Regulation of the Urban Commons in Bologna

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* Article: The post-political meaning of the concept of commons: the regulation of the urban commons in Bologna. By Iolanda Bianchi. Space and Polity , Volume 22, 2018 - Issue 3.

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"While the concept of Commons has acquired politicized meanings, it has also acquired some de-politicized ones. This article analyses a case of de-politicization of this concept, occurring in the city of Bologna, where the City Council has recently adopted the ‘Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of the Urban Commons’. Through an interpretative approach that uses critical discourse analysis, the article illustrates a form of post-politicization of the concept that aims to suture the social space without fully succeeding. The article concludes by stressing the necessity and urgency of the struggle for the politicized meaning of the concept of Commons."


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." (

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