Valdera 2020
Unione Valdera

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Unione Valdera (Union of Municipalities of Valdera) is a Public Body which was constitued on October 30th,2008, for the associated management of functions and services on the territory of its municipalities that are: Bientina, Buti, Calcinaia, Capannoli, Casciana Terme Lari, Chianni, Lajatico, Palaia, Peccioli, Ponsacco, Pontedera, S. Maria a Monte and Terricciola. As far as numbers are concerned, the Unione Valdera counts about 120,000 inhabitants spread over a territory of 648 square kilometers. The Unione Valdera supplies various functions and services related to different areas and fields such as: social, educational and training services, territorial and environmental protection, economic and tourism development, technical services and general administration, by integrating and expanding the associated management of functions and services, that were carried out, in the past, in a partial and differentiated manner, by municipalities today belonging to Unione Valdera It was created, basically, a new level of programming and a new political and administrative management not yet properly with the community of reference. A second level institution provided by the current law, that, because of the lack of direct election and the recent constitution, appeared in 2011 still poorly known by the citizens of its area. This renewed administrative structure, due to the amplitude of its competences has affected the whole territory of Valdera area and the generality of the resident population was expressing the following needs: 1.Presenting the new institution to the citizens and various stakeholders on the territory of Valdera, creating methods and tools aiming at collecting their opinions and ideas, until that moment completely absent; 2. Increasing the knowledge of the needs of the community, in order to develop strategies of intervention, not present; 3. Developing a long-term vision, in existing programming, that, by law, refers to a period of three years; this time extension may be sufficient to consolidated entities such as municipalities, but not for entities recently born; 4. Integrating, with greater clarity and effectiveness, the action of the Unione Valdera with the belonging municipalities, creating political-administrative guidelines (even if general). but able to address an administrative and complex system, formed by a plurality of entities, often with not well-coordinated skills.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
To give a response to the needs highlighted above, it was thought to directly involve citizens and different stakeholders in the development of the strategic guidelines of the Unione Valdera. The Unione Valdera, therefore, decided the implementation of a participatory model, that would lead to the definition of strategic guidelines addressed to the entire administered community to pursue in the medium-long period. The project implementation, called "Valdera 2020 ", developed with the involvement of the University of Pisa for its necessary scientific contribution. The project aims at defining, through an innovative process, strategic and shared guidelines that could be used to: a) Outline a perspective vision of the society and Valdera territory able to address all the participants at local system, public and private, toward shared goals in the long period; b) Build a shared strategy, expressly stated for the development of the administrative system, concerning the whole community that live there; c) Define objectives and milestones and, possibly, measurable for the implementation of the policies at the local level; d) Increase among the citizens, and also among the operators of the local bodies the awareness of the task of the Unione Valdera, making them active in the building process of the Strategic guidelines. The strategy, used to achieve the objectives described above, has provided a participatory method, articulated in several phases, each one aimed at: 1.Choosing the participants in this process in order to achieve a sufficiently representative sample; 2. Informing the participants about the issues, which will be reported on the consultation, in order to give them specific elements of knowledge, to express their point of view on the topic covered; 3 Training people on the participatory method, in order to make productive the live participative phase; 4 Collecting the elements and the suggestions that have been emerging from the work, organizing them in a coherent and comprehensible layout; 5. Mediating the different positions expressed, reaching a synthesis of them. The participatory process, which obtained the support of the regional authority for the participation in the Region of Tuscany, started in the month of June 2011 and it was ended in the month of February 2012 The whole participatory process was supported continuously, with documents and tools available, on its website ( ,) which contains all the information and data relating to the development of the process. The findings of the participatory process have been rationalized and integrated with the guidelines already present in policy documents adopted by the bodies of the Unione Valdera and the Region of Tuscany, according to the respective competences. As a result of the work mentioned above, in the month of March 2012, the Council of the Unione Valdera, the body charged to decide the politics acted by the institutions, approved the strategic guidelines of Unione Valdera, emerged as a result of the participatory process Valdera 2020. Strategic guidelines approved are still in a phase of implementation and action line, developed defining with the active participation of citizens and stakeholders, result as a reference in the programming and implementation of services.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
