Urban Common

Centre for Civil Society and Governance joined LabGov in 2021 and has extended the LabGov network to the Asia Pacific region. LabGov Hong Kong, steered by Professor Wai-Fung LAM, hopes to integrate the Centre’s work on sustainability with the urban commons’ framework and design methodology for knowledge exchange and experiment at both the local and international levels.

Research Questions

What could be learnt from action cases in Hong Kong and in the Asia Pacific region that could supplement the conventional western perspective of commons, in terms of the similarity and difference in the design principles, attributes and other enabling factors of commons?

What would be the appropriate commons framework and approaches for the attainment of sustainability and climate justice? Special references would be made to common pool resources management in the peri-urban context and the new and transitioning roles of urban dwellers and rural communities?

Commoning is grounded upon a participatory approach where collaboration and participation between and among different players and stakeholders in the society are the pre-requisite. What makes an effective commoning and how would commoning be effectively incubated?

Rural Sustainability

The HSBC Rural Sustainability programme was launched in 2013 with the goal to incubate and harvest the interests and resources of the community of interests for village revitalization and enhancement of the overall well-being of the society at large. Intersecting social and ecological sustainability, the project identifies rural assets and resources for shared use among villagers and city dwellers and it introduces principles and practice of co-governance for the wise use and management of some of these resources. New roles are explored and established for urban actors in the rural setting, and vice versa. Lai Chi Wo Village, located at the north-eastern part of Hong Kong and was deserted for decades, provided the venue for the experiment of the concepts and approaches of commons.

The revitalization model has recently been awarded the inaugural Special Recognition for Sustainable Development in the 2020 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Building upon the award-winning model, the project team has started testing the scaling up models and has been implementing the idea of “village cluster” among Lai Chi Wo and other villages in the vicinity where network of experience and resources is created. The revitalization model and principles also provided a solid foundation for another scaling up experiment of platform building with universities from Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China to coalescing regional experience and practice and nurturing collaborative action model for peri-urban integration.

Community Well-being and Wholeness

The project unites a real estate developer, the most resourceful private business in cities, with the knowledge institution (CCSG) and some social and environmental nonprofits to co-develop a framework and networked strategy for social change. The real estate developer is seen as a private agent for attaining positive social impact. A physical location comprised of aging and mature neighbourhoods and redeveloped high-end shopping mall and office buildings is chosen for the field-experiment of community currency.

The project explores the necessary conditions and enablers for an effective system of local currency to alleviate urban challenges. Identified challenges include the lack of high quality green space for social interaction, insufficient child care service provision at the neighbourhood level, etc. A sustainability assessment methodology will also be developed alongside with the framework for community currency as an attempt to measure the social impact attained.

Incubation of Social Entrepreneurship

There has been substantial interest in the circles of social entrepreneurs in the concept of the commons, which is broadly defined as solidarity-based collective endeavors to manage shared resources with a special regard for equitable access and use, and long-term stewardship. Social entrepreneurs worldwide have experimented and embarked on social innovation programs that draw upon a commoning approach to social entrepreneurship to tackle social problems. We believe that an enhanced toolkit for social entrepreneurship, with a stronger focus on commoning, holds the key to generating and scaling up changes into social impact. The Social Innovations for Sustainable Communities focuses to develop social innovations that will coalesce into a new social economy that not only provides incentives for the generation of both economic and social/environmental values, but also nurtures collaboration, trust and social capital in social-economic processes.

The same incubation attempt has also been incorporated in two other projects of the Centre, namely Partnership for Sustainability Leadership in Business and APAC Initiative for Regional Impact. The former offers opportunities to large corporations and SMEs to co-learn and co-create knowledge for business sustainability while the latter is a scaling up model for the HSBC Rural Sustainability programme at the regional level with universities being recruited as the intermediaries providing incubation and training programmes to individuals who are committed to attain rural sustainability.

In an effort to better harvest the knowledge obtained from various action projects, the Academy for Sustainable Communities was established in 2018 to provide a learning platform for potential change makers to enrol with various sustainability-related courses and workshops ranging from recycled wood handicraft workshop for general public to coffee’s value chain certificate programme for industry practitioners.