Proposal for Public Policy Paper: “From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons”

The smart city discourse has become a ‘used future’. It is spouted by consultants and tech advocates, but it does not seem to have much humanity, nor does it include a critical understanding of sustainability and civic engagement.

Inspired by Michel Bauwens in his recent trip to Melbourne, I am putting together a policy advocacy paper to explore and promote the vision for a ‘city as commons’.

The paper will bring together specialists and advocates in a range of area, including: tax policy, co-working, co-ops, food production/consumption, peri-urbanism, sharing, political space, place-making, cultural diversity, de-gentrification, anticipatory governance, social enterprise and making / industry (to name a few). Overall about 20 authors can be accepted in this first round.

The intention is to bring together a sample of diverse city commoning visions and practices, that can give policy makers concrete pathways when conceiving of public policy.

This is an ‘idea leadership consortium’ that is intended to bring advocates, specialists and activists together specifically to develop short policy statements that outline ‘city as a commons’ visions, and the policies that support those visions.

The paper will offer a competing and more progressive vision to the ‘smart city’ vision, one that helps legitimate ‘city as commons’ ideas within the domain of civic public policy. The policy think paper can provide clear pathways toward ‘partner state’ ideas promoted by Bauwens and others in the context of civic development, toward public-p2p commons partnerships.

Each contributor will develop a one page overview (only!!) of the area of ‘city as commons’ they want to develop. The reason to limit this to a page is to make it succinct and readable to policy makers.

Policy makers should be able to quickly scan through and find relevant subject areas that can provide them with new ideas. As such it is a plain language publication, it will not be written in an academic style.

The ‘policy think paper’ will be professionally formatted with artwork, in a contemporary and attractive style.

It will be licensed creative commons and allow non-commercial use and circulation.

Expectations for authors

Each contribution will be one page detailing a specific civic area “x and city commons”.

Written in plain language, no in text citations, but with use of endnote links.

Authors can add specialist terms to a glossary section.

Authors can add exemplar projects from around the world, located in an appendix. This will provide a space where leading examples can be pointed to.

Timely production of drafts and edits.

The policy paper will be logo-free, meaning that no company logos associated with authors can be included. This is to remove elements of marketing, and for authors to speak personally as advocates and experts promoting the vision for city as commons. This includes the editors. However, there will be an ‘about the authors’ section at the end where authors can name their associations (companies, businesses, social enterprises, etc.).

The timeline for publication

It does not take long to draft a one page document, therefore I want to work on a fast cycle timeline, and would like the one page document from authors by the end of January 2016. From then I will give feedback within the first week of Feb. and will expect final drafts by the end of Feb. 2016. The publication date should be the end of March 2016.


As a starting point I am seeking feedback on this proposal. If you have ideas you would like to share, or would like to contribute, please contact me.


25 responses to “Proposal for Public Policy Paper: “From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons”

    • Yes, citizen does imply politically enfranchised, and this can be exclusive language – marginalising. What would you suggest as an alternative? Thanks Jose 🙂

  1. Hi Jose,
    I am currently exploring heritage in the context of sustainable communities and would like to publish an article on it in JFS whenever ready?! It seems that the importance of cultural capital (tangible and intangible) for social cohesion is under estimated even in the Futures context. I would very much like to contribute to your project a page on place making, history etc.; to prevent ignorant developers from bulldozing everything “nice” for profit (facilitated by policy makers, of course). Same applies to public art, which in most places in Australia is badly marginalised. “Culture” makes cities. People on other continents are aware of it, not so in Australia. What do you think?
    🙂 Marta

    • Hi Marta
      Yes I think it is a great area to explore. The history of a city in its design is very important and potentially part of commoning.
      I grew up in LA and beautiful old buildings were always being destroyed – a bit like the film Dark City. Sad.
      So good angle and I’ll add you to the list.

      • Jose,
        I’m in a grieving process currently, because of a lovely historic building, a cultural centre of great historic significance in the centre of Bratislava, where I worked and met my husband, was finally sold to the developers yesterday for 1 euro, after 10 years of campaigning against it. I saw the same happening in the centre of Auckland years ago, when they demolished the beautiful His Majesty’s Theatre in the middle of the night, so that protesters could not interrupt the work. Culture is important, but money talks – and it should not be so!!!!
        I wrote a slightly related article, a sociosemiotic analysis of architecture. If you are interested you can see it at:

      • Jose, I am working away on the piece. Just some technical questions: You want one page, but it can be different things to different people. A4 is different from letter size and double spaced is half of single spaced page! Would it be more useful to specify a word count (also for your editing & space purposes)?
        You mentioned that we should not use references and keep the style simple. I can stick to it, but 1 or 2 references would look more credible. What do you think? And if we do references, what style? Is “APA 6” allright?

