The Co-Cities Recipe for Just and Inclusive Cities

The CO-Cities Report contains the result of a work carried out by the research unit of the “Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi”,  coordinated by Professor Christian Iaione, within the research project PRIN 2015 – codice 2015XYKZPP – “Democratic innovations among collaborative design, active citizenship and Internet governance” coordinated by prof. Michele Sorice from LUISS Guido Carli.

The Co-Cities Open Book is the result of years of research and experimentations on the field to investigate new forms of collaborative city-making that are pushing urban areas towards new frontiers of participatory urban governance, inclusive economic growth and social innovation.

This open book has roots in our conceptualization of the ‘City as a Commons’, the emerging academic field of urban commons studies, and the work developed in 5 years of remarkable urban experimentations in Italy and around the world. Structured around three main pillars, the Co-Cities open book first provides scholars, practitioners and policy-makers with an overview of the theory and methodology of the Co-City with the “Co-Cities Protocol”.

The second part of the open book consists in the “Co-Cities Report”, presenting the results of an extensive research project in which we extracted from, and measured the existence of Co-City design principles in a database of 500+ case studies in 150+ cities worldwide. Ultimately, thanks to the Co-Cities report we were able to create the first index allowing to measure how cities are implementing the right to the city through co-governance. Thus, the Co-Cities index serves as a fundamental tool for the international community in order to measure the implementation of some of the objectives that have been set by the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The last section of the book features an appendix of articles by some of the most important researchers and practitioners studying the urban commons. These essays were conceived and offered as part of “The City as a Commons” conference, the first IASC (International Association for the Study of the Commons) conference on urban commons, co-chaired by Christian Iaione and Sheila Foster, that took place in Bologna on November 6 and 7, 2015.


This Co-Cities Open Book is the fruit of a wide collaborative effort. It benefited from close collaboration of Sheila Foster, Christian Iaione, Elena De Nictolis with the P2P Foundation; the Transformative Actions Interdisciplinary Laboratory (TrailLab) of the Catholic University of Milan, in particular Professor Ivana Pais and Michela Bolis; the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC). This book draws on three years of dialogue, collaboration, exchange and learning with scholars and practicioners to which goes our deep gratitude. Constant supervision, guidance and source of continuing inspiration was provided by Sheila Foster. Special thanks are due to Leonardo Morlino for his theoretical wisdom and his tireless and patient guidance on the theoretical framework and the methodological approach. A special mention goes to the authors of the “The City as a commons papers” for being generous with their time and for sharing their knowledge with us: Michel Bauwens; David Bollier; Tine de Moor; Paola Cannavò; Silke Helfrich; Ezio Manzini. We are deeply grateful to all the participants to the “City as a Commons” IASC Conference (Bologna, 2015) and in particular with the authors who shared their presentation and papers with us and helped us spread the unique body of knowledge on the urban commons generated thanks to the conference.

For case studies in Latin America we have leaned heavily on direct suggestions from Thamy Pogrebinschi. We also relied upon the invaluable data and analysis collected by her and her research team on LATINNO, Innovations for democracy in Latin America. For case studies on sharing cities worlwide we relied upon the “Shareable Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons” and we are thankful to Shareable co-founder, Neal Gorenflo, for his support and for being a constant source of inspiration throughout the last years. The mutual learning with Daniela Patti and Levente Polyàk, co-founders of Eutropian, nurtured our interest in the mechanisms of sustainability of urban regeneration processes and we are deeply grateful for their collaboration. We learnt from all Eutropian’s research projects, but the case studies contained in the book Funding the Cooperative City were particularly useful.

Alongside LUISS and in particular the LUISS International Center for Democracy and Democratization (ICEDD) directed by Leonardo Morlino and later Giovanni Orsina we would like to express our gratitude to the Fordham University Urban Law Center who welcomed Christian Iaione as fellow and Elena De Nictolis as visiting Phd student; Nestor Davidson, faculty director of the Urban Law Center, who has been an inspiring guidance on the sharing economy in cities and on local administrative law; Oliver Sylvain, whose theoretical research on net equality and applied work with Sheila Foster on community-led broadband deployment in Haarlem, New York City inspired us in collecting case studies on technological justice; Margie Mendell, co-founder of the Karl Polanyi institute of Concordia University, whose work on social and solidarity economy with influences from Karl Polanyi and on economic democracy is of a great importance for Co-Cities theoretical framework; Eduardo Staszowski,  co-founder and Director of the Parsons DESIS Lab with whom we incubated “Co-New York City” within “Civic Imagination: The Urban Commons”, a year-long inquiry into the urban commons housed at The New School’s University Transdisciplinary Graduate Lab; Margherita Valle and LabGov San Jose (Costa Rica), as well as Maaike Miedema, Joachim Meerkerk and Sandra Bos from LabGov Amsterdam, (the Netherlands).

