'' The Agora of Messina '' is a project of the international organization The Democratic Society on democratic participation and public spaces in the city of Messina. The project aims to create a civic platform capable of connecting citizens.
Problems and purpose
The project aims to create a civic platform, able to connect citizens from all parts of the city and the community, providing them with the skills and opportunities to get involved in decision making and to feel responsible for their surroundings. & nbsp; The intent is to immediately start working on the ground to identify and connect existing networks of residents and develop links between these groups and public partners. The project also aims at a greater inclusion in the democratic participation of women and citizens from the most disadvantaged areas of the city and sections of the population.
A steering group of active citizens of Messina is guiding and evaluating all phases. of this project. During the project there will be & nbsp; workshops, interviews, training activities and participatory events related to the two pilot areas of the project: the Zona Falcata and the Ex Sanderson of Tremestieri. & Nbsp;
The Falcata Zone is the area from which the city draws its origin and its name. Currently, it represents the denial of the city's identity and the relationship with the sea: it has been mistreated for decades and until a few years ago it was chosen only as the site of industrial settlements. & Nbsp;
The Ex Sanderson of Tremestieri is a disused citrus factory, once the flagship of the city economy, where the waste of citrus production was processed mostly from the surrounding countryside, a landscape of which memory has been lost.  The objectives are:
- To support and improve existing networks and actions in a systematic way.
- To increase the opportunities for citizens to be involved in dialogue, deliberation and decision making.
- Create something that is long-term, informal and not driven by single events or decisions, so that the networks and structures we create are active longer than the process & nbsp;
“Le Agorà di Messina” is a 12-month & nbsp; program to develop public spaces and participation and is Demsoc's first local project in Italy. The project is in effect from May 2018 until April 2019. 
Background history and context
The Democratic Society (Demsoc) is a non-profit organization that has been operating internationally since 2006. Has had project partners such as the UK Government Digital Service, UNDP, The EU Commission, UK NHS and has received project funding from foundations such as King Baudouin and Open Society Foundations.
The city of Messina has already had several participatory experiences such as legislation on common goods and partnerships with European institutions including the & nbsp; Transeuropa Festival & nbsp; and & nbsp; Quartieri in Movimento. Recently, Messina became a member of the & nbsp; Intercultural Cities & nbsp; program of the Council of Europe.
In 2017, Messina partnered with Demsoc and the Council of Europe for a local event of the Incubator for Democracy Participatory. The Incubator is a World Forum for Democracy initiative that aims to connect cities with democracy innovators who can support and enhance such participatory initiatives. The Agora di Messina project emerged as a result of the discussions of this event and offers the opportunity to involve citizens and others in the co-planning of the next steps for participation in Messina. 
The mayor of Messina . The post-war political tradition of Messina is Christian Democrat, after 1994 the center-right and center-left alternate. After the end of the council of Buzzanca (MSI, AN, PdL), interrupted by the judiciary and continued by a prefectural commissioner, in 2013 the coalition of civic and left-wing lists led by Renato Accorinti, a militant pacifist and environmentalist, leader of the No Ponte Movement. Upon expiration in 2018 he re-nominates but is in 4th place with 14.21%, while Cateno De Luca prevails, at the head of a group of civic lists of the center, Christian and autonomist. & Nbsp;
Organizing, supporting and funding entities
The Democratic Society (Demsoc) is a non-profit organization chaired by Anthony Zacharzewski with offices in Brussels, Manchester , Edinburgh, Pisa. It has two Italian members who oversee the project: Francesca Attolino (Italy Network Lead) and Ivan Tornesi (Community Officer Messina). To provide the program, Demsoc entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Municipality. Demsoc intends to engage the following working group: a) a local project manager; b) an architect of democracy; c) management and support of the Demsoc group as a whole; who undertake to work openly and in collaboration with all local actors. & nbsp;
The memorandum of understanding indicates that it “does not imply any direct cost or financial obligation for the parties involved. Demsoc is working to secure external funding for this program, with the assistance of the city. There will be no direct costs to Council and Demsoc for the design and delivery of any aspect of the program, without prior agreement in a written document. Program finances received from external lenders will be received, managed and reported transparently and responsibly by Demsoc. Funding can be distributed to nominated local partners, providing written confirmation that they will adhere to the same standards ”. However Demsoc would have taken care of finding sources of financing.
