The Municipality of Vignola has established a permanent public participation program and wants to define and test the operating methods of some of its tools with the citizens themselves, starting from the neighborhoods.
Problems and purpose
To develop together with citizens a participation tool that allows both to increase the civic sense of the people who live in the different areas of the city and to stimulate them to work together, to discuss, to share, to co-deliberate, to find innovative and creative solutions, and to improve the relationship between citizens and central governance, creating a direct dialogue with the local administration.
Study the possible ways of implementing these “assemblies”: places, times, people, themes, cadences of the meetings. 
History and background context
“Vignola, with its 25,495 inhabitants, does not have a territory divided into hamlets or districts recognized with official documents. However, there are areas that have developed over the years around schools, parks, squares, shopping centers in which citizens feel part of. There are therefore no well-defined spatial boundaries, but over the years a very strong sense of community has been created, if only because you take your children to the same school, take the dog to the same dog field, go shopping in the same store.
These consolidated habits have facilitated the emergence of common interests and common purposes, such as improving the quality of life in the public spaces of the city, in particular the squares and green areas. In this way, shared projects have also developed: neighborhood control groups have been created on the subject of security; the citizens' committee of the Twinning Park was born; Proximity actions were developed together with the residents in the surroundings of the park in via I. Nievo, from which initiatives to animate the neighborhood were developed: walks, neighborhood party, gymnastics in the park, reuse markets.
The municipal territory which covers a small area, 23 sq km, is densely populated (about 1110 inhabitants / sq km). The average age of the people is 43.81 years and 17.32% of the population is of foreign citizenship. There are numerous schools in the area, starting from the nursery schools to get to the Higher Education Institutes. While the Higher Institutes are concentrated in a single area of the city, with the exception of the Agricultural Institute, the other schools are fairly evenly distributed over the territory, so as to become a point of reference for that area of the city. Just as the parishes remain a point of reference: the parish of SS Nazario and Celso in the historic center, to which the parish oratory is connected (in the oratory area); the parish of Campiglio and Pratomaggiore (a church in the Campiglio area and a church in the Bettolino district); the parish of San Giuseppe Artigiano in Brodano ”. 
Vignola's political tradition was left and center-left until 2014. In that year's elections there was a first break in this continuity, with the Smeraldi junta supported by dissident civic lists at the PD. With the early elections of 2017, the break was complete: victory of the center-right with a mayor of the League, Simone Pelloni (34% in the first round and 51% in the ballot). Almost 18% of the votes went to the League. Pelloni's program talks about citizen participation and the intention to activate the participatory budget.
Organization, support and financing
Emilia-Romagna Region, Legislative Assembly, Technical guarantee for participation. Established in 2012 as a structure provided for by Regional Law 3/10, it 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, 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. The contribution requested for the present case is 11,200 euros.
b (0, 0, 0); "> Municipality of Vignola is the holder of the decision and promoter of the process. It has co-financed the project for 30%, or 4,800 euros.
Poleis Soc. Coop. a rl is a consulting company based in Ferrara. Founded in 2004 as a company oriented to the development of analyzes, projects and actions capable of measuring itself with the current complexity of local, urban and territorial policies, over the years it has extended its expertise to the most relevant areas of public communication and participatory and inclusive policies . In this case he took care of the planning, the training of the municipal staff and the facilitation of participatory meetings. The remuneration for the design and facilitation was 5,368 euros.
Support and services. For graphics, printing, social media management, catering and buffets, the actor's artistic performance, the rest of the expense went to 7 companies.
Recruitment and selection of participants
- Sharing the route (May-June 2019)
- From 12/4 to 20/5/19 - 4 Coordination meetings between municipal staff and Poleis. The staff consists of 3 municipal employees and 2 Poleis consultants.
- 6/5, Villa Trenti, Vignola - Start of the process with the first establishment of the negotiation table . Present 15 people (9 women, 6 men) delegates from 5 cultural and voluntary associations, 4 neighborhood committees, 2 neighborhood control groups, CGIL SPI, participatory landscape presidium of the medium river Panaro contract, 1 town.
- 27/5 - Constitution and establishment of the Guarantee Committee , made up of 3 members of the TdN.
- 30/5, Council Chamber - Public assembly for the opening of the process. 40 people present, meeting open to all. There were members of associations, neighborhoods and neighborhood groups, citizens and administrators (Mayor and Councilor for democracy and participation). The initiative was advertised with flyers, playbills, posters, mailings, web pages and FB of the institution, blog partecipattiva.it, leaflets in the most frequented points, press release, telephone contacts and word of mouth.
