Circularicity is a participatory process initiated by the Municipality of Capannori to involve citizen and stakeholder collaboration in respect of the circular economy and sustainability. Five selected projects were partially financed through crowdfunding.
Problems and Purpose
Circularicity is a participation path promoted by the Municipality of Capannori and co-financed by the Regional Authority for Participation to experiment innovative and sustainable ways of collaboration between public bodies and citizens in the context of the circular economy (Link 1 - Description of the path).
The Municipality of Capannori aimed to: stimulate and strengthen innovative civil society projects in terms of sustainability, recycling, and creative reuse; encourage flexible and lasting forms of citizen participation in public spending through bottom-up financing tools that are able to animate the community around the project and integrate public resources; experiment with forms of collaboration between citizens, institutions, and communities with more agile solutions than normal administrative action (Ib.).
Background History and Context
Capannori is a town in the plain of Lucca, with 46,000 inhabitants, covering an area of 156 km2. Its population has not undergone major fluctuations from the end of the nineteenth century to today. Characterized by intensive agricultural settlements, abundant water reserves, mountain valleys and alluvial plains, it is still the center of gravity of the paper district that has a centuries-old tradition dating back to the thirteenth century. Its plain has certainly densified with infrastructures and industrial warehouses which has meant environmental issues—in particular waste and mobility—have made themselves particularly felt. It was in Capannori, towards the end of the 2000s, that the coordination of Zero Waste Italy arose, a campaign against the incineration of waste which maximized waste differentiation through door-to-door collection and recycling.
The administrative tradition, from the postwar period to 1995, when the large mass parties crumbled after Tangentopoli, has been characterized by a Christian Democratic prevalence. They have almost always led the common center-left coalition governments. Since 1997, the territory of the municipality has been affected by strong conflicts for the planned installation of three incinerators which would then be abandoned following the mobilization of an "Environment and Future" committee in which innovative awareness was formed that led the municipality to take "concrete steps towards Zero Waste” (Link 1 - Research center project).
In particular, it was during Del Ghingaro's long period from 2004 to 2014 that innovations were introduced in the field of waste management (door-to-door collection) and later also of participation in municipal choices. After Del Ghingaro, Luca Menesini (PD), former president of the Province of Lucca, won in the first round with 57.2% as leader of the center-left coalition. In his program, the calls to participate recur about twenty times. It is talked about in general, as an approach to accelerate decision-making processes, albeit through the lens of efficiency.
Menesini's program says (translated from the original Italian),
"There are many ways to write a program. We have chosen a fast but intense method of listening, comparison, synthesis. With the same method, we are applying to administer Capannori. We have proposed, since the primary, many opportunities for comparison. Then we launched "Dicci la tua", a month-long campaign in which hundreds of citizens left their proposals, observations, suggestions in markets and thematic meetings, in the Committee's mailbox, on Facebook or on social networks, in meetings in countries and with simple chats along the way. We put them together, assembled them, crossing all the proposals with two other points of reference” (Menesini, 2014, p. 2).
Participation is present as an administrative method in the ability to set shared objectives (Ib. P. 15) through a concrete method of participation that can take an example from the participatory budgets experienced in recent years, which have defined a model of citizen involvement, without weighing on the timing and efficiency of the decision-making process. Concretely, they are a method of consultation with social partners and with stakeholders of the respective areas of competence for the strategic planning that underlies the adoption of the budget, as well as a method of consultation with citizens for projects of strategic importance (Ib.). He also added "Progetto di punta: ‘Sindaco con te’, a project that enables the ability to speak with the mayor without an appointment once a week and to make reports or ask questions via a special mobile phone, WhatsApp, SMS, email, or Facebook (Ib., P. 15).
On the waste cycle, Menesini intended to continue to support the Zero Waste Research Center which has given excellent results on the responsible involvement of producers for waste prevention (e.g. coffee capsules), and to support other projects with various experiments: diaper laundries reusable in nurseries, withdrawal of coffee grounds from bars for their reuse in the production of mushrooms, spreading refill systems on tap, incentives for self-composting to reduce organic waste, etc. (Ib. P. 20).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Municipality of Capannori is the promoter and the territorial authority of the process. The person in charge of the project was Emanuele Pasquini, the chief of staff of the mayor Menesini with training in political science, and former manager of Confesercenti .
