Problems and Purpose
Ataldegmè (Emilian expression that means: "I tell you") is a civic participation initiative promoted by the Municipality of Soliera to carry out projects in favor of the local community. The protagonists of the initiative are the citizens, neighborhoods and hamlets of the Municipality of Soliera. Citizens can propose innovative projects and interventions to the Municipality to redevelop the territory, promote social cohesion, support young people and support culture. The Municipality of Soliera undertakes to co-finance up to four projects each year, one for each district or fraction, supporting citizens in civic fundraising activities (crowdfunding). The process started on January 28, 2016 and closed on December 3, 2016.
"The spirit of the project is: if you care, contribute", explains the mayor of Soliera Roberto Solomita. "In a phase of low political and civil participation, we believe that it is necessary to experiment concrete forms of involvement of people, starting from the needs of their community and its territory with the possibility of influencing and deciding on projects and not only of being listened to and expressing opinions ”.
Background History and Context
Soliera is a town in the Modena plain, located 12 km north of the capital. Like all the municipalities of the already reclaimed territories of the fertile Emilian plain, from 1881 until 1931 its population doubled up to 11,000 inhabitants. Already since 1936 there has been a relative decline, reaching, in 1971, 9,300 residents. This is understandable: agricultural mechanization and industrial urbanization have displaced populations towards larger centers and major industrial centers. While pursuing and developing its agricultural and livestock characterization, in the 1970s, with the growth of the knitwear district of nearby Carpi and the establishment of other medium and small mechanical engineering companies, outsourcing and metropolitan urbanization, the population returned to grow rapidly, reaching over 15,000 inhabitants . The population of non-European origin is around 15%. The political tradition is typical of the Emilian plain. Majority of the Italian Communist Party, then PDS, center-left and Democratic Party (PD). In the last elections of 25 May 2014, the mayoral candidate of the PD-SEL coalition (Sinistra Ecologia e Libertà) and Soliera Futura was elected with 64% of the votes, of which 56% PD (10 seats) and 4.3% Soliera Futura ( a supporting non-partisan civic list). As a new political challenger, the 5 Star Movement makes its debut in Soliera, obtaining 18.2% of the votes and 2 seats on the Council.
The election campaign of Mayor Roberto Solomita was characterized by a dozen public meetings, open to all citizens, to "write together the government program for the 2020 Soliera" . In its 10-point program, the fourth point will be reserved for a project called Open Municipio with which it is intended to organize "a civic fundraising for investments: citizens choose and support the projects to be implemented" .
This project will start in the second year of its mandate, in 2016, with the title “Ataldegmé. I participate for Soliera. Make your community more beautiful! Civic participation initiative of the Municipality of Soliera ”[link]. The project is presented in a public meeting on January 28, 2016 . Two days earlier, in the City Council, the PD majority had voted on the new referendum regulation, reducing its popular accessibility and scope, and the M5S group left the courtroom in protest .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The promoter of the project is the Municipality of Soliera and in particular the mayor (R. Solomita) with his staff (Emilio Teglio) who had included a project of this type in the mandate program. The Municipality co-finances most of the expenditure requested by the 4 projects (from 60 to 80% based on the amount of funding) for a maximum total amount of 80,000 euros, but leaves the proposers with the task of providing for the remaining fundraising. The municipal fee is calculated on the basis of the total amount requested by each individual project in this way: for total amounts of less than 5,000 euros, the municipal fee will not exceed 60%; between 5,000 and 1,000 euros, the municipality will contribute a maximum of 70% and for amounts between 10,000 and 25,000 the municipality will contribute a maximum of 80% (Comune di Soliera, 2016-a, p. 3).
