This case study on village co-governance in China reveals a very interesting opposite co-governance typology by different village leaders concerning the management of village land use. Management of village land is one of the old if not the oldest practice of co-governance at the village level which was done through the use of social norms before the promulgation of legal rules. Conflict arises when long-term social practices are inconsistent with the laws which oftentimes results in tension between the two systems of control.
Based on the Chinese land reform regime, urban lands are said to be state-owned while rural lands are collectively owned. The development of rural lands and transfer even though collectively or privately owned needs approval from the government. This legal reform received widespread protest and condemnation, especially from Chinese farmers who considered the system as a government land grab or monopoly. As such, Chinese farmers began to construct illegal housing for rent to show their deviance from the system.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources, by 2007, Chinese farmers had built over 6.6 billion square meters of houses in evasion of the legal prohibition on private rural land development and transfer, resulting in a huge market of illegal houses. The construction of these illegal houses in China later became known as the “small property houses” business which was very profitable at the time and became very popular among villagers. The management of the collectively owned rural lands is carried out by the village co-op members who are selected by the villagers to run the affairs of the villages and in particular manage the village land. These village co-op members serve as the middlemen between the central government and the villagers.
In essence, the case study talks about the village co-op members (W village) that use mafia-style leadership to manage the village land while the other village co-op (Z village) follows the law to manage the village land. A detailed discussion of these two village co-op management is given below with a concluding remark on the case study.
W village: The mafia-style small property business
W village used to be an example of a very good co-governance or commons system that paved the way for the establishment of village co-ops in other villages in Shenzhen. The village co-op board is a form of collective economic organization responsible for the management of collectively owned lands that are not allocated to individual households and for issuing dividends to villagers each year based on the profits generated from the management of the lands. They used this collectively owned land to build factories and rent them to outsider investors.
The small property business became booming and very profitable within a very short period hence it gave rise to the establishment of a mafia organization in W village and Shajing sub-district in general. This mafia organization became a partnership between corrupt government officials, village co-op leaders, and the mafia. The mafia organization was illegally buying the collectively owned lands from the village co-ops at low prices and reselling them at more expensive prices. The co-op boards in return relied on the mafia to deal with corrupt government officials and guarantee their re-election after every three-year mandate in office thus the mafia influences village elections and grassroots government operations.
As a consequence of the village co-op leadership style in W village, the payment of dividends to villagers came to a halt since the village co-op was no longer making a profit. Again, the village co-op would use the mafia to silence villagers from making any noise for failure to pay dividends through violence. Sadly, W village ended up in a chaotic situation and lost the opportunity for the village redevelopment project from the government because of too many squatters.
Z village: In the name of law
Just like the case in W village, Z village is also into the small property business in which villagers were building houses on their privately owned lands and renting to migrant workers. Before the government’s full prohibition, the village co-op also built several factories on the collectively owned lands and rented them to investors. However, the difference between the two is that W village was disobedient to the established laws for the management and transfer of collectively owned lands while Z village was obedient to the established laws by challenging the meaning and the interpretation of these laws to develop their land.
There is a lot of conflict among the laws in China for the management and development of lands, for instance, the Chinese Land Administration Law “Prohibits rural land transfer and development”, while the Chinese Constitution and Land Administration Law on land ownership states that “urban land is state-owned; rural land is collective-owned”. These conflicts between the laws coupled with the high cost and hefty procedures to follow to acquire approval from the government make it difficult for some village co-ops to follow the laws for the management and development of rural lands in China.
Fortunately, Z Village later came under the leadership of an ex-real estate guru who was committed to stopping the chaotic housing construction by his villagers and began to apply for legal rights from the government to redevelop Z Village. The first thing done by the new leadership was to build a park of 40,000 square meters. The village co-ops began to redirect their focus on the village environment rather than building more buildings following which house rents were increased and the annual dividends due to the villagers rose to an average yearly increment of 10%. Based on the foregoing, the new leadership was able to persuade villagers to give up on their illegally constructed houses and apply for a village redevelopment project from the government which was successful and villagers held legal rights on their individual properties.
