Civic-Minded Environment

The glossary entries are the result of a collaborative process among OpenHeritage consortium partners and have undergone an internal review. However, they only express the perspective of the authors listed under each term, not of all partners. You can find information on the glossary production process and the full glossary here.

Elena De Nictolis
Luiss University, Rome, Italy;

Christian Iaione
Luiss University, Rome, Italy;

Maria Cristina Pangallozzi
Luiss University, Rome, Italy;

Alessandro Piperno
Luiss University, Rome, Italy;

Short definition

A civic-minded Environment is characterized by organizational arrangements, policies, and institutional spaces that are supportive of civic engagement, and more broadly of heritage-related initiatives brought up by NGOs, informal groups of residents, and coalitions of local actors. In a civic-minded environment, the public administration possesses or increases its institutional capacity to enable the collective action of civic actors (through capacity building processes) and supports civic reuse of heritage for sustainable, social, and economic purposes.

Key discussions around the term

City governments have been recurring to institutional spaces to design innovations to deal with a variety of urban issues (i.e. housing; food provision; mobility) with civic actors, such as city residents, NGOs but also research institutions and private actors (Raven et al. 2017). That takes the form of urban laboratories, city agencies, urban development agencies, urban think tanks, living Labs, city studios, urban innovation hubs, collabs, or neighborhood labs. Those spaces for experimentation are place-based and applied laboratories within a context, the city, which can be conceptualized as a laboratory herself (Evans and Karvonen 2014). Experiments organized in cities as laboratories indeed are different from artificial laboratories, because they provide a real-life context of experimentation, with factors that are not influenced by the experiment itself related to the concrete implementation of policies designed outside from their context of application. An example is the Collaboratory designed by the City of Reggio Emilia (Emilia Romagna, Italy) as a space to facilitate the agglomeration, co-design, and prototype of civic enterprises (Peredo 2006) that provides neighborhood services leveraging on urban assets, services, infrastructures including archeological and cultural heritage for democratic, collaborative development of the space. These experiments achieve concrete outputs (the realization of heritage reuse projects) but they also promote indirect institutional and social change by challenging existing mindsets (Gravagnuolo et al. 2018) related to heritage conversation and allowing the chance for community innovation to be injected into heritage management models.  

However, without attention on social differences and safeguarding fragile target groups, this can also potentially lead to a lack of inclusivity in the processes, so there is still a need for checks and balances, promoting public access, and working in partnership with organizations who are willing to invest time and resources. The capacity to govern experimentation is key in this process, as it is necessary to imagine an institutional infrastructure that is suited to adapt to the speed and power of the social innovation phenomena characterizing what was defined as the new era of the Anthropocene, where the traditional rationality demonstrates to be the heir of what David Graeber would call “structural stupidity” and that will be characterized by increasing involvement of the public administration in human activities which will result in a pressure to change in several branches of the law and policy. The presence of administrative organizational innovations and eventually an administrative function within the City that stimulates, coordinates, and supports the experimentation actions for adaptive reuse of cultural assets/space with civic actors is a key factor of success. This institutional space would have the crucial role to merge scientific rigor, policy design, and the enabling of forms of community-based enterprises (Peredo 2006), rooted in the neighborhoods. Emerging organizational innovations of this kind, that merge the idea of institutional spaces and processes that enable the administration to work with civic actors with the necessity of having an empirical-based approach to provide inputs to the policy-making process are emerging across cities all over the EU and are defined in some cases as “City Science Offices”. Several EU cities (Amsterdam; Hamburg; Reggio Emilia; Brno; Cluj Napoca; Paris) are establishing CSOs and are networking within the Joint Research center-led Initiative “CSI, City Science Initiative”.  

Reference list

Evans, James and Karvonen, Andrew. 2014. “Give Me a Laboratory and I Will Lower Your Carbon Footprint!’ — Urban Laboratories and the Governance of Low-Carbon Futures”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38, n. 2, 413–430. 

Graeber, David. 2015. The Utopia of rules. New York: Melville House. 

Gravagnuolo, Antonia, Saleh, Ruba, Ost, Christian and Girard, Luigi Fusco. n.d. “Towards an evaluation framework to assess Cultural Heritage Adaptive Reuse impacts in the perspective of the Circular Economy”, special issue – URBANISTICA INFORMAZIONI:

Peredo, Ana María and Chrisman, James J. 2006. “Toward a Theory of Community-Based Enterprise”. Academy of Management Review. 31(2): 309-328. 

Raven, Rob et al. 2017.  „Urban experimentation and institutional arrangements“, European Planning Studies: 1-24.