Participatory Budgeting in Milan - Cycle 2017/18

First Submitted By riccardobuonanno

Most Recent Changes By sergiosilva

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Planning & Development
Science & Technology
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Government Spending
Budget - Local
Start Date
End Date
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Deliver goods & services
Direct decision making
Civil society building
Spectrum of Public Participation
Total Number of Participants
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Negotiation & Bargaining
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Participant Presentations
Video Presentations
Written Briefing Materials
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings
Public Report
New Media
Type of Organizer/Manager
Academic Institution
Local Government
Horizon 2020 - European Union programme, Call: ICT-2015/H2020-ICT-201, grant agreement n. 687920; Municipality of Milan
Type of Funder
Local Government
Academic Institution
International Organization
Evidence of Impact
Implementers of Change
Appointed Public Servants
Elected Public Officials
Stakeholder Organizations
Formal Evaluation
Evaluation Report Links

The Milan EMPATIA project pilot is a learning story. From the “Monitoring Cycle” of unsuccessful Milan previous PB it leaded to implement a new Deliberative Cycle of PB aimed at transparency and meaningful application of the citizens proposals and decisions.

Problems and Purpose

The Italian city of Milan has been the first Italian metropolis which first implemented a city-wide Participatory Budgeting, in 2015. In a particular political phase of urban mobilization, it has generated great participation and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the PB process carried out was widely lacking and produced a great disappointment, due to the limited implementation of the projects and to a lack of information and collaboration. In particular, the most relevant criticisms pointed were:

  • top down approach of the PB, designed without any preliminary participatory process;
  • lack of information and guidelines about both methodology and objectives;
  • mismanagement of the time: process too short (to finish before the summer break), superficial technical review, rushed co-design of the citizens’ proposals;
  • failure to implement a great part of the winning projects;
  • limited use of online participatory tools, just during the voting phase;
  • failure in involving decentralized administration and resulting local representatives discontent;
  • reduction of 50% of the estimated budget.

The City administration was already aware of these problems and was trying to solve part of them and to rebuild the lost or weakened trust. In particular, the delegate councilor was actively organizing informative meetings involving the decentralized administrative bodies - the districts - and the citizenry. Despite this commitment, the Municipality interpretation coming from these exchanges was to avoid completely any kind of facilitated face-to-face meetings in order to distinguish this PB edition from the previous one. The new PB should have been 100% online and provided at least some public spaces to accommodate meetings self-organized by civil society [1]. EMPATIA project perfectly matched with this situation, offering methodology, tools and experience.

The purpose of the organisers was to plan and implement a new process that was able to identify and resolve (at least in part) the problems of the previous one and to carry out a successful PB including citizens and decentralized administration. 

Respectively, the municipality goals focused firstly on avoiding the mistakes of the first PB edition (e.g. lack of transparency, limited implementation of projects and citizen monitoring), secondly on meeting the priorities of the new administration’s political programme, such as a greater understanding of the suburbs. Thirdly, they aimed to comply with the new administrative reforms that turned the districts more independent and autonomous from the central government [2].

While, the EMPATIA Consortium main objectives were to test the software for the “Monitoring Cycle” of previous processes and to reinforce some specific aspects: 

  1. Efficiency, optimising time spent by citizens and municipal staff; 
  2. Transparency, providing information about the implementation of the projects; 
  3. Replication and adaptation, reusing the tools in different contexts; 
  4. Inclusion, lowering the barriers to participation. 

With these purpose, the platform should optimize the information stream from the administration towards the citizens, improving the organization of the municipal staff in providing updates about the state of the art of the winning projects. From the citizens perspective the platform should, in turn, increase the transparency of the administrative procedures to implement the projects. This objective is also in line with the municipal goal as the precondition to start a new PB edition. Finally, the prototype developed in Milan should be able to be replicated in other cases and other contexts different from the Participatory Budgeting.