In conclusion, this case study tells a story of co-governance or management of commons at the village level which as a matter of fact can also be extended to the cities and urban settlements. Co-governance requires not focusing on short-term economic benefits driven by the resources of the commons but rather should be focused on sustainable practices to maintain and manage the resources accordingly.
In the first case, short-term economic benefit superseded the collective future interest of the village and as a result, ended up in a chaotic situation and the village became ungovernable. The second case focuses on the long-term interest of all the villagers and maximizes the immediate economic benefit to create profit in the future for the village. Co-governance although considered as self-governance cannot be successful without the involvement of legal rules. It must follow established laid-down laws to achieve the goals of the common good and interest of all.
Born to help solve the issues associated with underused vehicles, Car Next Door was the first peer to-peer car share network in Australia. Carsharing is a way to solve problems related to mobility and traffic congestion, especially in large cities. In fact, the main Australian problem is high car dependency, so Car Next Door works well in the inner areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
CND’s community manager, Will Davies, was looking to start a new business that had a really positive impact on the environment: something that reduced the amount of greenhouse gas caused by human activities. Car Next Door offers people the “mobility-possibility” of having a car nearby when you need it, at a much lower cost than owning one.
Of course, there may be some problems with this mode of sharing, particularly related to the interaction between users. The company addresses the lack of trust and ease that would otherwise discourage people from sharing their cars with others by:
– providing an online forum where vehicle owners and borrowers are registered, vetted, and approved;
– providing a feedback system whereby vehicle condition and member behavior can be assessed and reported by other members;
– providing in-car technology that enables keyless access to the car and a web-based automated reservation platform;
– providing in-car GPS technology that tracks the location of the car, reducing the risk of theft and misuse of the vehicle;
– providing insurance that covers owners and borrowers; and – manage payments between owners and borrowers.
Analysis of design principles:
The Car Next Door project reflects one of the five design principles identified by the co-city methodology.
We cannot define Car Next Door as an organization with a multistakeholder governance scheme because it has only active collaboration with some actors in the private sector, but we can think of some aspects:
– Private actors: as Kate Trumbull confirms, the platform is owned by several shareholders, including the founders, Caltex and Hyundai. Car Next Door has signed a deal with the world’s fifth-largest carmaker, in which its app will be installed on all new Hyundai cars sold in Australia. Partnerships like this are really crucial to the long-term success of Car Next Door.
– NGO: Car Next Door has a partnership with an Australian non-profit organization called “Greenfleet “: When someone borrows a car through Car Next Door, all the carbon emissions from driving are offset through indigenous reforestation projects throughout Australia.
– Community groups: The community does not have decisional power inside the platform organization, but they are involved in the sense that they own and maintain the cars and borrow them. The community joins CND not only for economic reasons but also for civic care of the urban commons and a specific attention to the environment.
The state and local government in Australian cities in this case are far from embracing what Michele Finck and Sofia Ranchord (2016) call a horizontal approach with actors, still using a command-and-control approach.
Rather, the relationship with the state is quite mono-directional: from Car Next Door come the request to incentivise carsharing with reserved parking in the cities.
Under the City of Sydney’s car sharing policy, the city can list online the location of private vehicles participating in peer-to-peer car sharing, provided the peer-to-peer operator has entered into a written agreement with the city regarding vehicle availability and conditions and provides regular reports on usage.
Social and economic pooling
It completely represents the “pool” concept by avoiding exclusive ownership of cars and it perfectly embodies the “share” concept by sharing it with members of one’s community. People who share their cars participate in the pooling economy, particularly being part of a “collaborative economy” related to the promotion of a peer-to-peer approach that follows the transformation of customers/users into a community.
They were the first to provide peer-to-peer car sharing services in Australia, so they are pioneers in this area. Their main innovation is in the way they provide unattended access to cars using the electronic lockbox, a product designed to resist theft and environmental conditions. Theoretically, the project could be absolutely scalable and replicable in every motorized community in the world. However, in practice, attempts have been made to adapt the project in a small regional city, Newcastle, but there has not been much take-up.
The digital platform enables collaboration among members of a community, using apps or web apps to match drivers to passengers and even cars. Using existing vehicles, they aim to increase mobility. However, they do not explore any solutions to bridge the digital divide. Access to the Car NextDoor service is provided to anyone with a smartphone and good connectivity.
