Cat Johnson: At a time when corporate sponsorship and ownership of city spaces, buildings, and events continues to grow at lightning pace, it’s more important than ever to rethink our cities as shared entities that belong to all of us.
In his recent speech at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, researcher, activist, and author David Bollier argued that urban enclosures, which he says is the “privatization of shared wealth,” create jam-packed cities by commodifying shared resources.
Bollier presented a new vision for cities — one driven by bottom-up engagement, citizen participation, and innovative ways of thinking about shared spaces and resources.
Bollier argued that to reclaim our cities as commons we need to treat our vital urban resources as shareable common wealth. Doing so creates more long-term value as people have the opportunity to be empowered and to do things themselves. He pointed to several examples supporting the urban commons, including:
- Creative Commons Licensing, which enables people to share and freely use creative works
- FabLabs and Makerspaces, which are new social forms for creating valuable stuff through a commons-based collaboration
- Platform Cooperatives, which create shared platforms “as an antidote to the so-called death stars” of the sharing economy
- Alternative Currencies as a way to retain some of the value created regionally as opposed to having it siphoned away
- Non-digital commons projects, including land trusts, urban agriculture and community gardens, and participatory budgeting projects which empower citizens to work with city leaders to create budget priorities
Bollier concluded by emphasizing that cities can be incubators for developing new solutions to systemic problems and that transnational partnerships between cities around the world will be an important element to further the movement of cities as a commons.
Video description: “A new type of citizen economy is emerging – the City as a Commons. This is not a tech platform or economic strategy as such, but a bold re-imagining of the city as a living social organism that invites everyone to co-create, open-source style. Through FabLabs, data sharing, platform co-operatives and many participatory systems, innovative urban commons are transforming city governance, commerce, design, social services, and everyday life.”