Urban Commons Cookbook: First impressions from the interviews

It’s been a busy few weeks since I got back from vacation. I’ve been working on an EU grant proposal about participatory methods to get urban youths involved in urban development which was submitted last week and I’ve had quite a few other things to take care of. In the middle of it all, I had the first two interviews for the Urban Commons Cookbook this past Monday.


I’m really excited about the quality and richness of the information that I’m getting. As a social researcher, you always hope for that, but it’s never a guarantee. Sometimes your interview partner answers in monotones or the questions you wanted to ask turn out not to be the right ones (also an important finding, but usually one that’s pretty frustrating in the moment). Apparently, I’m asking the right questions, because the answers I’m getting are really great.

I’ve structured the interviews to follow the theory we laid out in our book. I’m asking the projects about the user group, the resource they share, what rules they’ve implemented and how they agree upon them, what laws and other policies affect them, and then a couple questions about main challenges, success factors, and advice for those reading the book.

For the two projects I’ve spoken to so far partnerships and cooperation with like-minded initiatives were key. It was equally important to have a physical space for their activities which was guaranteed for a period of time longer than one year – that gives the initiative the security to be able to engage in long-term planning.

I was struck by the overlap with the work I did on Urban Development through Culture (Städtewandel durch Kultur); actors in the cultural and creative industries also put the emphasis on partnerships and space. I’m excited at the patterns which are emerging and the connections to my other work. I feel like I’ve really put my finger on something big here. More soon!

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