Referring to the case study of CND, we can define it as a “sharing enterprise.” According to the definition provided by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione (2016), it is an enterprise intending to contribute to the solution of social problems (such as economy, welfare, culture, environment, and traffic) through sharing practices.
Ultimately, CND is a sharing practice between the narrow definition of genuine sharing economy that excludes those primarily driven by profit.
The state, along with local governments, needs to explore how to facilitate these initiatives and how cities should rethink them to embrace beneficial sharing economy practices.
In this context, car sharing is an established transportation service that could combat car dependence, even in Australia, where the level of car dependence is high.
The Car Next Door is a community-based mobility service that, together with an increased supply of networked alternatives, could change the mobility paradigm to meet society’s current and future needs. The initiative grows community cohesion, solves the mobility problem, and helps the environment by optimizing how cars are used in the city.
The non-profit CHF India has been operating in India for roughly 11 years. The organization primarily works with urban poor areas in several cities, enlisting locals in participatory waste management and sanitation initiatives. A business entity approached CHF for assistance in developing an innovative solid waste management initiative and this is where CHF’s community-led solid waste management spun off. It took off in Pune, a slum neighborhood with available land, and hired women to lead the effort in solid-waste management. Fortunately, the approach has been replicated in three additional locations in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Koregaeon Bhima in Maharashtra. This story focuses on Koregaon Bhima and discusses its work, methodology, and the approach it applies to promote sustainable waste management in the city.
3 out of the 5 design principles of the Co-cities methodology are highlighted in Koregaon Bhima’s project.
Collective governance was rated strong in Koregaon because between 3-4 actors were involved in the initiative as the Quintuple helix suggests by scholar, Carayannis and later by Foster & Iaione in their study of polycentrism. The project was initiated and funded by a corporation and implemented by a non-profit organization.
The case of Koregaon Bhima represents an intriguing blend of urban and rural characteristics. It is officially recognized as a “census town” by the Census of India, implying urban features, but lacks formal government recognition as a town. As a result, the state government treats it as a village, maintaining a rural local government (panchayat) rather than a municipal board. This unique administrative status has proven advantageous for the CHF project. Working with the panchayat has been more accessible than dealing with municipal corporations, and it has allowed for changing local habits and educating officials about solid waste management in preparation for future municipal governance. Additionally, the project benefited from the federal Swachcha Bharat Abhiyan, which incentivizes corporate donations to sanitation efforts. Despite no public funds being invested, this project is classified as Moderate on the Enabling State principle.
Regarding social and economic pooling, the project demonstrates moderate pooling within the communities where it operates. CHF’s intention is to empower community residents to continue the project without direct involvement. While the success in Koregaon Bhima is still uncertain, Pune, where a similar approach was taken, has shown promise. Community residents took ownership and continued the project when corporate funding decreased, and CHF withdrew. Thus, the project rates as Moderate on the Pooling design principle.
In terms of experimentalism, the project is not particularly innovative on its own. Household-level recycling and composting have long been practiced in rural India. Although the community-led approach is commendable for urbanizing areas with limited local government resources, it is not considered highly experimental. This project is rated as Weak in Experimentalism.
Lastly, regarding tech justice, technology did not play a role in this project, as indicated in the interview with CHF.
The case study is about the city of Valparaiso, Chile (South America), which covers an area of 402 square kilometres and has approximately 253 580 residents (as of 2012).
Following the election of Jorge Sharp as mayor of the City in December 2016, a project started in 2017 for the creation of a ‘Red de Servicios Populares de Salud‘, a network of community pharmacies that provide services sold by the City’s health department at reduced prices (up to 70% less than the market price). The service is granted to members (together with their families) of citizens’ associations and labor unions and to all people who live, work or study in the city who only have to present the operators with a prescription and a valid ID card.
The project includes not only the creation of pharmacies, but also optics, a municipal health center, orthopedics, and in the future, the creation of a “popular laboratory”.
With the support of the Central Abastecimiento Nacional (CENABAST), the national entity for the distribution of medicines as a partner, the pharmacy wants to guarantee access to medicines to all the members of Valparaiso. Moreover, the Municipal Pharmacy is planning to create a User Association to co-manage the service, aiming to promote a network of medication distribution at the neighborhood level, arraigning the importations of high-cost medicines, and incorporating the Chilean Municipal Association.