The common objectives has been generated from the encounter of a set of needs from the Municipality and a clear methodology already implemented in several other experiences in Italy, which was welcomed and personalized by the administration. If we were to summarize the main goals that the new PB process should have guaranteed, they would be the following:

  • Trust. The new PB edition must regain the confidence of those who participated for the first time and not incur on the same mistakes as the last one.
  • Transparency. It is a goal and a mean at the same time. The distrust of the people could only be faced by an adequate information about the problems and difficulties inherent in the implementation of the winning projects, a clear presentation and refinement of the rules of the game before the game starts, a constant and accessible information about the PB process.
  • Interaction. The new PB should not be seens as an external project ran in a top down approach, but a process where citizens must feel able to collaborate and set the rules together with the Municipality, and with limited external support.
  • Inclusion. The new PB edition had to reach the suburbs and those citizens that usually do not interact with the Municipality and take into account the needs of the disabled persons.
  • Institutional cooperation. Being a district PB - the budget is distributed within each of the 9 districts - the new PB process should have a broader inclusion of the 9 Districts in the management and the decision-making.
  • Feasibility. The projects to be voted and funded have to be clearly reviewed to check its feasibility.
  • Participation. The new PB edition had to overcome the problems of the old one while ensuring at least the same level of civic engagement.

All these objectives had to be pursued with limited budget for the organizational costs [3].

Background History and Context

The Italian pilot of EMPATIA project is settled in the city of Milan, the second largest city in Italy of about one million of inhabitants, located in the North of Italy. Milan is the financial and economical capital of the country. The new Milan administration, elected in 2016 (same coalition, different major and council), aimed to keep implementing the Participatory Budgeting in the city, which was developed for the first time in 2015 by the previous administration. However, there were some issues regarding the previous PB process which caused substantial mistrust and scepticism among engaged citizens: first of all, few of the 16 winning projects were actually implemented or started, and many of them had (and still have) technical problems which were delaying the execution; moreover, the process was too short and insufficiently transparent, and it did not involve the 9 districts of the city, despite having a district PB focus. Finally, the previous PB process was almost entirely offline, mainly based on face-to-face meetings. The website was informative and the online participation was limited to the voting phase, using an external and non-open source e-voting platform. The new PB had not only to be restructured but count on half of the budget: the pot of money for the new PB was 4.5 millions of euro, 500.000 for each district, instead of 9 million - 1 million for each district - as the previous PB.

The new administration established a dedicated Councillor for Citizen Participation (henceforth called “Councillor”) who is also in charge for the Open Data. His commitment with PB, and his proximity with the University of Milan, has therefore push forward the idea of making the city of Milan one of the fourth official pilot of the project [4].

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The Milan PB 2017-2018 has been supported and funded by different key actor, in particular: the Municipality of Milan; the European Union through the EMPATIA Project - Enabling Multichannel PArticipation Through ICT Adaptations, funded by Horizon 2020 EU programme, Call: ICT-2015/H2020-ICT-201, grant agreement n. 687920; the UNIMI - University of Milan, developer of the openDCN platform that supported the “Deliberation Cycle”, and other members of the EMPATIA Consortium.

Since the very beginning, the organizer team suggested to the Municipality to create a steering group responsible for defining and following the process and to meet regularly, in order to advance with the design process and potential delays. The suggested steering group should have included the staff of the Councillor, the technical officers, some representatives of the districts and of the communication office, the Delegate of the Mayor, and the EMPATIA team. However, this steering group was not formally created and the meetings did not follow a clear timeline. This slowed down the implementation and the requirement gathering process, thus affecting the quality of some strategic decisions (like the uncertainty about the organization of face-to-face meetings) and the understanding about the rules of the process among the municipality staff. This lack of governance was acknowledged as a problem only during the first phase of the DC, and it was solved by setting steering committee and having weekly meetings [5].

