Heads up: strategic partnership with the city of Bologna

Today we had a call with my old friend Michele D’Alena, who leads the Fondazione per l’innovazione urbana. The foundation’s partners are the city hall and the university of Bologna; with its Urban imagination office, and supported by a city hall who has accepted the requests of Extinction Rebellion, it represents the tip of the spear of advanced urban governance in Italy.

Michele was one of the speakers in the panel organized by Edgeryders at the Creative Bureaucracy Festival in Berlin in September. We had the opportunity to catch up; he liked where Edgeryders seems to be going with EarthOS, and forewarned me that he would get in touch to discuss possible collaborations.

Areas for collaboration

They are working on:

  • A “proximity” governance model. The Foundation (with a staff of 20-25 people) assigned individual people to each neighborhood. Staffers spend most of their time in the hood, getting to know the local people and the very rich tissue of small NGOs and informal groups. This seems a great way to foster trust, and to govern a diverse, democratic society (for example, Bologna is the only European city with a strong movement against Airbnb.
  • Spaces. They just acquired from Rete Ferrovie Italiane a 2,000 square meter hangar, formerly used for railway materiel. They are trying to develop a “mixed” model which is not residential+work+social, like our own Reef, but (precarious) work + sport and leisure + services. Their goal is to serve the 4,000 workers of the gig economy in Bologna, which are already a political subject in town (the riders are even unionized). A brilliant intuition by Michele and his team is the idea to talk to Unipol, Italy’s cooperative insurance giant, to “bundle” social insurance and access to credit with the use of the space. I would like to bake this idea into The Reef!
  • Urban greening, as per Extinction Rebellion’s goals.

Of course, this is a super interesting and prestigious partnership for Edgeryders. Over the last seven years, Bologna has been very successful in attracting European money: 70 million EUR!

What they need is money for their projects. We reckon we can get them from Horizon projects, Climate-KIC’s funds and others.

Next steps

  1. Bologna plans to apply to a Horizon 2020 GOVERNANCE call (deadline: March 12 2020). They already applied to the same call last year; they did not win, but got a high scoring and were encouraged to re-apply. They propose we join the partnership, which includes Barcelona and others. Valeria (Foundation) is going to get in touch with us with the relevant information and the concept note (ping @marina).

  2. @ilaria to connect with Mauro (Foundation) on possible participation to C-KIC’s own calls. This interaction should also figure out if Bologna is interested in The Reef as a model.

  3. @noemi, @chantal_vanoeteren, do you see a possibility to raise the profile of The Reef via a partnership with them? What would it look like?


I had the ability to be in one of the “informal groups” involved in Urban regeneration in Bologna. Good example of a less-bureaucratic approach from the public administration. I’m now living in the nearby Carpi so interested in this development!

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Massimo! Super good to hear from you. Carpi? What are you doing in Carpi?

“L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle”… I married this spring and moved to my wife’s hometown :relaxed:… But, apart from physical location, always looking to interesting challenges.

Cherchez la femme :slight_smile:

Well. You wanna do anything with us, we are all ears!

Hello Alberto,

Good news all this.

I will get back to you this weekend with some more answers.

Attached you will find a first document I received from Bologna last Spring.

I have shortly met one of them last May in Bologna.

Le mer. 23 oct. 2019 à 11:23, Alberto Cottica via Edgeryders contact@edgeryders.eu a écrit :

Bologna Case Study on Civic Engagement.pdf (309 KB)

Some of the Bxl community members we are meeting around the workshops are already involved in running spaces. We even host the workshops in community spaces, either for co living or neighborhood vitality making. If we are to go in a partnership I suggest we build an alliance, led by Edgeryders as a formal partner, but with multiple spaces affiliated who would run activities to further a common goal. Similar to the Swafs proposal application setup. We could involve not just Bxl, but also community spaces in Berlin, or from our global network.
Strategically, this sounds better than just sticking with to building the Reef in Brussels, which will in a way have a life of its own.
It is also good for the work and alliances that @BaobabUrbain is working on… She likes to call this ‘transversality’. I like it.

At this very same moment
The Brussels community is also discussing about using common tools to centralized informations and push forward the actors’ federations.

During the last edition of the coucou puissant festival (lead by communal living actors) a website was created.


The current idea is to keep this website running and update all informations regarding communal living and circular economy in this same website.

It would be like a platform of communal living. I guess the work of Victor on mapping communal living and circular economy would also have a place here


At the moment actors of communal living are mostly engaged in temporariness.

Maybe we can propose an alliance that would be about centralizing info related to communal living at first.

The Reef is a method, temporariness another method. Yet, they both aim at living communally.

Do you see any connection with your proposal Noemi ?

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Yes, but the knowledge building is only 1 component, its the connective layer holding it together. What we want, practically, is to actually channel resources to those organisations for running activities that serve this platform/alliance building i. e. building new ecological tech for the communal homes, residencies nd exchanges bringing in people with hands on expertise together in the city to work on concrete stuff.
We would need to see who are the actors mostly aligned, who want to start documenting their work more and invest in both practical improvements and global coordination. This is important, this discipline of sharing in the open how one does things. Both links you shared speak of that… Indeed.

Hello Alberto!

That’s a good news that you will have the opportunity to join them and apply with them to a Horizon 2020 Governance call.

This will give The Reef a good opportunity to build and develop the project and anchor it in Brussels.

This will probably also motivate the municipalities we will meet.

It’s an import asset to receive the confidence of the local brussels authorities.

This will help you and The Reef to to negotiate more easily with them.

As far as The Reef project is concerned, I see it as a open space/building connected with the city.

A space where people experience a new way of living and where the neighbors can come and use some facilities (workshop, meeting places, transition knowledge hub,…) in order to initiate new transition and civic initiatives in Brussels.

I see it as a private initiative that could be inspired by Medialab Prado in Madrid (which is a public initiative): https://www.medialab-prado.es/

Ixelles is working that way and they could be interested by it also.





@hugi I think it would make sense to complete this by weaving in a similar partnership with Blivande. Would you be up for it?

The Bologna Foundation turned out to already be a C-KIC partner. So, and on the fly, we put in an application for the Reef for 2020 as a consortium of two partners. This is a two-stage application; we should hear about stage 1 this week, then (if stage 1 was successful) we have until January 3rd to write stage 2 application.

If you (Blivande) want in in an operational sense (as opposed to strategic), I am happy to ask C-KIC how we can include you in stage 2. Be aware that the answer might be a bit bureaucratic. etc. Also, be aware that C-KIC only funds 80% of activities!

Absolutely! I think it could be really interesting.

Could you expand on how you would see a strategic vs. operational partnership play out?

We could make that work. I would be the one dealing with it. :slight_smile:

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Strategic => like now. We stay in touch, look for opportunities, leverage this micro-alliance of experimental spaces…

Operational => project related. In fact this project related.

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Excellent. Blivande would be happy to participate. I have added a few comments on how I see it fitting in. Bringing Blivande in brings both a nice geographical spread, covering Europe north to south, and the artistic & cultural perspective.

Let me know what I can do to move things along.

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  1. Let’s sign a small MOU. I will also let our partners in Bologna know, maybe they want to sign it too.
  2. When we get formal notification that we passed stage 1, @ilaria and I are going to ask C-KIC how we get Blivande in the project. Deadline is January 3rd. No point editing the Google Doc, as we will need to create a full proposal on Plaza.
  3. Sit down with us in December to budget the proposal.