The experiment is juxtaposed with Imbroscio’s idea of a ‘solidarity economy’, a concept that reflects the desire to fight poverty and invest in the stability and prosperity of communities. In fact, the research is based on the conception of urban resources and city space as common goods, affirming the existence of a common stake and interest in shared resources with other inhabitants, as a way of resisting the privatization and/or commodification of these resources.
Considering the urban institutional framework of the city of Valparaiso, we can say that Chile’s Constitution’s centralist approach does not permit much autonomy to City councils. Even today, most of the relevant issues, such as the control of financial resources and the authority over determinate areas of urban governance are still managed by the central State. With the establishment of the Valparaiso network of community pharmacies, there has been a call by the health department of Valparaiso City Council to create at the State level, a public health fund to help Cities that might want to invest in the creation of such institutions.
The five dimensions endogenous to our design principles that define a Co-City were assessed: Collective Governance; Enabling State; Poolism; Experimentalism; and Technological Justice. The design principles are analyzed to better understand whether it is possible to consider the city of Valparaiso a collaborative and inclusive space, and with what intensity each principle is present: weak; moderate or strong.
Collective governance (co-governance) refers to the presence or absence of a self-, shared, collaborative, or polycentric organization for the governance of the commons in cities and it is a strong variable in this case. The Network of Community Pharmacy of Valparaiso project is a multi-stakeholder collaboration providing low-cost healthcare for city residents. All the project actors of the quintuple helix system project are involved: active citizens and community groups, non-governmental organizations, and public authorities.
The Enabling State is present to a moderate extent. The State support to the project has been positive and a certain degree of autonomy has been conceded to the City and the citizens’ associations. However, the presence of non-standard, informal procedures for cooperation are still missing. It is the project principle that expresses the role of the State in the governance of the commons and identifies the characteristics of an enabling state that facilitates collective action for the commons and can be a key factor for the success of community projects on the urban commons.
Social and economic pooling is a strong design principle here, which aims to identify the presence of forms of pooling. The experience of the Valparaiso community pharmacy network seems to be ascribable to the ‘community economy’ subgroup of the pooling economy because it is essentially collectively owned and publicly managed; thanks to the involvement of the public (the City of Valparaiso and organs of the central State) and private (associations) entities; it also involves a transfer of resources from the private or public actor to the collective group and is aimed at realizing the goals of the right to the city, in particular universal access to public health services.
The project is not particularly innovative. However, it is very practical and replicable on a larger scale, and other cities in the world that do not yet guarantee the right to free access to health services; indeed the idea is based on a process that can be exported and adapted to different contexts and is replicable by following the same steps. Experimentalism is a moderate variable. Building a network of community pharmacies was an unprecedented case for Chile, but surely not for other Countries in South America or the world.
Technology may constitute the weaker element in the project. A strong technological innovation and a push towards reachability via the internet could have been a step forward in terms of the quality of the project both for efficiency and universality.
In conclusion, we can say that the Valparaiso network of community pharmacy is a laudable example of how the empowerment of local communities and a strong coordination, can lead to substantial and tangible improvements in the lives of citizens.
The Chilean National Statistical Institute predicts that by 2035, in 82% of cities, people over 65 will outnumber those under 15. This will lead to an increased demand for medical care and health services. Against this background, it is difficult to see how the older generation will manage to conserve their health without being able to afford the right medications.
The project might bring temporary alleviation from these problems and set an example for other cities in a similar situation. The project still needs to improve from a methodological point of view, especially about the Enabling State and Experimentalism variables, which are present to a moderate extent, and the Tech Justice variable, which is almost completely absent.
Either way, even though this case has still space for improvement, it certainly constitutes a full example of communities that work together for common well-being towards a common good dimension.
In the wake of a severe crisis that engulfed downtown Beirut in 2015, a group of passionate academics from the American University in Beirut initiated a movement that would change the face of Lebanese politics forever, Thus, Beirut Madinati (BM) was born, a political campaign aligning to challenge the traditional political system and prioritize the livability of the city and its people.
