The Municipality of Cattolica, the so-called Queen of the Adriatic, contemplated introducing the referendum without quorum and to define the regulation, it initiated a participatory process financed by the Emilia-Romagna Region; however, the process was ultimately abandoned.
Problems and Purpose
The referendum is a participatory instrument provided for in the Italian public law system at all levels of government. In general (apart from the constitutional confirmatory referendum), the various referendums (abrogative, proactive, consultative) provide for a quorum of participation to be reached in order to be considered valid, i.e. a minimum percentage (set at 50% + 1) of eligible voters. There is debate on this issue, at an academic and political level; the elimination of the quorum, on the model of popular initiatives and Swiss referendums, has been one of the main themes of some political forces or civic movements, local (see popular initiative on direct democracy in Bolzano) and national, including more recently the 5 Star Movement (M5S).
To introduce the referendum without quorum among municipal instruments, it is necessary to modify the Statute of the Body and the implementing regulation. Thus, to achieve these objectives, the Municipality (on the initiative of the Mayor and the President of the Municipal Council jointly) launched a participatory process, certified and financed by the Emilia-Romagna Region (following the principles and requirements of Regional Law 15/2018).
The project was presented to the Region Guarantee Technician as a means to promote the responsible involvement of citizens, put participatory democracy into practice, and define the new regulations for referendum without quorum for the municipality. They aimed to promote citizen participation in public decisions and the way citizens relate to the public administration, by enabling the development of proposals or collection of suggestions based on participatory listening devices, comparison, collaboration, and sharing of responsibility rather than formal mechanisms of requesting opinions and votes. "The administrative procedure that will start once the participatory process has been concluded is governed by the Consolidated Law on Local Authorities (articles 6 and 7), approved with Legislative Decree no. 267/2000, and provides for the modification of the municipal statute and the approval of a new municipal regulation for the establishment of the "Referendum without quorum" by the municipal council, subject to the release of the necessary technical opinions pursuant to art. 49 of the TUEL and meeting of the competent board of directors [translated]". 
The specific objectives of the process were to: 
- Inform and train citizens and municipal employees on the new participation tool, "Referendum without quorum";
- Collect contributions for the definition of the “Referendum without quorum” Regulations;
- Deepen the positive and negative aspects of the “Referendum without quorum” regulation;
- Stimulate and increase identity values and a sense of belonging;
- Enhance local realities, activism, and inclusive practices;
- Encourage (and simplify) public / private collaboration;
- Innovate and experiment with practices, tools, and methods of extended participation;
- Define the conditions for a proactive dialogue between the Administration and citizens;
- Root the culture of participation more widely.
Furthermore, among the expected results were the:
- Training of municipal staff dedicated to the project to “Referendum without quorum”;
- Training for the informed participation of citizens of the Municipality of Cattolica and the use of the “Referendum without quorum” tool;
- Identification of innovative and experimental tools and methods;
- Launching of at least 1 experimental use of the Regulations for "Referendum without quorum";
- Defining of indicators for evaluating and monitoring the implementation of the Regulations. 
Background History and Context
The Municipality of Cattolica is located on the Romagna Riviera with an area of 6 square km and 17,100 inhabitants which has grown considerably from a modest fishing village (in 1936, it had 6,400 inhabitants) due to the seaside tourism industry. Since the postwar period, the municipality has been governed by the PCI (Communist Party) and then by the center-left forces. In the elections of 5 June 2016, despite the advantage obtained in the first round with 38%, the PD (Democratic Party) candidate Gambini was defeated in the second round by Mariano Gennari (M5S) with 56.32% (25.64% in the first round).
The referendum without quorum has been one of the priority themes and objectives of the M5S since its origins, but also of independent movements.
Several Italian municipalities (since the mid-2000s, many small South Tyrolean municipalities, Parma since 2014, Vicenza since 2015) have already eliminated or reduced the quorum of referendums to very low quotas. Recently, the Autonomous Province of Bolzano with the law n.22 of 3/12/18 eliminated the quorum for the consultative referendum and reduced that for the other referendums to 25%.