The head office of the Municipality of Milan for communication was responsible of the dissemination of the pilot as well as to set the guidelines for the corporate identity, while the Department for the Citizens Participation was responsible for organizing the face-to-face meetings and to manage the dedicated social media channels of the PB [6]. In particular, in Milan the process was championed by a member of the city government, Lorenzo Lipparini, that belongs to a small party, partito Radicale supporting the majority that controls the city. The party is so small that does not have a representative in the city council. Lipparini’s role within the city government is to promote participation and manage the open data strategy of the city. His office is relatively new (Assessorato alla partecipazione, cittadinanza attiva e open data) and does not have a dedicated line of funding. The office has a staff of three person that supports all its activity including the pilot promoted by EMPATIA. In particular a member of the staff, Simona Bonfante, played a key role as project manager of the more than 50 face-to-face events coordinating the city staff and the staff of the University of Milan. Bonfante devoted hundreds of hours to the process outside her working hours. The mayor of Milan supported the process with an initial presentation and a few videos during the electoral campaign. One of the key sponsor of the project was a senior member of the city staff, Eugenio Petz, that secured the collaboration of other members of the various departments involved in the evaluation of the feasibility of projects. One of the most successful elements of the Milan pilot is to the level of engagement of city bureaucracy. Nevertheless, with respect political will and available resources Milan represents the prototypical situation in which a small minority within a city government is strongly motivated to support a participatory process, but the rest of the city machine is somewhat reluctant to offer its resources. In this situation the potential of the participatory process cannot be fully achieved [7].

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The Milan 2017-2018 PB was an open process, where all residents and city users (over the age of 16) were invited to participate at various phases. However, the city channels of communications were only partially available to be used by the engagement campaign of the process. It was difficult for the Milan team to obtain spaces in the Milan newsletter and in the official Facebook page of Milan. The city investment in communication was minimal, with Facebook and Google ads in the order of 10.000 Euros. The major expense was dedicated to public billboards and a tram that was going around the city with a banner about participatory budgeting. The city did not allow the team to send emails to their email repository of citizens that possess the digital identification to access e-government services. This email list contains more than 100.000 members and would have multiplied the engagement capabilities of the process. The city allowed only a test in which 20.000 citizens were contacted that immediately resulted in a significant spike in voting. The team estimates an increase of 3.000 votes due to this test, around 15% conversion rate with just one email. If the entire mailing list had been available together with the possibility of multiple reminders, such as the ones employed for the surveys, our experience suggests a conversion rate of 25-30%, i.e. the pilot of Milan could have engaged additional 20000 people easily on top of the approximately 22.000 people engaged in the final vote [8].

Our impact evaluation surveys show that the majority of participants were new participants (83% of the people interviewed). The engagement analysis revealed that 36.87% has been invited to participate by some friends; 13.88% were a member of a group that participated in the PB; the 12.80% came to know the process by the city newsletter; the 10.57% joint from an event organized in the districts; the 7.76% has been contacted by a group he/she was not a member of; and 6.64% other channels (open text). If we sum the participants that were members of a group and those that were contacted by a group they were not member of, we see that 21.63% of the respondents declared they were contacted by group. And while analysing the open answers in the other option we also find that a majority of them can be linked to a social street (an online community of the citizens residing in a street), a political party, a group of parents within a school, and other form of associations [9].

In addition to the channels of the engagement campaign, there were several meetings with the main actors of the process, along the way: the municipal officers, the districts, and civil society organizations. In almost all the meetings, the draft PB process has been presented and questions, feedback and proposals to improve it has been collected. In detail:

  1. a workshop with the municipal officers, held on January;
  2. a third party event in which the actorse were invited to discuss about the participation in the city and to present the guidelines of the new PB (February, 9th);
  3. a series of meetings with the districts (started on February and ended on April 2017);
  4. a series of meetings with the technical officers to discuss any possible integration with the Municipal tools (authentication, civil registry, etc.);
  5. a series of meetings with the responsible person of Milan’s communication office, to define the visual image and the platform layout;
  6. internal meeting with the Councillor and his staff, to define the rules of the game and to write the Patto di Partecipazione (Participation Pact);
  7. a large and public event with citizens and civil society organizations, held in July, after the official launch of the process;
  8. a meeting with disability advocacy organizations and the Delegate of the Mayor [10].

Methods and Tools Used

The Milan pilot consisted of both cycles of the participatory process: Deliberation and Monitoring Cycle. While the first cycle was designed to be highly participative, the second suffered a lack of interactive features.

The MC in Milan was configured as a mere information 1.0 site. Citizens could monitor the progress of the projects that were selected during the Milan PB process of 2015-2016 but only the municipal staff - through the back office - could input and organize the information about the state of the art of the projects and determine how it would be communicate to the citizens. The site aimed at showing the administrative and field-work steps that the Municipality uses to organize its activities. Each webpage of the site was dedicated to a specific project and used several tools - such as GANTT charts and tables with the predicted dates of each work phase - to describe its progress. The DC followed a consolidated process developed and tested for many years in some Italian cities (Canegrate, Rho, Cascina, Cernusco Lombardone, etc.). The same methodology is now adopted in some important metropolises such as Madrid, but it was never tested in large cities in Italy. 

