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A Citizen Toolkit as Urban Commons (CT_Commons): towards a sustainable service for and by self-organized communities

1. Objectives

This thematic group focuses on an emerging phenomenon of the digital age: citizens have increasing access to mundane digital tools, which enable them, on the one hand, to document and study their urban environments in ways previously undertaken only by professionals, and on the other hand, to organize themselves more easily and efficiently around issues of interest to them that have not necessarily been identified or recognized by officials. However, there is still a gap between the way city officials and planners work and the way digitally supported citizen self-organization is taking place, thus resulting in often missed opportunities for collaborative work. Our aim is to explore ways of narrowing this gap. The activities supported by the ASF funding for 2014 will seek to answer the following questions: What kind of services support the needs of self-organized groups? How can such services be sustainable? We will take the citizen toolkit as one example of such service and will conduct a series of interviews with identified stakeholders such as, citizen activists, as well as employees of the City of Helsinki, Helka ry, and Forum Virium.

The group of researchers involved in this project includes participants from the Media Department at Aalto ARTS, the Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group at Aalto ENG, and the Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility Research group at Aalto BIZ. The network of outside collaborators include Helka ry, citizen and civic associations in Helsinki, online groups and communities active in Helsinki, the City of Helsinki,, Forum Virium and Hub Helsinki.

2. Main Activities

The main activities for Spring 2014 include the review of empirical material gathered through previous small projects funded by the Aalto Media Factory (CoMeUp and UMPro) and the Innovative City programme (Kansalaisen työkalupakki), and complementing them with interviews of key actors identified through these projects.

We will further develop our trans-disciplinary theoretical framework by combining elements from e-planning, time planning, urban complexity, participatory design, as well as the methodology for studying work practices. Furthermore, we aim through this research effort to dig further into the emergent academic discussions on peer-to-peer production in public services and the new commons.

In Autumn 2014 we will organize a one week workshop targeted at Aalto masters level students. The workshop will be integrated in the workshop week of the Media Department and will be open to all Aalto students (via JOO agreement for those not from Aalto ARTS).

3. Expected outcomes

We will publish our findings in 1-2 peer-reviewed international journal articles on the topic of sustainable services for urban self-organized communities.

Furthermore, the results will be incorporated in the doctoral dissertations of Sirkku Wallin and Eeva Houtbeckers, as well as in the post-doc plan of Joanna Saad-Sulonen.

In practice we will create synergies with the Pixelache Spring 2014 programme on the topic of the commons.

4. Contact information

Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Aalto ARTS: joanna.saad-sulonen[at]

Liisa Horelli, Aalto ENG: liisa.horelli[at]

Sirkku Wallin, Aalto ENG: sirkku.wallin[at]

Eeva Houtbeckers, Aalto BIZ: eeva.houtbeckers[at]


Kansalaisen työkalupakki (citizen toolkit):

Kansalaisen työkalupakki -blogi (citizen toolkit –blog):

CT_Commons webpage:

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