Social innovation for urban sustainability and participatory governance

Enabling City is an organization that works to advance social innovation as a form of active citizenship, particularly in the areas of urban sustainability and participatory governance.

At Enabling City, we believe access to inspiration is important. We strive to creatively respond to today’s most pressing issues by harnessing community imagination as a tool of social transformation. Our work sparks new ways of thinking about participation, encouraging experts and enthusiasts alike to generate engaging insights that lead to positive change.


We produce rigorous but imaginative research that uncovers new creative possibilities and turns theory into action.


We work with a diverse range of dedicated changemakers (researchers, creative communities, planners, progressive institutions and social entrepreneurs) to make cities more liveable, inclusive and resilient.


We develop emerging conceptual frameworks and action tools that stimulate public engagement, foster a culture of co-creation and openness, and dynamically re-imagine the ‘enabling’ potential of cities.


We accelerate the reach of ‘place-based creative problem-solving’ by sharing promising ideas and initiatives that strengthen and support networks of community-powered change.


We help individuals and institutions test new ideas, scale impact, and find trusted collaborators who share their passion.

Founded in 2010, Enabling City is run by Chiara Camponeschi with the support of a small team of dedicated staff and international partners. Do you have an idea for a collaboration or need tailored project support? Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!

Our books are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivative license. You can order your copy of Volume 1 + 2 here or read them online on our site.

TIP: click on the image above to zoom in and read in full-screen mode (you can hide the menu bar by clicking on [x]). Enabling City is also available in French, Spanish, Italian and German.

About the book

At its simplest, Enabling City is a new way of thinking about communities and change. Guided by principles such as collaboration, innovation and participation, the pioneering initiatives featured in Enabling City attest to the power of community in stimulating the kind of innovative thinking needed to tackle complex issues ranging from participatory citizenship to urban livability.

We know that markets are no longer the only sources of innovation, and that citizens are capable of more than just voting during election time. We have entered an era where interactive technologies and a renewed idea of citizenship are enabling us to experiment with alternative notions of sustainability and to share knowledge in increasingly dynamic ways. We now see artists working alongside policy makers, policy makers collaborating with citizens, and citizens helping cities diagnose their problems more accurately.

What emerges, then, is a community where the local and global are balanced and mediated by the city at large, and where local resources and know-how are given wider legitimacy as meaningful problem-solving tools in the quest for urban and cultural sustainability. Here, innovation is intended as a catalyst for social change — a collaborative process through which residents can be directly involved in shaping the way a project, policy, or service is created and delivered. A shift from control to enablement turns cities into platforms for community empowerment — holistic, living spaces where people make their voices heard and draw from their everyday experiences to affect change.

So be surprised by how walks have the power to make neighbourhoods more vibrant, and how art can be used to convert dull city intersections into safe community spaces. Learn how creative interventions can unleash spaces for reflection and participation, and witness how online resources can lead to offline collaboration and resource-sharing. See how the values of Web 2.0 translate into the birth of the open government and open data movement, and what a holistic approach to financing can bring to local communities and cities alike.

This is what place-based creative problem solving looks like in action. This is the power of the everyday.

About the author

Chiara Camponeschi works at the intersection of interdisciplinary research, social innovation and urban sustainability. Originally from Rome, Italy Chiara has been involved with creative communities in Europe and North America for over a decade.

Chiara’s commitment to social change is reflected in the broad range of activities she enjoys participating in. As an advocate for youth empowerment and intercultural dialogue, she has worked with international organizations ranging from the UN-level to the grassroots. Her experience includes organizing sustainable development initiatives, animating the web’s largest multilingual community for youth and coordinating the efforts of over 180 online volunteers coming from all corners of the world. She has spoken about the power of ‘social networks for social change’ at several high-level events such as the International Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the European Commission in Belgium, and has shared her insights about ‘enabling’ frameworks for participation at the inaugural SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, as well as the White House GreenGov Symposium in Washington, DC.

Chiara has also donated her time across a wide variety of initiatives, collaborating with organizations such as Green Cross Italy and serving as member of the CIVICUS Youth Assembly Planning Committee and UNESCO’s Sectoral Commission on Culture, Communication and Information. For her work with Enabling City, Chiara was selected as Italy’s only Oxfam Action Partner for 2010-2013, and was recognized as a Young Agent of Change by Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation (2011).