  2. Great concept for a policy paper., I will like to add a story on Africa cities particularly (Lagos Nigeria). I think the world has something to learn about about how African cities rearranges itself amidst civilization and tech and also the role of contemporary co-design in solving them. Please where do we send the abstract/full paper to?

  3. Pingback: Proposal for Public Policy Paper: “From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons” - Enlivening Edge·

  4. Pingback: Proposal for Public Policy Paper: “From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons” | P2P Foundation·

  5. If appropriate, I would like to contribute about how the energy transition to renewable energy must also be a transition to energy democracy.

    • Scott, great theme. Perhaps you could point to successful projects in circular economy (Amsterdam etc) e.g. total recycling
      – the “cradle to cradle” concept?!

  6. Hi Jose, wonder if you would be interested in a contribution on time banks and municipalities/cities, from the perspective of how they could co-operate? I have done some work on such propositions in the context of FInnish time banks, yet I believe that these ideas could be quite relevant beyond this particular national context. Just not quite sure if the topic would fit in this proposal of yours.

  7. Still open to contributors? As Chief Policy Wonk of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (, not a government agency, an arts/social justice project) and in my own books and essays, I’ve offered many relevant proposals I’d love to share, most recently in our publication, An Act of Collective Imagination: The USDAC’s First Two Years of Action Research. Please let me know.

  8. Hi Jose,
    I´m manager of Zaragoza Activa, a hybrid ecosystem composed by startups, public projects and individual people, which promote the entrepreneurship, creativity, social innovation and sharing economy. Zaragoza, Spain.

    We’ve an entrepreneurs school called “Semillero de Ideas”, a incubator “Vivero de Empresas”, a Young Library “Cubit”, a coworking p2p “La Colaboradora”, with rules of bank of time, a vertical social network “ZAC” and a nomadic laboratory of knowledge “Think ZAC” among others… every thing are located in an antique sugar factory.

    We´ve defined the model as next generation of public spaces, providing soft transitions from a kid of the block, to a social entrepreneur, or maker, or leader, or ethic hacker… Also, we´ve developed strategy based on a fourth sector, mixing: public, social and private dynamics.

    If you want, I can tell you more for email. I think the project fits in your paper.


    • Hello Raul, thank you very much for contacting me. Just brilliant work you are doing. Yes i would very much like to get your project / initiative in the policy paper. I’ll send you an email contact. We can go from there. Yours José

  9. hallo! I hope to be on time. I’m a Phd and I just ended my research about sharing cities (cases study: Milan and Seoul). I’d like to give a contribution presenting the case of the civic crowdfunding’s experimentation in the city of Milan. Do you think that it can work? Where can I send my one-page-contribution? Many thanks
    All the best

    • Hi Duncan, thanks and had a look at your book. Yes this the kind of thing we want to highlight, in particular the commoning aspect of sharing. I already have a brief promised from Darren Sharp on sharing, who is co-authoring the sharing cities book with Neal Gorenflo. However, if they can be properly differentiated and take on different terrain, then it would be great to get your contribution. I’ll send you an email with a guideline.

  10. I’m sure I’m late at this point, but I didn’t see that anyone was doing a piece on Tool Lending Libraries! Columbus, OH, USA had a governmentally run program in the 70’s, they sold it to a non-profit (Rebuilding Together Columbus) after financial crisis in 2008.

    Michael Linton tossed me your name – your work looks very good, and glad to see lots of folks contributing!

    I’m doing an interview series to refine the over-arching questions of my project, an independent inquiry as to how/why do people share assets (info/resources) online, and what are the obstacles (e.g. identity, culture, place), and other factors that might prevent them from fully realizing the potential of digital asset sharing in their lives.

    I’d love if you were interested to participate, or just to chat briefly.

    xander gieryn

    • Hi Xander

      Your research looks interesting. Yes this policy paper is winding down so I’m sorry. But it may relaunch in 1 or 2 years for a new round.

      My colleague Darren Sharp may be interested in your research and may be a better person to interview.


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