Sociolab is a cooperative society which started from a group of young researchers in Florence working in a garage in 2007, and has become a welcoming office where several partners and many collaborators work (Link 2). They deal with research paths, involvement, and transformation in various areas, including: city, territory, and civil protection to plan with citizens to build awareness and sustainability; social cohesion; equal opportunities, economy, work, and business; life quality; and social and cultural innovation (Link 1).
Eppela, an online crowdfunding platform created by the Preview Srl of Lucca, was a collaborator of the project.
Zero Waste Research Center was coordinated by Rossano Ercolini, historical leader of the Italian zero waste movement. It is a project supported by the Municipality of Capannori, which has two fundamental objectives: 1) to improve the levels of interception of materials that are improperly disposed of as waste; 2) to study those flows that cannot be recovered or that can be difficult in order to redesign these processes with the producer (Link 2 - Research center project).
Labsus, the subsidiarity laboratory. Its objectives start from a certainty that people are bearers not only of needs, but also of skills and that it is possible that these skills can be made available to the community to help solve problems of general interest together with public administrations. It deals with the dissemination of the principle of subsidiarity (Article 118 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic) and with analyzing and testing its applications (Link 3 - Who we are).
Tuscany's Regional Authority for the Promotion of Participation (APP) is the regional office that oversees the application of Law 46/2013 for the promotion and technical-scientific and financial support of participatory processes. This project is co-financed, but the entity is not clear (Link 4).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The control room was made up of the municipal administration as well as circular economy and crowdfunding experts.
A public tender was issued for the collection of project ideas to be transformed into feasible and sustainable projects with a course of tutoring and accompaniment. Anyone over the age of 16 could participate, including immigrants and organizations (Municipality of Capannori, 2016).
A mapping of the potentially interested actors was then drawn up by the Control Room and a Circularity Tour started in the hamlets of the territory to promote the project and tell the announcement and support the candidacies.
Acceleration concerns the phase in which the selected ideas were transformed into projects and prototypes. In this phase, mentoring meetings and the Circularicity Camp were held between the groups of proposers, the experts, and the facilitators, with representatives from the different area assemblies and the heads of the various associations.
Crowdfunding was the phase in which the project, published on the Eppela online platform, sought community support. All those who visit the pages of the site and decide to make a payment in support of a specific project or not are involved.
Methods and Tools Used
Control Room is a multi-actor or multi-authority table in which a process expert (who is also a cabin actor) discusses how to design and program, in whole or in part, a participatory process.
Public announcement is a notice to access a resource (generally public, as in this case) presenting certain requirements. Here, it was a project idea on the theme of the circular economy.
Mentoring meetings are meetings between groups inspired by an idea and more experts to which they are subjected.
Circularicity Camp is the title of a two-day immersive workshop organized according to the Social Innovation Camp method. It is a competition between innovative ideas, which uses the web, in which—as in this case—the commercial strategy is first defined with the tool of the Business Model Canvas, a time schedule and a commercial plan (Business Plan) are constructed, and crowdfunding strategies are defined. The Business Model Canvas, conceived by Alexander Osterwalder, is a graphic scheme to identify the most suitable model for your business enterprise.
The plan / commercial project (Business Plan) is a document that summarizes the contents and characteristics of an entrepreneurial project. It is used for planning, business management, and external communication, in particular to potential lenders or investors.
Crowdfunding is an online crowdsourcing system, i.e. the global public presentation of an idea in order to obtain subscriptions, contributions, and as in this case, economic funds to support one or more ideas.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Control room. Two meetings were necessary for the organization of the control room, the first on 13/1 and the second on 7/2, at the town hall with managers from the culture, economic, welfare, and environment sectors as well as Eppela's consultants. Sociolab presented the project and two territorial support facilitators were selected. After the second meeting, the call was launched with a public notice (Municipality of Capannori, 2016), which provided for different types of actions. These included cultural projects, related artistic productions, peer-to-peer sharing of services which promote sustainable behaviors, such as the fight against food waste; interventions for the recovery of social and territorial marginality: e.g. experiences of exchange of time and skills involving unemployed people, asylum seekers, pensioners, and students in the enhancement and protection of the territory, activation of small communities, initiatives for the recovery of circular culture, economic activities included in the waste valorisation cycle, in the production of new materials, or in the production of waste materials (Ib., p. 2-3).