A 2013 Trudeau Scholar, Chiara holds a Master in Environmental Studies and a BA in Political Science & Communications Studies from York University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Geography with a focus on participatory approaches to urban resilience to climate change.

Watch this space for updates on upcoming projects and collaborations. For research, partnership or consulting requests, please email: enablingcity@gmail.com


To celebrate the release of Enabling City Volume 2: Enhancing Creative Community Resilience, we’ll be running a series of events in Europe and North America throughout 2015, with more events around the world coming in 2016. Stay tuned for updates about upcoming events near you!

coming up

In February 2015, Chiara will be a Guest Lecturer at The New School’s Cooperative Urbanisms course, where she will also be leading an event called Exploring Creative Community Resilience as part of an international series exploring cities, climate change, and civic imagination. Featuring presentations from Adapt NY, Solidarity NYC and many others, the event is designed to stimulate a dialogue around climate governance and how it extends to questions of wellbeing, quality of life, and social justice.

In March 2015, Chiara will be a speaker at Smart City Expo in Montréal, Québec, a sister event of Barcelona’s Smart City Expo & World Congress.

In May 2015, Chiara will be a guest speaker at Future Week Malmö and will be hosting a second Exploring Creative Community Resilience event in Copenhagen in June.


In September, 2014, Chiara led a webinar exploring the connections between social innovation and resilience. Part of the Cities for People initiative, the webinar marked the launch of an online learning series curated by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and SiG–Social Innovation Generation.

In May 2014, Chiara was a speaker at the Open Guelph Change Camp in Guelph, Ontario.

Check out Global Innovators, a 9-part series curated by Enabling City for Shareable Magazine. We wrapped up the series in October 2013, and over the course of 7 months, showcased the stories of inspiring community leaders from around the world, covering a rich variety of themes that explore ‘enabling’ frameworks for participatory social change. Click here to read more!

In June 2013, Chiara was a presenter at ICLEI’s Resilient Cities, the 4th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation in Bonn, Germany. She spoke at the InContext Final Conference & Informed Cities Forum in Berlin, and joined a dynamic group of participants at The City Resilient, a summit organized by Pop Tech in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Chiara was a guest lecturer at Carleton University (January 2013), a panelist at FCM’s Sustainable Communities Conference in Windsor, Ontario and a guest lecturer at Parsons The New School in NYC (February 2013).

In December 2012, Chiara spoke about ‘social innovation as a form of active citizenship’ at The Hub Rome’s An evening with… event. In November 2012, Chiara was a panelist at The Nameless City – Urban Forests in Rome and joined FORUM PA’s Meet the Smart Cities webinar, an event organized to celebrate the launch of Italy’s Smart City Exhibition 2012 in Bologna, Italy in October.

In August 2012, Enabling City was featured in Microtask’s new book, Short Stories About Tiny Tasks: Microtasks, Crowdsourcing and Gamification.

In June and July 2012, Chiara was a Guest Contributor over at Get Resilient, a web-magazine sharing insights and ideas on resilience thinking, addressing “complex issues with engaging articles written in plain English.”

Chiara also contributed a chapter to City 2.0: il futuro delle città, a book on sustainable urbanism published in support of Energia Spiegata – Festival dell’energia, Italy’s largest energy conference bringing together leaders in policy, industry, academia and the grassroots to explore solutions to today’s most pressing energy challenges. The Festival took place in Perugia, Italy in June 2012.


In January 2012, Chiara led a seminar on Pop-Up Democracy at York University in Toronto as part of the joint Goethe Institut – CITY Institute series on The Future of Cities.

In December 2011, The Enabling City was invited to join a global network of “digital influencers” for a special briefing preceding the 10th annual Public Services Summit in Oslo, Norway. Hosted by CISCO in conjunction with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, the summit took place between December 9-11th, and was covered on Enabling City Twitter feed.

In October and November 2011, Chiara was a speaker at the inaugural SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, a presenter at the Tactical Urbanism Salon in Long Island City, NYC, as well as a panelist at the White House GreenGov Symposium in Washington, DC and the Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain. She also led a webinar for The Natural Step Exchange.

Selected articles

Selected mentions