Valsamoggia Citizens' Initiative Review on local council amalgamation (Iniziativa di Revisione Civica – IRC)

First Submitted By simon.niemeyer

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Valsamoggia IRC Survey Items (options and considerations used in IC analysis)
Journal article covering the case: Improving deliberative participation: connecting mini-publics to deliberative systems
Intersubjective Consistency Animation (change in group reasoning)
Start Date
End Date

The 2012 event was designed as a CIR to inform a referendum on municipal amalgamation in the Valsamoggia region near Bologna. The event took place, but the outcomes were not provided to citizens following an administrative ruling.

Problems and Purpose

The case study concerns the question of amalgamation of five municipalities in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy (near Bologna): Bazzano, Castello di Serravalle,  Crespellano, Monteveglio, Savigno. The area is part of an urbanized valley on the Samoggia River and all towns are part of the Apennines’hills area except for the foothills towns of Bazzano and Crespellano. Bologna, the main centre, is about 30 kilometres away. Economic activities in the area are mainly related to industry although agriculture and services have some relevance (SOURCE).

A total of 29,868 people live in the combined municipal areas, with Crespellano being the most populous centre (9,982 residents) followed by Bazzano (6,896), Monteveglio (5,286), Castello di Serravalle (4,917), and Savigno (2,788). Combined, these cover 179 square kilometres, with a size ranging from 55 kilometres in the case of Savigno to 14 in Bazzano, the smallest centre of the province of Bologna to which all the councils belong. These councils occupy a strip of land which forms part of the western boarder of Bologna’s province dividing the former from Modena’s (ISTAT, Corriere della sera;

Background History and Context

These five centres (plus another neighbouring small municipality: Monte San Pietro) have been members of a peak body (Unione dei Comuni Valle del Samoggia, UCVS) since 2009. All the administrations, as well as the provincial and regional government, are controlled by a centre-left coalition, which is not uncommon in this part of the region in which leftist parties have historically had a central role in the political as well as social life of the area (SOURCE).

Since 2009 dialogue has taken place among the (newly elected) councils and respective mayors, local parties, institutions from the local to the national level on the question of amalgamation. Broader public involvement has included public meetings .

The formal process of amalgamation began with the submission of a formal proposal by the mayors’ to the regional government. The proponents also commissioned a feasibility study to Università di Bologna’s school of public administration (SPISA). According to regional law the process of amalgamation requires a popular referendum. 

Which replaced a territorial association (Comunità Montana Valle del Samoggia), active from 1993 to 2008 ( change follows to the regional law on structural administrative restructuring(see

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

In addition to the referendum (due on November 25th) the local administrations agreed to fund a small-scale minipublic to deliberate the question of amalgamation. The event was also supported by researchers from a number of universities.

Participant Recruitment and SelectionParticipants to the IRC was be decided by lot on the basis of a sample aiming at producing a small group of people in line with social and demographic profiles of the interested areas (gender, age, level of scholarly education, electoral provenience).

Participants: 20

Stratification Criteria:

Provenience by town-hall: according to data (percentage of voters on the total) 

Gender: according to data (percentage of male and female on the total)

Age: according to data (from 18 to 26 years, from 27 to 65 years, beyond, 65 years old)

Level of scholarly education. According to data: no title, middle-school. High school, Bachelor and beyond

Methods and Tools Used

The three-day process was broadly based on a Citizens Initiative Review Model.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The process unfolded over 3 days as follows:

Day 1

9.00 Welcome

9.15 Introduction to the IRC. Explanation of the process and its goals

9.30 Introduction of the staff

9.40 Introduction of participants. Every participant introduces herself to the group

10.10 Detailed explanation of the process, its rules, norms and quality expectations. 

10.30 introductory exercise with examples

11.00 Presentation of the Referendum’s question

Scene Setting

11.10 Speech 1: detailed presentation of information concerning the object of the referendum (e.g., which and how many city councils, inhabitants involves, institutions, agencies, offices, resources) 

11.40 Open Mic. Questions and clarifications

12.10 History. Our land (Recalling our past to better understand the future) 

12.40 Open Mic. Question Time

13.10 Lunch

14.00 Social-Political. What we mean when we say ‘unification’ 

14.30 Open Mic. Question Time

15.00 Economy. What about local economy? Considerations upon local economy and the likely effects of the choice we are called to make. 

