Posted April 27th 2011 at 4:40 pm by
in The Enabling City, Thesis Chronicles

The Enabling City: Creative Examples of Cities Sharing Resources

This post is part of Thesis Chronicles.

Photo by opensourceway.

Contrary to the general belief that cities run on self-interest, urban centers are the perfect example of resource sharing, with people relying on collective infrastructures like the sewage system, water supply, public transportation networks and street grid for the daily functioning of everyday life. Vibrant networks of social cooperation and exchange further support many urban centers, reinforcing the idea of sharing and challenging us to rethink how we can work together to meet our daily needs. There is evidence of collaboration in the new words that have sprung up in recent years: carsharing, bikesharing, yardsharing, co-working, and co-housing. This is in addition to things we already take for granted like Wikipedia articles or open source software.

Embedded in the idea of enabling cities is a participatory process that changes the way we think about the commons and the value of the public realm. If in the past we tended to see cities as dirty, intimidating and isolating places, today they have become centers for community innovation; the starting point for shifting the emphasis away from profit and private property to a renewed idea of well-being.

Photo by opensourceway.

At the heart of initiatives like Creative Commons, Open Street Maps, tool-lending libraries and crowdsourcing is the belief that ordinary citizens have valuable skills – and can make a difference, if given the chance to. Sharing is enabling precisely because it provides an opportunity to work gradually towards a common vision for people-centered solutions. When cities pool resources, costs lower, stimulating creativity and enhancing the kind of resourceful problem-solving that grows people’s confidence and makes communities more resilient.

Here are some initiatives that are making sharing fun, innovative and empowering for urbanites worldwide:

Share Some Sugar is the Web 2.0 equivalent of the old-fashioned knock on a neighbour’s door. Conceived to encourage sharing rather than owning, Share Some Sugar is an online inventory that helps residents find items to borrow or rent directly in their neighborhood.

Learn-a-palooza is a free, day-long learning festival taking place this coming June in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Community members share their skills by leading free workshops in various Wicker Park spaces that everyone can attend, with sessions ranging from yoga to salsa dancing and more.

Sharing Backyards is an online community that connects people with unused yard space with those looking for a place to grow food in Canada, the USA and New Zealand. Powered by Google Maps, the website helps residents boost the amount of land available for organic urban agriculture, lowering waiting lists for community gardens and improving access to local food.

Maison des initiatives étudiantes (MIE) is a multipurpose facility located in the heart of Paris, France  supporting student-led social initiatives. Known as a meeting place, an incubator and an innovation hub, the MIE also offers a mentorship program to help students learn more about project management and financial sustainability free of cost.

The Place Station is an online platform that introduces owners of land and buildings across the UK to social and community entrepreneurs with ideas for transforming their local area. The platform is used to search for under-utilized spaces or propose a location for community management, as well as to submit ideas for transforming local services and finding pro-bono supporters.

Opportunities for sharing are virtually endless. Other examples include: Freecycle, Couchsurfing, ZipCars, Civic Commons, iFixIt, Open Culture, Ushahidi, We Tap, TEDTalks… and the list goes on!

Photo by opensourceway.

What kinds of things do you share, and what networks or platforms do you use? Is your city open to social cooperation and exchange?

Chiara Camponeschi works at the intersection of interdisciplinary research, social innovation and urban sustainability. Her latest project, The Enabling City, is based on graduate research conducted at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies in Toronto, Canada.  To learn more about the project, visit the website or follow The Enabling City on Twitter.

0 responses to “The Enabling City: Creative Examples of Cities Sharing Resources”

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