Sharing cities

Cities are drivers of innovation: together with the private sector and civil society, they develop solutions that improve quality of life for their citizens.
This may be the year the sharing cities movement goes big across Europe. With a view to the latest developments around this new business model in European cities, at this year’s EUROCITIES annual conference we want to explore this new way of delivering goods and services and the impact it has on the relationship between the economy and society.

The collaborative economy, collaborative consumption and the peer economy are all concepts that, while offering slightly different angles, appear more and more frequently in the international and Italian debate on the sharing economy. This new form of economy is a recent development and presents a new way of understanding goods and services in cities around the world. While we have not reached the stage where we have a common shared definition of the ‘sharing economy’, there is nevertheless broad consensus on some of the characteristics of the sharing economy.
The sharing economy challenges established perceptions of a scarcity of resources by focusing on access to, and shared used of, a range of different goods and services rather than ownership of a few. The sharing economy is an umbrella term covering a range of global mega trends, including crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, co-creation, collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer, zero marginal cost production, digitalization, Internet of Things, social media, open source and sustainability.
Whether we focus on the digital aspects (online platforms promoting the exchange of goods and services play an important role), the peer component (the relationships that develop through these exchanges), the trust mechanism (upon which the sharing principle is based), the sustainable aspects (reduction in emissions achieved though the exchange of goods as opposed to the creation of new ones) or the economic impact on users, the sharing economy has a considerable disruptive effect across numerous sectors.
While sharing goods is nothing new in itself, the digitisation of society over the past 20 years has taken it to a new level. The density of cities, which bring together the critical mass of people, ideas, innovation, good and services, reinforces the development potential and opportunities of the sharing economy.


The city of Milan adopted a ‘local city definition’ of the sharing economy through a resolution approved by the local government in December 2014. This definition substitutes the notion of ‘ownership’ of goods and services with one of ‘shared use’.
The subsequent document, ‘Milano sharing city’ and its complementary guidelines were approved by the local council. They represent the result of a participatory process that engaged more than 200 people and stakeholders, including leading companies in this sector, trade associations and consumer organisations. This innovative policy making was also based on the smart city policies the city has been developing since 2013. There are a number of links between the concept of the sharing economy and the pillars of a smart city as identified by the University of Vienna: smart economy, smart living, smart environment, smart mobility, smart people and smart governance. These principles have enabled Milan to develop a programme that has resulted in recognition by the ICityLab rate as the best smart city in Italy in 2015 (
According to the December 2014 resolution, the sharing economy concept is defined as an ‘expression of a new understanding of the relation between economy and society, it is based on the creation of social ties as the foundation of the economic exchange and has the awareness of the active and productive citizen as its starting point’. With this political document and its accompanying guidelines, Milan is positioning itself as the first Italian city to not only recognise the existence of a new form of economy, but to develop policies with citizens to support it.

Using the guidelines, the administration has taken a number of measures such as:

  • developing a map of the various sharing economy stakeholders active in the city, based on an ad hoc register comprising around 104 bodies including operators and experts
  • establishing a micro-district in the city centre to raise awareness among citizens and companies of the services they can benefit from and provide under the sharing economy approach
  • developing a civic crowdfunding platform
  • encouraging a broader and open public debate on the sharing economy

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The 2016 EUROCITIES annual conference in Milan will be an opportunity for cities to reflect on this new way of understanding goods and services by sharing their experiences, considering the impacts it has had on their cities, and addressing the challenges it presents.

EUROCITIES members have plenty of examples to share of how the sharing economy can have an impact across different sectors of the city and urban policies, and how it concerns most city competences and responsibilities. The conference will provide a platform to share these initiatives and practices and engage in constructive discussions about the sharing economy.
Understanding and adapting to the impact of the sharing economy on urban policies and different sectors, competences and responsibilities is a work in progress for many cities. Through a series of roundtable discussions at the conference, we will explore the following themes: