It was October 2012, a cold winter, when a Systemic Strategist and a Visual Anthropologist started a collaboration in a former nuts and bolts factory, the MAGE of Sesto San Giovanni (Italy).

There were wi-fi, ceiling and floor, but no hot water, nor heating at all.

Although it’s not always true that innovative ideas can see the light only in difficult conditions, so it was in this case.

We had a 2000kw heater on the legs, frost all around, and everything was so new and beautiful, despite the cold. At the beginning, the idea of a place where tailors, craftsmen, architects, woodworkers, consultants, bike repairers, nerds and ceramists could coexist, cooperate and make projects together was so strange that we thought it should be the only case in the World.

What was the MAGE? Not just a coworking, not just a workshop, not a just makers space, not just a FabLab, but it was a bit of it all. It was everything and it was nothing. So we began this research, to discover what the MAGE was and what it was becoming.

It was how to navigate in the open sea. At first, we tried to understand the governance system structure and how the rules were generated. But the results of the first drafts sent to international conferences, “it’s completely a mess”, suggested us that perhaps we were too into the process, and it was necessary to move away and see it from far away, assuming another point of view. So, we made our first trip, in the Deep South of Italy, in Basilicata, a region unknown to most people, including Italians. In Lauria, in the middle of nowhere, we found small, innovative companies that cooperate with institutions to create a new economy based on the creation of a network. Then it was time to go to one of the most innovative cities in Europe, London, where Building Bloqs is trying to create an environment to let people reinvent their jobs in a creative way. It was so strange to find the same answers in the mouths of people living so far, with such different backgrounds. And so exciting.

At this point, it was clear that all these experiences were expressions of a wider, European phenomena. To understand this better, after London we went to Lisbon, Berlin, Potsdam, Barcelona, and the research has been going on …

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