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Commons Sense: Let’s Create a Bottom-Up European Democracy

In a frame of the Cultural and Creative Spaces and Cities (CCSC) project, European Cultural Foundation and the University of Antwerp, in cooperation with l’Asilo and Boekman Foundation, organised a digital co-creation lab Commons Sense: Let’s Create a Bottom-Up European Democracy which took place on the 22nd and the 29-30th of June.

About the Event

It’s in times of crisis, change is more likely to thrive. To make this happen, investing in culture as a tool for social transformation is crucial, now more than ever.

How can we make sure that the cultural and creative sectors enter what will be the post-Covid-19 reality with a new, stronger voice?

We believe the future of culture concerns Europe as a whole, and many of the premises of a more just future for culture lie in bringing Europe closer to the very local experience of cultural workers and of their local initiatives for solidarity in cities.  Where there is no culture, there is no Europe either.

In this digital co-creation lab, we explore new ‘homes of commons’, as spaces of encounter between EU and local level, where the EU learns from the territories and local actors who in turn can be empowered and take closer part in EU decisions.

Let’s build together the cornerstones of our ‘homes of commons’: their participatory tools, their physical and/or digital walls, their administrative structures.

Together we will explore the following challenges

1. The commons as ecosystems for culture after Covid-19

  • What concrete solutions to make EU policies and grants more accessible for commons and alternative cultural spaces? How can we establish methodologies and about who is legitimised “to speak on behalf of the sector” for a participatory cultural policymaking and grant co-creation together with the EU level?
  • How can cultural policies and grants activate new commons-based ecosystems that promote a sustainable creative work (i.e. allowing space and time for research and production, peer learning, income, and relationship with society);
  • How can cultural and creative work be made more sustainable, in particular linked to/ after Covid-19, as well as from a green perspective: going beyond the logic of ‘big events’ and hyper-mobility

2. Co-creating cultural policies in cities to foster cohesion and inclusion

  • Incentives for participation: should remuneration (financial or non-financial) be included in participatory processes? 
  • Culture in urban policy: how to overcome in-silo approaches in urban policy?
    Can cross-sectoral approaches; needs-based approaches; stronger mediation/facilitation work as solutions?
  • Participation and post-covid Europe: in what ways can local authorities recognise, valorise and support local solidarity initiatives?

3. Building spaces of encounter between local and EU level

  • Concrete proposals to bring Europe closer to citizens and cultural operators – Organisation of the ‘homes of commons’: how can homes of commons act as effective tools to decentralise EU institutions and foster a dialogue with the local contexts? How can homes of commons communicate and collaborate simultaneously with EU institutions, local authorities and citizens? 
  • Concrete proposals to bring Europe closer to citizens and cultural operators – Agenda of the homes of commons: what should be on the agenda of homes of commons, in order to facilitate the links between the EU and the local level? What function should homes of commons have (advocacy, information, co-creation, local participation…)?
  • Homes of commons and cultural and creative spaces: how can we rethink cultural and creative spaces as community organisations suggesting new ways for the EU to relate with the local level, aware of the role of relevant national/regional level organisations ?

The three challenges are linked to the central topic of the event, which is how to build ‘homes of commons’, as tools to bring Europe closer to citizens. Challenge 1 and 2 address what kind of environment is needed to build such spaces of encounters between EU and citizens. The first one concerns grassroots community activation and the second one the relationship between the community and the local institutions. Challenge 3 is aimed at building the agenda and governance of the ‘homes of commons’.


June 22, 10.00 – 12.30: Opening Event and Introduction to the Three Challenges

  1. Introduction to the CCSC project, its recommendations and explanation of the co-creation lab – by the CCSC partners and the event moderator
  2. Introductory and inspiration documents – by researchers. Participants will be provided with introductory and inspiration documents on the three main topics of the event.  The documents will be co-written by interdisciplinary researchers, working on cultural policy, political science, political philosophy, economics, law.
  3. Introductory short webinars – by experts and the CCSC  Urban Labs. Participants and researchers will delve into the topics of the event through webinars involving experts from the CCSC project, and structured around small interventions and Q&A sessions. After the 22nd, the presentations of the speakers will be uploaded on the CCSC website for participants to be able to watch the other two parallel sessions and gain a wider perspective on the topics of the event.