This cycle was performed by the openDCN platform already developed within UNIMI to support this kind of PB. The DC consisted of three main phases:

  1. creating and supporting proposals;
  2. reviewing proposals and co-designing projects;
  3. voting projects.

All the residents and city users aged 16 or over could participate (henceforth referred simply as “citizens”) all along the process. With the exception of phase 2, the PB process was performed exclusively with online tools. Despite no face-to-face meetings been originally foreseen by the Municipality, as it will be described later, they instead became the backbone of the first phase, contributing to important positive results.

An innovative element was introduced in this mechanism to improve the role of the districts within the PB process: the “bonus”. The idea of the “bonus” was borrowed from the PB of the city of Monza, where the districts (consultative bodies made of local associations) ranked all the projects according to their preferences, thus increasing the vote of each project accordingly. In the Milan PB the bonus consists of an increase of 10% on top of the votes received, assigned to the finalist projects by external evaluators. The rules for the bonus were: the districts gave bonus to those projects which comply with their political priorities; the Delegate of the Mayor gave her bonus to the projects that are proved to be responsive to the needs of the disabled people. The content of the projects that are worth to get the bonus was defined before the beginning of the PB process.

Information and open data received particular attention in this pilot: the open data platform of the Municipality was linked within the openDCN platform; the database of all the tariffs were analysed by some international students from the Bocconi University in order to make them understandable by the citizens and usable to draft their proposals [11].

Technology/ Tools

The EMPATIA platform has been used to support the Monitoring Cycle, available at the URL The platform was used to keep the winning projects of the 2015 PB process always visible and available to the public, while updating information about their implementation. Before starting the DC, the platform also hosted all the informational pages regarding the pilot: the infographics and the news on the participatory process, as well as the events organized by the Municipality. It is important to emphasize, and as previously described, that the winning projects of the PB 2015-2016 did not correspond to unique public work or activities. Rather, they are the aggregation of different “sub-projects” which share a similar subject (schools, sidewalks, etc.) in the same neighbourhood. The subprojects are the real activities that the Municipality had to implement and to supervise. Each page of the site was dedicated to a specific project which had, in turn, several monitoring tools to describe its progress, such as GANTT charts and tables with the predicted dates of each work phase. The configuration chosen by the Municipality exploited only a small part of the platform. In fact, the Municipality preferred not to use interactive tools like discussion forums. Citizens could only read this website and the data it contained. Among the features envisaged and developed but never activated there were:

  • the button to follow the projects;
  • the notification system (in order to be updated about the projects);
  • the posts published by the proposer in the proposal page.

Because of these restrictions, there were no need to activate the registration procedure. Therefore, citizens can only read this website and the data it contains and leave his/her email to receive information through, for instance, mailing list or newsletters [12].

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

On May 2017 the “Monitoring Cycle” of Milan previous PB has been launched.

EMPATIA provided the platform with tools to enable the tracking of implementation of projects, and the transparency of data. On a later stage, the openDCN platform, developed by UNIMI, was introduced to support the project on the Milan new “Deliberation Cycle”. The PB process will end in March 2018.

Monitoring Cycle

The MC is the cycle that was fully implemented with the EMPATIA platform. It consisted of an ad hoc configuration of the platform where the winning projects are described, and the phases of its implementation can be monitored by citizens. In detail, the description of each project is the same description that appeared in the voting phase of the previous PB edition and it consists of a:

  • title;
  • short description;
  • details;
  • required budget.

Information presented there also made available the number of votes that each project has collected. In addition to these data, there are also the list of the interventions, or “sub-projects”, which compose the project. It should be noted that the projects that the citizens of Milan voted for at the end of the PB 2015-2016 were grouped into initiatives, that is, smaller “sub-projects” with a common subject or neighbourhood, put together under a unique name. These initiatives are the most important ones because they represent the real activities and works to be monitored, since each one of them is under the responsibility of a specific officer.

