A project to explore how the commons transform public action in Europe
Our European cousins
Here are a few non-profit actors, activists or researchers that we met on our journey who explore, experiment and develop partnership models between commoners and public actors at the European level or at the scale of their country:

Labsus – Italy

Labsus, the Subsidiarity Laboratory, was founded in 2004 by Georgio Arena. The objective of this laboratory is based on a certainty: people are the bearers of needs but also of capacities and it is possible that these capacities are made available to the community to help bring solutions, in partnership with the public sector, to problems of general interest.

This certainty was confirmed by the law of constitutional revision which, in 2001, introduced into the Italian Constitution the principle of horizontal subsidiarity: “The State, the Regions, the Metropolitan Cities, the Provinces and the Municipalities support the autonomous citizen, individuals and associates initiatives, for the exercise of activities of general interest, on the principle of subsidiarity “(article 118, last paragraph). This principle was reaffirmed in 2014 when Labsus accompanied the city of Bologna in writing the first Regulation for shared administration. This tool has spread in Italy, initiating a new collaborative attitude to improve the general interest. Today there are more than 180 municipalities that have seized this tool, taking advantage of a legal vacuum to offer a framework for “collaboration between citizens and the administration for the maintenance and regeneration of urban commons” .

Now established in Turin, the laboratory continues to support communities and collectives in the understanding and adoption of these pacts.

Gotéo – Spain

Gotéo is a platform for sharing, producing and micro-funding initiatives aimed at strengthening the commons (social, cultural, educational, tech, etc.). The goal is to imagine new modes of relationships and complementarities between producers and micro-financiers (in the form of skills, time, money, or physical products).

Community Land Trust (CLT) – Belgium

The Community Land Trust in Brussels is a non-profit organization whose mission is the acquisition and management of urban plots with a view to creating affordable housing there as well as amenities of collective interest. Considering the land as a common good to be preserved, the Community Land Trust acts within the framework of a tripartite governance associating inhabitants, representatives of the public authorities and of civil society. The teams work directly with private owners and functions as a design office: they are architects, town planners, and offer support, social assistance, financing and project management.

Commons Network – Netherlands

Commons Network is an organization founded in 2014 in Berlin that seeks to build a network, promote and defend the Commons across Europe. They have worked for many years with Spanish municipalists, but also have strong links with their branch in Berlin, particularly on the question of housing. In Belgium, discussions are underway with political leaders.

In the Netherlands, the Commons Network is at the initiative of the Assembly of Commons, which should be launched in January (statutes in the process of being created). Commons Network also takes part in “Fearless Cities”, proposes the establishment of an incubator (see Barcelona activa), a school of commons, “School of commoning” which develops a culture of change for city officials but also for commoners, etc.

Waag society – Netherlands

Founded 25 years ago, the Waag society is a Dutch foundation interested in the intersection of science, technology and art. By recognizing that technology is never neutral, they are working to make it more open, inclusive and fairer.

The issue of the commons has been implicit in their projects for a long time. But in 2017, it was formalized by the establishment of a Commons Lab, at a time when political discourse also took hold of the question.

It developed many projects such as the genecoop, for instance, which seeks to question how we could reclaim our DNA, in opposition to the American companies which recover our DNA by selling kits to know everything about its genealogy and ancestry.

European Cultural Foundation – Netherlands

The European Culture Foundation was created in 1954 in Geneva under the leadership of Denis de Rougemont, Robert Schuman and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Settled in Amsterdam since 1960, it started from the observation that culture is a primordial resource for rethinking and reconstructing Europe as a democratic, inclusive and open space. Today, it acts via three means of action: support for cultural and civic projects, advocacy and promotion of the most inspiring projects, facilitation of cooperation and exchanges between European cultural actors, citizen initiatives for European decision-makers.

In 2013, the Foundation initiated work on the commons with the Connected action for the commons initiative. As part of their new program “Cultural and creative spaces and cities”, the Foundation is participating in the implementation of 7 urban labs (Malmö, Timisoara, Helsinki, Skania, Madrid, Kosice Sant Boi) in order to experiment with new modes of decision-making and forms of governance more shared between inhabitants and actors of the territory and communities.


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