Multi-Local Societies

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Multi-local Societies = a network of interconnected communities and places, at the same time, open and localised

See also for the related concept of Global Villages.


"The new local combines the specific features of places and their communities with the new phenomena generated and supported world-wide by globalisation and by cultural, socio-economic interconnection."


By Ezio Manzini,

"Contrary to what was thought in the past, the joint phenomena of globalisation and increased connectivity have given rise once again to the local dimension. By the expression ‘local’ what is meant now is something very removed from what was understood in the past (i.e. the valley, the village, the small provincial town, all isolated and relatively closed within their own culture and economy). The new local combines the specific features of places and their communities with the new phenomena generated and supported world-wide by globalisation and by cultural, socio-economic interconnection. "

"Cosmopolitan Localism, intended as the result of a particular condition characterised by the balance between being localised (rooted in a place and in the community related to that place), and open to global flows of ideas, information, people, things and money. This is quite a delicate balance as, at any time, one of the two sides can prevail over the other leading to an anti-historical closure or, on the opposite side, it can lead to a destructive openness of the local social fabric and of its peculiar features.

Creative Communities, cooperative networks and cosmopolitan localism are, as it has been said, the building blocks for a new vision: the vision of a sustainable society that can be defined as a multi-local society. I.e. a network of interconnected communities and places, at the same time, open and localised.


Small is not small and local is not local!

In the framework of the multi-local society the dominant ideas of “global" and “local", and the ones of “large" and “small" are challenged. In fact, for its nature the multi-local society is an highly connected world. And, in this kind of world, the small is not small: it is instead (or it can be instead) a knot in a network (the real dimension of which is given by the number of links with other elements of the system). Similarly, and for the same reasons, the local is not local, but it is (or it can be) a locally based, cosmopolitan community.

In this conceptual and practical framework, the multi-local society appears as a society based on communities and places that are, at the same time, strong in their own identity, embedded in a physical place and open and connected to other places/communities .

In other words: in the multi-local society, communities and places are junctions of a network, points of connection among short networks, which generate and regenerate the local social and production fabric and long networks, which connect that place and that community with the rest of the world (De Rita, Bonomi, 1998). Junctions that connect “long global networks" with “short local networks" and that, doing so, provide support to organizational forms and production and service systems based on the subsidiary principle (that is: to do on a larger scale only what cannot be done on a smaller scale, i.e. at a local level).

Today, the vision of the multi-local society is still far form the mainstream, but it indicates a direction that, for several reasons, can be successfully undertaken. In fact, not only it is locally practicable, given that, as it has been said, it is based on real cases of social innovation (the creative communities and the collaborative networks), but also it is coherent with (another) strong driver of change: the rise of the distributed economies as a potentially successful option." (

The density of space

(added by Franz Nahrada)

One feature of multi-local societies like also envisioned in the idea of Global_Villages is that they densify the experience of space. A neighborhood is not simply dominated by a culture or a subculture, but also full with points of presence of various cultural communities, outlets, portals. The immense potential of this has been demonstrated by the [| World Showcase Lagoon] in EPCOT center, Orlando, FloridaOrlando, Florida. Although each "country" just encompasses 2 hectares of land, the virtual presence of a multi-local society in the locality enlarges the experience, but even more interesting is the experience of "touring the world by walking around a lake". Of course this is a commercial amusement parc and not an authentic society, but lessons can be learned.


How can localities be linked? Which elements of the local mediate the global?

Manzini mentions:

creative communities: groups of innovative citizens organising themselves to solve a daily problem or to open a new possibility mostly on a local scale, and doing so as a positive step in the social learning process towards social and environmental sustainability of this locality.

Collaborative networks: dispersed minorities of producers-consumers that create a particular kind of service or activity, often for their own use, that rely more on virtual channels of communication.

Distributed Economies: "In all these cases, what the term Distributed adds to the substantive to which it is related, is the idea that it has to be considered as a web of interconnected, autonomous elements, i.e. elements that are capable to operate autonomously, being, at the same time, highly connected with the other elements of the system. In different words: what the adjective “distributed” indicated is the existence of an horizontal system architecture where complex activities are accomplished in parallel by an high number of connected elements (technological artefacts and/or human beings)."

Distributed intelligence and distributed energy

enabling solutions systems that provide cognitive, technical and organisational instruments so as to enable individuals and/or communities to achieve a result, using their skills and abilities to the best advantage and, at the same time, to regenerate the quality of living contexts, in which they happen to live"

More Information

See our entry on Global Villages