The San Lorenzo workshop project aimed to open spaces for dialogue and discussion around identity and urban regeneration of the San Lorenzo-Mercato Centrale district, an important historic center of Florence.
Problems and Purpose
The project came from the desire to open spaces for dialogue around the theme of identity and transformation of an important district of the historic centre of Florence, where the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the Market Central and the former convent of Sant'Orsola, an abandoned architectural complex of fourteenth-century origin, were located. The concern that motivated organizers was that the difficulty in finding economic investors willing to bear the costs of the restructuring of Sant’Orsola could lead to a progressive privatization of the property and a reduction of its social functions. The object of the process was therefore the participatory construction of a strategy for the redevelopment of the public spaces of the district and of the Sant'Orsola complex. It was thought that innovative intervention tools would enable the identification of uses and functions consistent with the characteristics and needs of society, with particular attention to developing cooperation, participation, integration, compensation, and enhancement of memories of the 'historical stratifications' that have accumulated in the different periods and functions of the former convent. 
The participatory methodologies, curated by Cantieri Animati, included focus groups, neighborhood walks, in-depth interviews with privileged witnesses, workshops, training moments, co-planning workshops carried out with the Charrette technique, discussion with experts, and public restitution meetings.  Parallel to the participatory process, research on the district was carried out by two DIDA fellows, producing a graphic representation of the objective data relating to the social, demographic, economic and urban aspects of the district, which highlighted the dynamics and transformations taking place. 
Background History and Context
Sant'Orsola is part of a large block between via Guelfa, via Panicale, via Sant'Orsola and via Tedalda. The ancient factory resembles a large four-storey "container" and has a basement and two underground floors, with a total of over 15,000 square meters of usable area and 1,741 square meters of internal courtyards (three larger courtyards and two smaller ones). For over ten years, local administrators have been pursuing the redevelopment of the complex through ordinary instruments (concession calls for enhancement) which have not managed to activate recovery processes or effective local community involvement.
This project began with the Sant'Orsola initiative, where an informal group of residents and experts from various disciplines for several years had been trying to open spaces for dialogue and discussion around identity and urban transformation. Following yet another deserted concession notice, the Metropolitan City of Florence (the property owner) announced the decision to proceed to direct negotiations with private investors, which concerned organizers. Currently, the Metropolitan City of Florence has started the refurbishment of the roof and facades, while the overall redevelopment project has been postponed to private negotiations, the outcome of which is still unknown. The Metropolitan City and the Municipality of Florence have expressed interest in the participatory project and its outcomes and have ensured that the proposals that have emerged will be used to 1) guide the future of the complex (by updating the Urban Planning Regulations under review and developing a program of interventions) and 2) to elaborate the new Unesco management plan. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Department of Architecture (DIDA), University of Florence, is the lead presenter of the project to the regional authority for the guarantee and promotion of participation (APP). Francesco Alberti was involved in the project as scientific director. Two fellows engaged in social research and facilitation, one in charge of the administrative secretariat and one responsible for coordinating the DIDA Communication Lab for the development of graphics and communication materials. 
Order of Architects of Florence (OAF) was involved, with secretary and training manager, Marzia Magrini, and another three people who provided logistic support.
Santorsolaproject, is a working group of residents and urban regeneration experts that has promoted since 2013 a coordination made up of various local subjects. For the project, Emanuele Salerno played the role of operational coordination, G. Serrini of scientific support and I. Lorieri operational assistance.
Cantieri Animati Snc is a company that designs participatory paths, public debates, and urban planning. Chiara Pignaris, its founder, was entrusted with the responsibility of the participatory methodologies of the project, flanked by Carmelo Argentieri as head of communication and Orlando Caponnetto, in charge of drafting the documentation, photos and videos.  From what can be deduced from the expense report, he should have obtained a remuneration of 9,000 euros.
Tuscany Region - Regional Council is the governance body that oversees (legislates), finances, and designates the three members of the Regional Authority for the guarantee and promotion of participation (APP).