To ensure the matching between the services provided and the needs expressed on the territory, it is used the ex post analysis of the outcomes of the programs implemented. In these analysis the participation of the citizens and the stakeholders is limited to short interviews or assessment questionnaires. On the contrary, the participatory process “Valdera 2020” allowed the direct participation of the representatives of the territory to ex ante definition of strategic guidelines of Unione Valdera in the medium and long-term. Innovative elements of the participatory process are: 1. the variety and the articulation of the instruments used in the participatory process (videos recorded for the site, a discussion forum, EASW workshop (European Awareness Scenario Workshop), online votes, assessment questionnaires; 2. the integration of different methodologies acted in participatory processes (integration of open and close method and random sample); 3. the joint and equal participation in the workshop in processing of politicians, stakeholders and citizens. The constitution of a representative Guarantee Committee with the function of supervising the participatory process avoided the generation of complaints about the impartiality in the process. The publication of each document is still available on the site making accessible the work to everybody.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
In order to achieve the participatory definition of strategic guidelines of Valdera 2020, first of all it was designed a major participatory process that, in its various phases has requested nearly a year of work.(planning of the project, identification and recruitment of participants to be directly involved, implementation of preparatory meetings and EASW workshop, citizens voting on emerged proposals, rationalization of the work, approach of strategic guideline approved by the Council of the Unione Valdera and the dissemination of the results..). At the end of the participatory process we, began the implementation phase of the strategic guidelines emerged, that are, included and connected to programming of the services of Unione Valdera. In March 2011 the participatory process Valdera 2020 was approved by the Unione Valdera's Council. In May 2011, it obtained the support of the regional Authority for the participation in the Tuscany region. In June 2011 the Council of Unione Valdera defined four macro-areas focusing on the identification of strategic guidelines (environmental planning - economic development and environment - welfare system - institutional organization on the territory) fixing the start-up of Valdera 2020 project. In July 2011 it was opened the website dedicated to the project: In the same month it was created a Guarantee Committee responsible for monitoring the performance of the project. In August 2011, we passed to the identification of the panel of people asked to actively participate in the process of strategic guideline of Unione Valdera. Then, we proceeded to invite (first by ordinary mail and later by phone call) a group of citizens casually chosen. On the contrary, the different stakeholders invited to participate, have been chosen in order to obtain a significant and general representation of the macro-area examinated. On 28 and 29 September 2011, at the “offices” of Peccioli and Pontedera were held the preparatory meetings with all participants at the EASW workshop. For the prior information of the participants it has been made available, on the website, some documents and some videos made on purpose for the project. On the 7 and 8 of October 2011, the EASW workshops were held, during two days. The workshops registered the participation of 137 people that contribute to the definition of the strategic orientation of Unione Valdera in the 4 examined macro areas. In November 2011 the strategic guidelines of action emerged by the workshops were published on the website and online votes started. All adults living in the municipalities of the Unione Valdera have the right of vote. The votes aimed at establishing priorities of action among the issues emerged in the workshop. In January 2012 the results of the participatory process were published and disseminated. The indications emerged from the participatory process were then rationalized and integrated with the guidelines and the guidelines already included in the policy documents adopted by the public bodies of Unione Valdera. In March 2012 the Council of Unione Valdera approved the strategic guidelines as a result of the participatory process Valdera 2020. The entire participation process of is widely documented into the already mentioned website 
Today, the approved guidelines are used as a point for the planning services of Unione Valdera and for the implementation of new services, in order to satisfy the needs emerged from the participatory process. 
In the attached file, we have provided the brochure with a synthesis of the strategic guidelines emerged from the participatory process Valdera 2020.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
During the initial phase, a few stakeholders from Valdera area participated to the preparatory works through a recorded video message, that, later, was uploaded on the website 
The workshops of 7th and 8th October were attended by 137 people, including 77 private citizens and 60 people representing various and different stakeholders. 