With the political elections of March 2018, the M5S gained a majority and contributed to the formation of the first Conte government. M5S parliamentarian, Riccardo Fraccaro, was assigned the Ministry for relations with direct democracy during which time he worked on a bill on direct democracy and the abolition of quorums, approved in the House but stopped in the Senate. From September 2019, after the fall of the Conte I government and the formation of Conte II (M5S-PD), Fraccaro was assigned another position, that of Undersecretary of State to the Presidency of Ministers; the draft law on the reform of referendums remained firm and there seemed to be other priorities. Fraccaro would be invited on 23/1/20 to a public interview on the theme "Citizen participation and direct democracy" by the Mayor of Cattolica. On this occasion, among the many questions raised, he discussed the reasons that support the abolition of the quorum: of how it is an Italian exception, of how in Switzerland and the United States it does not exist, of how the abolition of the quorum favors debate and participation instead of favoring the minority of power that is most interested in boycotting the process itself. He also spoke about how participation favors and stabilizes decisions, given the great instability, in the sense of precarious continuity, which executive and legislative offices suffer from throughout Europe .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Emilia-Romagna Region, Legislative Assembly, Warranty Technician. Established in 2012 as a structure provided for by regional law no. 3 of 2010 (later repealed and replaced by Regional Law 15/2018) is a role held by the Director General of the Legislative Assembly of the Region. The staff consists of 2 officials. It promotes regional participation policies and training, and assesses the quality of ex-ante, ongoing and ex-post projects for the purposes of the regional call for funding and certification only.
Municipality of Cattolica was the body responsible for the participatory process that was submitted for the January 2019 regional call, obtaining the certification and a contribution of 17,000 euros. They added 3,000 euros of their own municipal funds to co-finance the project. This share also served to obtain a higher score for the purposes of the ranking of the applications. From what emerges from the available reports, the mayor Gennari and councilor Oliveri were present on some occasions, while the councillor responsible for participation, Patrizia Pesci, was not present. Constantly present, as a permanent member of the project staff, both at the negotiation tables and in participatory meetings with citizens, was the president of the city council, Silvia Pozzoli (M5S).
Futour sas is the design and facilitation consultancy company that was in charge of designing and conducting the process. The process to date had already been completed but the reporting documents have not yet been produced. The staff made available was 2 or 3 people per meeting.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Project staff coordination: Composed of the President of the Municipal Council S. Pozzoli, 2-3 municipal officials, and 2-3 facilitators of Futour, no reports, number of meetings, or times are available.
Internal training seminars were training meetings for the municipal project staff and the municipal employees. There are no reports, number of meetings, number of participants, times, notices or schedules.
Preparatory information meetings with the neighborhood committees: the project staff and the representatives of the neighborhood committees were present. There are no reports, number of meetings, number of participants, times, notices or schedules.
Negotiation table: There were two meetings: on 25/11/19 and 2/12/19. At the first, in addition to the project staff, were 4 representatives of neighborhood committees, 3 names (the role was not indicated in the minutes): 1 opposition municipal councilor (Gessaroli), a councillor (Filippini) and one name of which it was not possible to trace his role. At the second, there was the project staff, the municipal secretary, 4 representatives of the district committees, the commissioner Filippini, and Massimo Cavalieri of the Cattolica Hoteliers' Association, later appointed by the participants as president of the TdN. The method of advertising and recruitment is not given, but was likely through invitations communicated directly and through the municipal mailing list. There are no public notices, nor posts or messages on the municipal website.
Public meeting to launch the participatory process (14/1/20, 6.30 pm, Palazzo del Turismo): An event communication plan is not given. However, the following are available:
- a "letter / communication" inviting the "citizens and all the organized entities of the Municipality of Cattolica" to participate in the event, to which explanations were added, after completing the registration form by 10 January. 
- a poster in which citizens and organized realities are invited and “registration” is added with the municipal contact details 
- a registration form for the event and a registration form for the participatory path 
A total of 33 people were present at the meeting, including the staff of the project, the Mayor, the municipal secretary, the district committees, the citizens' defense committee, a journalist, voluntary associations for the school, majority municipal councillors, CNA, and citizens .
Innovation Camp Laboratories were scheduled for 31/1 and 1/2 - 21 and 22/2; no feedback is given in the dedicated pages, nor a report, but there is a Facebook page of 4/2 in which some photos with 12 participants appear, along with the staff of the facilitators, hanging sheets and post-its. No confirmation of the subsequent workshops on 21/22 is given, not even on Facebook.