Initially centered around addressing the garbage crisis through their “Municipal Solid Waste” policy based on the 4 R’s (Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling), the movement quickly gathered momentum as it received overwhelming support from frustrated citizens. The Waste Management Coalition, a diverse group of NGOs, recycling factories, municipalities, and young political movements, joined forces with BM, pressuring the authorities to take action.
Despite the Municipality’s lack of interest in waste management, BM’s mission transcended its original cause. The movement transformed into a political force, encompassing volunteers from various backgrounds such as urban planning, transport engineering, waste management, and economics. Their ideology focused on achieving social, economic, and political rights for the population while preserving the environment and cultural heritage of Beirut.
The 10-point municipal program outlined by BM covered crucial aspects of city life, including mobility, public space, housing, waste disposal, social and economic development, urban security, green energy, and cultural heritage. Their ambitious goals included improving waste recycling rates, expanding green spaces , and fostering community services.
One of the defining features of Beirut Madinati was its commitment to independence. The movement financed its actions through crowdfunding, and to maintain transparency, they refused donations exceeding 10% of the budget. This independence allowed BM to stand apart from the entrenched political class in Beirut, who saw the movement as a threat to their grip on power.
Over the years, Beirut Madinati’s scope has expanded, driven by Lebanon’s widespread social unrest. Debates that were once limited to city matters have now expanded to address national issues, with discussions covering everything from banking policies to the demands of the revolution sweeping across the country.
Collective Governance Principle: Beirut Madinati’s strength lies in its collective governance model, embracing active citizens, civil society organizations, and partnerships with local businesses and universities. The movement’s collaborative approach empowers citizens and ensures that projects stem from community-driven ideas and debates. The project answers to the characteristics of “collaborative governance” involving all stakeholders; citizens, private actors, and civil society organizations.
Enabling State Principle: Although the government has shown resistance to BM’s initiatives, the movement garners informal support from progressive entities like the Ministry of Interior. Despite this, the enabling state principle remains relatively weak due to the lack of substantial financial or official backing.
Social & Economic Pooling Principle: Beirut Madinati’s commitment to “right to the city” and inclusive engagement across sectors further strengthens its standing in the Social and Economic pooling aspect. The project engages both engaged both NGOs, political parties, and citizens.
Experimentalism Principle: The efforts of Beirut Madinati have led to a number of experimental approaches. In actuality, they plan gatherings, discussions, and displays. Each event is announced on the Beirut Madinati Facebook page, and a recap is also provided there following it. Every follower on Facebook has access to information regarding debates, including the date, location, and primary themes, enabling them to take part. This level of experimentalism is moderate.
However, when it comes to Tech Justice, the movement faces some challenges which allows it to be rated as Weak. While BM effectively uses social media to disseminate information about projects and events, there remains a digital infrastructure divide in Lebanon. Not everyone has equal access to technology, potentially making some feel disconnected from the movement.
In summary, Beirut Madinati is a beacon of hope for Lebanon’s political landscape. Founded with a mission to transform the city of Beirut, it has evolved into a nationwide symbol of collective governance and social change. By encouraging citizen involvement, nurturing partnerships, and challenging the status quo, BM proves that a new era of inclusive politics and responsible governance is within reach for Lebanon.
Atelier Observatoire is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2012 purposely as a place for art and research. The intent is to develop participative projects and support the creation of the Moroccan population. The idea is to bring artists, students, researchers, and inhabitants involved and engage in these participatory projects. Activities are involved on the geographical fringes of Morocco, from suburbs to rural areas and marginalized territories, targeting the most vulnerable communities.
The programs developed involve numerous partners, enrich the visions, ideas, and knowledge of the communities involved, and these are long-term programs that include:
– The Collective Museum: is a citizen museum for the collective memory of cities in Morocco and several recovery actions are led by activists for this purpose.
– Madrassa is a regional research, meeting, and training program for contemporary curatorial practices.
– La Ruche is a program for the production and support of emerging Moroccan artists.
– Les Invisibles is a research program that aims to trace the history of the lives of societies.
– L’Aquarium is a collective reflection for future new activations of public, educational, and heritage places in Casablanca.
– La Serre is a temporary, shared place that takes place in public places, suburbs, and rural areas to encourage the emergence of new ideas, breaking with traditional constraints and visions.
