sheila foster

sheila foster.png

intro’d to Shiela here (co cities) and then here via Kevin:

Sheila Foster of LabGov, who is one of the most important scholars of the new commons-based municipalist movements.
Original Tweet:

from Sheila and Christian Iaione‘s – city as commons paper:

scholars have failed to fully develop the concept of the “urban commons,” limiting its utility to policymakers.

scholars have failed to fully develop the concept of the “urban commons,” limiting its utility to policymakers.

We propose that the collaborative and polycentric governance strategies already being employed to manage some natural and urban common resources can be scaled up to the city level to guide decisions about how city space and common goods are used, who has access to them, and how they are shared among a diverse population. We explore what it might look like to manage the city as a commons by describing two evolving models of what we call “urban collaborative governance”: the sharing city and the collaborative city.

in the city  .. as the day..


taking her in here..

oct 2017 – Cities and Commons: Sheila Foster interview w Jerry Michalski and Neal Gorenflo – 1 hr video


4 min – s: i got into the commons thru doing work on environ justice.. so i’ve long associated it w the natural world

5 min – s: why don’t we think about the city and the resources of the city as a shared good..

7 min – s: for me the commons is both about common spaces in the commons.. but also about city governance.. how/who governs it

12 min – n: what is good about christian and sheila’s work is providing a means for ordinary people to have a say in what to do in the city

city sketch up ness

14 min – n: this is why i like commons over ubi.. it’s putting ordinary people in charge..t

18 min – s: ostrom’s contribution is in saying it’s not just market or state.. that there is an alt.. the innovation to me is bringing it into the urban world.. into a regulated environ where the market is incredibly strong


20 min – s: the heart of this project is collab pact.. the city giving up some of its control..

22 min – s: one idea of the commons that i embrace.. is an idea that puts justice and the right to the city at the heart of it.. we make the city

rights ness

23 min – s: is it a right to the city lens.. or a more eutopian lens.. i think the commons needs to scratch a little deeper.. because cities are a space of vast ineq now.. and if the commons can’t speak to that then we’re just a leftist liberal latte.. that won’t be speaking to the more fundamentally pressing challenges..t

24 min – j: the more we treat people like consumers.. the more selfish they get..t

27 min – s: (on bringing commons to level of ineq).. it’s very hard.. to bring it to those folks.. who are commoning.. let’s be clear..  they have informal norms.. institutions that are co op.. there’s a lot of sharing..  that’s why the concept lands very roughly there


29 min – s: an important part of her (ostrom’s) finding.. she found that institutions really work around small resources and in homogenous communities..  but if you bring that to a city.. to me that’s the exciting work.. when we get out of community.. what happens when you scale that concept up.. i think that’s what we’re struggling with.. we have to scale it up.. how do you do this at the city level.. that to me is the challenge..t

ie: cure ios city

31 min – j: ‘it won’t scale’ has killed more projects than anything else..

s: so how do we create a culture in the city (place and governance).. how to create an infra where this becomes more than a few projects and a way of actually operating.. t

ie: 2 convers as infra

32 min – s: 1\ you seed it somewhere.. experiment.. show it can work.. and then it permeates out..t

next experiment – model a nother way

s: 2\ networking things that already happen in city.. and make sure they are networked – toolbox – the more we develop this.. the tools.. institutional and legal.. the more we can see a scaling

35 min – s: yeah.. scaling takes effort but i would say it takes some really interesting thinking about.. bringing old tools/regs.. hack into current system and use some of their tools.. starting from scratch is where you set yourself up for failure.. ie: city is regulated.. govt and market are there and you can’t do away with those things

hmm – i don’t know

i think we have to come up w a mech that makes them irrelevant

36 min – j: Hans Monderman – naked streets – they needed to try it out themselves.. so he’s leave for a bit.. how do you make that contagious.. i think if we could figure that out..

Hans Mondermannaked streets

38 min – s: what does it mean to experiment is one way to think about contagion..t

39 min – s: commons only works if it comes from that place or is adapted to that environ

40 min – s: so be very careful to throw the baby out w the bathwater (ie: ghana and its regs).. to say you know.. ‘the market is awful’.. there’s a way we can leverage and hack into market.. and have fun to re integrate

? i don’t know.. i think we focus to much on that.. and then the tweaking is killing our opp for sync

41 min – s: it’s a matter of finding the right people to regenerate.. that doesn’t displace.. and.. someone’s got to finance the commons.. it’s not free

ie: short – bi as temp placebo

42 min – n: on experimentation and not using pre -formatted ideas/models to figure out what works.. that to me is very liberating and something i hope to see more in cities..t

n: and on scale.. in sv there is this kind of fetish for scale.. what people fail to realize is that is a philosophical accommodation to the investors.. we need to have other convos about the econ..

47 min – s: n made a great point and i’m glad to articulate it here.. idea that commons can’t mean that there’s profit/wealth.. what concerns me when i hear that.. you’re going to tune out a whole lot of people of color.. you can’t tell people who have been left out of the econ for so long.. you can’t benefit economically..  you can’t tell people who have lived that experience.. that we want to move to an econ system in which we share everything but there’s no wealth.. that’s not an inclusive message.. neal’s message.. we can have a robust econ.. not extractive.. but circular.. a broader squath of people

has to be everyone.. not just a broader squath

50 min – (j asks s what would help w your work) s: pooling.. we need more people to work on this.. obviously resources..  we’re busier than we should be.. people asking how to join in and it’s just christian and i and the young researchers.. so part of trying to seed this is trying to attract more people thinking about this.. so we have 1.0 of our pro city protocol.. designed to be improved.. for a collab process.. a commons school.. bring people who are experimenting in cities together to share every year to improve the protocol.. the design principals.. so 1\ resources – that includes people

begs a model that takes no training.. just that modeling you talked about earlier.. but then to jump in.. no one needs to prep.. it’s instantly accessible to everyone..

52 min – j: telling stories.. having tools.. have experts on hand.. to get ie: tools.. what paperwork do i fill out

53 min – s: a lot of this is local.. but there are general rules.. we’re coming out w a co city report..  the point is to make this all available.. as neal has done in the book.. the idea is to make it a lot more open

city sketch up ness

55 min – j: what are ie’s  s: participatory city in uk;

56 min – n: on participatory cities.. the urban villages movement.. putting it at the neighborhood scale..  and .. get the book – sharing cities..

sharing cities

57 min – s: these labs for cities ie: mexico city.. are very interesting.. dc.. these are a new innovation.. cities recognize need for cross cutting space for rethinking the city

58 min – s: cities are siloed.. so when create agency that are not siloed.. important for city to start thinking differently about self.. so i point to those labs

n: collab city councils – where projects can connect..  line between official and resident fades.. becomes more permeable. i’m for big govt and everyone is part of it

has to be all of us – everyone..

1:00 – j: ie: our block – i think waking people up is just as important



find/follow Sheila:

link twitter

Professor Law & Public Policy, Georgetown U., Co-Director LabGov, Chair, Advisory Committee, Global Parliament of Mayors, The Co-City (MIT Press)

nyc, dc

labgov site:

georgetown site:

co cities


city as commons (policy reader)

imagining cure ios city as infra to common ing





commons house

commons transition

city ness

in the city  .. as the day..