Regional Authority for the Guarantee and Promotion of Participation (APP), established with the regional law 46/2013, has the task of promoting citizen participation in the construction processes of regional and local policies. It indexes periodic public tenders to support participatory processes in the regional territory. In this case, it awarded 25,000 euros for the overall organization of the process. Overall, the project cost 37,533, so 12,533 was co-financed by DIDA and OAF for the use of the OAF meeting rooms and DIDA equipment, and coordinated by Prof. Alberti and the secretarial work of the OAF.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The participatory process involved representatives from the social networks existing in the neighbourhood, economic operators, and individual citizens, giving voice to points of view hitherto little heard from students, artists, and citizens of different nationalities who live or work in the neighbourhood. The various phases were as follows:
- Preparation phase: about 50 subjects
- Involvement phase: about 254 people
- Sharing phase: about 175 people
- Return phase: about 60 people (final meeting)
Citizens were recruited through flyers, press releases, social media, and email invitations to the Santorsolaproject group address book, consisting of about 1,500 contacts. Particular care was taken in inviting the approximately 600 citizens who in 2014 signed in support of a previous participation project conceived by Santorsolaproject. Citizens most difficult to reach, such as the younger generations, were invited by going directly to the meeting places of the neighborhood during the outreach activity carried out by the facilitators. In particular, it was considered important to have recruited young people from the self-managed La Polveriera SpazioComune center, who currently occupy some spaces in Sant'Apollonia carrying out social and cultural activities, and some itinerant market operators, which have had past conflicts with residents.
Meetings and public events
16/3/19 - Public meeting: "Il più bel fior ne colgo" (English: "The most beautiful flower I take"): 50 participants were involved; 23 local actors were represented (APP in Allegretti and Gelli members, associations, committees, Municipality, Metropolitan City, DIDA, Philippine Catholic Community, Bangladesh Community, L. Cherubini Conservatory, and San Lorenzo Parish)
6/4/19 - Focus group: 27 people involved, 11 actors (some of those already mentioned) and others new like the Peruvian Community.
16/4/19 - First neighborhood walk: 26 people, 8 actors (including merchants, Pinocchio Association, and committees).
28/4/19 - Second neighborhood walk: 30 people, 8 actors (including Academy of Fine Arts, new associations and dealers).
14/6/19 - Third neighborhood walk: 28 people, 5 actors (including the Polveriera Spazio Comune, Italia Nostra, Silfi SpA).
27/6/19 - Public meeting "Obiettivo San Lorenzo": 40 people, 11 actors (including again the Metropolitan City, the Municipality, the Toscana Spettacolo Foundation, the Uffizi Gallery, the Unesco Office of the Municipality).
10/8/19 - Listening point in Piazza San Lorenzo: came into contact with 50 people; including ward citizens and tourists.
24/9/19 - Geography of a ward and mapping of the associations active in the ward: 55 people and 20 actors involved.
15/10/19 - Charrette facilitator training meeting: 20 people, including professionals (engineers, architects, artists and others) and officials of the bodies involved.
26/10/19 - “Amo San Lorenzo” project workshop: 70 people, and the Charrette team. The Sant’Orsola was originally planned to be the site of the laboratory but this was not possible due to the presence of the construction site that occupied the possible escape routes. The workshop then took place at the premises of the Order of Architects of Florence, in Piazza della Stazione, making it more difficult for residents to participate. Nonetheless, representatives of the various foreign communities in the district and some street market operators also participated in the meeting, carried out with the Charrette technique. 
5/12/19 - Public restitution meeting "A pact for San Lorenzo and Sant’Orsola": 60 people (all the bodies involved, citizens, promoters, actors involved in the process). 
For the organization of the course, all 35 meetings that took place from 1/3/19 to 4/12/19 were recorded; these were coordination, organization, training, reporting meetings, with the authorities involved, teachers, and privileged witnesses. Overall, an average of 7-8 people were involved per meeting. 
In order to ensure the participation of citizens of foreign origin, the associations already involved in the Santorsolaproject network in previous initiatives were invited to organize and promote the initiatives. To include the views of the most disadvantaged individuals, the Parish and Community of Sant’Egidio were also involved .
The communication plan included: press conferences, drafting and sending of press releases to the local media system (Santorsolaproject has made its address book available to over 160 contacts of journalists, agencies and editorial offices), drafting and sending to the address book of a update bulletin on the phases of the project (with press reviews of newspapers and websites), continuous updating of the internet pages dedicated to the participatory project, the animation of social accounts for the promotion of interest and participation in the project. The information activities have seen the use of traditional information tools (flyers and posters) but also the use of short videos disseminated on social networks. The information materials produced during the different phases of the project can be downloaded from the website and in the final report of the process .
Methods and Tools Used
Focus groups: A common way to bring together a group of people and start a discussion with them around a desired theme, they involve a moderator stimulating the discussion to ensure 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, groups may use 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 the fundamental concepts they want to express. Focus groups typically host 12-14 participants.
Neighborhood walks: Group walks involve fostering awareness of the environments subject to the process. Qualified witnesses meet to start a conversation on the issue or the group, as in this case, carries out surveys on the uses and conditions of the public space to be reported on the map. With this initiative, walks also took place at night to capture the different urban geographies.
