A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Local authorities as Rho have a civic responsibility to properly manage public resources and to be more trasparent is possible about how the allocation of public budget. Italian law received the idea of trasparency, approachability and Open Government and gived a puntual address to local authorities to traduce this idea in real action. Local authorities used financial reporting to communicate the results of their political management but this means was no adequate to offer a wide view of organization attivities. Community demostrated impatience about this situations and was unable to decide how to allocate a part of public resources and to discuss political project. The image of public service sometimes was no good and it needed a greater trust in government and its local authorities. This was a problem in general felt by the whole community regardless of social group. So the local administrators decided, in accordance to their political program, to strengthen public relationships with citizens with a partecipatory means as partecipatory budgeting and with a social reporting. It was the clear political idea to grant a share of power to citizens in strategic decision and to trigger a mutual educational process to democracy. Ensure an effective participation seemed to solve the problem, an engine to promote civic virtues teaching people listening, tolerance and inspiring relationships based on mutual trust. The triggered communication between administration and citizens through the use of participatory tools have facilitated the efficient distribution of resources and services; the dialogue would allow the redefinition of problems and the public in this way would become promoter of new solutions. Calling at several points the need of public accountability in terms of "total accessibility of information on the organization and operation of public administration," national legislation urged the authorities to translate into concrete action the key elements of the Open Government: transparency, participation and collaboration.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The current administration of Rho, decided at the begging of its mandate, to address the problem giving two instruments guaranteeing citizenship participation and social accountability: the Participatory Budget and the Social Report. Participatory Budgeting “Dirò la mia” is an example of partecipatory budgeting, projected and realized by Rho, a local authority of Italy. The project purpose is to foster popular partecipation in policy-making decisions, to enhance trust in public service and in Government and to give voice to citizens in the allocation of public budget. The initiative intends to collect the citizens’ proposals about their priorities in public spending projects and to make sure that these indications become formal commitments by the administration. The idea of participatory budgeting was founded in 2012 and today the institution, taking into account the results obtained in the two editions (2013 and 2014), is organizing the Third Edition of the Participatory Budget 2015. It is targeted at all citizens and those who, although not residents, frequent the city for study and/or for work. In particular, in the last edition 2014, citizens were asked to decide how to allocate € 562,000 of budget so distributed among the sectors: € 112,000 SPORT, CULTURE AND YOUTH; € 100,000 SCHOOL, THE ELDERLY AND DISABLED '; € 300 000 URBAN DESIGN AND PUBLIC GREEN; € 50,000 EXPO 2015. The administration distributed questionnaires to the public to allow the submission of proposals individually or collectively; every citizen was required to disclose, in addition to personal data and contacts, the title of the proposal and a brief description stating the theme (among those identified by the administration). The finalists, chosen from among those received who have passed the feasibility study and with the highest number of valid questionnaires collected were subjected to the final vote in the "Day of participation." To further encourage participation and to create a simple and efficient channel of conversation with citizens, in the second edition has been created an online platform. This tool has set up an interactive communication between administration and participants: the citizens have been able to promote the proposals, monitor the status of progress of the winning proposals of the first edition (times and phases) and to exchange ideas and opinions commenting on the proposals published on the website (www.dirolamia.it); the institution has been able to grasp the needs of the citizens and wondering about the best way feasible to meet them. Social Report In 2013, the administration has decided to invest in social reporting and the preparation of midterm financial statements social sent to all families of the city. We wanted to proceed with a clear reporting simple, transparent and fair that highlighted the results achieved by the administration in the first two and a half years, but also the commitments made by the program office and still ongoing, as well as projects for several reasons will not be implemented in the course of administrative mandate. The process of implementation of the social balance has resulted in the involvement of multiple stakeholders (stakeholder engagement) allowing you to get feedback on costs incurred and directions to guide programmatic decisions and future actions of the organization. An important role was the creation of the online platform www.bilanciosocialerho.it in which each project is properly Accounted for a detailed description. At the end of the political mandate, the administration will prepare a Social Report of mandate that will represent the complete summary of the work carried out and verify the correspondence between the commitments in the program phase, the results and overall effects - qualitative and quantitative - of administrative action, the reasons for the deviations.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The originality of the initiative is due to three main points: 1. Involvement of public servants during the first phase of training. Public servant becomes a protagonist of the entire initiative and not only an executor of agreed actions. The main consequence of this phase is an internal organizational and cultural change. 2. Involvement of movements and associations in the planning and organization has made them feel not only the recipients of the project, but the actors in the decision-making process with a view to co-design of public policy; 3. Radical change in decision-making, which is no more an imposition of political choice, but becomes an approach to the citizens making them truly a major force behind the choices for the community; 4. Web reporting: two web sites have been created, one for Participatory Budgeting and one for Social Reporting, with different features. The web site try to guarantee greater transparency and to meet citizens’ expectations