We are also grateful to Aaron Maniam and the team of Oxford Urbanists for their feedbacks and comments that enriched our work; the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) for their support and stimulation; Alicia Bonner Ness, whose fresh insights contributed to improve our work and who coordinated the first test and validation of the Co-City protocol in the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference Program retreat hosted by LabGov “Accelerating Citywide entrepreneurship: an exercise in the Co-City approach”. We are thankful to the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference Program for their hospitality and to the retreat participants for taking part in such a challenging experiment: the City of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Urban Innovation Office); the city of Barcelona, Spain (Regidoria de Participaciò i territorio) the City of Boulder, Colorado (Chief Resilience Office – CRO); the city of Turin, Italy (the Co-City project); the city of Madison, Wisconsin; the City of New York (NY, NYCx Co-labs program of the Mayor’s office); Habitat International Coalition; the National Association of Italian Cities (ANCI); Cooperation JacksonArchiafrika; the German Marshall Fund of the United States (the Urban and Regional Policy Unit); the Brookings Institution (the Project on 21st Century City Governance); the Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Mexico City); SPUR. 

The contribution of LabGov research associates for building the database and carrying out the empirical analysis was indispensable: Chiara De Angelis coordinated the data production team and provided support as lead research associate (2016/2018); Cosima Malandrino supported the data analysis and communication strategy of the report, first as a graduate intern and later as a research associate. Crucial was the research carried out by Chrystie Swiney, Sumedha Jalote and Zezhou Cai that contributed with data entry, data collection and detailed case studies’ analysis in US, India and China under the supervision of Sheila Foster at LabGov Georgetown. Lucia Paz Errandonea provided critical support in data entry and graphic visualization during their curricular internship with the LabGov project (spring/summer 2017); Monica Bernardi provided support with data collection in Seoul and Boston; Fabiana Bettini and Chiara Prevete conducted careful and passionate research, both legal and empirical, on community-led housing and contributed with Community Land Trusts case studies.

We would like to express our deep appreciation to Anna Berti Suman, Sofia Croso Mazzuco, Alessandro Antonelli, Benedetta Gillio, Alessia Palladino for their contribution to the data entry and data collection tasks. The research and papers of graduate and undergradutate students of the course “Urban Law and Policy” in the Department of Political Science at LUISS University have been of help in a variety of ways. A special recognition goes to Gresia Bernardini Marino; Mattia Lupi; Paolo Marro; Serena Ragno; Giulia Balice; Federico Pieri; Elisa del Sordo; Martina Rotolo; Guglielmo Pilutti; Marina Gascòn; Marta Pietro Santi; Greta Bertolucci; Charlotte Poligone; Zita Kučerová. We would like to express our deep appreciation to Alessandra Pirera, Andrea Posada, Eduard Eldman and Danila D’Addazio, the team that designed the visual identity communication and dissemination strategy of the Co-Cities Open Book. Finally, we would like to thank the people that helped us during the last phase of this work: Alessandro Piperno, Carlo Epifanio, Francesca Spigarolo, Paola Todisco and Julianne Heusch for their proof-reading and layout. And to conclude, we want to show our gratitude to all the students from the course of Urban Law and Policy 2019: Clara Alegre, Morgane Briere, Wenrong Chua, Kester, Marie Flichy, Victoria Gowland-wood, Lukas Knüsel, Michela Notarangelo, Federica Pigoni, Emanuele Renda, Luca Romano, Fabrizia Romeo, Juliette Schaditzki, Jérôme Tavani, Lorenzo Toccaceli, Lili Vidal, Xin Zhao.

Download the Co-Cities Open Book!