New legal rules to take care of common goods and re-build local communities
Something new has been happening in Italy in these last years, something that nobody thought would have been possible in a country where common goods have traditionally been considered as nobody’s goods, therefore prey to pillage or exploitation. It’s a cultural change thanks to which thousands of people in towns as well as in villages, in the north as in the south, are getting out of their homes to take care together with their neighbors of urban common goods: streets, squares, parks and in general public spaces, cultural goods, schools as well as abandoned public buildings which are restored and become alive again thanks to the combined efforts of active citizens. All this goes much beyond plain maintenance of urban goods. Instead, it really has to do with participation to public life in new forms, whereas active citizens participate not only to public decisions (participatory democracy), but also to the solution of problems of general interest (shared administration). And while doing that, they build or re-build the liens which tie their community together, help people fight loneliness, produce integration, social capital and reciprocal trust. The positive impact of citizens engaging in taking care of common goods goes therefore much beyond the material aspects, however important they may be for a better quality of life. However, paradoxically, legal rules derived from an old conception of the relationship between citizens and the State forbid such activities. For this reason Labsus (Laboratorio per la sussidiarietà) in 2014 has drafted, together with Bologna’s municipality, new municipal rules to regulate shared administration and allow citizens to take care of common goods. These new rules have been adopted by municipalities all over the country, allowing citizens to relate with local public administrations on an equal basis, liberating precious civic resources and energies in the general interest.
Gregorio Arena, until 2015 full professor of Administrative Law in the University of Trento (Italia), is also the founder and president of LABSUS – Laboratorio per la sussidiarietà, an association and online review that for the last ten years has been successfully promoting active citizenship in Italy in the form of shared administration of common goods.
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On the new municipal Regulation see Rapporto Labsus 2015:
Many essays published in www.labsus.org.