Neighborhood listening point: These are fixed, temporary spaces, set up with banquets and/or gazebos, or vertical panels, in which information is given on the process, potential participants are contacted, initiatives are advertised, and opinions are collected through questionnaires or interviews.
Charrette: Also known in English-speaking countries as Design Charrette or charett, it is a participatory urban design process in which a multidisciplinary team (made up of citizens, representatives of interest groups, policy makers and experts in the field) works in a collaborative and transparent way on urban and territorial planning issues. A Charrette lasts a minimum of four consecutive days, but it can go on longer. In ideal cases, a so-called "mini-Charrette" is conducted a few weeks before the start of the "main Charrette" process, during which the project is illustrated. In addition, a few weeks after the end of the actual planning and discussion phase, information is given on how the project ideas collected during a final assembly will be used. In principle, the process is open to all stakeholders. The design team can invite, in a targeted manner, people directly involved in the project and inhabitants of the surrounding areas. Despite its flexible approach, the basic opportunities and limitations of participatory methods that involve larger groups of people also apply to the Charrette process. If more interests can be integrated, in this case a Charrette process is able to ensure the widest possible consensus. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The participatory process was divided into four phases, which were followed although with a delay of 1-2 months due to the suspension of activities during the electoral period and the slight delay in the start of activities due to the different bureaucratic steps (DIDA-OAF agreement approved by the respective Councils; public tender for the contracting of facilitators; task entrusted by OAF to Cantieri Animati). The final meeting also saw a slight delay in times, due to the difficulty in involving the representatives of the various administrations (Region, Municipality and Metropolitan City).
The phases carried out were:
- Preparation phase — made it possible to contract facilitators, identify experts, define the calendar of meetings, develop the communication plan and information tools.
- Involvement phase — it made it possible to involve the different types of inhabitants, the heads of associations and stakeholders, operators, etc.
- Sharing phase — made it possible to develop shared proposals for the regeneration of Sant’Orsola and the district of San Lorenzo-Mercato Centrale.
- Return phase — not only allowed the results of the process to be returned to the institutions and the population, but also to develop a draft "protocol of intent" to be shared with the various subjects (promoters, institutions and associations), consolidating the networks activated. 
To ensure maximum inclusion, the information has always been provided in non-technical and easily understandable language, and the methodologies have made prevalent use of "manipulable" images and materials in order to facilitate spontaneous interaction between people of different ages and cultures.
The participatory process also produced accurate research on the district (carried out by the DIDA University of Florence) and quality design proposals, thanks to the involvement of various architects and experts. In order to reconstruct an accurate cognitive picture of the study area (i.e. the San Lorenzo district in Florence and its public spaces and common goods) investigations were launched aimed at mapping, using tools such as regional maps, demographic and economic statistical data collected by the Statistical Office of the Municipality of Florence, the commodity lists of the Florence Chamber of Commerce, the open data of some digital platforms available online, the RUC of the Municipality of Florence, Laboratorio San Lorenzo 15, and the archival documents of the Metropolitan City, in addition to on-site inspections and on-site surveys. The georeferenced data collected were reprocessed with the Qgis application. The other territorially representable data have been reported on the Regional Technical Map.
The outcome of these investigations led to the drafting of ten papers:
- Demographic data (graphs)
- Mapping economic activities
- Mapping public space, uses and characteristics
- Mapping notified cultural assets
- Mapping non-residential uses of the built fabric (classification of specific uses)
- Mapping the non-residential uses of the built fabric (classification of public-private property)
- Mapping of the transformation areas
- Focus on the Sant'Orsola complex
- Summary map of ideas for the relaunch of the district
- Mobility mapping
The working day that took place in the "Amo San Lorenzo" project laboratory, conducted with the Charrette method, allowing participants to develop a series of strategies and proposals on three themes that emerged as priorities during the first sharing workshop:
- theme 1: improving the connections and usability of public spaces in the San Lorenzo district;
- theme 2: proposals to improve the livability of Piazza del Mercato Centrale;
- theme 3: proposals for open, permeable and multifunctional Sant’Orsola.
Through a series of workshops within the project staff, the proposals that emerged from the Charrette were summarized in summary maps and in a Memorandum of Understanding that the Promoters and the Administrations involved are deepening. 