Furthermore, during this phase, the communication plan and the graphic layout were defined with the communication agency (following the meeting on May 6), as well as the need for video shooting sessions with a focus on the neighborhoods to clarify the scope of project reference. Various actions have been implemented to promote the project inside and outside the organization: communication aimed at the organizational positions on the training activity that would be implemented; invitations to the mailing lists of local associations, whatsapp groups, the institution's website and institutional Facebook page; flyers and posters; billboard posters.  The Municipality of Vignola has Partecipattiva, a specific site dedicated to participation where news is published and project materials are uploaded (Link 1). The process was followed by a social media manager who made some video footage during all the public events of the route, finally edited in a summary video.
- Conduct of the process - Opening (June-September).
- 13 and 27/6 - 2 training sessions.
- r: transparent; color: rgb (0, 0, 0); "> 17 and 9/9 - 2 meetings of the TdN. 10 appearances to the first; attendances not given to the second.
- 3/7, Auris Library - World Café . Present 9 people (4 males and 5 females) in addition to the project staff. The event was open to all and was advertised as the 30/5 Public Assembly.
- 17 and 25/7, 28/8 - Meetings of the project staff.
- Conduct of the process - Closing (September-October).
- 26/9/19, Auris Library - Final assembly of the path with the “Word to the citizen” technique ; 30 people were present (associations, administrators, citizens), the event was open to all and advertised as the previous ones.
- 23/10 - TdN meeting in conjunction with the Guarantee Committee to share the DocPP (Participatory proposal document). The number of participants is not given in the minutes.
- 6/11 - Sending DocPP to the regional Warranty Technician.
- 18/11 - Council Resolution no. 120, on the acknowledgment of the results of the process and of the validation of the Guarantee Technician with consequent forwarding to the members of the TdN and to the signatories of the agreement.
“Despite the presence of numerous schools and the dissemination of the initiatives that characterized the various moments of the participatory path within the schools themselves, the participation of young people in the path was scarce. The participation of foreign citizens is practically non-existent, despite the fact that in certain areas of the city leaflets have been made door to door. Probably for future occasions it will be necessary to find different ways of communicating ". 
Methods and tools used
Negotiation table (TdN) . Provided by the ex-regional law 3/10 (art.13) then repealed and replaced by 15/2018 (art.17), it is a discussion group that the actors access to discuss and reach an agreement on a common goal . By actors we mean 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 precisely concerns the accession or the commitment to participate in an organized discussion path on a common 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 enlargement of representativeness.
Guarantee Committee . To verify compliance with the deadlines, the planned actions, the application of the method and compliance with the principle of impartiality of the conductors and with functions of monitoring the outcome of the process, it is the intention of the Municipal Administration to set up the Local Guarantee Committeeent; color: rgb (0, 0, 0); ">, envisaged pursuant to Art. 12, paragraph 4 of Law 15/2018. Pursuant to Art. 3 of the Regulation on participation and direct democracy institutions, A Permanent Negotiation Table was established at the Municipality of Vignola , with the task of promoting knowledge of forms of participation and direct democracy, as well as facilitating their use. Precisely for the purposes for which it was created, it is considered appropriate to include in the Committee of Guarantee three members of the Permanent Negotiation Table. In the first meeting of the Negotiation Table of the participatory process, it will be defined whether to leave the Guarantee Committee thus composed or to add other citizens interested in being part of it, who can be chosen among the members of the table themselves or present their own self-candidature. However, it is considered appropriate to form a small group composed of a maximum of 5 people. The constitution of the same will be ratified by the Negotiating Table tiation. The people of the project staff cannot be part of the Local Guarantee Committee; however, it will be the responsibility of the project manager to provide periodic updates to the group and give his / her availability to intervene in the meeting of the same to report on the progress of the project or to present clarifications if and when requested. The members of the Committee will meet approximately 3 times during the participatory process: in the initial phase of sharing the path, during the course and in the final phase. They will also be able to participate in the meetings planned during the participatory process as observers. 
