The Tuscany Regional Participation Policy (TRPP) is an innovative tool which creates a legal framework to institutionalize public participation and consultation into regional and local decision-making.
Problems and Purpose
The Tuscany Regional Participation Policy (TRPP) is an innovative and important tool for the institutionalisation of public participation and deliberation within the region's political system. The TRPP is a pioneer initiative in the Italian and European context and it can be considered one of the first examples of participatory politics inspired by the concept of a deliberative system. Through the Tuscan regional laws No 69/2007 and No 46/2013, the Tuscan system acts to promote participation as a regular form of government at multiple scales and involving various bodies and sectors of the public administration and civil society, at both the regional and local levels. Law 46/2013 strengthens its predecessor by providing the regional government with the legal mandate to actively “renew democracy and its institutions by integrating them with practices, processes and tools of participatory democracy." Realized through this law, the TRPP seeks to contribute to the creation of "greater social cohesion, through the diffusion of a culture of participation, and valuing all forms of civic engagement, knowledge and skills disseminated in society".
Origins and Development
Tuscany has gained international renown for its history of political activism and social mobilization. Before being formally institutionalized in the Tuscany Regional Participation Policy (TRPP) participatory processes were actively implemented at the local level. The new regional participation policy simply engrains a trend which began in 2005, when the Governor Claudio Martini – inspired by experiences at the World Social Forums of Mumbai and Porto Alegre – agreed to create a legal framework strengthening the promotion of participation and transforming it in a cross-cutting routine for all regional policies.
From 2005 to 2007, the participatory policy was itself written through a participatory process, engaging members of local governments, organizations, and the public through workshops, public readings, electronic town meetings, etc. The two-year collective writing process culminated in Regional Law n. 69/2007, the first region-wide law on public participation in Italy. Its fundamental principle – sourced from numerous dialogues – lies in the belief that citizen participation is a basic right and it is therefore the duty of public institutions to provide the methods and tools necessary "to make it effective." Through this law, the regional government was to create the incentives necessary for the adoption of participatory processes and the development of a participatory culture in all localities and at all administrative levels under its jurisdiction.
Among other tools, Law n. 69/2007 provided for the creation of the "Authority for the Promotion of Participation" (APP): an independent body charged with the advancement of participatory culture, the granting of funds (around €750,000 per year), and the promotion of social dialogue through regular “calls for projects” three times per year.
Tuscany’s Regional Participatory Policy and the law which gave it political power reflect the understanding that there are no ‘ideal’ processes of participation, and that public institutions must foster and guarantee "methodological pluralism” for engaging citizens in the construction of public policies and projects. Indeed, the law passed in 2007 was written with the express intent that it would expire at the end of 2012 to allow for a public reflection and deliberation on its benefits and the efficacy of its implementation. While the law was intended to expire, the policy was not; rather, amendments were to be made and a new, improved version was to be passed. In 2013, following a tense debate and a complex negotiation between the different political forces represented in the Tuscan Parliament – including the new Governor Enrico Rossi, initially skeptical of prolonging the life of Law n. 69 – the Law 69/2007 was amended and replaced by Regional Law 46/2013 thus continuing and strengthening the Regional Policy of Participation.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The TRPP is an initiative of the Regional Tuscany government. The enactment of any parts of the policy are almost exclusively funded by the Regional Government although some projects may also receive funds from municipal governments and private companies. The realization of the TRPP is entrusted to the Regional Authority for the Promotion of Participation which owes its existence to Article 3 of the Law 46/2013.
