robust, collaborative network of public space practitioners and helped set the stage for $500 million of new civic asset funding through the Rebuild initiative.” (

The Projects

the Peterborough 'Civic Commons' project, UK

* Article: The CiviC Commons. A model for social action. By emma norris and sam mcLean. February 2011


"In 2009 Peterborough City Council and the Arts Council approached the RSA to develop a programme of interventions to strengthen civic pride in Peterborough by looking at how participation, attachment and innovation in the city’s public services and among its citizens might be enhanced.

The Civic Commons, which is one of the Citizen Power projects helping to deliver those outcomes, is a hybrid model of citizen participation — part deliberative participation, part capacity-building and part social action network — designed to meet local (and national) needs.

The Civic Commons initiative builds on the some of the challenges identified and lessons learned from previous experiences of engaging and empowering local people in Peterborough and beyond. The RSA is working with citizens, decision-makers and other organisations in Peterborough to develop a Peterborough Civic Commons between 2010 and 2012.

This document comprises a statement on the RSA’s thinking on the Civic Commons, and draws heavily on a review of existing participation literature and the local needs of Peterborough. The challenges of changing how citizens and communities engage with and contribute to overcoming local problems are significant. Here we make the case for how those challenges might be addressed."

The 'Civic Commons' Open Government Data initiative in the U.S.


"Civic Commons is just starting as an organization, however, we are committed to the following:

  • Facilitating the sharing of code among government entities, with an eye towards developing an “Open Civic Stack”
  • Connecting governments throughout all phases of technology procurement, and building systems for more transparent & informed technology choices
  • Developing and supporting Open Data and Open Standards as foundations of an “Open Civic API”
  • Spreading government technology best practices
  • Building a community of “civic hackers” and give them clear opportunities to assist in the development of government technology"