Permanent negotiation table of the Municipality of Vignola . The Municipality of Vignola, through past participatory paths, has modified the Municipal Statute (in 2016) and the Regulations on Institutes of Participation and Direct Democracy (in 2017). Among the novelties of the regulation, Art. 3 from the Municipal Administration to support the formation of a Permanent Negotiation Table, with the task of promoting knowledge of forms of participation and direct democracy, as well as facilitating their use. Thus a Table is active, whose members meet regularly, approximately once a month, which is working on the promotion of these institutes. It was therefore a natural reference to identify in the permanent TN - which is composed of members already trained on participatory issues - a role of guarantee and therefore to invite one of its delegations to fill the role of the 3 members of the local guarantee committee relating to the process. This delegation was appointed internally, during one of its regular sessions, on 13/5. [5.1]
World Café . WoCa is an interactive method of conversation that has been adopted by large companies, governments and communities around the world to animate networks of collaborative dialogue. WoCa are based on the principle that people already have the wisdom and creativity necessary to face the toughest challenges and can learn a lot from spontaneous conversations with people outside their organization or the groups they are used to. Therefore, in the discussion mode, tables of 4-8 people are formed. After the first discussion on a question posed by the organizer of the event, a witness (or table-host or "host") of the table remains still while the others go to different tables. The witness records the ideas expressed and communicates them to new guests or the plenary facilitator before the next discussion begins. And so on until all the questions are exhausted.
The word to the citizen (art.11 Municipal Statute)
At least once a year on the initiative of the Administration or at the request of 200 entitled to the institutions referred to in this title, an assembly open to the public, "La Parola al Cittadino", is convened on topics of collective interest, publicized adequately by the Administration, with the following characteristics:
- time and places chosen in order to facilitate the maximum participation of citizens;
- all residents of the Municipality have the right to participate;
- presence of the Mayor and councilors;
- a list of citizens' proposals to be discussed is first drawn up;
- the first written proposal is discussed in chronological order and then gradually the others with the same short maximum time equal for all interventions;
- each proposal is voted on after a short discussion;
- each present can vote on all the proposals that they deem appropriate to support;
- the three most voted proposals are deepened, discussed and voted on in the first
City Council useful, inviting the proposing citizens to report.
The proposals submitted must be economically sustainable and compatible with the availability of the municipal budget.
What happened: process, interaction and participation
TdN first settlement meeting and sharing of the path, "Participation, comparison, active citizenship" (6/5/19, Villa Trenti)
The first part of presenting the project and sharing the design phases was followed by a second phase of brainstorming ideas, starting with the presentation of various graphic proposals for logos (seven) that could be identifying the project, to arrive at the shared solution of the graphic layout of the project to be used already for the presentation public Assembly.
The meeting, which started with a listening phase by the citizens present, saw the active involvement of the same in the second part, creating a first dialogue and an interaction even between people who did not know each other, starting from the images proposed. Different expectations emerged on what the “neighborhood assembly” could be, also highlighting possible critical issues: the lack of participation of people, the difficulty in involving residents in projects that envisage an active role in the community. The conductors highlight the following critical aspects: “Difficulty in perceiving the neighborhood, if not as a place marked by very specific physical boundaries. This criticality will also emerge in subsequent meetings, especially by people who have not taken part in all the scheduled meetings ". 
Public presentation of the project (30/5/19, Sala Consiliare, Vignola)
After the institutional greetings and the presentation of the project by the manager, a video made specifically for the occasion was projected, containing images of the different areas of Vignola to let those present enter the center of the theme of the participatory path> https: // www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCHh0HW-9Us&feature=youtu.be
We then enter into the operation of the project, introducing some possible elements of the Neighborhood Assemblies that will be the subject of discussion and comparison in subsequent meetings.
The method of the Word to the citizen is initiated , through the “participatory wall”: everyone is given a sheet in which to write 3 ideas that they would like to realize through neighborhood assemblies and 3 possible critical issues. During the following buffet all the suggestions left by the citizens are displayed on the participation wall. Many suggestions emerged from the citizens themselves, as a sign of interest in the chosen theme. Opinions are very different, crucial contents are already emerging that will return in subsequent meetings ". During the meeting an ex-ante questionnaire was distributed to the participants, from which it emerges that 52.6% have already participateddue to participatory paths, a trend that is certainly on the rise compared to previous years, when the minority had already taken part in participatory projects. The invitation email was the most successful communication channel; to the question "if a representative assembly of the community of citizens were set up in your neighborhood, would you be willing to take part?": 100% answered yes. 
World Café (3/7/19, Auris Library, Vignola)
The particularly unfavorable weather conditions (a strong storm that also caused extensive damage) and the holiday period caused a low participation. It was therefore decided to have a single session conducted by a facilitator, with the aim of gathering information relating to all four thematic areas.
The activity lasted 2 hours.