The Municipality makes its offices, offices and the support of the neighborhood councils available and offers technical support, identifying the suitable platform, in this case Derev.com, which retains 5% of the funds raised, It also entrusts the facilitation to professionals who they take care of the discussion and voting phases of the projects. The facilitation was handled by Noema SrL empowering cities of Modena; the modality of assignment of the assignment was not found, it is probably direct (without public tender) and its extent, which is not detectable from the project pages on the municipal site. Probably the total expenditure destined to the project itself, therefore also, but not only, to the payment of the facilitators, is 10,000 euros .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
All citizens residing in the Municipality of Soliera can apply for a project, in relation to the neighborhood or hamlet of residence, and non-profit or mutual aid subjects who have their headquarters in the Municipality of Soliera. In the case of schools, kindergartens or infant-toddler centers, parents, teaching staff and management councils can present projects. In this case, the district or hamlet in which the school is located is valid, and not the residence of the proponents (Municipality of Soliera, 2016-b, art.3, p. 2). In the project voting phase, each neighborhood council organizes a public meeting conducted with inclusive techniques, during which the selected projects are voted on by citizens residing in the territorial area (neighborhood) to which the project refers (Ib. , art. 6, p. 6). Self-financing activities, on the other hand, are open to the contribution of everyone, including private sponsors as long as they do not exceed 50% of the total funding necessary for the project as individual contributions (Ib., P. 8).
Methods and Tools Used
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Once the project start-up notice has been issued and the project publicly presented (January 27, Castello Campori), the contact person for participation activities is identified in each district or hamlet in the figure of the District President or his delegate. Furthermore, the maximum total amount that each project must not exceed to be admitted (€ 25,000) and the amount of funding on which the Municipality contributes is declared. It is the task of each district to promote the project in its own community, also through the organization of dedicated initiatives (Municipality of Soliera, 2016-b, art.6, p. 5).
All residents can submit their proposals, using the appropriate forms, within about 50 days (by 10 March), "possibly making use of the District Councils that will be able to organize information meetings and provide a support service to citizens for the presentation of the proposals or with the collaboration of the competent Offices "(Ib., art. 6, p. 4).
Subsequently, the municipal offices in collaboration with the district and district councils carry out a preliminary examination of the admissibility of the projects, identifying those that meet the criteria of technical and economic sustainability, or that meet the criteria for correct and adequate presentation of the proposal, or even that in the description and presentation of the objectives they meet the selection criteria indicated by the regulation (Ib., art. 6, p. 7); the areas are limited to: projects for young people and promotion of culture; social cohesion activities; regeneration projects, urban redevelopment (Ib., art. 1).
By March 30, 20 days after the end of the period for sending proposals, a meeting is convened for each district or fraction in which the projects relating to each area, subject to obtaining the positive opinion of the Council, are presented, compared and enriched from the contributions of all participants, through the adoption of inclusion and participation techniques and making use of the support of facilitators specifically identified and made available by the Municipal Administration. In this phase, the projects presented can change, join together giving life to new projects, or possibly withdraw. The competent municipal offices and the district or fraction councils will then proceed to examine the merit of the projects, expressing an evaluation for each of them based on the following criteria and assigning each project a score from 1 to 5 for each criterion:
- Quality of the project and consistency with the established goal
- Feasibility of the project idea and economic congruity
- Sharing and usability for the local community
- Originality and innovative character of the project, able to offer added value compared to the ordinary activities of the Municipality
Each district council selects up to a maximum of 3 project proposals from among those that obtained the best score in the evaluation phase (Ib., Art. 6, p. 5).
The projects selected (eg volunteering for severely disabled children, redevelopment of public parks, artistic revisiting of bus shelters, naturalistic classrooms in the Secchia river, redevelopment of the park and classrooms of a school, equipping an exercise park) by the district councils are advertised on the site website of the Municipality and through traditional communication channels and social networks, with the support of the neighborhood councils. The methods of publicizing the projects on the municipality's website are very scarce, these are the various forms provided for the proposals, compiled and scanned, handwritten, in b / w, no illustration From this moment the promoting groups could be activated on the territory , in order to inform fellow citizens of the proposals presented and promote the voting of projects. The path and the various projects were also promoted through facebook. Up to this stage, the ataldegmé FB page did not host external contributions, so a survey of the FB pages of each district council and connected users should be carried out to detect spontaneous initiatives up to the vote.