The stratification, initially defined in relation to the segment, "individual citizens" was partly distorted because of the actual subscriptions. However, it has been maintained an equal and representative distributions according to different parameters such as: gender (40% women; 60% men), age (20% between 18- 34, 40% between 35-49, 33% between 50-64; 7% over 75) of the four geographic areas of Valdera (35% Alta Valdera 21% Media Valdera Oltrarno 17%; 27% Pontedera). The stakeholders included representatives from a wide range of public entities such as: municipal administrator both technical and political, public companies, private companies, trade unions, trade associations, representatives of professional bodies (engineers, architects, agronomists, surveyors etc..) social cooperatives, different associations, schools (teachers and students), operators from the local health authority etc ... 
The participants were distributed within the working groups that were set up for the development of the strategic guidelines in the four fixed macro-areas (environmental planning, economic development and environment, the welfare system, institutional organization on the territory), trying to ensure the representativeness of the various social components among the citizens and the adherence with the matter dealt among the stakeholders. 
In the final phase of online voting, open to the participation of adult citizens, it was registered the participation of 337 people.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The development of the participatory process of Valdera 2020 has been very long and structured, as well as demanding in terms of human resources involved.
The participatory process has seen the involvement of: 
 - Employees from Unione Valdera(a group of 15 employees divided into: n. 2 employees involved for the entire period of existence of the process (9 months) for about 900 hours of work - n. 2 employees involved for 5 months for about 500 hours each, and the remaining ones involved for n. 1 month for about 20 hours); - The Interdepartmental Research Center for Argo-Environmental from the University of Pisa(15 subjects); - The technical coordinators, experts in the specif matter of the thematic areas. (n.1 representative of the Province of Pisa, n. 1 representative of Pont-tech Company, n. 1 representative of ANCI Toscana, n.1 representative from the local schools net and association, Center of Educative and Didactic Resources); - People identified as facilitators for the sessions of the 7th and 8th October (n. 7 people); - All stakeholders who wanted to help with the "messages in a bottle", available on the site, used as clues for discussion. The total expenditure was approximately 57,000.00 euros, divided into the following item cost: 1) premises and equipment (whiteboard, stationery, etc.) about 3.000,00 € ; 2)personnel costs, approximately € 32,000.00 € ; 3)communication and information, about 18.000,00 € ; 4)technical services (audio, video, documents, translation) about 4.000,00 € ; The costs were financed as follows: 
 - Approximately 44,000.00 euros at the expense of the region of Tuscany as a contribution planned from the Regional Law 69 of 2007;
 - About Euro 13,000.00 at the expense of Unione Valdera.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1.The positive atmosphere existing between the participants directly involved in the participatory process (137 people): in almost the totality of evaluation questionnaires regarding the project, the participants expressed opinions ranging from moderate to full satisfaction, with a very small number of disappointment. In general the participants, in every phase of the project, have expressed appreciation for the developing way of work, encouraging the repetition of similar events. 

 2. The specific document that showed which indications has been possible to include in the official planning documents, making clear the main output of the participatory process (accepted proposals and rejected proposals), expressing specific reasons for each choice.

 3. The strategic guidelines approved by the Council, where it is presented a wide range of proposal emerged from the participatory process.

 4. The inclusion of strategic guidelines approved within the general planning framework of the institution from 2013, in connection with the objectives (goals) which were established annually.

 5.Starting from the participatory initiative, new relationships have been established among the participating institutions as well as between institutions and stakeholders. Starting from some lines of action, emerged from the process and formalized in the administrative documents, three major projects have been processed and presented in 2014 to the European Union to be acted along the wide area of Valdera: A: REAL STEM Project (Robotics, Energy and environment, Agriculture: Learning Science through Expressive Means) that aims at increasing the expertise of the school population starting from problem solving approach and peer education; B. CLIMAFOOD project (Climate change mitigation by accounting and improving on food production chain), aimed at improving the process of waste management and enhance the capability of rural areas; C. STEP project (Social and Technological Empowerment Policies), aimed at developing the spirit of solidarity of the local community through planning and integrated management of interventions in favor of vulnerable groups of the population in cooperation with active associations on the territory.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
A. MONITORING OF PARTICIPATORY PROCESS The participatory process, in its different phases, was monitored with standard measures of management control, particularly with a check list of expected actions in order to verify compliance with the time and the output.