Preliminary Agenda 22 June:

  • 10:00- 10:10: Welcome by Mieke Renders, Trans Europe Halles
  • 10:10-10.15: European Commission, Barbara Stacher: Short introduction and welcome to the Commission colleagues
  • 10:15-10:30: Recommendations of CCSC  
  • 10:30-10:40: European Commission, Maciej Hofman: Challenges related to the relationships between EU and local level and past/present experiences with peer learning with cities and regions   
  • 10h40-10h50: Break
  • 10h50- 11h50: Parallel Webinars + Q&A
  1. The commons as ecosystems for culture after Covid-19 – by l’Asilo (facilitated by Maria Francesca De Tullio):
    • Ana Sofia Acosta Alvarado / Angela Dionisia Severino / Chiara Cucca/Angelica Bifano
    • Giuseppe Micciarelli / Maria Pia Valentini / Andrea de Goyzueta 
    • Adriano Cozzolino / Benedetta Parenti
    • music by L’Asilo
  2. Co-creating cultural policies in cities to foster cohesion and inclusion – by Boekman Foundation and the ULs of Kaapeli, Region of Skane, CIKE (facilitated by Marjolein Cremer)
    • Joost Heinsius
    • Raisa Karttunen (Urban Lab Kaapeli)
    • Ola Jacobson (Urban Lab Region Skane)
    • Zuzana Reveszova (Urban Lab Cike)
  3. Building spaces of encounter between local and EU level – by Boekman Foundation and the ULs of Hablarenarte, Lund, Timisoara (facilitated by Violante Torre)
    • Goran Tomka
    • Andreea Iager-Tako (Urban Lab Ambasada)
    • Flavia Introzzi and Elena Lasala (Urban lab Hablarenarte)
    • Katarina Scott (Urban Lab Lund)
    • Marcela Arreaga Vega (Urban Lab CoboiLab)
  • 11:50 -12:30: Presenting the Co-Creation Lab and its purpose and how it will work.

Wednesday 24 – Sunday 28 June – Slack opens and Participants are invited to join and start Team Formation.

June 29, 9.00 – 19:00: 1st day of co-creation lab

June 30, 9.00 – 18.00: 2nd day of co-creation lab

Participants will divide into groups between the 22nd and the 29th of June. They will collaboratively work on one of the three challenges of the event and prototype solutions. They will be guided by a team of facilitators and trainers who will introduce collaborative online tools and co-working platforms to exchange and divide tasks.

Preliminary Programme 29 June:

  • 09.00 – 09.30 Opening of the Co-Creation Lab on Zoom
  • 15.00 – 18.00 Agreed check-points with mentors
  • 18.00 – 18.45 After work check-out on Zoom including an interactive art piece.

Preliminary Programme 30 June:

  • 09.00 – 09.15 Check-in on Zoom. 
  • 9.45 – 12.30 Agreed second check-points with mentors
  • 16.00 Deadline for submissions 
  • 17.00 – 18.00 Interactive wrap-up session on Zoom.

After the event: June 30th – September 15th

The selected participants of the call for participation to the Amsterdam and Naples events, under the coordination of ECF and University of Antwerp, worked collaboratively on the findings of the event, which will be the base of a policy report.

ECF and University of Antwerp will elaborate and combine elements of the contributions into one proposal, which will constitute the basis of the final policy recommendations of the CCSC.

The Online Resource Guide 

Together with our researchers, we have put together an introductory and inspirational Resource Guide with reading material and examples on the three main topics of the event. All in the service of making your co-creation experience as informed and fact-based as possible. The material in the Resource Guide is co-written by interdisciplinary researchers, working on cultural policy, political science, political philosophy, economics, law.