From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons — a proposal

jose.ramosWritten by José M. Ramos  and originally published here



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.


[Collaboration process, suggested in an email by the author]

As a start I have put together this project work page here –
Have a look at the doc and if you can think of anything missing please add! Here is what authors (you) need to do first:
1. confirm the title and topic area
2. provide a very short summary (50–75 words)
3. have a look at the reading list – we need to build on what others have already done in the area
4. If you have any questions add it to the FAQs area at the bottom. 
add and edit anything that needs to be! 
Thanks all and looking forward to how it all emerges