A series of discussions and deliberations oriented towards encouraging more sustainable habits and lifestyles. After the project's conclusion, many participants were better informed about sustainability issues and ready to accept the proposals generated in the meetings.
Problems and Purpose
With a large focus on young participants, a series of meetings explored and evaluated how Comunità Montana’s residents could make their living habits more environmentally-friendly. The project developed around several issues: renewable energy (water saving), waste reduction & recovery, responsible tourism, sustainable mobility, responsible saving, and short distribution chain.
Background History and Context
The Comunità Montana is the Italian administrative body that coordinates the municipalities located in mountainous areas. It is responsible for administration and economic development. Previously, the Comunità Montana of the Amiata Grossetano had activated Agenda 21 plans such as “Amiata Condivisa”. “Sustainable Lifestyle in Amiata Grossetano” is also applicable to other administrative entities. The town of Castel del Piano was selected as the base for the project, because it is the municipality within the Comunità Montana with the largest population and the most young people. Furthermore, in the past, Castel del Piano had activated similar projects about waste reduction and Maintenance of Green Areas, and Tarabaralla Cultural Association had already cooperated with the Comunità Montana. This made Castel del Piano a place that seemed likely to adopt innovative plans. The population in the other municipalities belonging to the Comunità skews older, leaving it more likely to care about social services rather than the environment.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
“Implementing Sustainable Lifestyle in Amiata Grossetano” was a plan promoted in 2009 by the local Comunità Montana (Mountain Area Community) with the Tarabaralla Cultural Association and funded by the Region of Tuscany Participation Authority.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
120 citizens took part in the project, recruited from those who were involved in the “Agenda 21” project, so they were already sensitized to environmental issues and familiar with participatory processes. Distance partially discouraged participation. The presence of invited citizens belonging to vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities, different cultural groups and disabled people was not recorded. The sample of people who participated was mainly formed by young students and middle-aged citizens.
Methods and Tools Used
BarCamps were used initially to identify issues for discussion during subsequent thematic meetings. Following these meetings was a World Cafe and focus groups during which participants compiled self-evaluations of their living styles. The results were presented during a plenary meeting. All meetings were attended by professional facilitators.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
This first part of the participatory process lasted one day (06/27/2009) and involved 25 individuals, 70% of whom were people in the younger age brackets. This phase of the project used a BarCamp to identify issues for discussion in the subsequent thematic meetings. Issues that emerged from the BarCamp were: renewable energy (water saving), waste reduction and recovery, responsible tourism, sustainable mobility, responsible saving, and short distribution chains. In the second part of the project, a meeting was dedicated to each issue. A total of seven encounters took place (in premises provided by Castel del Piano Municipality). The meetings were held from September to December. The first five meetings involved 55 people and nine experts. Participants were very enthusiastic and got involved with competent experts. The sixth encounter was a World Café, involving fifteen people. Small groups discussed the issues and reflections emerged from the meeting. The next encounter was a Focus Group where participants compiled a self-evaluation form about their living style, especially about consumption and pollution (25 forms were filled out). During the last meeting (held on 12/27/2009), the final results of the process were presented.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
As a result of taking part in the process, several participants seemed to be ready to change their lifestyle in order to make it more sustainable (especially concerning energy and water use). Many more seemed ready to reduce the waste they produce. Methods used in the process were appreciated as very participatory and effective. On the other hand, the process revealed substantive differences between different administrative levels (i.e. the Municipalities and the Comunità Montana), especially in connection to water conservation.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The use of deliberative methods and the management of meetings by professional facilitators ensured that everyone had the chance to express their opinions. At the same time, facilitators applied the methods with flexibility and helped create an informal atmosphere to the meetings that favoured dialogue. Facilitators also helped ensure neutrality and impartiality. Events and the results were advertised through internet or printed materials.
Participants stated they were satisfied with the methods used — 70% of them said that they were ready to accept the proposals resulting from the process. Participants were particularly satisfied about the contribution of the experts to the discussion. It is worth noticing that encounters lasted longer than planned because people wanted to continue the discussion. Unfortunately, not many people attended for the reasons explained above. In any case, a part of the community was sensitized to the issue.
 Ufficio Tecnico Comunità Montana Amiata Grossetano, Relazione finale Progetto “Stili di Vita Sostenibili nell’Amiata Grossetano”. http://www.consiglio.regione.toscana.it/partecipazione/documenti/RelazioniFinali-Progetti/RelFinale%20ComMontAmiata.pdf [DEAD LINK]