Municipality of Messina signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Demsoc in May 2018 (date not reported), signed by the mayor Accorinti , in which he made himself available to collaborate but there were no financial outlays. & nbsp;
Selection and recruitment of participants
Demsoc working group for the project Le Agorà di Messina, is made up of:
- a local project manager; & nbsp;
- an architect of democracy; & nbsp;
- management and support of the Demsoc group in as a whole. & nbsp;
The group has contacted and works in collaboration with Circumscriptions, neighborhood communities, local associations. There are no reports of the initiatives organized, there are only the data available from the Facebook page. & Nbsp;
As part of the project, some events have been organized, which are reported in the FB posts.
- Urban explorations in the Falcata area and the former Sanderson . From the documentation available on the FB page it is estimated the presence of about ten participants per exit. & Nbsp;
- Project '' Slow and full of love gestures ", candidate for the Aviva Community Fund, in the '' Women at the center '' category. The idea was born in one of the meetings that Demsoc organized (but of which no account could be found), a laboratory to stimulate and build network design work for the city. The & nbsp; Pro Loco Messina Sud, & nbsp; Posto Occupato & nbsp; and & nbsp; The Democratic Society are involved in the project. The project applied for a sort of participatory budget (Aviva Community Fund) to obtain the funds to leave.
- Messina Participates. First Festival of participation . On May 16, 2019 it was announced on FB and shortly after a call was sent for the presentation of cases / stories of participation on the occasion of the festival that would be held on June 14 in Villa Cianciafara, Messina. The "Letter M" magazine published a promotional article on the event that was continuously promoted via FB and a subsequent one. 10 organizations joined and sent a story to tell. From 8 to 18 various moments of discussion were held. A workshop on the “Messina Participation Charter” where there was talk of regeneration, inclusion, innovation in which the photos estimate about 50 participants. Two expert speakers took part in the round table, the sociologist Pierpaolo Zampieri (Researcher in urban sociology and territorial analysis at the COSPECS department of the University of Messina. He deals with urban marginality, outsider art, Urban art, landscape and media imagery. Member. founder of the research group Zonacammarata, and of the artistic collective Machine Works) and the architect and civic designer Chiara De Grandi (Architect specialized in urban regeneration and social innovation processes, works alongside the Municipality of Milan for participatory planning and the regeneration of space public), as well as other less announced experts and the representative of the constituency. The day ended with '' participation stories '' from the Messina area. & Nbsp; Associations, movements and groups of citizens selected and invited through the dedicated call '' 10 participation stories '': Associazione Ionio, Camminare i Peloritani, Assojonica, Giampilieri 2.0, Faciti Ca non moru, Transparency of PA websites, Parliament Watch Italia, Periferiche Energie, Qajetri Association, Arci Centopassi di Torregrotta, Parish of S. Paolino di Mili Marina. A podcast is available from the meeting whose link does not work, and a 3-minute video clip.  The last post on FB dates back to 27/6/19. 
