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

Co-governance is a method of participatory management in which decisions are made at all relevant levels, thereby recognizing the decision of people affected by decisions equitably. The general idea is to bring public and private stakeholders together in collective forums with public agencies to engage in consensus-oriented decision-making processes. Co-governance involves the principle of subsidiarity—taking decisions at the lowest possible level of authority and creating new checks and balances on the overall decision-making activities. This inclusion of people in the decisions that directly affect them formalizes the process of just governance and democratic oversight by closing the gap between resource users and resource managers, producers, and providers, moving towards shared responsibilities and the recognition of different needs.

Key discussions around the term

Ansell and Gash (2008, 544) have defined co-governance as a “governing arrangement where one or more public agencies directly engage non-state stakeholders in a collective decision-making process that is formal, consensus-oriented, and deliberative and that aims to make or implement public policy or manage public programs or assets”.

As a widely cited research, this definition brings a certain influence in the co-governance study. Co-governance models have been increasingly tested in the urban commons studies sector in recent years, and they are analyzed especially considering urban heritage as a commons (Head and Ryan 2004; Iaione 2016; Foster and Iaione 2019). The co-governance approach may refer to a single actor or several actors involved. There is a single actor when the project is managed by an organization that has only moderate interactions with other actors, but without creating stable relationships. There are multiple actors, instead, when two or more actors create an organization or steadily collaborate to achieve common goals (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 2000; Ackerman 2012; Peris-Ortiz et. al. 2016). Co-governance structures should include nonstate actors, and they should be engaged directly in decision-making and not merely be consulted by public agencies. The purpose of the participants’ forum is to make decisions by consensus, even if consensus is not achieved in practice. An article written by Emerson, Nabatchi, and Balogh (2012) broadly defines co-governance as the processes and structures of public policy decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundaries of public agencies, levels of government, and/or the public, private and civic spheres to carry out a public purpose that could not otherwise be accomplished. The concept broke the limitation of top-down ordinary governance models. The definition is widely accepted or referred to by research and case studies.

Reference list

Ansell, Chris and Alison Gash. 2008. “Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice”. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. 18(4): 543–571.

Emerson, Kirk, Nabatchi, Tina and Balogh, Steve. 2012. “An Integrated Framework for Collaborative Governance”. In Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 22(1): 1–29.

Etzkowitz, Henry and Leydesdorff, Loet. 1995. ‘The Triple Helix: university–industry–government relations: a laboratory for knowledge-based economic development’, EASST Review, 14(1): 14–19.

Foster, Sheila, and Iaione, Christian. 2019. Ostrom in the City: Design Principles and Practices for the Urban Commons. Routledge Handbook of the Study of the Commons (Dan Cole, Blake Hudson, Jonathan Rosenbloom eds.), Routledge.

Head, Brian and Ryan, Neal. 2004. “Can Co-governance Work? Regional and Natural Resources in Australia”. In Society and Economy. 26(2-3): 361-382.

Iaione, Christian. 2016. “The CO-City: Sharing, Collaborating, Cooperating and Commoning in the City”. In American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 75(2): 415-455.

Peris-Ortiz, Marta, Ferreira, João J., Farinha, Luís and Fernandes, Nuno O. 2016. Multiple Helix Ecosystems for Sustainable Competitiveness. Springer.