How it Works
The goals of the TRPP are enacted through direct government action under the two Regional laws of participation: Law 69/2007 and Law 46/2013. While not participatory processes unto themselves, government policies and legislation that institutionalize or make space for public input and consultation within the existing political system can be considered ‘tools’ of public participation. The participatory methods and tools introduced into the political system through the legislation can vary. The most common method for the fulfillment of the TRPP is the ‘Public Debate’: "a process of information, public comparison and participation" on works, projects or interventions that are of particular relevance to the region's environment, territory, landscape, society, culture or economy. Debates usually take place in the preliminary stages of drafting a project and make use of a number of deliberative tools to engage the public including:
- The dissemination of technical documentation
- Testimony and meetings with experts and scientists
- Thematic forums, dialogues or other forms of discussion among citizens
- The use of the Internet and new information technologies
The Law in Action: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Law 46/2013 is a powerful policy tool, giving the Regional government the legal mandate to “renew democracy and its institutions by integrating them with practices, processes and tools of participatory democracy." Regional action in pursuit of the law’s fulfillment is, in reality, the pursuit of "greater social cohesion, through the diffusion of a culture of participation, and valuing all forms of civic engagement, knowledge and skills disseminated in society."
The Law gives the Region broad powers of interpretation for its oversight and implementation including:
- Strengthening, through participation, the capacity of building, defining and implementing public policies;
- Promoting participation as a regular form of administration and government;
- Creating and promoting new forms of communication and exchange between institutions and society;
- Valuing the skills, knowledge and competences existing in society, and making less represented interests more visible;
- Developing and disseminating new technologies of information and communication as tools for democratic participation of citizens.
- The new Regional Law does not simply replicate its predecessor. While the majority of it confirms the former’s goals and grants the same powers of implementation, the procedural aspects of monitoring and evaluation are clarified and expanded thanks to an analysis of those actions under the 2007 law conducted between 2012 and 2013.
Coordination and Implementation
The enactment of the TRPP is coordinated by Tuscany’s Regional Authority for the Promotion of Participation (APP). The APP is an independent government body created under Article 3 of Law 46/2013. Headed by three specialists in the field of public engagement, the APP’s work is aided by various regional government structures such as the Giunta Regionale (regional executive power), the regional Council of the Tuscan region (legislative power), the Guarantor for Communication and Participation for Territorial Policies, the local governments, and civil society organizations. The co-management of the TRPP is yet another defining feature of the policy: its implementation is itself a participatory exercise, including, as it does, numerous stakeholders and public agencies at all levels of government.
The main work of the APP comprises the annual selection of local and regional participatory projects. Proposed to the APP by Tuscan municipalities and regional civil society organizations, projects differ in scope, issue or topic, as well as methods of deliberation, decisions, and public interaction. Another way the APP fulfills its duty in implementing the TRPP is through the promotion of Public Debates (inspired by the French model of debát public) on large public works within the regional territory. Public Debates are mandatory on public projects valued above 50,000,000 euros but can also be activated for smaller works if requested by other parties and approved by the APP.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In terms of implementation, it is important to point out the results obtained by the Tuscan law since 2007. From the regular "call of projects", the law has financed and promoted over 170 local and regional projects of social participation in the Tuscan territory. Any public debate has been developed until 2015, because their realization was not automatic in cases of major interventions in the law 69/2007. However, the law 46/2013 strengthened the instrument of public debate, making it obligatory for public works and projects from 50 million and voluntary in the case of private works of the same amount. Thus, 2016 saw the first regional public debate provided by the law (on development of the new port of Livorno) and other public debates are planned to occur in the near future.
The cross-cutting nature of participatory experiments in different sectors of the regional action increased recently, thanks to the creation of a Regional Ministry of Participation (which is in the hands of a powerful minister, also in charge of budget, financial issues and human resources) which collaborates with the APP for several events. It also funds “Open Toscana”, a web-platform that hosts free websites for all the participatory processes in the region, enabling open data.
Why is the TRPP innovative?
I. The Tuscan experience can be considered a pioneer experiment of social participation guided by recent theories of deliberative systems.
- The TRPP has established itself as a pioneer and important example of institutionalization of social participation on a systemic level, in Italy and in Europe. The regional participation law was built from a specific participatory process and was aimed at promoting social participation as a regular form of government in Tuscany.
