The collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation

The CO-CITY project was carried out in the framework of the UIA – Urban Innovative Actions 1st call (topic: Urban Poverty). It was intended to experiment project communities as a sustainable solution to break the circle of socio-spatial polarisation in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It started with the idea of testing the City Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the City for the care, shared management and regeneration of urban commons (approved in 2016), which contained a groundbreaking conception of the role of public administration. By means of signing a Pact of collaboration, different roles and responsibilities are shared between the City and the citizens: the authoritative approach of the local authority is here replaced by a collaborative one, which considers the citizens as change-makers, agents of virtuous circular processes of commoners’ welfare, the public sector no longer being only a service provider, but the enabler of processes and a partner.
The main feature of CO-CITY was its focus on the cyclic process of “place production”, rather than on a specific social target or deprived area. Underused or dismissed public spaces and public green areas are no longer a cost, but become an opportunity for community empowerment, a collective commitment and a shared task when included in a Pact of collaboration.
We can therefore list as beneficiaries of CO-CITY all the citizens and associations signing a Pact, as well as all the citizens who will take advantage of the new activities generated in the areas where the Pacts will be implemented.
From a material standpoint, CO-CITY achieved the renewal of dismissed/underused public buildings and spaces through public works and provision of equipment, to ensure the realization of the activities foreseen by the Pacts. And yet, the main innovative feature carried out with CO-CITY is immaterial: it is the process itself, which led to the signature of Pacts of collaboration –starting from community building, through the co-design phase- a shared path based on mutual trust, until the definition of a proper governance model for each Pact.
The role of the network of Neighborhood Houses was crucial in the phase of community empowerment in the summoning up and supporting the communities in the phase of project proposals’ presentation and in the co-design phase, with a huge mediation role between the citizens’ requests and the public administration realistic perspective.

European partners

City of Torino – Main Urban Authority (IT), University of Torino, Law and Computer Depts. (IT), Cascina Roccafranca Foundation (IT) – NGO (and the Network of the Neighbourhood Houses), ANCI – – National Association Urban Authorities (IT).

Project in Torino

The project started in March 2017, and ended in February 2020. After the CO-CITY launch event, a public call was issued by the City, for groups of active citizens to apply (NGOs or informal groups) and present a project proposal on buildings or green areas. The call identified three main categories of proposals with different scopes of action and degrees of complexity:

  • peripheries and urban cultures, in order to promote regeneration processes of abandoned buildings or areas in peripheries;
  • underutilized infrastructure for public services, to enhance the use of urban infrastructures – such as schools, libraries, public offices – which have an idle capacity in terms of usage possibilities. A specific call was issued in this category for primary schools and kindergartens
  • care of public space.

Out of 124 received proposals 65 were admitted to the co-design phase, after being assessed in terms of consistency and feasibility by specific working groups, The co-design phase has been the longest phase of the whole CO-CITY project, during which the content of the Pacts of collaboration has been defined in close cooperation between the proponents and the City officers. Moreover, no public investments to renew buildings or provision of equipment have been settled until the end of the co-design phase, where choices have been made together with citizens’ organisations. The process led to the signature of 46 Pacts of Collaboration, and to the renewal of public buildings (see infra – Le azioni concrete).
A specific procedure for all the administrative acts approving the phases toward the signature of the Pacts has been defined: the Pact of collaboration represents a totally new legal tool resulting from a collective learning effort by all the stakeholders involved.
Starting from CO-CITY’s experience, the Handbook of Law on Urban Commons was published by the University of Torino, Dept of Law. The Handbook is dedicated to the explanation and comment on the rules of the above mentioned City Regulation, and addresses the technical issues related to its application and the co-governance of Pacts. In addition, the lessons learnt in the implementation of CO-CITY led to a revision of the Regulation on urban commons: the new Regulation on shared governance of urban commons has been approved in December 2019.
Moreover, thanks to the support of the University of Torino, Computer Dept., the FirstLife social network has been released, and it gathers all information about communities at the basis of each Pact of collaboration; an ICT tool has been developed as well, based on block-chain technologies, and tested on a few Pacts as a virtual currency to be used within them.
The communication package – as well as all matters related to the launch/final events’ organization – was managed by ANCI, which provided an ongoing and effective dissemination at a local, national and international level.

Practical steps

Signed Pacts of collaboration:

  • 1 Pact of collaboration on measure A: this was the most challenging path, concerning the refurbishment of a portion of an abandoned industrial plant (former Lancia), which has been transformed into a covered square. The Pact of collaboration includes a mix of sports, cultural and community initiatives. The space -named CUMIANA15- is a future venue for other local NGOs proposals, with the long-term purpose to become a social hub;
  • 4 Pacts of collaboration on measure B: corso Taranto 160 (Intercultural centre), via degli Abeti 13, via Foligno 14 and via Le Chiuse 66. The last 3 involved buildings required renewal works in order to be adapted to the activities foreseen in the Pact;
  • 12 Pacts of collaboration on measure B-schools: most of them regard activities to be implemented in extra-school time, involving the local communities and citizens. For 6 schools renewal works for the courtyard have been provided;
  • 29 Pacts of collaboration on measure C: all regarding the care of urban green areas, which required provision of equipment (a Library of Tools has been set up by Cascina Roccafranca, in order to provide free loan of gear and tools for the maintenance of green areas)

Works and provision of equipment on buildings/schools/urban spaces:

  • via Cumiana 15: total refurbishment of a portion of the abandoned Lancia plant, which has been transformed into a covered square with a same sized basement; provision of a toilet block. Total budget € 855.000 (the biggest investment of the whole CO-CITY project);
  • via degli Abeti 13 – Falklab Pact of collaboration: interior renewal of the building and provision of furniture. Total budget € 260.000;
  • via Foligno 14 – BeeOzanam Pact of collaboration: interior renewal of the space and provision of furniture. Total budget € 262.000;
  • via Le Chiuse 66 – Habitat Pact of collaboration: interior renewal of the space and provision of furniture. Total budget € 264.000;
  • corso Taranto 160: provision of equipment. Total budget € 9.300;
  • Schools: renovation and maintenance interventions, especially in courtyards for 6 schools out of 12; provision of equipment for all of them. Total budget € 333.000;
  • Measure C Pacts of collaboration: 8 out of 29 saw investments in maintenance and renovation; provision of equipment for all of them. Total budget € 265.000 (Library of Tools equipment included)


Total project budget € 5.157.36,95 – ERDF fund rate 80%

  • Budget partner:
  • City of Torino: € 4.125.891,44
  • University of Torino: € 623.300,00
  • Cascina Roccafranca Foundation: € 753.000,00
  • ANCI: € 328.700,00

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Total budget €


EU contribution to the City of Torino