Presentation tour. From 27/3 to 3/4, the presentation phase of the project was held in the hamlets. These were three meetings held in public rooms in the late evening (17: 30/18: 00) and on weekdays. The announcement was presented, clarifications given, and an example was shown for filling in a facsimile of the application form for participation in the announcement (Link 5).
Preliminary training meetings—mentoring. In three meetings, from 29/5 to 6 June, from 17:00 to 19:00, with experts and aspiring designers, participants began to make known how projects can be created on the subject, with a focus on objectives, partners, actions, and resources needed. Using the Business Model Canvas, they were introduced to Eppela's crowfunding and finally to the Business Plan, in preparation for the Circularcity-camp (C-camp). In this phase, some documents were made available on the secrets to win the tender and ideas for the circular economy (Link 5).
Project selection. In the meantime, as per public notice (Municipality of Capannori, 2016), 43 ideas were received by 26 April, many more than expected. Of these, 23 were admitted to the course, but were divided into two groups. A first group of 13 started immediately with the C-camp scheduled for June, while a second group was to start in autumn 2017 .
The proposed ideas were evaluated by a jury composed of: 2 delegates from the Administration, 1 representative of Eppela, 1 of the Zero Waste Research Center, 1 representative of Labsus, and 1 representative of Sociolab. These first 13 projects could therefore participate in the C-camp.
Circularicity-camp (C-camp). It started on 9 June (from 14:30 to 22:00) and closed the next day, from 10:00 to 17:00, at the Technological Center of Segromigno. Its goal was to create the best possible conditions for groups to continue working on projects until they are implemented. It was considered a structured moment of "acceleration" that allowed participants to:
- “Share objectives and central actions for projects” (Link 5);
- "Build close-knit work teams that see the collaboration of the proponents, the managers of the various area assemblies and the representatives of the various associations active in the area and willing to support the project in its implementation";
- Plan the work that will follow the conclusion of the project and accompany the implementation phase of the proposals (Link 5);
The C-camp eventually produced a further selection. In the end, 9 of the 13 selected ideas participated (it is not possible to understand whether due to defection or aggregation of the groups) and another 5 were selected . Among these, there were the following projects:
- Redirect (Di.Segno and Cresco Labs): a 3D printer that produces specialized objects and products from plastic;
- Miniere Urbane (Legambiente): for the recovery of components of electrical and electronic equipment
- ConServe (Caritas Lucca et al.): aims to create a small laboratory against food waste;
- Giovan'orti (Odyssey): for the recovery of land and work;
- Il vero mercato del baratto (group of indigenous young people): for the exchange and gift of unused objects through an unconventional currency: the 'lillero'.
Eppela crowdfunding platform. From 26/9 until 15 November, the five projects could implement the crowdfunding campaign through social channels, field campaigns, networking, presentations, etc. to make the project known and seek supporters and financiers. All five projects managed to reach 50% of the widespread funding, obtaining not only general approval from the local population, the community, but also financial and collaborative support; at the public presentation, the mayor gave a symbolic check to each group with the amount of the second part of the 50% that the municipality had committed to investing 20,000 Euros in this new way of creating a sustainable local economy .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The projects were therefore funded but there is no development monitoring phase. The local community likely stayed in touch through social networks and each project will have its own, autonomous tools. In fact, some are already online, such as Miniere Urbane and Lillero. The site of the first is not yet complete enough with contents, in particular the item "Governing Bodies", but it seems they have already started the activity (Link 6). The second has a promotional site with an already active blog and has started the first barter experiment with a bar set up in the southern area of Capannori (Link 7).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The project follows some very coherent stages, first creating a cohesive control room where authorities and partners clearly share and commit to the journey. The process of involvement of the territory, above all of the most interested actors, solicited their adhesion and therefore a solid sharing of the path. A collegial commission-jury for the evaluation of the projects presented, enabling the inclusion of authoritative territorial actors on the subject. The process involved openness to ideas, including individuals or spontaneous creative groups or in collaboration with organized actors. The solicitation of collaboration for public goods had an adequate public incentive, in terms of process and communication support and in financial terms. Crowdsourcing online tools as auxiliary systems of communication and civic/democratic selection of projects increased representativeness and selection/reduction of complexity.
