Our forthcoming report Changing Societies through Urban Commons Transitions examines the re-emergence of the urban commons as both a bottom-up emergence by citizens/commoners and a radical municipal administrative configuration. Starting with an exploration of the relationship between cities and the commons, with a particular focus on the recent revival and growth of urban commons, we attempt to answer the question of why urban commons are so crucial for a social-ecological transition. Then we review grassroots initiatives for urban commons transitions both in the global north and south, but with specific attention towards the municipal coalitions of Barcelona, Bologna, Naples, Frome and Ghent. As a conclusion we propose an institutional framework for urban commons transitions. We look to answer the following questions: i) what can cities do to respond to the new demands of citizens as commoners; ii) what their role may be in facilitating a social-ecological transition; and iii) what institutional adaptations would favour such a role. Here is an extract from the conclusions:


Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Niaros: We have argued in this overview that we are in a conjuncture in which commons-based mutualizing is one of the keys for sustainability, fairness and global-local well-being. In this conclusion, we suggest a global infrastructure, in which cities can play a crucial role.

See the graphic below for the stacked layer that we propose, which is described as follows:

  • The first layer is the cosmo-local institutional layer. Imagine global for-benefit associations which support the provisioning of infrastructures for urban and territorial commoning. These are structured as global public-commons partnerships, sustained by leagues of cities which are co-dependent and co-motivated to support these new infrastructures and overcome the fragmentation of effort that benefits the most extractive and centralized ‘netarchical’ firms. Instead, these infrastructural commons organizations co-support MuniRide, MuniBnB, and other applications necessary to commonify urban provisioning systems. These are the global “protocol cooperative” governance organizations.

  • The second layer consists of the actual global depositories of the commons applications themselves, a global technical infrastructure for open sourcing provisioning systems. They consists of what is globally common, but allow contextualized local adaptations, which in turn can serve as innovations and examples for other locales. These are the actual ‘protocol cooperatives’, in their concrete manifestation as usable infrastructure.

  • The third layer are the actual local (urban, territorial, bioregional) platform cooperatives, i.e. the local commons-based mechanisms that deliver access to services and exchange platforms, for the mutualized used of these provisioning systems. This is the layer where the Amsterdam FairBnb and the MuniRide application of the city of Ghent, organize the services for the local population and their visitors. It is where houses and cars are effectively shared.

  • The potential fourth layer is the actual production-based open cooperatives, where distributed manufacturing of goods and services produces the actual material services that can be shared and mutualized on the platform cooperatives.

Photo by dalobeee

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