Each intervention has also its own page which consists of:

  • title;
  • description;
  • georeferencing;
  • estimated cost;
  • news from the administration (the last one and the whole list);
  • implementation planning, including the expected deadlines and the effective ends of each work phase (infographic);
  • attachment (ex. expenditure documents);
  • district area.

The infographic was one of the key features of the tool, because it provided to the citizens the exact information of the state-of-the-art of the implementation and to what pace and extent the administration is fulfilling its plans. All the contents are created in the back office by the municipal staff in order to keep the platform up to date. 

The registration procedure was not activated in the platform, since the Municipality preferred not to use interactive tools like discussion forums, comments or likes; the citizens could only read this website and the data it contains and leave the email to receive further information. This made the website more an informative than a participation tool. Moreover, no side events were organized to support the platform, except from the launch of the pilot, at the end of May, where it was officially presented to the public [13].

Regarding the change of platform used by Milan’s DC, this was due to a number of reasons. Delays caused by the planning and approval of the municipality, pushed the launch of the DC for September 2017. This mean that the DC pilot process would be completed after the end of EMPATIA’s project. As a result, Milan’s municipality felt uncomfortable and concerned that this could potentially leave them without further assistance. Consequently, the Municipality opted to change to the openDCN platform, which they were already familiarized with, and was provided by local and long-standing partner: UNIMI. [14]

Deliberation Cycle

Phase 1: Making and supporting proposals (Idea collection and first ranking)

For two months, from the 30th of Sept. to the 30th of November, the citizens could submit their proposal online and collect the necessary support to go to the next phase. Each citizen could give his/her endorsement by clicking the “like” button in the proposal page, a sort of first round of the PB elections. Each citizen could make only one proposal but was able to support as many proposals as they wished, independently from the district one belonged to. Supports were kept hidden until the end of the phase, in order to foster competition and reduce the disengagement. In this first phase the proposal required not only a title and a short description, but it had to be described in very detail and could be enriched with pictures and attachments. These are the fields that had to be filled:

  • Title
  • Short description: the field that is visible in the preview and at the top of the page, with a limit of 600 characters, aiming at describing in few words the proposal; large description: it includes the context analysis, further details, and the benefits of the proposal for the community.
  • An estimated cost of the proposal: a minimum and a maximum budget; to fill these fields, citizens could check the costs of their proposals according to the municipal guidelines available
  • Thematic area: a drop down list with the most pertinent areas to be selected.
  • Georeferencing: a map to pinpoint the location of the proposal.
  • A symbolic image
  • Attachments: images and documents can illustrate or complement the the proposals
  • Attachments, including video
  • Location referencing

In order to be published, the proposals were moderated by the administration that made a preliminary check about their feasibility: those with an estimated cost outside the admitted range of budget and those which are clearly beyond the Municipality remit like, for example, interventions against the law or in some areas which belong to private persons or other institutions. 

The users could make comments on each proposal and start a discussion. All the proposals could be browsed from a unique page where citizens could also filter according to the thematic areas, sorting about the number of comments and the chronological terms, since the default visualization was random.

These participatory activities could only be performed online, either at home and in the assistance points distributed throughout the city (municipal libraries and other public spaces). In order to participate, the citizens had to register and to prove their residence or their “use” of the city (e.g. studying or working in the city), by providing respectively the social security number or a formal document to be checked. While the first was checked immediately by a script, the second was always verified by the technical staff. In both cases, the users had to verify their account via SMS verification, that is typing the verification code that was sent to their mobile phone number. Proposals could also be published directly by the municipal personnel in the district libraries on behalf of those who were not able to use the platform. The reason behind “supporting” the proposal is twofold: a) filtering and then reducing the number of proposals that go to the technical review; b) prompting the dissemination of the proposals among the citizens, thus the inclusion and mobilization of the less active persons. This phase was originally conceived as completely online. However, due to the scarce participation in the first weeks, the organisers prepared an “emergency plan” made of several ideation meetings throughout the city. A large number of face-to-face meetings were also organized all over the city to inform citizens and to support the participants by answering to their questions and helping them to publish their proposals. Due to the growing participation numbers, the Municipality agreed to postpone the end of the phase by ten days: people could publish their proposals until the end of November but they could still seek support for the proposals up to 10th of December.