From 11 to 17 May, each neighborhood council organized a public meeting conducted with inclusive techniques, during which the selected projects were put to a vote by citizens residing in the area to which the project refers. Project promoters are asked to present their project in the way they deem most suitable. The project that receives the most preferences moves to the next stage. In the case of projects that receive an equal number of preferences, the one with the highest score in the evaluation phase by the district council passes to the next phase.
Then, again, the competent offices examine in detail the economic plan and the technical feasibility of the most voted projects, expressing their opinion on the overall congruity of the project presented. It will be the task of the competent offices identified to approve the technical feasibility and economic adequacy of the proposal voted by the citizens and adapt it to the real costs to be incurred for its realization. If the selected project is not considered suitable in one or both aspects by the competent offices, the second most voted project proposal will be evaluated; if also in this case the evaluation is negative, we will proceed with the third proposal. In the event of a negative evaluation of the third proposal as well, the resources allocated to that district for the year in question will not be allocated.
If the cost of a project, quantified by the proposers below the maximum threshold, is found to cost, following verification by the competent Offices, more than the maximum threshold envisaged, the Municipality reserves the right, if the conditions exist, to approve the project in any case, except that the municipal share will remain fixed at a maximum of 80% of the total sum, with a consequent increase in the share charged to the collection of private funding.
In the case of particularly complex projects, such as public works for which it is necessary to obtain permits and estimates from other bodies or public service companies, if the days provided for the quantification of the proposals are not sufficient, the Municipality will have the right, through the competent Offices, reserve the right to make prudential cost estimates based on previous experience in this case. On the basis of these estimates, the dues to be paid by the Municipality and fundraising will be calculated. If, once the collection has started, the real cost is lower than previously estimated, the lower expenditure will lower the co-financing share of the Municipality. (Ib., P. 7). From the survey of the FB pages of the project, it can be seen that about 300 citizens participated in the public voting assemblies (post FB of 19 May). In the pages of the project there are no reports on the actual initiative and aggregate data, or minutes or other reports.
Self-financing activities (Crowdfunding)
On May 19, the Municipality of Soliera publishes the ranking on its website, at the same time it launches the self-financing campaign by the winning projects. Within the following 90 days, the promoters of the beneficiary project will have to take action to raise the funds necessary for the implementation of the planned activities, using various self-financing methods.
- Fundraising activities: organization of self-financing events (dinners, demonstrations, dedicated events, etc.) and other fundraising methods
- Search for sponsors with private partners: project promoters can make use of partners who support the project financially or through the free supply of products or services
- Crowdfunding activities: fundraising from individuals, associations, committees, etc. through one of the online platforms specifically dedicated to this type of collection
The platform, which will be identified and activated by the Municipality of Soliera and made available to the promoters, will operate in an "All or nothing" mode, ie by providing for the return of the sums to the donors in the event that the pre-established economic objective is not achieved. In the economic planning phase of the project, the commission due to the platform will be taken into account, deducted from the total amount collected only in the event that the economic objective is reached or exceeded.
The promoter must collect the entire sum due to him for the realization of the work (net of the percentage paid by the Municipality of Soliera) through the crowdfunding platform: any contributions collected through offline fundraising activities (events, dinners, events, sponsorships) must in any case be transferred to the platform by a person in charge of the specific initiative (event organizer or delegate of the group / organizing committee, sponsor, etc.), who has made a specific communication to the Municipality.
