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Barcelona's grassroots-led urban experimentation: Deciphering the 'data commons' policy scheme

Published 24 March 2019 / By COMPAS Communications

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Smart city policy approaches have been gradually transitioning in parallel with data policy regulations. This is the case for Barcelona, which has been executing its policy framework called ‘data commons’ with the goal of further grassroots-led urban experimentations. This paper examines to what extent the new paradigm of ‘data commons’ will remain and even be reinforced, given the ongoing local elections and the volatile political and regional context of the upcoming May 2019 elections. In doing so, this paper elaborates on the steps Barcelona has been taking, given the new ‘Declaration of Cities Coalition for Digital Rights’ signed by Barcelona, Amsterdam, and New York. Nonetheless, as a result and continuation of previous published fieldwork research, by applying the Penta Helix framework from a social innovation perspective, this paper questions why several implementations are being consolidated while others actually show a tension between two different models: ‘platform capitalism’ vs ‘platform co-operativism’. In regard to the former model, permanent strikes provoked by the Elite Taxi BCN association in August 2018 in response to the aftermath of big tech companies Cabify and Uber initially cleared to operate in Barcelona by the regional government, have demonstrated the negative side-effects of ‘platform capitalism’. By contrast, Som Energia is a successful case study based on the latter innovative business model, ‘platform co-operativism’, stemming from grassroots-led urban experimentation. This paper concludes by suggesting a synthesis regarding the ongoing platform revolution at stake, in light of the need for democratic accountability.


Calzada, I. & Almirall, E. (2019), Barcelona’s Grassroots-led Urban Experimentation:  Deciphering the ‘Data Commons’ Policy Scheme. Zenodo. DOI:10.5281/zenodo.2604618. Conference Data for Policy 2019, London (UK), 11-12 June.

Open access paper for the international conference Data for Policy in London 2019.


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