Methods and tools used
Urban walks / explorations , These are itinerant inspections led by facilitators, technicians, administrators in which, with the participants, you get into the real situation; they stimulate shared observations, narratives and context-driven learning. & nbsp;
Roundtable is a classic method of programmed group interaction. The moderator asks a question to which the guest speakers begin to respond with more or less prepared interventions. Among the speakers there may be mutual questions and clarifications, interactions and questions from the audience towards the closing. & Nbsp;
Design workshops , similar to focus groups , they differ from these in the tendency to bring a group of people together for more time and for more meetings and therefore to create greater socialization. They are very common ways to bring together a group of people and start a discussion with them around a desired theme, thanks to the conduct of a moderator who is called to stimulate the discussion and to verify that everyone can express their opinion. Through this methodology it is possible to collect different opinions, stimulate a comparison between different positions and explore different points of view or reach an agreement. To facilitate the discussion, you can resort to the use of post-its, maps and sheets, which allow those who are not comfortable speaking in public to express their opinions and those who have difficulty summarizing to reflect on which is the fundamental concept they want to express. The focus groups generally host 12-14 participants.
What happened: process, interaction and participation
The first phase concerns communication activities and project presentation, appropriation of tools , practically only Facebook and the actions in the field.
The second phase was contact with the context and familiarization.
- Exploratory walks in the Zona Falcata and ex-Sanderson. The first is the area on which the millennial existence of the city of Messina is based, where there is an enormous potential for aggregation, belonging and participation of the entire Messina community. Yet there are many obstacles that still prevent citizens from re-appropriating them.The Falcata Zone is one of the two pilot areas on which we will work. was explored, with the accompaniment of the sociologist prof. Pier Paolo Zampieri and the historian prof. Giuseppe Restifo. The former Sanderson citrus industry in Tremestieri, currently owned by ESA (Agricultural Development Agency of the Sicilian Region) and has been waiting for redevelopment for many years now. The group started from Via Adolfo Celi, "better known as state road 114: the road that at the beginning of the 1950s launched the southern area towards modernity, sanctioning the transformation of the landscape from agricultural to building and cutting that historical link , social and identity, which lasted for centuries, between '' Messina and its gardens ''. Those gardens probably also fascinated the English Sanderson family, who in the 19th century gave birth to one of the most important industries specialized in the processing of citrus fruits in the world. Citizens are very fond of this area, as demonstrated by various conferences, research projects and degree theses that envision a space for territorial rebirth and redemption. The explorations are available in films shot with smartphones, with images and interviews with the participants "
- Project '' Slow and loving gestures" strong>, candidate for the Aviva Community Fund, in the '' Women at the center '' category. It was not possible to find the complete project, but promotional messages and a brief description are available on FB: "if funded, you will be able to create a path in which 10 young women from Messina belonging to disadvantaged categories, will have the opportunity to learn about stories of women once engaged in the harvesting and processing of citrus fruits, becoming themselves ambassadors and guardians of the memory of struggles and hardships now forgotten. The project also provides training opportunities for learning citrus processing techniques, within some agricultural and artisan realities that are relaunching the sector, thus encouraging new employment and local female entrepreneurship. " It does not seem, from the abrupt end of the posts related to this project, that it came out as a winner.
- Messina Partecipa, First festival of participation (14/6/19) was an event lasting In the morning workshop it is said that a Participation Charter for Messina was shared, but no feedback is available. In the afternoon 10 organizations presented 10 participation stories of which, however, no account is given, nor to links or documents. & nbsp;
Influence, results and effects
There is no analytical report on the results of the project and therefore on the influence and effects that may have gotten. & nbsp;
Analysis and lessons learned
Reporting what you do or not doing today means giving up transparency and deciding to disperse your experiences, or not? This aspect and the lack of dedication to analytically report what has been done should be addressed and deepened even though it may appear, to those who have lived those experiences, as not very relevant or trivial. More in-depth information would be needed with interviews with the conductors and expert collaborators who were involved.
 Facebook page “Le agora di Messina”, https://www.facebook.com/pg/leagoradimessina/about/?ref=page_internal (ril. 13 / 11/19).
 The Democratic Society, project page “Le Agorà di Messina”, https://www.demsoc.org/projects/le-agora-di-messina/ (release 13/11/19).
 Video on Messina Take part, https://www.facebook.com/leagoradimessina/videos / 454308992072675 / (release 13/11/19). & Nbsp;