However, there was a lack of transparency in the information on regional co-financing, lack of minutes or videos in the solicitation and development phase of the C-camp and project evaluation minutes, and the absence of an ex-post monitoring program. The evaluation commission-jury played a key role in this process but in the absence of minutes, it is difficult to analyze their task. There were two selective steps, probably necessary, which restricted the number of possible projects which would require adequate resources in training, in experts, support in the crowdsourcing campaign and in municipal funding. The merit-based principle was defined by some criteria established by the jury, in order of importance: quality of the idea, interpretation of the concept of circular economy, impact on the municipal territory in terms of response to an effective social need, environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, capacity networking, cross-sectoral approach, degree of technological innovation, and use of technology. But after the first evaluation which selected 23 projects out of 43, the jury moved on to the development of the projects and to a subsequent evaluation which reduced the projects to 5. It would have been scientifically curious to investigate the effective validity of the principle with the awareness of the participants, perhaps leaving, both in the first passage and in the second, a place of access to a project drawn by lot, in order to create a "witness" project to carry out comparative ex-post analyzes.
Menesini, L. (2014), Facciamolo, ora! Ascolto, confronto, decisione (government program). Retrieved 5/30/21 from https://www.comune.capannori.lu.it/fileadmin/user_upload/Documenti/sindaco/programma-governo-menesini.pdf
Municipality of Capannori (2016), Assessorato alla partecipazione, Avviso pubblico di partecipazione al bando di idee, http://open.toscana.it/documents/397731/0/bando+circularicity... (release 12/2/18).
Link 1: Sociolab, Participation and Social Research, Florence> http://www.sociolab.it/cooperativa/ (ret. 11/2/18). [DEAD LINK]
Link 2: Centro di ricera Rifiuti Zero (Zero Waste Research Center), Capannori. Progetto Centro di Ricerca, http://www.rifiutizerocapannori.it/rifiutizero/progetto-centro-di-ricerca/ (ret. 11/2/18).
Link 3: Labsus, The shared administration of common goods, Progetto. http://www.labsus.org/progetto/ (11/2/18).
Link 4: Regional Authority for the Guarantee and Promotion of Participation, http://www.consiglio.regione.toscana.it/oi/default?idc=47 (11/2/18).
Link 5: Circularicity, Open Toscana, http://open.toscana.it/web/circularicity/home#tavoli (11/2/18).
Link 6: Miniere Urbane, Raw material recycling> http://www.miniereurbane.it/index.php/miniere-urbane/chi-siamo (11/2/18). [BROKEN LINK] Update: similar information may be found at https://www.miniereurbane.it/index.php
Link 7: Il Lillero, the real barter market, https://lillerobaratto.it/
 Municipality of Capannori, Top Administrative Positions - Head of Cabinet> http://www.comune.capannori.lu.it/node/14660 (12/2/18) [BROKEN LINK]
 Municipality of Capannori (2017, May 11). Sono 23 le idee selezionate per il progetto di partecipazione civica 'Circularicity', http://old-www.comune.capannori.lu.it/node/18073 [BROKEN LINK]
 Municipality of Capannori (2017, June 14). Circularicity, selezionati i cinque progetti che saliranno sulla piattaforma Eppela per il crowdfunding civico, Open Toscana> https://www.lagazzettadilucca.it/piana/2017/06/circularicity...
 Municipality of Capannori. (2017, November 17). Successo per "Circularicity": tutti i progetti saliti sulla piattaforma Eppela hanno raggiunto il 50% del traguardo, https://www.altopascio.info/2017/11/17/capannori-successo-per-circularicity...