- This innovative systemic character of the TRPP is illustrated by the existence of an institution formalized by law which operates in multiple spatial scales (local and regional), promoting participatory processes of various themes with a multitude of methods and acting in various complexity levels.
- The systemic character of the law is also evident with the various regional government agencies included in its management, such as the Regional Council of Tuscany region (regional legislature), the regional Giunta (regional executive power), local governments as well as public authorities with some independence, such as the members of the APP and the regional guarantee of communication and participation.
- The multi-scale and innovative character of the TRPP is exemplary for analysis of the forms of implementation of a deliberative system, as a theoretical body that represents a turn in the deliberative and participatory academic fields in recent years.
II. The TRPP is an example of perennial institutionalized social participation.
- The transition from the first to the second regional law of social participation increased the level of institutionalization and rootedness in politics: the first law (69/2007) had a sunset clause. The second law (46/2013) is permanent in the Tuscan legal framework.
- The national and international recognition of the Tuscan regional government in the law created a "no return" situation that allowed the institutionalization of the law 46/2013 in the region's legal order.
- The second regional law (46/2013) reinforced the need for regional public debates on major infrastructure projects and in 2016 the first regional public debate (on the project to develop a new port of Livorno) was realized. Other regional public debates were to follow in the coming months and years, beginning with the 2017 public debate on the use of gypsum and waste management in the province of Gavorrano.
III. The Tuscan case is a reference in the Italian and European context: towards replicability?
- The Tuscan experience served as an example and inspiration for the institutionalization of participation laws in other Italian regions (such as Emilia-Romagna, Sardinia and Umbria) as well as at the national level, as exemplified by the recent adoption of the necessity of public debates on major works at the national level in the new Italian code of public procurement (italian national laws no 11/2016 and 50/2016).
- Tuscany has standardized (and applied) the instrument of public debate before the Italian Government, to show a more open and progressive vision as well as a time to find solutions to structural problems the country faces, such as the inability to carry out public works in the short term.
- The Region of Tuscany institutionalized a database called "Open Tuscany" with the goal of creating a container of experiences, a database of studies and participatory cases. Open Tuscany is a public web space, free of charge, partially self managed within the rules of the Tuscany Region, headed by promoters of local participatory processes funded by Law 46/2013. The goal of Open Tuscany is to socialize the local experience and not to disperse information and expertise.
IV. The TRPP has contributed to the development of a participatory culture in the Tuscan territory
- Some regional offices have used participatory tools to make their own choices and to draw policies; they promote surveys and deliberative moments with Tuscan citizens. For example, the regional Department for Transport has involved local public transport users to better understand the issues related to the use of the public service and its organization. In another instance, the Department of Personnel of the Tuscany Region proposed a participatory process with the employees' entity to discuss work issues and generate ideas to improve internal organization and the working climate.
- The law increases participative culture in Tuscan civil society. This is demonstrated by the growing number of requests for support of the law not only by local authorities but also of other types of entities admitted: citizens, companies, and educational institutes.
What are the TRPP's limitations and challenges?
a) The TRPP is still highly vulnerable to political contexts.
- Despite the growing institutionalization of the law, the Tuscan participation system still is vulnerable to changes in government bodies and in the political framework. In recent times, the TRPP faced reduced political support by central organs of the regional administration. Recently, the TRPP suffered significant budget cuts and is working with limited financial resources and lack of staff. These characteristics are reducing their administrative capabilities in the promotion of participatory processes, especially at the local level.
- The Tuscany Region does not support the regional offices of participation with a congruous staff (or number of employees) to be able to conduct real monitoring, follow the local projects, and to develop suitable promotion and communication of APP’s activities.
- The APP’s decisions have been constrained by the limited resources, both in terms of available choices and in the evaluation criteria. For this reason, it has been impossible to replicate some innovative practices in different contexts because the Tuscan law admits only innovative projects. This critical element is further aggravated by the lack of a regional network (a kind of conference of mayors or the beneficiaries) for the sharing and exchange of experiences, problems and management models.
