“Porto le Mie Idee” was a citizen-led initiative for those living in Marina di Carrara to adapt a new water-front construction project to the needs of the community. Participation was extensive and recommendations resulting from the workshops were heard by the Mayor.
Problems and Purpose
“Porto le Mie Idee” is a participatory project promoted by a group of citizens of Marina di Carrara (a district of the city of Carrara), to make the project of the construction of the new water-front presented by the port authorities of Carrara suitable to the needs of the community. This very move had also the goal of making the mayor promise not to take any decision about the harbor before the ending of the participatory process. “Porto le Mie Idee” began as support increased for an alternative project of the port water-front, as opposed to the original project advanced by local and national administrations. The port waterfront in fact represents an important place for the community (and thus for the promoters of the initiative, who live in the area) as well as for many social and economic interests, often conflicting. Its redevelopment will therefore have a high impact on the citizens' quality of life and on interest groups.
Background History and Context
Since its origins, Marina di Carrara has been an area characterized by a mixture of industrial, residential and tourist areas. Currently, the promenade of Marina di Carrara includes the port area, the shipyards, the bathing facilities, touristic and recreational activities, residential areas, an exhibition area and several businesses.
“Porto le Mie Idee” attempts to adapt the water-front project proposed by the municipality and by the port authority to the needs and expectations of the citizens.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The project “Porto le Mie Idee” was born in 2008 from the initiative of a group of citizens from the area of Marina di Carrara. In 2009, this committee became an association—AmareMarina—which collected 600 signatures to apply for funds from the regional Participation Authority of Tuscany in accordance with the regional law no. 69/07 of Tuscany. The Municipality Carrara, upon the request of the regional authority, agreed on temporarily suspending any decision concerning the implementation of the water-front, while the regional authority gave €50,000 to the association for the implementation of the participatory process (AmareMarina actually spent only € 47.005).
This process has sought the collaboration of several partners including Sociolab,a Florence based consulting firm, the Centre for the Study of Political Sampling of the University of Siena for the selection of participants, and Prof. M. Marchetti to support the discussions from the technical point of view.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The "accompanying table" was composed by the deputy mayor of the municipality of Carrara, the president of the port authority, two members of the association AmareMarina and six "voices of guarantee", i.e. citizens selected by mutual agreement between the administration and the association, acting as neutral observers and guarantors of the internal choices of the process. This table established some basic rules concerning the process, like the criteria for the selection of participants, who were randomly selected ordinary citizens. The selection criteria (particularly gender, age, residence and education) sought, on the one hand, to ensure the maximum representativeness of the sample compared to the overall population and, on the other hand, to limit the potential personal conflicts of interest of the participants with respect to redevelopment of the port area. For this reason, the sample could not include individuals holding elected office, members of the port authority, members of the sponsoring association, public executives and managers of public subsidiary companies. In order to allow the participation of all the citizens interested in the debate, the “accompanying table” made available: an e-mail address to send questions and ideas to be published on the site; a web-forum for the discussion about the project; a Facebook page dedicated to the process.
76 individuals participated in the laboratories, of which 58 were randomly taken from the registry lists of the municipality and 18 were taken randomly chosen from the list of the 600 signatories of the regional authority grant application for participation (plus about 84 observers). Equal gender participation in the laboratories in general was ensured because 42% of participants were women. About half of the participants in the workshops was present at all the meetings, while 70% attended 4 meetings out of 5.
Methods and Tools Used
The first step was to set up a so-called “guarantee table”, composed of representatives of the involved organizations and the Administration; its task was to validate the main decisions concerning the process. The actual participatory process was based on five workshops with 78 randomly selected citizens. The five workshops were articulated in three phases: problem analysis, investigation and design. Each workshop was characterized by an alternation of plenary sessions, during which there was a hearing of the local administration, the port authority engineers and promoters of the participatory process, and of session for discussion in small groups moderated by expert facilitators.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The project was divided in two stages: firstly, there were three evening meetings, where the “guarantee table” established the process rules, the sampling criteria and the methods of communication with the public. Among the rules that the “guarantee table” has established for itself, the most important is the decision-making mode, which excluded the possibility of decisions taken by majority voting in order to ensure consensus among the parties. Following this were five public meetings or 'workshops'.
During the first workshop, the participants were divided into five working groups, each chaired by a facilitator and supported by a large aerial photograph of the area affected by the proposed intervention. Participants have sought to identify the critical assets and the opportunities which could be achieved through the redevelopment of the port.
The second and third meetings concerned the hearings of stakeholders including the local government, the port authority and the association AmareMarina.
The last two meetings, with the help of Prof. Marchetta (coordinator of the Master of Sustainable Architecture in the Mediterranean city at the University of Florence) were carried out to outline a more detailed guideline for the redevelopment, taking into account the potential critical aspects of the project and participants' expectations. At the end of the workshops, the outcome was summarized in the "Guidelines" containing criteria that the new project should follow.
The process ended with a public meeting which presented the "Guidelines" and the considerations of the local authorities regarding the water-front.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
It is possible to state that participation in this project was extensive, that the atmosphere of the meetings was positive, sometimes tense, but always constructive and aimed at developing consensus. The fact that there was no massive decline in the number of participants and that 92% of respondents to the final evaluation questionnaire assessed the process to be "useful" and "extremely useful" is a demonstration of its success. Given the importance of the topic for the local population and the method used, the process has achieved great visibility in the area and in the local press. The mayor has publicly stated that the indications emerged from the participatory process, although not all acceptable, were worthy of consideration and has indicated his intention to discuss them with the City Board and Council. Furthermore, the monitoring will be guaranteed by the association AmareMarina and by the citizens members of the 'guarantee table', who seem to be interested in following the issues related to the implementation of the project to ensure the outcomes.
This participatory process has also had the function of consolidating the existing social networks in the area, increasing the citizens' sense of belonging to their community, and thereby increasing their interest as well as their responsibility towards the changes that affect their territory.
At the end of the workshops, the "Guidelines" were sent to the participants of the process, published on the website and delivered to the Mayor of Carrara. Finally, a public meeting was held; it was attended by the coordinator of the project, the representatives of AmareMarina, the mayor of Carrara, the regional authority for the participation and the regional supervisor for communication and for the government of the territory, and a large number of citizens. This last meeting was dedicated to the sum-up the entire process. The meeting was also attended by the press and local television, which helped to communicate the results of the process to a larger population.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Because of the importance of the topics covered and of the interests at stake, some newspaper articles and public statements by various actors have often diverted attention from the upgrading of the port towards matters that went beyond the project. In general, it can be said that the implementation of a participatory process by citizens is a very burdensome question, both in terms of energy, and of time and money. If the process is planned in minute detail, and if it is supported by a good deal of commitment and determination and adequately funded, the citizens' involvement can be increased as well as the authorized stock, without frustrating the efforts of the participants.
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