Trentino pilot: Evaluation of RivaPartecipa 2018

The URBAN INNO Trentino Pilot deals with the topic ‘Innovative Government’, and in particular on how engaging citizens in the development of innovative government process/services in the urban area experimenting the adoption of participative methods inside the Trento Urban area, ensuring a direct involvement of the citizens. During the second half of 2018, URBAN INNO Trentino Pilot focused part of its attention on a participatory budget experience carried out by Riva del Garda municipality.

This specific participatory project, known as ‘Rivapartecipa 2018’, dealt with the involvement of local citizens into the decision process of the government of this municipality. The inhabitants of Riva del Garda, resident in the town and over 16 years of age, had the opportunity to present and vote their own proposals in order to invest the 100.000,00 Euros that the municipality set apart in its budget to finance this initiative.

This was the first activity of this kind in the Trentino area and although the process showed its flaws due to the lack of experience of those involved, it is set to become the first step for further improvements over the next years, both for Riva del Garda and other municipalities in the region.

The role of URBAN INNO Trentino Pilot at this stage was to support, monitor and evaluate the whole process, helping the various stakeholders to assess their work, analyze pro and cons of what was implemented and to help them gaining the experience needed to adjust the process for the next edition of the project, which will be held in 2019.

The ‘Rivapartecipa 2018’ project was broken down in a sequence of phases, of which the last one is yet to be concluded. Started in November 2017 with the allocation of the resources, the process went on the following January 2018 with the first stages of public meetings and press releases to involve the local population. By mid-February 2018, a set of 13 projects had been submitted by distinct groups of citizens, of which only 4 were in the end admitted to the final vote. On-line voting lasted from June 13th to June 30th 2018, resulting in a total of 87 valid votes. When the virtual polling station closed, fewer than 0,6% of the eligible resident population had cast its vote. This was a small percentage, less than expected, and was subject to specific evaluation in the follow-up of the overall experience.

The winning proposal – ‘Laying stumbling blocks in the municipality territory in remembrance of the partisans, anti-fascist and Jewish people killed in 1944-45’, obtained 43,67% of the preferences and is now undergoing further technical scrutiny by the municipal offices in order to start the final stage of the actual implementation. Construction works are deemed to start in 2019.

Over the course of the various activities, great effort was given by the employees of the municipality. The Mayor and his government, for this first pilot experience, decided to rely almost entirely on internal workforce to accomplish the tasks.

Main elements collected and improvements

Therefore, there were a great deal of lessons learned for the future that the employees have recognized, treasured and discussed together with URBAN INNO local team in order to improve in the next edition.

Among these:

  1. The importance of being more specific when defining the scope of the proposals that can be collected from the population
  2. The need to balance between on-line and physical presence-based participation, in order to foster an in-depth collaborative dialogue about the needs of the community, preliminary to the presentation of the proposals
  3. The value of a more reasonable and longer time to carry out the participative process to the benefit of both the citizens and the municipality’s offices
  4. The need to implement a powerful and creative communication campaign, aimed at stimulating active participation and to accompany the initiative throughout all its phases. Alongside the more traditional tools of institutional communication, it may also be useful to introduce more innovative forms both on the web and on the territory
  5. The opportunity to support public officials with an expert facilitator in the co-management of the participatory budget, especially through the activation of targeted training sessions
  6. The positive effect of introducing moments of co-projecting between inhabitants and technicians, in the initial phases of the development of the proposals
  7. The possibility of reusing and expanding the web platform developed for the pilot project by  integrating it to ANPR (Italian web-based national registry of citizens), so as to further speed up the  voting phase  and enhance the reliability of the whole system.

In January 2019 the URBAN INNO Pilot team of Trentino Digitale with the Municipality of Riva del Garda has organized a final follow up and evaluation meeting involving the group of stakeholders who took part in ‘Rivapartecipa 2018’ project. On this occasion a written report in Italian, summarizing the entire experience along with its key results and points of attention, was given out and discussed together.

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