People involved in the participatory process evaluated the experience through specific questionnaires. 
A special Guarantee Committee, formed by 6 components, with recognized expertise of balance and equity, belonging to different areas of Valdera, and deputed to guarantee the neutrality 'and impartiality' of the participatory process, followed the process during its development, especially in terms of compliance of planned schedule and accuracy in output documents. B. MONITORING THE RESULTS OF PARTICPATORY PROCESS After the conclusion of the participatory process, the guidelines emerged from the final synthesis have been approved by the Council and, starting from 2013, included the planning documents of medium term under the current legislation (Elective Program of the President, Prevision and Programmatic Report) As we are dealing with strategic guidelines, their implementation is realized then, with physiological delay, through actions and intervention projects planned in the operational planning operative documents that are designed in order to implement the strategic guidelines, very often not fully controllable by agent. The implementation of the strategy emerged from the participatory process is, then, monitored through the process of planning and standard evaluation according to the methodology PLAN - DO - CHECK - ACT. The results of this work are listed in specific report documents requested by Statute of Unione Valdera (Report of the President, Report on the implementation of the programs). 
The actions, included in the planning documents, of Unione Valdera, show the clue of the program of strategic direction in order to monitor the effective implementation of the strategic guidelines approved.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
During the preparation phase, an important difficulty emerged in the recruitment of citizens, casually chosen. In fact, they often refused to collaborate because of different reasons. This situation forced us to repeated re-sampling and even to the redefinition of some selection criteria. At the end of the recruitment process the expected participants in the workshop of 7th and 8thOctober 2011 there were 180, then, the actual presence was limited to 137 people. 
Within the workshops there has been noticed a difficulty in synthesis because of the remarkable and varied range of emerged indications. The same indications have, eventually, led to the identification of a wide and ambitious range of the strategic guidelines to pursue. It was decided, however, to “defend” the final results, stating that some content went beyond the field of the Unione Valdera, but they could still be taken as a planning reference by municipalities that belong to Unione Valdera
Another critical point regarded the online voting which received little adherence by the citizens, although it was noticed in a widespread campaign on the territory; the deadline of voting was then delayed, to give further opportunity to participate. The involvement in the electronic vote was low, although not dissimilar from other participatory events produced in neighboring local context. The identified causes regarded both the complexity of the vote (it was required more than 80 individual expressions of vote, related to a series of preliminary disclosure documents) and the vastness of the theme, certainly less attractive in comparison with options related to the realization (or not) of public works. Further, the expression of votes only by electronic means reduces the audience of potential voters. Nevertheless the availability of public places where they can express the vote.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The results of the participatory process, summarized in a series of objectives to be pursued and expected results, functioned as a focus for actions and operating projects developing in the years after the conclusion of the project.
Many of these projects and actions, included in the Operational annual Program of Unione Valdera are still being implemented (such as the development of an energy plan for the Valdera Area, the provision of a building code shared by all the municipalities of the area, the transition of services in on-line method, etc..). However, some of them, have already seen a concrete stage of development. 
