A report authored by Nicola Mullenger that captures what a small gathering of city makers talked about in March in Madrid, adjunct to the Idea Camp that ECF organized.


“This report highlights the conversations that took place during the Innovative City Development meeting, which was held in Madrid in March 2017. The meeting brought together a small group of innovative city makers – including researchers, activists, experts and city officials who are taking a progressive approach to cultural issues, social innovation, urban development and participatory governance processes with city governments.

The meeting was hosted by the City of Madrid, the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and the Connected Action for the Commons network during the ECF-initiated Idea Camp 2017 – which brought 50 cultural change-makers to Madrid over the same few days in March.

As well as reporting back on what was discussed at the Innovative City Development meeting,this report also includes three case studies that illustrate some of the issues raised and finishes by drawing together some ideas (which can be found from page 11 onwards)that we hope will help to advise city makers and people who care about the future of their cities.

The report was written and compiled by with advice and contributions from Christian Iaione, Katarina Pavić and Igor Stokfiszewski. It reflects the conversations of the Innovative City Development meeting.”


The design of the meeting

“The start of the meeting looked a little like an upgraded ‘show and tell’ session. Each city maker was invited to deliver a four-minute presentation on a challenge they are working on in their own city, focusing on concrete issues in their own communities. This was followed by facilitated discussions in smaller groups looking at shared challenges and possible solutions for collaborative city change-making. The aim was to find practices that can encourage community and institutional participatory city-making processes.”

Three case studies

“From these presentations, we have chosen three case studies that highlight different problems within cities that can be applied to other regions across Europe and indeed around the world. These three case studies represent the diversity of issues and geographical areas in Europe where citizen participation and commoning practices are already making a difference.”

Conclusions – next steps

“Urban co-governance or urban commons participatory governance, as well as city making, are increasingly becoming the answer to the demands of city residents who want to democratise their cities and city governance. These approaches can help reduce the tensions of those living in a city by coalescing different people or actors around a shared common goal. They can also be a key contributor to social innovation.

The statements and questions that arose out of the Innovative City Development meeting need to be developed further, both within the institutional work setting and with city makers outside the work setting, in a peer-to-peer context.

Some of the outcomes from the meeting can already be taken forward and applied as a pilot experience or can help to develop or scale up an existing scheme. Making a series of models that can be used flexibly within different contexts and by different people that consider sustainability, legality and financial roles, is a move towards greater equality for our societies.

The responsibility for the safeguarding and upkeep of a public collective needs defining and may need experts to create a flexible but clear charter. Creating a collective that is able to function with clear information management and distribution to communities is important to make informed civic decision-making possible.

Institutions need to decide what is a public good, what is the definition of a private thing and public interest and be clear about how participation helps its operation. With this information and transparency, decisions such as how and who should manage the redistribution of resources can be clarified to all stakeholders.

Building trust between all stakeholders is a continuous process. The need to balance the welcoming of new and different voices to its operation, such as transient communities, could help that process rather than derail it.

Keeping the door open to experimentation – for example, with shadow economies and applying collaborative methodology learning in education – could lead to further impact and also help to create a similar language to explain value. This may also translate into recognising different values – such as cultural, faith and freedom of speech – which will have a lasting impact on social cohesion and the well-being of societies in general.”

The full report is available here.

Photo by EJP Photo

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