Civic eState

Community management of common goods through Civic Uses

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • Naples , Italy

  • Size of city : 940 126 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Nicola Masella

    Project Coordinator

  • Adapted by cities from


Since 2015 the city of Naples has adopted the "Urban Civic Use Regula-tion" as a policy instrument allowing local communities to manage public assets as common goods. Starting from the pilot project established with the Ex Asilo Filangieri in 2012, more spaces in the city have been interest-ed by this innovative governance model enhancing local communities to use free and shared spaces, resources, knowledge and skills and improv-ing the engagement of citizens in the self-management of common re-sources. Through the participation to the URBACT transfer network Civic eState the City of Naples invested in developing networking among the different experiences self-managing Urban Commons in the city, supported their communication capacity, improved know-how and guidelines for the self-recovery of the buildings and community empowerment and fund raising strategies.

The solutions offered by the good practice

By revisiting the outmoded institution of civic use, the good practice of Napoli aims at making spontaneous bottom-up initiatives recognisable and institutionalised, ensuring the autonomy of both parties involved, the proactive citizens and the institutions. The first asset to be recognised as a commons, and therefore proposed as a good practice, is the Ex-Asilo Filangeri, a building that by resolution n.400 (2012) was already identified by the city of Naples as a “place with a complex use in the cultural field, and whose spaces are used to experiment in participative democracy”. At that time, it had been occupied by a group of art and culture professionals protesting against abandonment of the newly restored premises. With the following decision, n.893/2015, the city of Naples recognised the “Urban Civic Use Regulation” of the good, a declaration produced in an autonomous way by the community that benefits from the good, and that puts self-management as the main principle of its administration. Thanks to the good practice's governance model, more than 250 projects came to life, breaking down the production costs by using free and shared spaces, resources, knowledge and skills. During the last decade, the City of Naples has been experimenting with this new governance model to get back in use abandoned or underused buildings subtracted from the life of the city. Conflictual actions of occupation and bottom-up rule-creation were turned into an opportunity.
By acknowledging this regulation, the public administration assumes the burden of ensuring the usability of the place, while the right to make use of it is free and guaranteed to all citizens, accompanied by a participatory model that is founded on open assemblies and thematic roundtable talks.
The later resolution n.446/2016, recognised seven more public properties as “relevant civic spaces to be ascribed to the category of common goods”.

Building on the sustainable and integrated urban approach

The integration is first and foremost assured through an ad-hoc municipal department, the “social enhancement of municipally owned spaces and common goods”, and with a political coordination in charge of the Urban Planning councillor. This department (technical level) and the above-mentioned councillor (political level) are in charge of promoting the col-laboration with other departments and councillors of the municipality, or other institutions.

Furthermore, the city waives completely the role of top-down manager and, with a horizontal subsidiarity mechanism, acts like a guarantor and takes its own burdens and responsibilities related to the operation of the good, while recognising the autonomy of the management system adopted by the users.

The horizontal integration lies also in the basic principles that are stated in the Urban Civic Use Regulation, produced autonomously by the community, and recognised by the Naples city council. The Civic Use of the Common goods is based on the principles of self-management, cooperation and mutualism, and tends to strengthen individual and collective responsibility. Empowerment is established by cooperation, in which each member of the community, whether guest or so-called inhabitant, contributes to the community's activities and management. Accordingly, every community of use has established his own Civic use declaration for the different goods.

Based on participatory approach

Since March 2012 an open and inclusive management model is in place at the Ex -Asilo and has been progressively extended through an increasing number of experiences. Every week, an open meeting is convened (more than 190 since the projects' beginning), as well as several working groups for the implementation of activities (more than 830, with about 18,000 attendances). Besides ensuring transparency, this has established a strong bond between the inhabitants of the city, and narrowed the gap between artists, academics and citizens.

Main numbers since March 2012:

  • 18,000 people took part in the direct management of the Ex-Asilo through roundtable talks and public management assemblies;
  • 150 public management assemblies for the self-government of the Ex-Asilo;
  • 830 days of public working groups ("tables"), to deepen the projects and proposals. Topics are: "armeria" (visual arts), performing arts, self-government, library, cinema, "tavolo sociale", social, and urban gardening;
  • 2,000 creatives including arts, culture and entertainment professionals, workers, artists, scholars, researchers, academics, associations, institu-tions, and citizens that have used Ex-Asilo spaces and resources, and/or organised activities.

What difference has it made

Through the civic eState Transfer Network the City of Napoli has been able to support the improvement of the practice with three key actions:

  • The first identified objective was to improve the “Communication” of the urban commons of Naples, not only as a way to inform but also to involve actively other citizens in the network and also to help the “reproduction” of the network of the urban commons itself. The creation of the website CommonsNapoli managed by the network of Common goods in Napoli provides a web platform for the coordination of the different initiatives happening in this field that includes information about the activities developed in the seven self-managed spaces and documentation about the legal and policy tools and the observatory of urban commons goods.
  • The second objective was to recognize institutionally the practices of co-design, self-construction and self-recovery of the urban commons, with the aim to strengthen the local capacity (both administrative and of the local communities) in finding solutions to the physical deterioration of the assets compatible with collective management and civic uses that are being experimented by the commoners. An ad hoc expert of a study has been commissioned a study that looks at innovations in the legal framework and experiences of self-recovery done in Italy in order to establish legal precedents and innovative procedures to apply the self-help construction procedure to publicly owned buildings destined to social use. The preliminary study has been preliminary to drafting of a set of guidelines to introduce the practice of self-help regeneration of common goods in the regulations of the City of Napoli.
  • Ads a community empowerment action, a training on fund-raising was directed at the activists running the common goods in Napoli to support the financing of the regeneration and the activity of the seven initiatives. For this purpose, a very intense capacity building programme was offered to the activists, that included a workshop on community fundraising, whose beneficiaries were 46 activists belonging to 22 urban commons and other non-profit organizations; tutoring of the activists in the operational planning of 5 pilot fundraising campaigns for 5 urban commons, and a document elaborated by a senior fundraiser, who followed the whole training process, that contains specific guidelines for the fundraising of urban commons.

Transferring the practice

The participation to the Transfer network had the objective to share the urban co-governance principle in the use, management and ownership of urban commons and to discuss the use of local legal hacks such as the example of the urban civic uses successfully experimented in Naples. The mechanism proposed by the City of Naples, although routed in the Italian legal system, is characterized by a high degree of adaptability to other European urban contexts as it is based on largely shared ethic, legal and social values, already widespread in other countries. The civic eState Transfer Network included seven cities, with Napoli leading Amsterdam, Barcelona, Gdánsk, Ghent, Iaśi and Presov into the exchange of good practices.