Changing Societies through Urban Commons Transitions

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This report 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.


Product details
Date of Publication
February 2017
P2P Foundation in cooperation with Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Table of contents


1. The Centrality of Urban Commons in the Social-Ecological Transition

1.1. Understanding the global conjuncture in which urban commons emerge

  • Placing the re-emergence of urban commons in a ‘material’ historical context.
  • The political conjuncture for the urban commons as locus for societal change
  • The role of the commons in reducing the material footprint of humanity
  • The challenge of meaningful work in the age of Trumpism

1.2. The challenge of urban commons for the actors in the city

  • Contributory democracy as a challenge to representative democracy
  • The generative economy as a challenge to market power
  • The commons as a challenge to traditional civil society organisations

2. Recent Developments in Urban Commons Transitions

2.1. Grassroots initiatives in urban commons transitions

  • Developments in the Global North
  • Developments in the Global South
  • The Assemblies of the Commons as the ‘voice’ of the commoners

2.2. Commons-oriented municipal coalitions

  • The rationale for our case study choices
  • The city of Barcelona
  • The city of Bologna
  • The city of Naples
  • The city of Milan
  • The city of Frome
  • The city of Ghent

3. Towards a Coherent Institutional Design for Public-Commons Partnerships

3.1 The basic concepts underlying public-commons partnerships

3.2 How is the Commons Transition Plan in Ghent related to the FLOK Society Project in Ecuador?

3.3 A three-pronged strategy for the commons transition

3.4 An institutional design for the city administration

3.5 Other proposals

3.6 Towards a global infrastructure for commons-based provisioning