Contributions from individual citizens greater than or equal to 50% of the amount to be collected through self-financing for the realization of the project will not be accepted. If the sum raised through self-financing activities is higher than the threshold set for private subjects, the portion due to the Municipality of Soliera will be reduced by the same amount. If the economic objective is not reached, the sums will be returned by the platforms to the donors. For payments made by the person in charge relating to traditional fundraising (events, dinners, lotteries, demonstrations, etc.), the same person will be responsible for the return procedures to individual subscribers, using the forms provided by the Municipality of Soliera and in compliance with the rules and options that will be reported there (Ib., P. 8). Finally, the Municipal Administration takes care of the realization of the projects, which will obtain the economic coverage to guarantee the start of the activities within the year following the one in which the public notice and project selection is issued.
In this phase, various offline activities emerge from the recognition of the FB pages (parties, dinners, events, street performances, street art) also promoted by videos and online photo reviews. In addition to FB, the Derev.com platform (list of projects) will be used, which includes the fundamental online financial collection tools (crowdfunding) for the promotion of projects. The platform retains a percentage of 5% on the shares collected .
If the percentages envisaged in the fundraising phase are reached, the promoters provide all the necessary documentation to advertise, in accordance with the principles of transparency and accountability, the sources of self-financing and the amount of the shares collected. If the percentages provided for in the fundraising phase are not reached, the project is not carried out and the resources are returned to the donors. The Administration then proceeds to advertise, also with the support of the Fraction Councils, the outcome of the fundraising campaign, and in particular which projects have been financed, which were the sources of financing, which are the objectives and expected results. . Finally, the Municipality proceeds to carry out the projects that have successfully completed the fundraising phase within the following year from the issue of the Notice (Ib., P. 8).
The fundraising campaign ended on September 19 and the 2016 projects were all funded. In addition to the 4 neighborhood projects, the SOS Scuola project for the support of serious disability of young people of school age was added to the projects included in the Derev platform, on the proposal of the Soliera Centro District Council, obtaining a special mention as a pilot project . Fundraising for this project ended at the end of January 2017. In the self-financing campaign, a total of 14,767 euros were raised in three months .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
“The Municipality has already entered its co-financing share, equal to 80% of each project, in the Municipal Budget and from the beginning of 2017 the four projects will be launched. But the adventure continues. The second year of the project begins in January 2017! " (cit., Municipality of Soliera, project page). Influence towards administrators seems to be maximum; However, considering the type of policy and its size, overall empowerment is downsized. It is in fact a distributive process, almost a Participatory Budget, therefore of simpler competitive conflict than antagonistic and of limited value: 80,000 euros (municipality of 15,470 inhabitants) out of a 2016 budget of about 12 million euros , they are 0.66%. Citizens alone have collected, also thanks to some sponsors (eg Foundations) a sum of almost 15,000 euros in three months, well exceeding the minimum established target and therefore going to reduce the municipal quota. Transparency and reporting are rather neglected in the dedicated page, however it can be seen from the rapid recognition on social networks, to which almost all the dynamic information (such as news) has been entrusted, that the process has entrusted greater importance to communication on social media and in reality face to face, however generating trust in the participants, in particular the group of young people (Artline) and SOS Scuola, and in the community in general, involving and cheering them up, reproducing relationships, conviviality and a sense of place. So trust seems to have increased. However, there are some issues that should be better clarified. For example, from the posts on the FB ataldegmé page and from the report by F. Ozzola, slide n ° 8, it emerges that the projects presented were 17 and 13 were considered admissible , while only 9 are listed on the municipal website page eligible projects. Therefore, this inconsistency