The Regione Lazio held the first Deliberative Poll® ever conducted in Italy to get the views of 150 randomly selected citizens about difficult budget choices facing the region.
Problems and Purpose
In December 2006, the Latium Region became a 'public square' for one day. In order to pass the Financial Bill and the Annual and Long-term Budget 2007-2009, the budget, economic, and participation departments of the Region organized meetings all over the region, with the aim of facilitating the involvement of the widest possible inhabitants. The citizens’ response was quite positive. The process culminated in a deliberative poll held on December 3, 2006 at the Region’s headquarters. A sample of 150 citizens debated several important issues on the region’s political agenda such as health care, transportation, environment and education.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The event was designed by the Regional Government of Latium with the assistance of the consulting firm, ISPO and in collaboration with the Center for Deliberative Democracy headed by James Fishkin, the developer of the Deliberative Polling method, and Reset, a political magazine. The final event was held at Latium Region’s headquarters, in Rome.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The meetings were held all over the region, in 20 different towns, gathering about 1000 persons. By means of a CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) poll, a representative sample of 2,000 people over eighteen was selected. Among these, a sample of 150 –representative of the entire population in reference to age, gender and social condition- were selected and invited to a whole day of discussion with work groups and plenary meetings at the premises of the Region. The participants received a voucher of 100 euro and a refund for the travel expenses.
Methods and Tools Used
Generally speaking, this initiative is an example of participatory budgeting, a method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations.
This specific case made use of the Deliberative Polling method and forums in Italy to deliberate several important issues of the region's political agenda. The process involved surveys and questionnaires being distributed to a randomly selected sample of the population, as well as discussions between these citizens and other experts.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
To allow participants to debate the issues, the Region provided a guide summarizing information and expert views on the issues. The first survey was carried out at the regional level with the use of the CATI method (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview). In November, public meetings were carried out; anybody had the opportunity to access the documents of the process through the Region’s website, and to suggest (via website, fax, or e-mail) his/her suggested priorities of the budget. At the beginning and at the end of the event, participants were asked to again fill out the starting questionnaire. The deliberative poll was chosen also because it allows organizers to verify the opinion of informed citizens on the issues at hand. Maximum communication, information and diffusion was aimed at through this process, by means also of the local URP (Office for Public Relations) and the activation of a toll-free number.
Following the public meetings, the main deliberative event with the randomly selected citizens (150 in total) was held. Divided in ten groups, the participants discussed with one another, and asked their questions to “neutral” experts.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The poll’s results were presented on January 8, 2007. The Region committed itself to include the outcomes in its policy choices.
At the end of the meeting, 85% of participants reported increased knowledge of health policy and regional finance; 90% (compared to 75% at the opening of the event) answered that health care is the most important policy of the regional budget; people who knew the number of beds in excess have passed from 7% to 58%. Opinions also changed: 62% agreed to exchange hospital beds for resources to improve the efficiency of other facilities (before the discussion was 45%). In the other policy areas, citizens would use available financial resources to strengthen eco-friendly mobility, improve the waste recycling and for restructuring school buildings.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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This entry is missing citations. Please help us verify its content by adding footnotes.
http://lazio.partecipato.it/files/2010/07/Libro-bilancio-socialexweb.pdf [BROKEN LINK]
http://www.sviluppo.lazio.it/Archivio/7/focus_ii_06.pdf [DEAD LINK]
http://www.regione.lazio.it/binary/web/economia/DOC_PARTECIPAZIONE_Bil.2007.1168941231.pdf [BROKEN LINK]
http://www.regione.lazio.it/binary/web/economia/DOC_Partecipazione%2007-09.1164217219.pdf [BROKEN LINK]
http://lazioincomune.eu/documenti-per-gli-enti-locali/102-studi-e-ricerche-sulla-pubblica-amministrazione/114-latlante-della-partecipazione-del-lazio.html [DEAD LINK]