We point out, particularly: 1. The new service called: URP MOBILE (Moving office for Public Relations), which was born in order to respond to the need emerged on the participatory process (namely: “guarantee to all the citizens of the area the same rights to access to the services, paying particular attention to the residents of small municipalities” and “make easier the access to services, providing opportunities and support according to the needs of each one "). The Unione Valdera identified, within certain areas of its territory, a structural lack of public and private services as well as a proper public transport system, which generate difficulties in accessibility to these services, especially in the elderly population resident in suburban areas. It was, then, set up a mobile vehicle equipped as an office, with a device to connect with wireless mode to the electronic network of regional public administration. The office lays on trained operators able to respond to demands regarding some more requested topics for the citizens such as: information about the retirement or how activating the electronic health cards. The equipped vehicle works for about a year in small suburban areas. After this period of informative activities it will be set up, in the same places, an “internet” point, where the citizens could use the service of Public administration and management online administrative practices. Indeed,the impact of this activity is not very high (on average there are few connections per week, however representing a significant percentage of the elder population, especially old people, people from suborns, etc), but it is an appreciate service for the citizens because they feel a particular attention especially regarding the population with lower possibilities. 2. The creation, in 2013, of the section called “Partecipa” (Join) on the institutional web site, in order to respond to another goal emerged from the participatory process ("Implementation of an open and transparent administration through a widespread and accurate communication and the involvement of civil society in the decision-making processes, including new experimental methods”"). Social and educational area regulations, the right to education (study), the conduct code for the employees of Unione Valdera and its municipalities and the local building regulation have collected through external consultation, the feedback of interested people. 3. The adoption of the Service Card (2014), in order to “implement the purpose improving, continuously, the quality of services provided to satisfy the need of living populations." The Card is, first of all, an important tool for transparency and information aimed to guide the citizens in the complex and varied set of activities processed by the Local Administration. In fact, the card lists the services provided, the way to accessing, the principles followed by the Local Administration, the description of the services and the other ones, the quality standards, the methods for the detection of perceived and expected quality. The surveys about the perceived quality regard, at the moment, the on-line services, but it will be extended within a year to the entire range of services provided by the Unione Valdera.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The participation process has been supported financially by Unione Valdera and the by region of Tuscany. At the institutional level, all necessary drawing were adopted. From social-cultural point of view the initiative was carried out properly thanks to members of civil society active in the territory, who accepted the proposal from coming Public Administration. The same members have had an active role to stimulate the other associations of the territory.
As regarding to the workshop, the participatory process, was carried it out following the method of European Awareness Scenario Workshop. This method requires the availability of a spacious structure, which was identified in a high-school building.
The initiative is widely documented on the website ( and on the website of the Tuscany region, in the section reserved for the regional Authority on participation. The participatory process has been fully defined and documented in all its construction phases and is, therefore, easily replicable both within the Unione Valdera and in other similar public bodies, even with different purposes than those established for Valdera 2020.
The process and its outcomes have been exhibited during seminars and conferences conducted at regional level, in 2012 and during the following years.
However, we have to consider that the participatory process was very wide and structured and required a high level of commitment and not easily to repeat.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The idea of creating a participatory process not focused on a specific topic but on a "wide horizon" was born in order to make visible to the citizen how large are the number of issues that a public body deal with. The process was conceived as an alternative to the most common and widely participatory processes, focusing on “decisions as: Yes / No to specific projects or asking inputs on proposals and documents already defined in their articulation. This experience of strongly focused processes has shown how difficult is to avoid the radicalization of the existing (better pre-existing) positions and the so-called syndrome NIMBY (not in my back yard); that's why, in many cases, the process does not come to the conclusion as its outcome is not accepted by a large part of the community. 
Dealing with strategic guidelines was relatively easier, avoiding practical specific choices The critical aspect, which we took from the experience ,is that the output of a participatory process regarding a vast and general subject is useful for the Public Body (to give a defining orientation of the strategy), but it is not useful to define specific and concrete actions mensurable within the time. If we might realized a new edition of the project, it would be useful, in our opinion, to contain the observation and analysis, making the preparatory documents of work more explicit in order to reach a final document more effective.
During the development of the process Valdera 2020 it was shown difficulty from individual citizens to participate with an active role in the discussion about the issues presented. This difficulty is probably due to the complexity of the topic discussed, as well as the fact that many of the aspects analyzed did not influence directly and immediately the daily lives of individual citizens. Containing the field of the analysis and clarify the tangible effects, even in the medium term, could reduce, in a future perspective, this type of difficulty. 
On the other hand, the opportunity to take part in the definition of strategic guidelines was seen as very effective by stakeholders, whose participation has been very active and productive, both during the development phase of the workshops and later creating new ways of collaboration that have improved and enriched the stable system of relations with stakeholders active in the Valdera area.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Unione Valdera
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Contact Person:   Giovanni Forte
Title:   Doctor  
Telephone/ Fax:   00390587299560/00390587292771
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Via Brigate Partigiane n.4
Postal Code:   56025
City:   Pontedera
State/Province:   Regione Toscana/Provincia di Pisa

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