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The action plan of the project has been divided into the following phases: 1) Identification of the areas of intervention and construction of the model of the 1st participatory budgeting (objectives, areas involved, ...), with elements replicated in subsequent editions; 2) staff training by workshop with the involvement of a select group of municipal employees in a training program aimed at the acquisition of specific knowledge and a working method characterized by moments of exchange and discussion between employees of different areas within the entity; 3) start participation: this phase was aimed at organizing the participatory budgeting assembly, the distribution of the questionary necessary to the citizens to formulate their proposals on the thematic chosen by local administrators, the “participation day” in which each citizen can vote on which proposals to fund; 4) implementation and monitoring: in this phase city implements the winning proposals and citizens can check on the dedicate website their grade of implementation; 5) reporting and evaluation: this last phase is aimed at the construction of social reporting. Through a participatory method, citizens can access to many acts and verify the result of political action. The first key element of the project was the involvement of the staff. The administrative apparatus, with the initial training, acquired skills and operational methodology and content for the design and construction of the moments of participation. In the later stages developed teamwork, listening to the needs of citizens and the sense of empowerment. It has triggered a kind of mechanism of learning by doing in a logic of continuous improvement of the relationship between both political and technical levels. A second key element is the involvement of associations, schools and other organizations and a large number of volunteers. A third important factor is the use of an innovative communication tool-participation: the web reporting. The construction of the two web platforms has been designed taking inspiration from the fundamental principles of Open Government and logic to develop them by their integration with a open-data system. We have tried to communicate with the citizen in a more accessible, transparent and efficient way. They evaluated the benefits of the potential to trigger further processes of participation and sharing beyond the concept of transparency in favor of a more "open" to the citizens by the administration.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The project is directed to a variety of stakeholders with different needs. The initial idea is left of the city administration, within the program mandate. This idea has been realized "primarily" in the allocation on the budget of the Agency, resources for funding of the initiative and identifying the key areas on which the public was invited to submit proposals. The political leaders have been involved in several stages of the process of participatory budget and social report. Promoted by the political, saw the involvement of the Entity structure with the identification of a leadership team of employees, selected from the top management. This first group has added a second group of employees involved in the "Day of Participation" as Presidents of seat and in representation of the institution. The meetings are open to the citizenry, the Day of Participation, the use of web platforms to communicate with the community saw strong participation by institutional bodies, the voluntary sector and the third sector, the business community and citizenship. The large number of volunteers involved in the initiative is given a demonstration of heartfelt sympathy. Other local authorities have shown interest in the initiative by activating similar initiatives and national television in a special dedicated presented the project "Dirò la mia" as the only experience positive relationship between citizens and Public Administration.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
As for the financial aspect, the city administration has allocated for the editions of the Participatory Budget € 1,062,000 (€ 500,000 in the First Edition and € 562,000 in the II Edition) divided in different thematic areas, to finance projects winners in the day of Participation. In addition, it required a commitment in terms of financial resources amounting to approximately € 109,000 as articulated: • € 69,000 consultancy and training: the council has instructed the company Refe Srl - Strategies for Sustainable development, a company specializing in training and consultancy services for public bodies, private companies, non-profit organizations for the training and preparation of the Participatory Budget (I and II Edition) and the Mid-Mandate social report; • € 14,000 the realization of the platforms dedicated web; • € 26.000 for the creation of posters, informational materials, distribution of questionnaires and insert dedicated to initiatives within the municipal municipal. The project saw the participation of more than 30 municipal employees and more than 40 citizen volunteers, with an estimated effort in terms of man/days of about 110 days. The administration is launching the Third Edition of the Participatory Budget at a cost estimated at approximately € 15,000 to be incurred largely in 2014 and, in residual form, in 2015. The project was funded by the administration resources. In 2013, the Authority had submitted application to the European Prize for Innovation in Public Administration Award addressed to public bodies of the Member States or Associated Countries to the European Union research program aimed at rewarding the most innovative public administrations in Europe with a prize € 100,000 for each of the nine public initiatives rewarded. The application concerned the first edition of the award and one of the essential criteria for selecting the winners in addition to the economic impact of the initiative, originality and replication projects were to include initiatives already undertaken by a period "from one to four years." The project was the winner and administration's intention to continue in order to seek funding at Community or national public and private nature into account the will of the Entity to continue the project by integrating web reporting already implemented with a concrete tool Open Data.