They were planned but the closing activities (drafting of regulations, prototyping and reporting) are missing, as well as the initial activities of solicitation of social realities, interviews and focus groups, outreach initiatives, door-to-door communications, targeted communications (letter dedicated to organized entities), event action (e.g. flash mob, street stall, social street), listening active and street recruitment. For the most difficult subjects to involve, particular cultural associations which deal with integration and cultural mediation or translation of information materials were collaborated with, as were schools to communicate the opportunities for participation and facilitating conditions, such as babysitting services. 
Methods and Tools Used
Negotiation table (TdN): Provided for by regional law 15/2018 (art.17), it is a discussion group accessed by the actors to discuss and reach an agreement on a common goal. Actors include those who are able to mobilize resources (positively or negatively) of various types (cultural, economic, political) on a given issue.
The goal of a TdN can be:
- An agreement on the participatory process related to a common political problem / objective: The agreement concerns the commitment to participate in an organized discussion path on such a problem;
- An agreement on the objective: in this case, the actors, in addition to sharing the process, propose different scenarios on which the same actors find a mediation or a compromise, selecting a single shared scenario; in this case it would also be preferable to carry out an extended verification step with citizens through tools that favor greater representativeness;
- An agreement on the conflict: in this case the actors propose different scenarios on which, however, they cannot agree. However, having accepted the participatory / deliberative process, they are involved in the discussion with the citizens and undertake to accept the outcome of this process, through instruments of enlarged representativeness.
Survey with digital Mosaic based on Futour Smart polling: A survey tool that facilitates the processing of results because it uses digital communication through smartphones, its results are then immediately returned to the screens or projected in the room where the participants are located.
Innovation Camp: This method was developed in Finland and adopted by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions (COR) to face important social challenges, create innovate policies, and support the Strategies for Smart Specialization in Europe. About 40 people representing the different stakeholders participate in an Innovation Camp, distributed in working groups. The duration was 2-3 days and was immersive, with the objectives of informing and training citizens and municipal employees on the new participation tool; studying the pros and cons of the referendum without quorum regulation; innovating and experimenting with practices, tools, methods of extended participation; and embedding the culture of participation more widely.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
April-May 2019: Meetings were held between Futour and the administration representatives for: the constitution of the project staff, the planning of the process, and the planning of the meeting with the district committees.  No confirmation of this activity is given other than the extremely concise declaration present in the reported schedule of activities carried out up to 31/10/19 to be sent to the Region. 
June 2019: Training meetings of project staff and consultants of participatory communication took place as did the preparation of an information meeting with neighborhood committee representatives on the participatory project. 
The first meeting of the TdN (25/11/19) explained the objective of the path and the role of the TdN, describing it as the guiding tool for all of the phases. It was identified as a space for the mediation and synthesis of requests that emerged through the participatory process, aiming to draw up a regulation as widely shared and accepted as possible.  A draft regulation of the TdN was also distributed.
The second meeting of the TdN (2/12/19) was where the regulation of the TdN was approved and the process and the methods of accessing the process, the registration methods, and the organization of the launch event were proposed.
Launch meeting (14/1/2020, 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm): in the presence of about twenty new attendees, compared to the previous path, Silvia Pozzoli and the Mayor re-proposed the objectives, past experiences, and comparisons with Roma Capitolina and Mira, other M5S realities that have eliminated the quorum, reiterating the positive effects of the stimulus to participation that this change would bring. Finally, the stages of the journey were illustrated. Some questions were asked about the role of the TN.
It was also indicated that in addition to being a resident in the Municipality of Cattolica, participants must be at least 16 years old; as such, some citizens suggested informing the Rimini high schools about the project in order to increase youth involvement. . Lia Piraccini, Secretary General of the Municipality of Cattolica reiterated that residency in Cattolica is required to participate, but some participants argued that the path can also be interesting for non-residents and ask to participate as observers. The Secretary replied that the possibility of allowing residents outside the Municipality of Cattolica to participate as auditors would be considered .
In addition, some demographic questions were asked with Futour's Smart Polling - Digital Mosaic. The question on expectations was as follows: “How do we imagine Cattolica when the referendum without quorum is regulated? Think in terms of optimistic results”. The answers were quite varied; some express a general improvement, an improvement in participation, and/or a redevelopment of places, while others have not understood or were skeptical and think that they will not change things or lead to an oligarchic management of power. 
