Living environments, citizens participation, social economy… How can we redefine the city? URBAN COMMONS – A study mission to Barcelona 25 -30 November 2018

During six intense days, a Montreal delegation gathering representatives from the City of Montreal, academic institutions and social economy organisations participated in a study mission to Barcelona about the urban commons. This project is co-organised by CITIES and Solon, a collective non-profit organization that proposes to recreate neighborhoods in the lanes of Montreal, by co-creating and implementing energy and mobility projects with citizens.

Stay connected because interesting deliverables to share the learnings and feedback from the mission – study cases, comparative tools, video… – are right now in progress!

Cities face a two-way movement: bigger urban spaces on one hand, and stronger local aspirations on the other hand. When public services are organized on a metropolitan level, new forms of citizen participation emerge locally, seeking to recreate ‘’cities for people’’. These initiatives challenge the relationship of each citizen to his city – from voter to actor – and the positioning of municipalities in local projects – from managers to facilitators.

Emerging projects in Montreal…
Montreal, hosts several emerging spaces of social innovation, based on the notions of “commons”, “third-places”, “neighborhoods”… At their level, these projects address global issues such as climate change, inclusion, or equal access to resources and services. They create new leverages for economic, social and cultural development, thus increasing the resilience of communities. The link between the governance of these projects and the emerging participatory democracy is still under construction.

…which flourish in Barcelona
In Europe, and particularly in Spain, several cities have launched ambitious projects in which the social economy and collective projects are at the heart of the solutions to find a human scale. In Barcelona, superblocks redefine mobility to limit pollution and give the street back to citizens, and dozens of initiatives are organized to put the commons in the heart of the city.
The municipal government is seeking to integrate the commons into its public policies, relying on the work of citizen initiatives and several institutions. A strategic plan in this direction has been developed, with three main axes: active democracy, community action and technologies serving the citizens. Several actions framed under this plan of urban Barcelona communes are emerging: a program for the self-management of spaces for community use, whose first step was the unified census of public spaces; new tools and criteria in public bidding processes to promote self-management, transparency and community balance, etc.

A study mission for enabling scaling up in Montreal
There is a potential in Montreal to move from early stage to scaling up. C.I.T.I.E.S. and Solon thus propose a study mission in Barcelona to deepen the triptych of Commons – Neighborhoods – Collective Entrepreneurship. The mission enables a group of Montrealers, involved in the socio-ecological transition of living environments, to learn from Barcelona practices and develop tools that accelerate change.

Participants from different backgrounds
The mission recreates the interactions of the actors of collaborative governance: social innovators and active citizens, local governments, social economy enterprises, community organizations, research institutions and training.

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