15.30 Open Mic. Question Time

16.00 Pause

Focussing on Issues

16.15 Panel 1. Groups and movements YES. Presentation in Panel 

16.45 Panel 2. Groups e movements NO . Presentation in Panel

17.15What do we want to ask to the groups and movements (making 5 questions to ask the above panels either YES or NO) 

17.45 Questions to groups and movements YES and NO

18.15 Considerations upon the daily activity and feedback to facilitators. 

19.00 End of the day

Day 2

9.00 Day starts

9.05 Announcements on day schedule and communications n

9.15 I won’t vote. The view of those who decided to abstain from voting.[SN6] 

9.45 Questions to the above speaker/s 

10.15 Party, list, group A (Panel)

10.45 Party, list, group A 

11.15 Party, list, group A 

11.45 Party, list, group A 

12.15 One person one questions. Discussion in group to find out the main issues. Every participant will be able to ask one question to party, list or groups (question and answer 3 mins overall) 

12.45 Snip-snap. 45 minutes for 15 questions from citizens to parties.

13.30 lunch

14.20 Businesses express their views

Vote NO

14.50 Businesses express their views

Vote YES

 15.20 Open question to businesses

15.50 Pause

16.00 Voice to workers from local administrations 

Vote NO

16.30 Voice to workers from local administrations 

Vote YES

17.00 Open questions to the workers

17.30 Group Discussion and considerations upon day 2, feedbacks to facilitators. 

18.00 End of the day

Day 3


9.00 General discussion with facilitation among participant and exchange ideas to find out the key issues emerged from the IRC 

10.15 First division into working group/s to draft the final document YES, NO, OTHERS 

10.45 The bonding of each group. Internal discussion to find out PRS and CONS of our choice 

11.15 The bridging of the groups. Sharing PROS and CONS evidenced by different groups

12.00 Lunch

12.50 Choosing. Second and last allocation of the working groups. 

13.00 Realization of the final document from each group. Final considerations and justifications of choices (including minority views if any)

15.00 Reading of the group documents 

16.00 Declaration on the IRC by all the participants and joint message to the electors to be put on top the document to be handed out to fellow citizens.

17.30 Reading of the final document (the youngest and oldest participant) in fron of local institution, public and the media. Final greetings.

18.00 End of the IRC

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The results of the IRC were intended to be mailed in pamphlet form to residents within the region. Following the event an administrative ruling was made that prevented the mailout from occurring. However the citizens' report was available online and promoted via posters in the town hall.

See: Felicetti, A., S. Niemeyer and N. Curato (2016). "Improving deliberative participation: connecting mini-publics to deliberative systems." European Political Science Review 8(3): 427-448.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

One of the interesting aspects of this case study concerns the tension between deliberator's voting preferences (markedly in favor of the amalgamation) and their views as expressed in the report (featuring substantial doubts about the amalgamation). This raises the question regarding the relationship between voting and deliberation. The decision to hold a vote might have induced a decline in quality of reasoning within the group (See Niemeyer 2018; see also attached animation)

Felicetti, A., S. Niemeyer and N. Curato (2016). "Improving deliberative participation: connecting mini-publics to deliberative systems." European Political Science Review 8(3): 427-448.

Links to similar analyses for other cases in Participedia can be found in Niemeyer (2018).

See Also


Niemeyer, S. J., A. Felicetti and N. Curato (2016). Systemic Assessment of Deliberative Assemblies: A Comparative Approach. The 112th American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 2016, Philadelphia, PA.

Felicetti, A., S. Niemeyer and N. Curato (2016). "Improving deliberative participation: connecting mini-publics to deliberative systems." European Political Science Review 8(3): 427-448.

Niemeyer, S. J. (2018). Intersubjective Reasoning in Political Deliberation. Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance research paper series, Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra.

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