Bologna Regulation for Public Collaboration on Urban Commons

City, Country

Bologna, Italy

Initiative/ policy

The Bologna Regulation for Public Collaboration on Urban Commons (Comune di Bologna 2014) is a regulatory framework launched by the City of Bologna in 2014. The Regulation acts as a reference for local authorities, citizens, grassroots organizations, associations and informal groups willing to set in place collaborative processes of management and care of urban commons, providing them with clear guidelines and procedures. The Regulation has been the first of its kind in Italy, pioneering an innovative approach of collaborative urban governance which has led many Italian municipalities to follow up with similar initiatives over the following years.

Initiative's relationship to REFLOW

  • Co-creation design & framework

  • Technical infrastructure & software

  • Collaborative governance & urban strategies

  • Pilots framework

  • Capacity building


City level

Period of implementation

2014 - ongoing

Core vision

As many Italian cities, Bologna has a long tradition of active citizenship, and it has been operating over decades as a vibrant lab for innovative urban solutions grounded in citizens engagement and active participation. While the Regulation can be seen as deeply rooted in this long-standing culture of public participation, it has also emerged from the acknowledgment - by the local authority - that new forms of public engagement, voice and agency are needed at a time when citizens’ disaffection and mistrust towards public institutions are generally and dramatically increasing. The origin of the Regulation can be officially dated back to 2012, when the municipality started to implement three small scale experiments of public-people collaboration. Thanks to the positive results obtained, the municipality followed up with a specific work aimed at developing a regulatory framework allowing to scale up this type of collaboration at the whole city level.

The Regulation defines Urban Commons as those tangible, intangible and digital goods that both citizens and the public administration recognize as functional to collective well-being. The overall vision that emerges from the Regulation is that of a local authority that acts as an enabler of collective and shared responsibility over the care and regeneration of city assets, transforming the regulatory dimension from a purely ‘bureaucratic’ and administrative aspect, into a lever of active participation in the co-management of the urban fabric.

The Regulation has represented a cornerstone of the path that Bologna has been implementing since years, towards the creation of a ‘collaborative city’ that leverages creativity, energy and strengths from the last mile of its own territory.

Implementation and governance

The Regulation is implemented via Pacts of Collaboration, which are formal agreements between the municipality and citizens, the latter organized into both formal or informal groups. The Pacts can cover actions of care, regeneration, reuse or management of urban commons, and each Pact clearly defines goals, duration, commitments by the parties, roles, insurance and guarantee arrangements, etc. Moreover, each Pact (and the Regulation itself) puts strong attention on the topic of co-responsibility, highlighting that citizens-led initiatives shall be understood as additional and integrative actions that by no means substitute the role and responsibilities of the municipality. Instead, they are seen as a means to make public-led actions more personalized and tailored to actual needs, as well as to intercept new needs and demands from the bottom.

Proposals leading to Pacts can emerge from either the municipality itself or from citizens; yet, to date, the majority of Pacts have been signed from bottom-up proposals. In turn, proposals are made published via the online platform Iperbole, which works as a one-stop-shop for participation and collaboration initiatives, including access to open data and participatory budget voting. To date, the main ‘urban commons’ and related actions covered by the Pacts include green spaces and squares, public kindergartens, ‘social streets’ and crowdfunding initiatives, educational activities, creation of digital platforms to support commons-based projects, among many others. For each initiative, the Municipality makes available a small budget to cover expenses related to basic equipment and insurance (for a total amount of around 150,000 euros each year), as well as a dedicated staff in charge to work as the interface between the citizens and city offices of relevance throughout the development of the initiative, from co-design to implementation. Importantly, a specific office (Active Citizenship office) is in charge to manage the Pacts and their actual development, mainly constituted by an Urban Coordinator and six neighborhood reference points - one for each neighborhood in Bologna. This governance structure helps keep the development of the initiatives smooth, while maintaining continuous dialogue between citizens and the local authority. Although at its launch the Regulation did not envisage a specific roadmap with a predefined set of indicators, the municipality has been following a strong learning by doing approach, improving from time to time particularly in terms of governance approaches and capacity to adapt to an increasing vibrant and collaborative local ecosystem. Nonetheless, over time, a specific monitoring and evaluation system has been set in place, reporting on key data and aspects such as number of initiatives, locations and neighborhoods covered, type of actors, typology of initiatives, etc.

Results, impacts and learnings

To date, more than 400 Pacts have been signed and +200 are currently active, covering initiatives and actions across the whole of the city. These numbers indeed prove the success of the initiative, as well as its capacity to unlock and fuel the co-creation and co-generation capacity of the city and its actors. Importantly, the Regulation has been key to unlock an open-ended process of institutional learning and adaptation, which in turn has led to new initiatives that have further enriched the Regulation itself, while generating positive spillover effects over sectoral policies. A major example is provided by the Civic Imagination Office, set up within the Fondazione Innovazione Urbana (in turn participated by the City and the University of Bologna). The Civic Imagination Office acts as a permanent lab whose goal is to experiment with and support wide participatory practices in response to contemporary urban challenges, with particular attention to the involvement of people who may have fewer chances to have their say in participatory practices. Furthermore, more recently, the City has established the so-called ‘Neighborhood Labs’, which operate as place-based hubs of meeting, convening, discussion and activators of projects, with a transversal approach that pursues integration across sectoral policies. Indeed, all these initiatives depict an overall attempt of the city to foster and empower legitimacy and trust in new ways, investing heavily in ‘proximity’ approaches as well as in tools of public communication and reporting towards citizens.


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