Interview with Marco Giusta, Deputy Mayor of the city of Turin
Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
The City of Turin has a strong tradition in terms of innovative urban policies. This profile was considerably reinforced over the last decades and the experience made by Turin is a source of inspiration for other Italian cities: that contributed to place Turin on the map of cities which are developing innovative public policies, with a particular attention to the involvement of residents and stakeholders.
Turin decided to apply to Urban Innovative Action at the beginning of 2016 aiming at further fostering its profile of powerful testing ground for innovation, especially in a field such as urban commons, where other cities were already implementing important strategies and actions, such as the Pacts of Collaboration. The project was strongly backed and promoted from the beginning by the new city government, a considerable sign of continuity. We decided to reinforce the political support to CO-CITY because we strongly believe, as city government, in its objectives and participatory approach
What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project towards the fight against urban poverty?
Turin is the first city among more than 100 Italian cities adopting the Regulation on the shared management of Urban Commons, with a clear focus on the creation of concrete opportunities to contrast poverty in suburbs. This means a considerable role of the local authority in encouraging citizens’ participation in different areas of the city, with the aim of fostering the commitment of associations and groups of residents in taking care of unused or underused buildings or green areas in a general framework of sharing responsibility and mutual trust. Through the Regulation, a group of active citizens can agree upon a Pact of Collaboration with the City, defining an activity programme to be carried out on a specific building or area (previously selected by the City), respective powers and responsibilities, budget and timing schedule. Looking at the current debate on urban commons in other EU Member States, the Regulation appears as something unique and unprecedented, with a great potential for innovative urban development if wisely applied, as we are trying to do in Turin.
What do the commons mean for your city?
Commons are an extraordinary opportunity of growth and participation for Turin. In a city which experienced in the last decades a huge process of urban regeneration mostly focused on the city centre, abandoned or underused buildings, often connected to the industrial heritage, can be crucial for regenerating suburbs and areas of the city affected by social problems, such as high unemployment rates and lack of services.
The great energy of the social fabric in Turin, testified by the central role played by the Neighborhood Houses (Case del Quartiere) as hotspots for citizens' participation in different areas of the city, represents a basis to a further involvement of citizens around abandoned buildings or parks which are part of the city identity and a powerful resource for economic, social and environmental sustainability.
What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
Co-City aims at creating a new paradigm of collaboration between residents and local authority through community projects acting as sustainable solutions against social and economic exclusion.
The actions fostered by the project will hopefully restore the trust between citizens and local government, a crucial element in the current political debate in Europe, through concrete and visible actions, able to give a new boost to urban welfare and acting potentially as a model to other Italian and European cities.
Urban commons will be used to host new social enterprises and projects aimed at creating new paths of autonomy and inclusion for citizens in need. A decisive support to this action will be given by the use of projects’ financial resources to make buildings and public spaces available and equipped for pilot projects but also by the support of the University of Turin, which will develop a toolkit combining law research and ICT platform development and innovation (such as First Life). The combination between activities on the ground and academic support will make Co-City a topic of discussion in different environments of the city, with a collaborative effort towards a better quality of life and a reinforced community spirit in Turin.
After six months of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you expect to be confronted to?
The launch event of Co-City on 31 March raised the attention among NGOs, associations and group of residents, which approached the Neighborhood Houses to receive a support in the implementation of project ideas of reuse of commons to be submitted. The main challenge in this phase is to invite more people and associations to apply for Pacts of Collaboration and to provide a good quality assistance to all of them, in order to co-design projects which may be concretely implemented in the next months. This will contribute to make the project even more visible to the residents, starting a virtuous circle which we hope will be the main heritage of the project in Turin, together with the regeneration of commons and green areas.