- The APP is an administratively independent body. However, because its resources are externally controlled by other government agencies, such independence is relative in practical terms and its capacity for action is limited by the political context.
- Despite undeniable progress of TRPP in promoting a participatory culture in the territory, the policy has a gap between its rhetorical use (with Tuscan official documents and speeches emphasizing participation as a regular form of government) and its implementation (insufficient capillarity and political support for participatory processes, linked with low integration of participation in the public policies and decision-making cycles).
b) The results of the Tuscan case are limited due to the State fragmentation and because there is a low degree of integration among government agencies.
- Although several public bodies (at the regional and local levels) are involved in its management, the TRPP has not been successful in promoting participation as a regular form of government, since there is a lack of knowledge of the TRPP inside the government and little influence of the participation system in central public administration agencies in regional and local levels.
- The Tuscany Region has not invested in personnel training of regional and local authorities to be able to promote local policies and participatory processes and to give programming autonomy and local management of participatory processes and continuity to the administration’s actions. This explains why the local governments are not autonomous in planning, implementation and management of participatory processes. They depend on the facilitation agencies that implement the actions for the promoters.
- The Tuscan participation policy has not facilitated clear integration between the APP and the Guarantor for communication and participation for territorial policies anticipated by the territorial government law (Law 65/2014, which replaces the Law 1/2005). These organs have acted autonomously and on some occasions in a way not coordinated with each other.
c) The TRPP still has several management problems, which are aggravated by limitations in the regional participation law.
- The bureaucratic organization of Tuscany Region’s administration makes management of the participatory processes complex. One of the most frequently encountered difficulties is the lack of coordination between local participatory processes and the accounting rules of the Region, especially for the projects developed of various annuity. Moreover, many promoters requested extensions of time for local projects (the law prescribes 6 months), which demonstrates that the execution times, in many cases, are incongruous.
- The regional offices that support the participation law are two: one depends on the executive body (Giunta Regionale), the other on the Legislative body (Consiglio regionale); they are found in the different institutional centers and develop different tasks. This articulation produces difficulties in communication, management, and work organization.
- The Law 46/2013 provides for a multiple guarantee organ, the Authority for participation, consisting of three members. The collective organization produced, in some cases, a lengthy decision-making process due to complex management of the APP. Also, the Tuscany Region’s scarce political investment again does not facilitate the resolution of management problems of APP. Finally the APP’s members do not have financial compensation to do their work.
- The first public debate – PD envisaged by the Regional Law on the new port of Livorno was not an opportunity of observation for the Italian national Government and for the Tuscany regional government. The discussion was not followed by traditional media. The reasons can be traced back to two sets of issues: political and organizational. The political was the reduced political investment (on the law and on the PD instrument); the organizational ones are related on the management done by the PD staff, which is a consulting company that had to reconcile the Livorno’s work with their (own) activities so it could not devote the time and resources needed to this pioneer experience.
- Mini-Public on a Regional Law for Citizens’ Participation (Tuscany, Italy)
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- Participatory Planning in Carrara "Porto le Mie Idee" (Italy)
- Participatory Planning Workshop "Cisternino 2020" (Livorno, Italy)
- Participatory Renovation of Bovio Square (Piombino, Italy)
- Participatory Renovation of Ciompi Square (Florence, Italy)
- Participatory Socio-Economic Multi-year Plan “PartecipAppennino” (Tuscan-Emilian Appennine National Park, Italy)
- Planning Our Square Together "Progettiamo Insieme la Nostra Piazza" (Montale, Italy)
- Saione: a Neighborhood Where People Meet
- The Alta Valle del Solano Community Map
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- Uzzano - "A School for All"
- Youth Participatory Budgeting in Colle di Val d'Elsa
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This tool/technique entry was originally submitted as a case by Igor Ferraz da Fonseca and was converted to meet Participedia's definitional standards.