is not clear and there is no transparency - at least public and formal - on how the evaluation and selection by the district offices and councils took place. The project was agreed only with them and it seems that a preliminary sharing on the project with the political actors of the opposition, public and private actors of welfare, young people, volunteers and culture seems to have been completely lacking. It is not possible to detect if a monitoring program is foreseen during the implementation phase of the projects, but it seems quite obvious that the proposing subjects will have to be necessarily involved given that each project foresees their contribution. support, nor regional certification required by the Emilia-Romagna regional law 3/2010 is requested, but is interested in doing so in future editions .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In this type of process, according to its slogan "If you care, contribute!" citizens are asked not only to propose a project and support it. If you ask for a voluntary financial commitment for a common good then you cannot disappoint the citizens, it would make no sense if there were uncertainties; money here becomes a symbol of appropriation and almost a guarantee. Disappointing the citizens would be too dangerous. From the vision of the videos and the communication preparatory to the path it clearly emerges that the mayor believed in this path, probably thanks to the good basis of civicism and trust - from the solid political tradition that was illustrated in the paragraph dedicated to historical and geographical notes - and therefore favored by the strong social cohesion that still exists and by the still quite widespread well-being, despite the economic crisis. It should be noted the reactions of the most critical community actors, the political opposition forces for example and their attempted or non-involvement. A fear may be to relegate true participation to even genuinely regenerative distribution processes such as this - without sharing the modalities of development with the council oppositions or any antagonistic actors (committees) - then leaving the strong knots of territorial conflict to the exclusive negotiation between authorities of various levels (including municipalities) - better connected and incentivized to the transfer of power upwards (depowerment) if there are party affiliation relationships - and strong actors, private or almost. Signals such as the raising of the requirements (high number of signatures for the composition of the referendum committee and for the calling of referendums, the narrowing of the periods of the year for its development) and the reduction of the decision-making scope (lowering of the maximum number of the questions that can be submitted to the vote by referendum) of the tools of popular democracy, support this hypothesis .
 Istat demo, Demographic balance 2015 - Municipality: Soliera
 PdMoMag, Soliera, Roberto Solomita "We write the program together", 22/2/2014> link
 PdMoMag, Soliera, Roberto Solomita talks about his program in the video "The future in concrete", 21/5/2014> link
 M5S Soliera - New Referendum Regulations - We did not vote! 27/1/2017> link
 Interview with Emilio Teglio (project manager as Staff of the Mayor) of 18/10/2016.
 Presentation on the project by Filippo Ozzola (Noema) at the conference “Innovating democracy. Soliera between democracy and civic fundraising ", Soliera, 3/12/2016> http://www.comune.soliera.mo.it/servizi/gestionedocumentale/visualizzadocumento.aspx?ID=6943
 Sassuolo 2000.it, Soliera, 2016 budget approved, 23/12/2016> http://www.sassuolo2000.it/2015/12/23/soliera-approvato-il-bilancio-di-previsione -2016 /
 Modena Today, Soliera, the first municipality in Italy that offers civic fundraising through Crowdfunding, 27/1/2016> http://www.modenatoday.it/ricoltura/soliera-primo-comune-italia-raccolta-fondi- civic-crowndfunding.html
Municipality of Soliera (2016-a) Public notice for the presentation of projects relating to the civic participation initiative “Ataldegmé. I participate for Soliera ", 21/1> http://www.comune.soliera.mo.it/upload/soliera/gestionedocumentale/AvvisoPubblicoAtaldegm_21gennaio2016._784_6610.pdf > link copy
Municipality of Soliera (2016-b), Experimental regulation. Participation project “Ataldegmé. I participate in Soliera "> http://www.comune.soliera.mo.it/upload/soliera/gestionedocumentale/RegolamentoprogettodipartecipazioneAtaldegme_784_6606.pdf > link copy
Municipality of Soliera - Ataldegmé. I participate in Soliera> http://www.comune.soliera.mo.it/servizi/Menu/dinamica.aspx?idSezione=616&idArea=27910&idCat=27910&ID=27910&TipoElemento=area (ril. 26/2/2017).
Facebook page - Ateldegmé. I participate for Soliera> https://www.facebook.com/ataldegme/
Crowdfunding platform Derev.com> Soliera projects> https://www.derev.com/discover?term=soliera (ril. 26/2/17)