The areas in which L’Atelier de l’Observatoire is developed are the office and residence for artists in Casablanca (Maarif) as well as the space for creation, research, and archiving in Laassilat. The project was born in Morocco from the significant political fragmentation of the territory and the strong weakness of local governance, which caused disparate alliances between a poor and slow local development and a development of projects with a strong centrality of the State, which has always maintained control over local issues and projects.
Since 2015, the adoption of advanced regionalization has aimed to break this traditional governance model by giving local representatives more prerogatives in their local areas and promoting citizen participation in the management of local affairs. Despite its achievements, the project is still far from being completed. The main challenge for territorial development in Moroccan cities remains the transfer of powers to local elected representatives and the lack of clear and established governance. This counts as a major obstacle to the development of collaborative cities in Morocco.
Three design principles of the Co-Cities methodology characterize L’Atelier de l’Observatoire:
First is the collective governance principle. This principle is identified as strong as all actors are united together around the Atelier de l’Observatoire. For instance, in 2016, the Casablanca Aquarium, part of the city’s historical heritage, closed since 1980, reopened to the public at the initiative of the artist Mohamed Fariji for an ephemeral project dedicated to a collective utopian reflection on the future of the place. The Atelier de l’Observatoire played a substantial role here, with various partners such as foundations, the support of the municipality, and the artists’ collective. The project involves:
1) Active citizens, ordinary citizens, social innovators, city makers, and local communities.
2) Public authorities.
3) Private actors.
4) Civil society organizations and NGOs.
5) Knowledge institutions.
The enabling state principle seems to be weak. L’Atelier de l’Observatoire has the support of the Minister of Culture, which means a lot in the top-down approach of power in Morocco. The main reason why the enabling state is weak id due to a lack of collaboration at the public level; indeed, L’Atelier de l’Observatoire denounces the lack of institutional structures and policies in the cities. The aim of the project, however, is not to denounce the failures of public policies or governments, but to introduce the notion of civil society; to set aside the usual dichotomy that defines the state and capital as the only holders of power in our contemporary societies, and to support and empower civil society agency through art.
Thanks to the Atelier de l’Observatoire, a large network of artists has been created, making social and economic pooling a strong principle. In fact, several actors in the neighborhood create an economy of aggregation around cultural and social issues. The Collective Museum, for example, is the result of the research, collection, reflection, and creation of groups of artists, activists, students, children, and residents acting in their neighborhoods to bring out unknown stories, thus dedicated to the collective memory of the city and the suburbs of Casablanca.
L’Atelier de l’Observatoire has other innovative projects, that enable a whole community to access cultural heritage through various approaches, such as meetings, surveys, exhibitions, educational programs, conservation projects, production of works, and publications. Madrassa is a program of residencies, meetings, and pieces of training in contemporary curatorial practices for the North Africa and Middle East region. It is the first of its kind and has been successful in the Mediterranean region, with other initiatives active in several countries. This curatorial program is indeed a good example of experimentalism, that has been spread in different places. The pilot Madrassa session took place in October 2015 in Casablanca, bringing together 15 participants from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Cameroon and more than 12 international instructors, with the support of the Arab Fund for Art and Culture, the Goethe Institut Maroc, the Institut Français and Art Moves Africa. It enabled them to work directly with the European Union and apply for funds through the Med Culture program.
Finally, we can say that the potential of digital infrastructures and access to technology to facilitate collaboration does not seem to be considered in the various Atelier de l’Observatoire projects. However, there is an awareness of this weakness and a willingness to improve this dimension.
In conclusion, this case study of the Atelier de l’Observatoire shows us how it could be relevant to adopt in the state of Morocco, a co-city perspective, in order to identify that the weakness of local governance constitutes a major obstacle to the development of the territory. This analyzed model has a collaborative artistic structure, based on strong local action, to bring about a general renewal in Casablanca and from a more national perspective: it creates new ways of approaching collaboration, from the bottom up in the cultural sphere and new methods of interaction between people. The Atelier de l’Observatoire is currently negotiating with the public authorities to launch its project. It would be in the government’s interest to use this initiative to continue advanced regionalization, creating new possibilities for urban life.