Citizens deliberated on the renovation of public squares in Montale, Italy, taking different perspectives into account, including those of minorities and disabled individuals. The result was a successful participatory decision to make some major construction modifications.
Problems and Purpose
The participatory process “Planning our square together” ("Progettiamo insieme la nostra piazza") took place in the town of Montale over 6 months. The process started with the presentation of the proposal to an assembly in February 2010, and it ended with a final assembly in June.
The main goal of the process was the renovation of the central square: the definition, through deliberative citizen engagement, of the functions and aesthetics of the central squares of Montale (Piazza Matteotti and Giovanni XXIII) and of the surrounding area, with consideration of such aspects as livability and mobility.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The neutrality of the project was ensured by a Guarantee Committee, formed by the Vice Mayor, two retired teachers, the director of the Post Office, and the local doctor. The process was managed by a specialized consulting firm. Experts, such as an architect with experience in participatory planning, assisted participants in planning the renovation of the squares.
The total cost amounted to €42,500, €32,000 of which were contributed by the Regional Participation Authority of Tuscany.
Participation Recruitment and Selection
External consultants had different functions such as group management, random selection of the jury, and documentation of the meetings. The activities were open to all interested citizens through invitations by mail. In the initial assembly, 100 people were present. The same number participated in the subsequent meetings, and 50 citizens participated in the laboratories during the 'Day in the square'. Shopkeepers of the area around the squares were also involved in ad hoc Focus Groups. In the second phase, a random sample representative of the population was selected. 31 attended the first meeting, while 27 attended the second. The final meeting was attended by 50 people. Students and teachers of the Art Institute of Pistoia Petrocchi collaborated with the project by producing drawings of the squares. Particular attention was given to involving vulnerable and disadvantaged minorities, such as immigrant and the disabled. Care was also given to equal representation of gender, age, and different parts of the municipal territory. Each participant received a guide with explanations about participatory practices and the specific project.
Methods and Tools Used
Citizens engaged in deliberation on the renovation of the public squares through a series of meetings and workshops to take many different stakeholders' perspectives into account. As requested by the shopkeepers of the adjacent area, there was also a Focus Group specifically dedicated to this group.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The project used different participatory approaches: public meetings, school workshops, and an entire day in the square. The project was divided into different actions: Preparation of materials and logistics, establishment of the Guarantee Committee, and choice of methodology for participant recruitment.
Four information and discussion meetings, which lasted two and a half hours each, were held in different areas of Montale: the main town and three smaller villages. Participants were divided into groups, and worked in planning laboratories. Fairness and equal access to the discussion were ensured by facilitators as well as by the constant monitoring of the Guarantee Committee.
The day in the squares involved an exhibition called "The square I want" which featured drawings by the students, and design workshops for all citizens.
A citizen jury, formed by randomly selected citizens, worked two days to collate the information received from the community, and present the outcomes of the participatory events. The approaches used included brainstorming, construction of scenarios, and discussions. The process concluded with a final assembly in June. The results reached by the jury included: connecting the two squares, creating pedestrian areas (with access limited to public buses), the removal of car parking places in Piazza Matteotti, and the reduction of car parks in Giovanni XXIII Square.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
Citizens were informed of the process by means of stands located in different areas and in the squares themselves, posters, leaflets, press releases, and a website (accessed by over 700 users). All the material produced, including transcripts of local meetings, were published on the dedicated website and made available at the Municipality. Difficulties arose in engaging citizens living in more remote areas. Major difficulties were also encountered in recruiting members of the jury because of the unavailability of citizens. The internet participation rate was also low, despite the fact that a considerable number of persons registered on the website. The evaluation questionnaires indicate a high degree of satisfaction by participants.
This entry is missing citations. Please help us verify its content by adding footnotes.
http://www.consiglio.regione.toscana.it/partecipazione/documenti/RelazioniFinali-Progetti/RelazioneFinale_ComuneMontale.pdf [DEAD LINK]
http://www.montale.latuavoceconta.it/ [DEAD LINK]