Recapping: The Berlin Urban Commons Series 2016-2017


So we’ve officially concluded the first round of the Berlin Urban Commons Series, which ran in 2016 and 2017. We touched on so many exciting topics – today, I wanted to take the chance to give an overview of the individual events and link to summaries of each of them.

To begin with, the Berlin Urban Commons Series was conceived as a continuation of the URG’s work on urban commons. Topics addressed in the first round of events included urban citizenship, Bologna as a testing ground for commons in everyday life, the New Urban Agenda (Habitat III), and urban mindfulness. The events were open to the public and were held in German and English.


Event 1: Urban Commons in the New Urban Agenda?

Organized by Dr. Martin Schwegmann

On October 21st, 2016, Dr. Martin Schwegmann of the URG interviewed Cyril Royez and Bea Varnai from UrbaMonde about to what degree the concept of urban commons has found hold in the New Urban Agenda and what developments can be expected. The interview took place live from the Habitat III conference in Quito.

You can find a detailed summary of the interview on the URG website, and a livestream of it on our soundcloud channel.


Event 2: After the “Summer of Migration“: Practices of Citizenship as Urban Commons

Organized by Dr. Markus Kip and Dr. Martin Schwegmann

After the “Summer of Migration” the question of how to promote an open society gained relevance for many activists. In conjunction with refugees, several initiatives and organizations developed practices of citizenship, from shared cooking events, the organization of private accommodation, health care to protest camps. With the passing of restrictive asylum legislation in recent months, it is to be assumed that many persons with uncertain “residency perspective” (Bleibeperspektive) will remain in a status of deficient rights for years (such as an “exceptional leave to remain” (Duldung)) or will go into hiding when threatened by deportation.

Resistance emerges against such state-enforced exclusion. It is not about doing good to “the other” – the refugees – but to create new forms of sociality and appropriate collective means of reproduction irrespective of residency status. In this event, we wish to address such practices of citizenship that go beyond the law or even contradict it – and we refer to such practices as commons. We want to investigate on what conditions such commons can be sustained or even be expanded. What kind of political challenges or opportunities can we identify today? What is the role of “the city” as a space for developing such alternatives? What role can/should/must the state play with respect to such practices?

The event took place on November 4th, 2016 with guests Jochen Becker (metrozones), Bettina Bauerfeind (Campus Metropolis), and Arwa Aladin (Refugee Academy), and was generously hosted by the Modellprojekt “ZUsammenKUNFT”, Stresemannstraße 95 initiated by Initiative Haus der Statistik and ZK/U – Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik.

You can find a detailed summary of the event on the URG website.


Event 3: Bologna – a Laboratory for Urban Commons?

Organized by Dr. Martin Schwegmann

In Bologna, a new legislation was adopted in 2014 to encourage residents to develop their city in the sense of the Urban Commons together with the city administration. The legislation, “Colaborare e Bologna”, fills a legal gap, which allows the city administration to work unbureaucratically with individuals and organizations from different sectors. Prof. Christian Iaione, (LabGov – LABoratorio per la GOVernance dei beni comuni, Rome) (input), Giovanni Ginocchini, (Director of the URBAN CENTER BOLOGNA), Marco Clausen, (Prinzessinnengarten) Berlin, and Dr. Mary Dellenbaugh from the Urban Research Group Urban Commons in conversation with Dr. Martin Schwegmann, Berlin. This event took place on January 27th, 2017 at the taz café and was realized through a cooperation with the program Actors of Irban Change from the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with MitOst e.V.

This event yielded an article by Mary & Martin. You can read a detailed summary of the event here.


Event 4: Mapping, Big Data, Citizens Tech… What role does digitization play for urban commons?

Organized by Dr. Martin Schwegmann

This panel, which took place on June 8th, 2017 at the Georg Simmel Zentrum, critically reflected on the potential of digitization for commoning. The central question was: to what extent does the connection of digital data and people lead to new ways of commoning and potentially make these more mainstream?

The event included inputs from Adrien Labaeye (Urban Researcher Urban Commons and Mapping, Berlin), Konrad Braun (Architect, Openberlin) and Nils Grube (Geographer, Leerstandsmelder) and commentary from Prof. Marian Dörk (Urban Complexity Lab, FH Potsdam) and Katalin Gennburg (Speaker for urban development, tourism and smart cities of the left party in the Berlin state parliament).


Event 5: Urban Body and Mind Sessions: Urban Mindfulness & Urban Commons

Organized by Dr. Majken Bieniok

In October 2016 and May 2017, Majken conducted the urban body and mind sessions, which connected the concepts of urban mindfulness and urban commons.

A summary of the first event in this series can be found on the URG website.


We would like to thank everyone who took part in the first round of the BUCS and hope to be able to offer new events in this series very soon!

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