The Civic Economy: Opportunities and challenges for European cities

The economy is changing both globally and across Europe. New forms of ventures are emerging in which citizens share, collaborate and co-create to tackle local and social challenges. They operate beyond the traditional boundaries between the spheres of civil society, the market and the state. The civic economy, sharing economy or collaborative economies are terms used to describe these developments. These terms refer to “a new movement, with new ventures, networks and behaviours” that combines “the spirit ofentrepreneurship with the aspiration of civic renewal” (Compendium for the Civic Economy 2011). Europe is bearing witness to the emergence of countless  community enterprises and civic initiatives. The civic economy is pushing boundaries to join government and private business as a social, entrepreneurial and financial power.

Civic ventures & Global cities 

Civic ventures especially thrive in cities all over the world. Global cities such as San Francisco, Seoul, London, Paris and Amsterdam are forerunners.These initiatives often do not fit within the old structures and rules. It is difficult to make sense of the myriad of, usually, small and short-lived initiatives. In addition, it is still unclear how the civic economy will evolve in the (near) future. Many local governments in European cities are confronted with new developments related to the civic economy. This motivated the EUKN to organise its 2014 Annual Conference around this theme. The conference was organised in collaboration with Amsterdam city council and Pakhuis de Zwijger, on 20 and 21 October 2014 in Amsterdam with the aim of presenting an interpretation and characterisation of the civic economy and discussing major challenges and opportunities that the civic economy provides to its stakeholders and governments especially. This publication is the result of the discussions that took place in Amsterdam. Most of the chapters and sections are based on the presentations and elaborated by the speakers at this conference.


Main questions of the publication

This publication intends to provide governments with policy-relevant knowledge to form their vision of and response to the emerging civic economy. Key questions for governments that this publication will answer are:

  •  What is going on and what is new? This is the question of the interpretation of the civic economy in Europe;
  •  What are the main challenges for governments?
  •  What are the practical perspectives and strategies for governments facing the rise of the civic economy?

These were the central questions of the EUKN conference. In addition, the conference aimed to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences between stakeholders to stimulate new joint initiatives and networks on the civic economy. This publication is one of the results thereof.

This publication at a glance 

This publication offers a broad overview of discussions on various aspects of the civic economy in Europe. The diversity of views within the civic economy is reflected in the diversity of the contributions to this publication. All authors are sympathetic towards the civic economy, but this does not preclude a critical perspective. Many of them have an eye for the risks of the current developments (see especially the contributions by Joost Beunderman and Kathleen Stokes). Because this publication is a collection of presentations on different topics, all the contributions can be read separately.