Four thematic areas addressed during the meeting:
1. how a neighborhood assembly is constituted
2. how a neighborhood assembly is organized
3. how the neighborhood assembly relates to the municipality
4. which topics are the subject of the activities of the District Assembly
Various indications emerged, often alternative or complementary, which touched upon some key points: the role of the assemblies (ie their actual purpose); the issues that could be the subject of the Assembly's activities; the role of the Administration (already active in the initial phase to stimulate participation, encourage the creation of networks, support initiatives that help give visibility to neighborhood assemblies).
The theme of logistics was also entered: where to hold these meetings, when, how.
Despite the few participants, the discussion was very fruitful and there were many solicitations brought by the citizens present, who already identified themselves in the operational situation, highlighting possible critical issues and finding shared solutions.
The meeting was very productive from the point of view of the contents. On the other hand, the participation of citizens was scarce, which raised the issue of how few elements are enough to slow down the motivation to be an active part of a public meeting. Surely it will be necessary to work on how to "stimulate more participation, the role of active citizen". The topic was also discussed with the citizens present and the concept of a greater incentive to participate on concrete issues emerged, compared to abstract models. A greater active role of citizens is therefore hoped for when the experimentation phases of the Assemblies themselves begin.
The contents are deepened and investigate different points of view, even divergent ones. As an example, we report the discussion on “already structured forms of committees [...] to understand how to make already existing Assemblies and aggregative forms interact, or the ways to create best experiences. With regard to the organization of the Assembly meetings, it is shared the idea that there is an agenda to be shared in advance with the residents. Regarding the definition of the ODG, there are two different visions: one sees the definition of priorities entirely in the hands of the resident citizens, who self-manage the meetings and decide the topics for discussion. For others, there may be both bottom-up contributions and suggested themes! by the administration. In fact, someone sees an active role of the administration already in the initial phase, which encourages participation, encourages the creation of networks of citizens, supports initiatives that help to give substance and visibility to neighborhood assemblies ”. 
Closing Assembly "Phenomenology of the neighborhood" (26/9/19, Auris Library)
In this meeting a new element was introduced: the interventionto an external operator, a professional actor, who has focused his speech on the "phenomenology of the neighborhood", that is, on the direct and indirect relational aspects that are created between people who live in the same building or in the same neighborhood. The intervention was inserted between the presentation phase of the entire participatory process carried out from May to September and the presentation of the guidelines for the constitution of the neighborhood assemblies presented by the facilitator of the participatory process.
After a small break in which the participants were able to present supplementary proposals to the above to the appointed operator, The Word to the Citizen began from which three proposals emerged that will be discussed in the next negotiation table in which the final DocPP of the project will be shared .
Critical self-assessments: The meeting went very well and developed in a calm and active atmosphere. The new element, the participation of a professional actor, did not lead to an increased participation, which settled on the average of the previous public meetings. At the end of the meeting, an ex-post questionnaire was delivered on the degree of satisfaction with the participatory path just concluded. These questionnaires show that people rated the experience very interesting and were satisfied with the information materials made available. The evaluation of the path facilitators and understanding of the general aims of the project was also positive.
The contents of the proposals collected concern the number of signatures (250) that are considered too many for a citizen, and proposes to reduce them to 100 for proposals involving interventions up to 10,000 euros and leave 250 for higher spending proposals. A discussion follows with clarifications on the role of the committees and on the fact that it is not taken for granted that the administration decides to follow up on the requests received. The proposal is voted with 19 votes in favor and will be sent to the administration. A second discussion concerns the diffusion of communication and how to stimulate participation more, a proposal is to exploit the aggregation created by planned initiatives and the shared calendar of the Municipality. A third proposal concerns the enlargement / inclusion of non-resident individuals in the assemblies, which after being re-deployed, was approved with 20 votes.
DocPP elaboration shared in the Tdn, sent to the guarantee technician on 28/10/19.
The guidelines of the proposal for the Deciding Body emerged from the participated meetings. First of all, starting from a shared definition of NEIGHBORHOOD: we are the neighborhood! Not a place delimited by rigid boundaries, but a symbolic space of belonging, identity, in which the citizens who live there identify themselves. It follows that several neighborhood Assemblies can arise nearby, as long as there are elements of identity that bring people together (a park, a parish, a shopping area, a school, ...) and above all a sufficient number of people to reach the threshold of activation of the District Assembly itself (collection of 50 signatures). This is followed by the phases of how it is set up, how it is organized, what it is about, how complex project proposals are treated, the relationships between citizens and public bodies.