Phase 2: Reviewing proposals and co-designing

The results of the first phase were shown in the platform the day before the end of the phase: all the proposals were ranked according to the number of the supports they received. From the beginning of December until the end of February, the technical officers reviewed the top supported proposals for each district. Following the Participatory Pact, the administration took the first proposals for each district according to the total amount of their estimate cost, which sum together around one million of euro (and representing double of the budget available for each district). This rule was used to reduce the discretionality of the Municipality about the admission/rejection of the proposals. Since the proposals could cost no less than 100.000 euro and no more than 500.000 euro, the total number of proposals to be analysed, co-designed and brought to the vote could have ranged between 18 (of 500.000 euro each) to 90 (of 100.000 euro each). The number of proposals that were reviewed was 51.

During this phase the technical officers also interacted with the proponents (who became “delegates” of the community that supported the proposal) in order to increase the quality of the proposals and turn them into detailed and feasible projects with an accurate budget. All those proposal that could not be turned into a project (either because they were considered as unfeasible in the technical review and codesign processor the proponent abandoned the co-design process because s/he did not want to adapt the proposals with the necessary changes) were excluded from the process. The co-design stage gave the proponents the chance to interact with the technical officers and learn about the review analysis. The same could be said about the technical officers, who had the chance to know more about the needs of the population and to get information about the places in which the population live. The online activity was reduced during this phase, as it is usually expected. However, citizens could still interact with each other through a discussion area in the platform; the “delegates” of the proposals under review were invited to open a thread in order to update their fellow citizens about the progress of the work.

Phase 3: Voting projects

All the proposals that turned into projects went to the voting phase. The platform has dedicated pages where the Municipality can upload all the final projects in one single page, like a virtual ballot paper. Citizens can only browse the projects randomly. Each citizen can vote up to 3 projects, irrespective from the location of the projects. The voting, like the proposals and the supports, is performed online, assuring a strong authentication procedure. The project with the “bonus” will raise their votes by 10%. The top voted projects for each district are funded and implemented according to the budget available [15].

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The first two objectives of the Municipality were to guarantee more transparency and then restore confidence of the citizens who already participated in the first PB and were disappointed with the delays and all the problems relating to the implementation of the winning projects. In order to do that, the second PB started with the MC website to show transparently the state of the art of the winning projects and all the information available from the technical offices.

Despite the limits of the tool, the EMPATIA platform seemed to comply with these goals and to play a crucial role in reducing conflicts between citizens and the municipality. This was noticed by the Councillor’s staff in their day-to-day management of the social network sites: according to them, the number of people asking information or complaining for the delays reduced remarkably after the introduction of the platform. It was like if the organization of the information in a well designed and an ad hoc website gave to the citizens a sense of more transparency than the individual responses of the municipality via email, facebook, twitter, and face-to-face meetings.

The other goal of the Municipality was the inclusion of the less active citizens, especially those who live in the suburbs. Unfortunately, we have no quantitative data to give a clear and an objective answer, but the expectation was not particularly high, given the organizational context (low budget for the organization and weak face-to-face initiatives). The data from the registration on the platform are not detailed enough to understand in which area of district s/he is living, whether it is close or distant from the city centre. However, we know that the 60% of them have a higher education, which is a quite high rate. Moreover, a large number of participants were male (60%) and adults from 30 to 64 years old (75%). These few pieces of information can suggest that the participatory process was not really inclusive and representative [16].