The specific results are illustrated in three maps that can be downloaded from the Open Toscana page or from the links in the final report.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The results of the project were studied in depth through meetings with representatives of the Metropolitan City and the Municipality of Florence and were translated into an environmentally and socially sustainable recovery project, which aims to use public resources in a more targeted and strategic way and to rebuild a pact of trust between institutions and citizens. Additionally, a monitoring group of all of the involved participants was created. The process ended with the proposal to sign an agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) which the signatories undertake to follow up on. The Metropolitan City and the Municipality of Florence have expressed — also officially in the City Council — interest in the project and its results and have ensured that the proposals that have emerged will be used to address the future destinations of the complex, update the Urban Planning Regulations under review and to elaborate the new management of UNESCO and municipal planning (through a program of interventions). 
The website, however, ends its updates with the end of the process, so there are no available links on the web page or the social pages and any communications from the monitoring committee should be available.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Obstacles and open questions
As mentioned, time delays from the administrative elections of the Municipality of Florence forced the suspension of the involvement activities in the 15 days preceding the electoral deadline (requiring the shift of the date of the night walk). The concomitance of the elections made it difficult to have political interlocutors who would support the spread of the "call" to citizens. According to organizers, this problem was resolved due to additional information work in the field carried out by the coordinator Santorsolaproject as well as due to the provision, by the Order of Architects, of two communication professionals (press officer and social community manager). 
In the second phase of the project, two other issues identified in the interim report as problematic were also addressed:
- The difficulty in identifying a stable interlocutor in the Metropolitan City (caused by the administrative elections and the alternation of the Director General).
- The difficulty in using the spaces of Sant’Orsola as the seat of the co-design laboratory.
While the first point was resolved due to the appointment (in October) of the new Director General of the Metropolitan City — which coincides with that of the Municipality of Florence — and the assignment of the delegation (unfortunately only in November) to the Patrimony of the CM to the Mayor of Pontassieve, for the second point there was nothing to do. If it had been possible to carry out the co-design workshop or the final conference of the project inside Sant'Orsola, there would likely have been greater participation by the inhabitants of the district, and this would have represented a good sign of openness and hope for the future. Despite this, morale was high, and the final meeting took place in an atmosphere of general satisfaction with the results achieved by everyone. The last problem that is considered useful to point out is the issue of the budget assigned by the APP to the project, which was undersized compared to the amount of activities that had to be carried out. The problem was resolved thanks to the availability of the Staff to carry out many additional activities free of charge. 
The process was transparent, with abundant and well organized documentation. The communication of advertising and accompaniment to the participants went well. The sharing of the process was successful; the conflicts emerged and were faced proactively.
Representativeness, despite the large number of players present in such a small area, but full of activities and intertwining populations, has made the results more reliable and influential on the future of decisions.
The evaluation, conducted through questionnaires, desired and prepared by the APP, was carried out but with a low number of responses (according to the conductors themselves ) and is not available in the links or on the site page. However, organizers state that the participants expressed great satisfaction: 20 out of 26 indicated they would participate again, and 6 out of 26 said they changed their mind following the comparison. This assessment must therefore be recovered and deepened.
 Dipartimento di Architettura (DIDA) UniFi et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo, 12/12/2019, p. 5, https://partecipa.toscana.it/documents/1096457/0/Relazione+finale+inviata+all%27Autorit%C3%A0+per+la+Partecipazione.pdf (ril. 16/8/20).
 Dipartimento di Architettura (DIDA) UniFi et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo, p. 2.
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo.
 DIDA UniFi et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo, p. 5.
 DIDA UniFi et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo, p. 7-8.
 DIDA UniFi et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo.
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo, pp: 15:17.
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo, p. 10-11.
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo, pp. 12:14.
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo, p. 14.
 Patrizia Nanz e Miriam Fritsche “La partecipazione dei/le cittadini/e: un manuale Metodi partecipativi: protagonisti, opportunità e limiti”, Regione Emilia-Romagna 2014, https://partecipazione.regione.emilia-romagna.it/tutte-le-pubblicazioni/pubblicazioni/la-partecipazione-dei-cittadini-un-manuale (ril. 16/8/20).
 DIDA et al., Laboratorio San Lorenzo, doc. cit., p. 8.
 DIDA UniFi et al., p. 15.
Laboratorio San Lorenzo (2013). Bozza di Protocollo d’Intesa “Verso un Contratto di rione Per la rigenerazione dI San Lorenzo e del complesso di Sant’Orsola A Firenze” https://partecipa.toscana.it/documents/1096457/0/Protocollo+Verso+un+contratto+di+rione.pdf
 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo., p. 2-5.
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 DIDA UniFi et al, Laboratorio San Lorenzo., p. 16.
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 Open Toscana, Laboratorio San Lorenzo, https://partecipa.toscana.it/web/laboratorio-san-lorenzo (ril. 16/8/20).