Monitoring . The DocPP also contains the monitoring program, in which it is stated that in the web pages of the municipality Participattiva.it, it will be the responsibility of the Project Manager (a municipal employee) to upload all subsequent derivative acts: resolutions, minutes, targeted actions, meetings in areas of the city. The site will therefore remain constantly updated and, once the meetings have been activated, the reference web page will remain, in which the meetings, minutes, activities and projects that will be born and will develop in the years to come will be inserted. a request emerged from citizens "not to be abandoned", to have support from the public body especially in the activity of involving people, of soliciting the social realities present in the different areas of the city.
Communication will therefore concern two different aspects of the project: on the one hand, institutional communication (all acts, decisions, public notices resulting from the participatory process); on the other, community communication (activities, actions, meetings, news of citizens who will be part of the neighborhood assemblies). If web communication is a priority channel, it will not remain the only one. Indeed it is evident how important it is to implement this communication with other equally effective types. 
Influence, results and effects
The results of the process were validated by the regional guarantee technician and sent to the Municipality of Vignola on 6/11/19. The Municipality of Vignola with Municipal Council Resolution n. 120 of 18.11.2019 took note of the participatory process carried out and of the participatory proposal document, as well as the validation of the Guarantee Technician.
In the same resolution, the Board gave a mandate to the Democracy and Participation Service to set up a technical table, with the aim of analyzing the participatory proposal and elaborating a proposal to amend the Statute and the Regulations of the Participation and Direct Democracy Institutes, to be provided as material for discussion to the competent Council Commission and the City Council. The Municipality of Vignola with Municipal Council Resolution n. 120 of 18.11.2019 took into account the participatory path carried out and gave visibility to citizenship by publishing the same resolution, as well as in the praetorian register and in the usual institutional channels also on the Partecipattiva thematic site (Link 1). The decision was also communicated to all those who took part in the project. From an operational point of view, the best ways of promoting neighborhood assemblies to citizens are being evaluated, involving the signatories of the formal agreement in the implementation of ad hoc activities in the various areas of Vignola, so that the formal aspects proceed hand in hand with the operation of the instrument in the municipal area.
"An important result achieved during the participatory process is the elaboration of shared ideas and projects for the activation of neighborhood assemblies, governing the conflicts and divergent positions that emerged during the meetings, which led to the development of a DocPP fully shared by all participants. Just as it is important to have improved the skills both on the part of some officials of the Municipal Administration, both on the part of citizens, and of the representatives of the associations that have participated in the project on the instruments of direct, deliberative and participatory democracy, on the institutes of participation and direct democracy already present in the Statute and in the Municipal Regulations on participation institutions and methodologies for resolving conflict situations in work groups. Skills that will be useful both for other participatory paths that will be activated, and in the various situations that will arise in everyday life ". 
Analysis and lessons learned
The transparency is complete, apart from the lack of attendance at two events, as well as the reporting of expenses is complete, clear and detailed . The sharing of the route has taken place. The representation has reached 250 people in the process, in addition to about 1000 reached indirectly through the media products from the process. Influence was consistent and monitoring planned and carefully organized. Despite some foreseeable declines in summer participation and the absence of outreach activities towards foreigners or other categories less inclined to public participation, the process has reachedor the purpose. All the authorities and actors seem to have done their job with professionalism and the politicians with serious conviction.
 Municipality of Vignola, Final report, 6/12/19, p. 3, https://www.osservatoriopartecipazione.it/common/dashboard/media/odp_files/comune%20vignola%20rel.finale.pdf (ril. 02/09/20).
 Ibidem, p. 4.
 Ib. p. 5.
 Ib. p. 4.
 Municipality of VIgnola, Project, Regional announcement 1/2/19, 18/3/19, p. 12-13, http://www.partecipattiva.it/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/PROGETTO-VIGNOLA-2019.pdf (release 2/9/20).
[5.1] Municipality of Vignola, Final report, doc. cit., p. 12.
 Ibidem, p. 7.
 Ib., P. 8.
 Municipality of Vignola, Verbale Woca, 3/7/19, http://www.partecipattiva.it/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/World-Cafe%CC%81-Assemblee-di-quartiere- Vignola-verbal- meeting.pdf (release 2/9/20).
 Municipality of Vignola, DocPP, 28/10/19, pp. 8:10, http://www.partecipattiva.it/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/DocPP-Quartiere-in-Vista.pdf (release 2/9/20).
 Municipality of VIgnola, Final report, doc. cit., p. 22-23.
- Municipality of Vignola, Partecipattiva, http://www.partecipattiva.it/ (ril. 2/9/20).