The LABoratory for the GOVernance of the City as a Commons (“LabGov“) is a place of experimentation in all respects. However, instead of alembics and tubes you can find students, scholars, experts, activists thinking and discussing about the future shapes that social, economic and legal institutions of the city may take.
The crisis has impoverished us all from an individual standpoint (i.e. the institutional capability, the property of private goods). One possibility to be able to maintain or regain a high quality of life is to increase or invest on shared urban/local resources, whether tangible or intangible, in urban and local communities by creating new social, economic and institutional collaborative ecosystems based on the adaptation to cities of Elinor Ostrom design principles to rethink the governance of cities as commons and the management of their resources as urban commons. LabGov is based on the idea that, in order to achieve social, economic and institutional regeneration of urban areas, it is necessary to experiment “urban co-governance“, according to which public authorities shall enable the collective action of city inhabitants and invest on the creation of collaborative partnerships with and/or between city inhabitants, knowledge institutions, NGOs and businesses (the so-called quintuple helix or pentahelix approach).
The implementation of this approach requires specific competences that are exactly those that LabGov aims to create and disseminate. LabGov was created, on the impulse of LUISS Guido Carli University, to train a brand-new breed of professionals in the governance of the urban commons and the city as a commons. These are young women and men able to create partnerships between city inhabitants, NGOs, knowledge institutions, public administrations, and local businesses fostering democracy, urban justice and prosperity in urban and local communities. As part of its activities, LabGov involves about thirty students in a yearly series of workshops and co-working sessions mixing theoretical training, soft skills training and real in-the-field action. Considering its original nature as an in-house urban clinic and place of experimentation, LabGov continues its work beyond these workshops acting as a “gymnasium” for future social and institutional designers, engineers and innovators, engaging them in research, training, project management, and communication activities.
LabGov constantly engages with social organizations or movements and local governments in order to develop projects, regulations, and policies relating the urban commons or aimed at reconceiving the city as a commons. After significantly contributing to “Le città come beni comuni” Fondazione del Monte project and the drafting of the “Bologna regulation on public collaboration for urban commons“, LabGov led the “Bologna città collaborativa” Fondazione del Monte project to design and implement the administrative infrastructure managing the regulation (the so-called Office for Civic Imagination), as well as apply the idea of co-governance to other public policies of the city of Bologna. In November 2015, LabGov hosted a global conference on the urban commons entitled “The City as a Commons,” which successfully brought hundreds of international scholars on the urban commons together in Bologna.
On the basis of the worked carried out in Bologna LabGov codified the “co-city protocol“. The protocol is in its beta version and is being validated through the experimentation in other Italian cities like Mantova, on the establishment of the CO-Mantova cultural and knowledge commons-based territorial pact of collaboration, and in Reggio Emilia through the Co-Reggio Emilia project to establish a social innovation and commons enterprise incubator. LabGov worked also in the south of Italy through the collaborative urban planning process CO-Battipaglia, as well as Palermo Collaborativa project on urban mobility. LabGov is currently working on the CO-Roma project to design and start-up a smart collaborative commons-based district and envisage to start experimenting the protocol in European and American cities, as well as in cities in the Global South.
Today LabGov is also an alumni-run independent organization that continues to study, train and practice on civic collaboration and the urban commons. LabGov’s activities are currently coordinated by Chiara De Angelis, Elena De Nictolis, Alessandro Antonelli, Benedetta Gillio, Elia Lofranco, Chiara Prevete, with the scientific supervision of professors Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione. LabGov research activities are indeed developed as a joint venture between two world-renowned leading research institutions, LUISS International Center on Democracy and Democratization led by Professor Leonardo Morlino and Fordham Urban Law Center led by Professors Sheila Foster and Nestor Davidson. This scientific partnership will enable LabGov to develop the international research on and experimentation of the protocol and hopefully build a community of “Co-Cities” experimenting the design of the city of the future based on the governance of the urban commons, collaborative planning, social innovation, commons-based sharing economy or collaborative economy.