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Experiences

"Conto, Partecipo, Scelgo" Bilancio partecipativo del Comune di Milano (I count, I'm involved, I choose: participatory budgeting of the City of Milan)

  • Italy
  • City of Milan
  • This experience was presented at the 10th IOPD Award

The Municipality of Milan has given its citizens the chance to decide how to spend part of the municipal budget (9 million euros) through a participatory process, based on the experiences that other cities, such as Lisbon and Paris. 

Milan, capital of hospitality and opportunity, has a strong civic tradition also due to the relevant network of associations and informal groups active at the local level. The Participatory budgeting process has represented an opportunity to strengthen a method of wide, democratic and active consultation that characterizes the city of Milan and that continues today also thanks to this initiative. 

This experience was presented at the 10th IOPD Award (2016)

Objectives

  • Design, together with citizens, interventions of public interest to be realized in the 9 Municipal districts.
  • Increase citizen’s awareness about the municipal budget and other administrative tools through which decisions are made in the area they live, study or work.
  • Facilitate the dialogue between citizens and the Administration, who has the chance to listen to the priorities directly expressed by its citizens and to share – at least in part - its territorial government choices with them.
  • Bring new voices to the civic life, building stronger communities around the purpose of improving Milan neighbourhood.
  • Trigger virtuous collaborative, not competitive, dynamics inside the municipal districts community.
  • Create a first model and a laboratory of experimentation for future participatory experiences aimed to deepen democracy in Milan.

Targets

2.200 citizens during the listening phase (42,9% women)

30.172 voters in the polling phase

total

2,73% population

 

Participants profile is available only for the participants to the listening phase. 741 questionnaires have been collected in order to evaluate the listening phase. Responses on the profiles were: 98% of Italian people; 56,8% full or part time employed; 30,2% retired.

To cope with the low level of strangers and students, dedicated meetings have been organized, such as a meeting with 350 youngsters.

Description

The Participatory Budgeting of Milan was divided into four main phases:

Phase 1 - Listening: public meetings for the gathering of needs

Before launching the participatory process an Informative Document has been released as briefing materials to present the opportunity to the citizens and explain the basic data of the municipal budget in order to develop an informed discussion. The document has been translated in 6 languages (English, French, Romanian, Arabian, Chinese, Spanish) and widely spread throughout the different communities.

Between July and September, citizens were invited to participate in 45 public meetings that took place in different neighbourhoods of each Municipal district. The first meeting of each district was aimed to present the Participatory budgeting to citizens, the following four meetings were dedicated to listening to the necessities and problems of district citizens.

Facilitators and experts in participatory processes ran all the meetings and helped citizens to discuss issues in a constructive way.

The meetings were organized at different times (morning, afternoon, evening) in order to balance the inhabitants work-life needs. In each meeting were provided tools of linguistic mediation (translation, post in foreign languages) and ad hoc meetings for certain categories of people not easily reached.

Another large meeting was organized for youngsters, more than 350 boys and girls (between 14 and 25 years old) participated and expressed their priorities for urban interventions.

In addition to meetings organized by the staff of the Participatory Budgeting, the participants were given the opportunity to organize and manage independently 17 self organized meetings.

Phase 2 - Co-design: workshops to design interventions

The second phase of the process took place in October 2015.

Thanks to 600 applications gathered during the listening-phase, a limited – but representative - number of participants in the co-design workshops was selected through drawing of lots. For each Municipal district, one co-design workshop with 30 participants was organized, totally 270 citizens balanced for gender, age, territorial origin were selected in a public session.

An analysis of the ideas arisen during the previous phase, took place during these workshops, with the purpose of developing a limited number of projects for each district.

The activity of these workshops was very important, because members worked together and built shared projects useful for the territory, which took into account the different needs expressed during the listening phase. For this reason, expert facilitators ran the workshops and worked closely with the technicians and officials of the municipality in order to focus on feasible and sustainable projects.

40 projects of intervention were developed by citizens and right after verified by municipal technicians and official.

Phase 3 – Voting: choosing the projects to be carried out

After the projects’ presentation and publication on project web site, all the city users who live, work or study in Milan had the opportunity to vote for them online on the project webpage, in the schools partnering with the Participatory Budgeting or in several locations in the neighbourhood. 30.172 votes were expressed by Milan citizens.

For each Municipal district, the projects that received the highest number of votes were selected, up to a maximum of one million euros, available for each of the ninth municipal districts

Phase 4 –Monitoring of selected projects

After the projects’ approval, the municipality of Milan is now analyzing their technical feasibility and starting implementing them. The website of the project will monitor the progress of the projects designed and approved.

Methodology implemented

Phase 1, 2 and 3 were carried out using different methods.

Phase 1 (Listening)

Public meetings were open to all the inhabitants over 14 who lived, studied or worked in the territory of Milano (official residency was not requested). The meetings were facilitated using the method of  “open door” public meeting, to encourage a free and non structured expression of ideas and needs by the participants. Professional facilitation was provided in order to allow everyone to have a say, through small workgroup discussion and a final plenary session to share outputs of each group.

 

Phase 2. (co-design) Citizens’ workshops to elaborate the project proposals

The co-design laboratories (one for each of the 9 districts of Milan) was deliberately restricted to a few citizens, to enable an egalitarian and argued discussion, and to favour the elaboration of a shared project proposals.

The discussion was facilitated by the professionals using various methods:

  • The first part of the work was addressed to develop a common language and to the analysis of the needs raised by the citizens who had participated to the public meeting and listening phase. The tools used were sheets that summarized the report of the meetings, a “mind mapping” discussion in small groups that helped figure out the most important needs,
  • The core of the deliberation was dedicated to a decision making phase to lay out the groundrules for deliberation, also through the choice of criteria that drove the group to choose the main planning areas;
  • A final phase was than conducted to help the 9 groups take a common decision on the main projects that should be presented to the finale phase of vote and to the developing of the proposals
  • While the deliberation was carried out, dialogue and information exchange has taken place, with the participation of approximately 10 experts from the Municipality, that helped the group to take in to account technical issues and possible trade offs of the different scenarios.

 

  • Eventually 38 projects have been finalized with a definition of sites, dimensions, features of each intervention, following the general criteria for planning that had been decided at the beginning of the deliberative process in each group. All the groups got to a common decision with full consensus (unanimity)

Phase 3 – Voting: choosing the projects to be carried out

The whole citizenship of Milan was invited to chose among 40 projects. The main goal of the open referendum was to assure (and to test whether there actually was) a broad legitimacy to the participatory-deliberative process.

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