The Deliberative Budget of Turin
- General Issues
- Specific Topics
- Budget - Local
- Scope of Influence
- Start Date
- End Date
- Time Limited or Repeated?
- Repeated over time
- Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
- Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
- Spectrum of Public Participation
- Open to All or Limited to Some?
- Open to All
- Facilitator Training
- Professional Facilitators
- Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
- Types of Interaction Among Participants
- Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
- Express Opinions/Preferences Only
- Information & Learning Resources
- Written Briefing Materials
- Decision Methods
- Idea Generation
- Communication of Insights & Outcomes
- Public Report
- Public Hearings/Meetings
- New Media
- Type of Organizer/Manager
- Local Government
- Type of Funder
- Local Government
- Evidence of Impact
- Implementers of Change
- Lay Public
- Elected Public Officials
- Appointed Public Servants
- Formal Evaluation
- Evaluation Report Links
Covering two, two-year budgeting cycles, each in a different district, the City of Turin’s participatory budget successfully combined formal, deliberative modes of participation with less formal or involved methods to include as many people as possible.
Problems and Purpose
The deliberative budget of the city of Turin was created to involve citizens in the management of public expenditure in two city districts, each of which received 500.000 Euros for allocation using the participatory process. The municipality required that funds were to used for the revitalization of public spaces in whatever way the public felt best and/or necessary. The budget combined formal, structured deliberation with more informal channels of participation to attract as many participants in the process.
Background History and Context
The process was launched in 2014 thanks to the will of the Budget councilor. His intention was to task the Laboratory of Policies (LaPo) of the University of Turin with designing the processes. The plan foresaw the organization of a four-year project, divided into two different cycles. The first two years were devoted to the deliberative budgeting in District 7, between 2014 and 2016. The subsequent two years, from 2016 to 2018, were spent for the deliberative budget in District
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The project was promoted by the Municipality of Turin, in particular by the Budget councilor, with the consultancy of the Laboratory of Policies of the University of Turin (LaPo also collaborated with the Centre for participatory democracy, an association devoted to the promotion of participatory practices, and Avventura Urbana, one of the main facilitation companies in Italy). The funding was completely provided by the Municipality, which covered all costs: 1.000.000 euros for the public works (500.000 for each cycle), 100.000 euros for the design and conduction of the two processes from 2014 to 2018, and 10.000 euros for the production of a final report on collaborative processes and the evaluation of both cycles.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The two Steering committees were composed of majority and minority district councilors, the LaPo team and public managers of the Municipality.
All residents of District 7 (first cycle) and District 1 (second cycle), could participate to the first-phase open-door meetings.
The members of the Deliberative Commissions were randomly drawn up among the participants who candidate themselves during the first phase.
The final votes were open to all Districts’ residents who were at least 16 years old.
Methods and Tools Used
The two Deliberative budget cycles combined elements of the participatory approach (flexible and open-door meetings, soft facilitation, recourse to vote), and the deliberative approach (rigid and closed arenas, strong facilitation and search for shared solutions), in order to find a good mix that could maximize the potentials of both models at the same time limiting their respective pitfalls. An online platform was available for remote participation during the initial idea-generation phase.
The public was again called upon during the implementation phase. The winning project, the development of a green space, required architectural planning and design and city officials decided to involve citizens in the process. According to the official website of the budget, the collaborative planning process had "the [same] characteristics of the deliberative model" including:
- thematic meetings , each focused on one of the functions of the planned works (public green, sports and outdoor activities, accessibility of the park)
- open to everyone
- structured starting from the options identified by the technicians
- conducted by professional facilitators
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The first cycle began with a series of training meetings for public officials, organized to illustrate risks and opportunities of citizens involvement and improving their skills. At the same time, a Steering committee was set up. Besides the experts of the Laboratory of Policies, the Steering committee was composed of majority and minority District councilors, the Budget city councilor and the general manager of the District. The role of this committee was to take some important decisions on the design of the process and supervise its implementation.
At first, an informative document explaining the characteristics of the public budget, the main steps of the project and some territorial features of the areas subjected to the intervention.
Eleven open-door public meetings followed while people not able to attend added proposals on the online platform. The open-door meetings served to collect residents’ needs and their perceptions on the problems of their territory. All the meetings were transcribed and the reports were uploaded on the website within a few days. The result of this phase was synthesized in the ‘needs’ map’, which was posted on the website and used as starting point for the subsequent phase.