When asked: "Who to involve: in your opinion which other stakeholders is it useful to involve in the path?", responses included many marginal social categories, "local entrepreneurs", and "I would not involve political forces." It is not clear what the purpose of this question was, nor is it clear why the participating citizens should be the ones to think about who to involve in the process when it would be enough to consider that all interested parties should be involved, as specified by the law.
Incentives (e.g. babysitting services) as envisioned by the project do not appear to have been made available either on this occasion or for subsequent workshops.
Innovation Camp Laboratories (31/1, 1/2, 21/2, 22/2): There is no feedback other than a post on Facebook of 4/2/20 with some photos and comments without significant content.
The path appears interrupted without reasons (the COVID phase begins on 9/3/20 and ends on 4/5/20); many activities, like this one, could continue online, but to date (9/8/20), no updates have been found on the dedicated pages, nor on Facebook. There is no trace of the new regulation.
On the Guarantee Technician's website, unlike the other processes, there are no active links to the case in question (as of 9/8/20).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The trial was terminated without explanation. It had no influence because no new regulations on the referendum without quorum were drawn up. It is not possible to detect what effect it had on the participants and on the active citizenship of the city. Surely it had no effect, if not contrary to the intentions, on the decision of the City Council of early June 2020, in which the proposed amendment to the Statute was rejected. 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
It is not the first case, among those financed and certified by the Guarantee Technician of the Emilia-Romagna Region, in recent years (2016-2020), to show macroscopic deficiencies in transparency and a development that does not respond to the commitments signed with the Region to obtain certification and financing (See: Cervia, Riolo, Monghidoro). From a methodological point of view, there seems to have been no effective preliminary dialogue during the planning phase with the political opposition forces and with the skeptical positions regarding the elimination of the quorum. Those interested in the institutional functioning arguably should have been the ones to whom the most negotiating effort went, contrary to how the individuals who attended the launch presentation might think.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Scheda progetto “Referendum senza quorum”, Bando regionale 2019, p. 2, https://www.osservatoriopartecipazione.it/common/dashboard/media/odp_files/comune_cattolica_progetto_bando_tematico_2019.pdf (ril. 08/08/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, Scheda progetto “Referendum senza quorum”, Bando regionale 2019, p. 3.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Scheda progetto “Referendum senza quorum”, Bando regionale 2019, p. 4.
 Municipality of Cattolica, conferenza con il Sottosegretario Riccardo Fraccaro, “Partecipazione e democrazia diretta”, 22/1/20, https://www.facebook.com/comunedicattolica/videos/875588109565264/ (ril. 8/7 / 20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, letter of invitation to the launch event on 14/1, http://www.cattolica.net/retecivica-citta-di-cattolica... (release 8/7/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, poster invitation to the launch event on 14/1, http://www.cattolica.net/retecivica-citta-di-cattolica/sites... (release 8/7/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, referendum without quorum, http://www.cattolica.net/retecivica-citta-di-cattolica/servizi-del-comune... (release 8/7/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, Referendum senza quorum, presentazione percorso partecipativo, 14/1/20, http://www.cattolica.net/retecivica... (release 8/7/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, scheda progetto, doc. cit., p.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Relazione al cronoprogramma, 10.22.19, https://www.osservatoriopartecipazione.it/common/dashboard/media/odp_files/comune%20cattolica%20relazione%20cronoprogramma.pdf (ril. 9/8 / 20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, Relazione al cronoprogramma.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Relazione al cronoprogramma.
 Municipality of Cattolica, TdN Minutes, 25/11/19, http://www.cattolica.net/retecivica-citta-di-cattolica... (release 9/8/20).
 Municipality of Cattolica, Referendum senza quorum, doc. cit., p. 9.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Referendum senza quorum, doc. cit., p. 9.
 Municipality of Cattolica, Referendum senza quorum, doc. cit., p. 11.
 L., M., Cattolica, pentastellati lose the referendum, Il Resto del Carlino, 12/6/20, https://www.msn.com/it-it/notizie/italia/cattolica-i- pentastellati-perdono-il-referendum / ar-BB15ndnn (release 9/8/20).