The Urban Commons Cookbook
What makes urban commons projects, from community gardens to housing collectives, successful or not?

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

Which ingredients of a cooperative community project most help it succeed? What are urban commons and how do they fit into current activist and civil society debates? And what tools and methods do commoners need to strengthen their work? These are the three questions at the heart of The Urban Commons Cookbook, a handbook for those interested in starting, growing and supporting community-led projects.

A Practical Handbook

The Urban Commons Cookbook combines 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 is a practical handbook which can inform actors from the civil society and politics alike.

Learning from Cases

The core of The Urban Commons Cookbook is made up of interviews with eight commons projects across a broad spectrum of resource types and locations outlining the growth of their projects, the challenges they faced, and the methods they employed to surmount them.

Theory and Methods

These real-world experiences are 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.

M. Dellenbaugh-Losse, N.-E. Zimmermann, N. de Vries: The Urban Commons Cookbook, 2020

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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! Nicole de Vries joined a few months later and contributed to finding and choosing the case studies, conducting the interviews, and keeping the writing process on schedule. Like the common projects we interviewed, ours also involved a long and iterative process filled with discussion, false starts and countless cups of coffee. We are thrilled that we have finally been able to realize our idea for a commons handbook and we hope you enjoy our work!

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. 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."

Nicole de Vries works in the field of public participation and sustainable (urban) development.

"I am impressed and fascinated by the projects we interviewed and I hope that this book will inspire even more people to realize projects that make urban life a little more beautiful."

Thank You!

This project would not have been possible without the support of Shareable, Atelier Hurra, and the 56 Kickstarter backers who believed in our vision.