The third step consisted in the creation of a ‘Deliberative commission’, composed by 16 drawn citizens, 12 of which drawn by lot among participants to the public meetings and 4 among those elected through the website. The role of the Commission was to work together with public officials to develop a ‘basket of projects’, namely a list of shared equivalent projects. The projects had to be equivalent in the sense of costing about the same amount of money and addressing the problems emerged from the first participation phase. Again, all the meetings of the commission were transcribed and the reports were uploaded on the website within a few days.
Three equivalent projects emerged from the committee's work: one focused on public works in some public schools of the District, one focused on the requalification of three public spaces in order to make them more accessible and appealing for teenagers, one focused on the requalification of six small green areas of the District. Only one of these projects could finally be financed and the choice among the three was opened to the whole population of the District (about 90.000 residents). The project of requalification of small green spaces obtained the majority of the votes.
The implementation phase was managed by the municipality, but the staff of the Laboratory of Policies accompanied the municipal technicians and civil servants with the details of the project. A new participatory phase was open with the residents around the specific green areas, in order to design with them the features of the requalification interventions in each area.
The second cycle followed a similar path, but with some changes in reaction to the weaknesses and problems of the first cycle. Like the previous one, it also provided for the composition of a Steering committee composed of majority and minority District councilors, the experts of the Laboratory of Policies, and the general manager of the District. Unfortunately, no representative of the new local government accepted to take part in the committee and this made all the steps a little more difficult and tortuous. Unlike the first cycle, in this case, the Steering committee was firstly tasked with selecting a specific deprived or neglected green area on which to concentrate public works and funds. Ultimately, the committee chose, the “Clessidra Park”, a wide neglected green area on the border between District 1 and District 8.
A team of 21 municipality technicians was set up, with the aim of supporting the committee in its choices and citizens during the deliberative phase and another information document was produced and uploaded on the website.
Again, a first phase of six open-door assemblies was organized to construct a map of the critical issues and opportunities of the green area. All the meetings were transcribed and the reports were uploaded on the website within a few days.
Ten residents among the participants were drawn up to form the Deliberative commission. The task of the commission was again to formulate at least two shared equivalent projects, among which the residents of the District 1 would have chosen through the on-line vote platform. In parallel with the commission, an online channel was set up on the website to collect suggestions and proposals. The commission met for a month and a half and each session began by examining the ideas and comments received through the website. Again, all the meetings of the commission were transcribed and the reports were uploaded on the website within a few days.
Finally, two projects were formulated: one focused on sport facilities, the other on a mix of outdoor activities (sport facilities, relax areas, and an urban agriculture area). This second project won with 65,6% of the votes and the city Council introduced it in the 2017 budget plan.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
As far as the first cycle is concerned, all the requalification interventions were completed within two years.
As far as the second cycle is concerned, when the implementation phase started, the national railway company (RFI) announced the intention to complete the securing work and the surface exits of the underground railway network, which passes under the green park. These public works were planned in the Nineties and then shelved for decades, and the Municipality was not aware of the RFI’s intentions when the second cycle began.
The approved project was therefore partially modified through a new participatory window, in order to update it in the light of the new big infrastructures that will change the appearance of the park. However, the municipality still has to negotiate some of the proposed modifications with RFI. On the whole, the implementation of the project will be postponed until 2020.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In 2015 the first cycle received the World Best Practice award by the Observatory on Participatory Democracy. On the whole, it can be stated that the participatory tools favoured the social legitimacy of the processes, while the deliberative phases helped guarantee a certain level of institutional sustainability, reducing frictions, resistance, and conflicts with politicians and civil servants. The effectiveness of the two processes was affected by several factors, also independent from the processes design, but two main features of the processes seemed to have helped their capacity to affect official political decisions: the conduction by expert and autonomous organizations and the action of a team that worked as director, following directly all the phases of the processes and accompanying the implementation of the projects. Finally, the facilitators have proven to be a very useful resource in the attempt to combine deliberative and participatory dynamics. All the discussion meetings were highly respectful and the interactions of the participants were somewhat fruitful.
Although these significant achievements, this experience was characterized also by problematic aspects. Some categories of citizens did not participate and several politicians and some citizen committees remained skeptical, or even contrary, towards the processes.
“Bilancio Deliberativo,” Comune di Torino, http://bilancio.firstlife.di.unito.it/
Stefania Ravazzi, Universita Degli Studi di Torino, http://www.didattica-cps.unito.it/do/docenti.pl/Alias?stefania.ravazzi#profilo
Official Website: http://bilancio.firstlife.di.unito.it/