For the EMPATIA project, the Milan pilot was particularly important to test the platform configured for the Monitoring Cycle. None of the objectives was related to the participation and the respective analysis of the participants, since the configuration achieved in this challenging context was missing interactive features. Despite all, the pilot provided interesting feedback, mostly from the side of the administration. First of all, the platform has provided with a clear and innovative way to show the progress work of the voted projects, paving the way for a reorganization of this activity that is fragmented among the many offices of the Municipality. The pilot did not have time and power to open a discussion on the internal organization of the municipality. Moreover, the majority of the monitored projects was still under technical review and the update of information was seldom and sometimes slow, depending on the availability of the technical responsible person. However, testing the platform gave to the municipalities the chance and the incentive to understand how to involve the technical offices in a more efficient way, starting from the needs of the people instead of the competences of the offices. To work on the back-office of the platform was not possible, although it would have been one of the most interesting aspects from this perspective. The limited time available made it impossible to analyse and develop a customized back office that would have favoured an efficient interaction between the MC and the technical offices. Second, the architecture of the platform proved to be very flexible to adapt to the specific characteristics of the Milan projects, made of sub-projects. The “nested PADs” made it possible to create a two-level structure of content management that gather all the sub-projects (and their features) within a project with their features. Finally, transparency was also an important goal. The municipality helped to make the state-of-the-art of the projects clear and transparent, providing the citizens all the information available about the project. The lack of interactive features has reduced its potentials, limiting the platform to a mere informative website. However, this was such a novelty for the Milan people that nobody complaint about it or asked for something different [17].

In terms of number:

Regarding the MC site, between May 30 and December 20:

  • the website was visited 3812 times by total of 2567 unique visitors
  • the average time spent on the site was 3 minutes and 39 seconds
  • 176 people subscribed to the newsletter

Regarding the DC, between September 10th and December 20th:

  • the website was visited 84111 times by a total of 71562 unique visitors
  • the average time spent on the site was 4 minutes and 57 seconds

In total, during the first phase:

  • 10992 people did the “basic” registration, while 8043 did the “advanced” registration;
  • 242 proposals were submitted, 51 went to the technical review;
  • the proposals received a total number of 17758 supports from 7532 supporters (an average of 2,36 supported proposals per person);
  • the proposals received a total number of 1070 comments from 797 people (an average of 1,34 comments per person) [18].

Lastly, the majority of citizens perceived the participatory process as a useful process and that Milan should continue implementing the process in the coming years. This level of satisfaction should be taken with caution because social desirability bias significantly affects answer rate in surveys and even responses in face to face interviews with organizers. The focus group in fact highlights that some citizens had some concerns with the difficulty of the platform [19]. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The Milan case showed the importance of implementing a monitoring cycle, where citizens could follow the status of implementation of winning projects of PB from previous years. Thereby, the process helped re-establish new avenues to rebuild citizen trust, through the easy access and transparency of information. Beyond the monitoring cycle for which the EMPATIA platform was used, the Milan case also offers the possibility to evaluate the deliberation cycle (i.e. PB) for which another ICT solution was used [20]. (p. 210)

There are some crucial elements that decreed the pilot success, and others more negative. The positive were twofold: a) the methodology that has been used to involve the citizens overcoming the lack of investment in communication; b) the sense of “transparency” that the platform contributed to generate in the process. The negative was the lack of inclusion among citizens.

The Milan pilot brought in the Italian as well as the European landscape some innovations in the field of e-participation and the open government. To sum up, the methodological and technical support provided by EMPATIA was innovative for its capacity to combine the first with the second cycle in a difficult environment. Surely, without this methodological advisory and the financial support, the Municipality would have had lots of problems to perform a PB, or probably would have not done it.

The Milan pilot turned out to be a good example of active and vibrant engagement of the administration in the participatory process: many actors from the municipality, political as well as technical, were involved. It is important to emphasize that the pilot was managed by the Municipality with little provision of a budget for the organization itself. The only resources available were the Councillor’s staff and the EMPATIA team. There was no appropriate budget for communication and to organize facilitated face-to-face meetings. All the other persons and offices were involved day-by-day or as a result of the gradual penetration of the process within the administration daily life [21]. (p. 194)

See Also

Participatory Budgeting in Lisbon, Cycle 2017/2018

Participatory Budgeting in Říčany, Czech Republic

Participatory Budgeting in Wuppertal, Germany


[1] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 164-165.

[2] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 164.

[3] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 165.

[4] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 160.

[5] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 163.

[6] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 178.

[7] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from, pp. 81-82.

[8] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from, p. 82.

[9] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from, p. 84.

[10] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 162.

[11] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 166-167.

[12] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 187-188.

[13] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 167-170.

[14] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 177.

[15] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 170-175.

[16] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 198-200.

[17] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 200.

[18] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, pp. 188-190.

[19] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from, pp. 84-85.

[20] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 210.

[21] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from, p. 194.

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Lead image: Comune di Milano,

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