The co-governance project run by LabGov

The Co-Cities project, whose conceptual framework has been developed by LabGovLABoratory for the GOVernance of the city as a commons-, investigates pioneering forms of collaborative city-making in urban areas.

Its story starts with LabGov, which was created as both research laboratory and urban clinic, promoting shared, collaborative, polycentric urban co-governance, as well as leading urban experimentations and nurturing local innovations. Building on LabGov’s methodology and experience, the Co-Cities project was set up. The project consists in tracking and analysing innovative experiences of participatory and collective governance in cities worlwide, with the objective of challenging, refining and adapting the co-cities protocol (see hereafter) formulated by LabGov.

 What’s the meaning of co-governance?

Co-governance is a multi-stakeholder approach to the management of urban commons. It is based on resource pooling and cooperation among the actors of the quintuple helix model, i.e. social innovators, public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations, and knowledge institutions. Compared to the traditional public and public/private governance paradigm, it implies a new, more active, and inclusive role of local communities, that engage in a shared decision-making process by partnering with other relevant actors. 

Shifting from the co-governance of urban commons to the City as a Commons

The co-governance of common urban assets, such as environmental, cultural, and digital goods, is shared, collaborative and polycentric when managed through contractual or institutionalized public-private-community partnerships. Thus, we identify the Co-City as an infrastructure on which participants, constantly guided by principles of distributive justice, can share resources, engage in collective decision-making and co-production of shared urban resources and services, supported by open data and technology.

The Co-City Approach

Based on a set of co-governance experiments performed in Bologna and other Italian cities, LabGov has come to define a protocol for the Co-City. The Protocol highlighs the necessary conditions to be met in order to move from single, isolated urban commons to an extensive approach conceiving the whole city as commons, a shared resource that belongs to all of its inhabitants and has to be co-managed and co-nurtured.  The city as we know it turns into an urban laboratory, whose achievements and developments are supported by a proper legal and political ecosystem.

The Co-Cities Protocol is composed of three parts:

  1. Process
  2. Principles
  3. Tools

Closing the gap between theory and practice, it is meant to serve as guidance for urban policy makers, researchers, and urban communities interested in accelerating the transition towards the city as a commons.

Design Principles

The five design principles are the necessary conditions that, at different level, allow the transition from urban commons projects to co-governance. 

Collective Governance

This dimension refers to the presence of a multi-stakeholder scheme where the community (organized or not) emerges and partners up with public institutions and the private sector in the management of the urban commons.

Enabling State

It expresses the role of the State supporting and making the collective urban management possible.

Pooling Eonomies

It reveals the presence of autonomous institutions, managed or owned by local communities, operating within non-mainstream economic systems, such as collaborative, cooperative, circular economies, for the creation of new opportunities and services.


This principle links to the presence of a site-specific and iterative bottom-up approach to design legal and policy innovations for the co-governance of the local urban commons.

Tech Justice

Open access to technological and digital urban infrastructure and data is an enabling driver of cooperation and co-creation of urban commons.

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