Urban Commons Cookbook
What makes urban commons projects, from community gardens to housing collectives, successful or not? Support our new handbook project.

Urban commons are everywhere - but how can projects benefit from each other’s experiences?

Luisa Le van/Atelier Hurra

Urban commons – new ways of managing and ensuring access to a wide variety of resources in cities – are increasingly the focus of political, academic, and urban development discussions. Many useful theories, methods, and case study collections are being developed above all on the academic level – however, this information often does not reach activists, community leaders, local politicians, or other interested parties on the ground. The Urban Commons Cookbook seeks to bridge this gap.

A Practical Handbook

The Urban Commons Cookbook will combine the theoretical framework set out in the 2015 publication “Urban Commons: Moving beyond State and Market” with real-world insights, usable tips, and tested methods for creating and maintaining commons from real urban commons projects. The result will be a practical handbook which can inform actors from the civil society and politics alike.

Learning from Cases

The core of the cookbook will be made up of interviews with commons projects across a broad spectrum of resource types and locations. The interviews will focus on the projects’ experiences - which ingredients and structures made their commons project possible? What challenges arose and how did they deal with them? What was critical to success and which lessons would they pass on to projects just starting out?

Theory and Methods

These real-world experiences will be supplemented with a clear and reader-friendly introduction to commons theory and a range of practical methods for starting a project, dealing with internal & external challenges, creating visibility and impact, and building trust and community.

Growing of the Book

After gaining support by a crowdfunding campaign we are now, in spring 2019, in the final phase. We conducted interviews, collected good practices, chose methods and approaches. Last but not least we found with Luisa Le van from Atelier Hurra a passioned designer who accompanies us with empathy, patience and creativity.

56 supporters enabled us to start with cooking. Thank you!


About us

This project was initiated by Mary Dellenbaugh-Losse, co-author of “Urban Commons: Moving beyond State and Market.” Mary had been toying with the idea of a follow-up publication about urban commons for a wider audience when she met Nils-Eyk Zimmermann, co-author of “The Initiative Cookbook,” who was looking to combine experience with civil society topics and educational concepts with commons. And thus the idea for the Urban Commons Cookbook was born! It’s been a long and productive planning process full of countless cups of coffee. We’re excited that the project is finally moving forward and very motivated by the positive resonance we’ve gotten so far!

Mary Dellenbaugh-Losse is an independent urban researcher & policy consultant who has been working on the urban commons since 2013. She is the co-editor “Urban Commons: Moving beyond State & Market,” author of "Städtewandel durch Kultur," and owner of the Blog Urban Policy.

"I want to transfer these lessons from research to practice, between sectors, and among projects. That's what the Urban Commons Cookbook is about. I'm excited to see the finished product."

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann is an author, program manager, and expert for topics related to civil society. He is the co-author of "Diversity Dynamics - Activating the Potential of Diversity in Groups," "Initiative Cookbook," "Creativity Handbook," and other books geared at activists and facilitators. He is owner of the blog Civil Resilience.

"Commons are a new way to promote civil resilience among urban residents and get a variety of groups involved."

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