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The initiative obtained important results in terms of: greater administrative transparency, increased accountability, increased public partecipation. Citizens could suggest, discuss and decide priority in pubblic spending projects. The iniziative had a strong relevance for the community, mainly for three reasons: - the high rate of participation: 10.535 questionaries in 2014 edition (8.667 in the 2013 Edition) were delivered compared to a population of 50.000 people; - involvement of different organizations in the planning of the whole process: sport, cultural and young associations, informal movements, religious movements, education centers, schools and unions. It means a strategic point for good results in the participatory budgeting: these bodies have given good advices in the planning and have been the best ambassadors of the iniziative as part of the whole process; - the choice of four thematic area: young and culture; education and social policy; environment and Expo 2015 The satisfaction for the iniziative is evident from the local press and from web journals. Local administrator was interviewed by local radio and national television to explain the initiative and social and cultural impact. Indeed, participatory budgeting had a great success also in neighbouring cities and some councillors asked more information about the whole project.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The administration has used, in the preparation of the content for the Participatory Budget and for the Social Report, Refe Ltd, responsible for Development Strategies - expert company in the industry. Refe has worked closely with political leaders and the personnel involved in the field of training workshops. Employees were provided expertise on the subject but most have been taught a way of working in order to make them self-employed in the future in case of replications experience. The group working steering, identified as part of the Participatory Budget, has been involved in the preparatory phase of planning and especially during the evaluation of the technical and economic feasibility of the proposals received and for monitoring the implementation of the winning projects. The help of web reporting has allowed us to achieve results in terms of increased participation by citizens and to provide an effective and clear reporting of the work of the Entity. In particular: • the online platform dedicated to the Participatory Budget: citizen were able to submit their proposals by uploading them in the "Present your proposal" choosing between the issues identified by the City Council, commenting and evaluating the progress of the projects of the year ended; • the online platform of the Social Report: the Municipality of Rho gave account of the progress of the election commitments and the projects activities in the "map" of the city and within the key themes identified by the City Council (Environment, Education and Leisure, Safety, Labour, Land and care of the city, Solidarity, EXPO, participation and accessibility). In the "What do you think?" Was given the opportunity to citizens to contribute by posting a comment on social report mid-term and indicating the priorities for the end of the term.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The whole process required a cultural and organizational change especially within the entity. Change the way of relating to the public servant to the citizens, to evaluate their own work, to questioning the real needs of the community, to grasp (or at least groped) even the unexpressed needs. The analysis of the proposals received citizen resulted in additional work for the office, but at the same time made it possible to bring out the priorities of the citizens. It takes into account not only the winning proposals, for which the Board had allocated appropriate financial resources but within the limits of available resources we have tried to implement the suggestions of the citizens by making improvements/changes to the services offered. Unfortunately, some proposals were rejected for several reasons: lack of feasibility requirements, numbers of questionnaires received... The possibility of multiple editions of the Participatory Budget has allowed the opportunity for some groups of citizens, the proposals adequately and individuals to create "network" to get more support to the initiative.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The most important impact is on the efficiency in resources’ allocation and on better service delivery. Indeed, it is potentially, though not necessarily, able to generate better decisions because during the debate there is a redefinition of the problems and citizens can propose new and innovative solutions. Besides the decisions become more legittimate if they come from the partecipatory process: in fact they are produced not by a “small group” but by a “a larger number of people”, someone may not share the final decision but all recognize the legality of the implemented procedure. Finally, participation promotes civic virtues teaching people to listen, to be more tolerant and to build relationships of mutual trust. One result has been the creation of a network between partecipatory budgeting supporters. This network could grow overtime if the project becomes feasible and can be voted in the final phase. There are also collateral improvements such as the implementation of the web platform. Web reporting permits to open a simple and efficient channel to speak with citizens and it provides interactive communication tools.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The partecipatory budgeting project is innovative and replicable because: 1) it regards the issue of economic resources; 2) it foresees deliberative activity (discuss and decide); 3) the co-decision-making process doesn’t involve only a smart part of the community; 4) the entire process must be integrated into the management cycle. The conditions for a successful participatory budgeting are: - clear political idea; - defined rules of the game; - a gradual and incremental process; - an educational process to democracy both for administrators and for citizens.

 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 initiative began with the idea of offering citizenship to the real opportunity to make their voices heard, to become actors in the decision-making process and the Local, with its human resources, to present their work in fair making known what has been done but also what you want to do or you have not been able to fully realize. It has become an experience of involving civil servants, transforming them from mere executors in players, and many volunteer civic awakening dormant sometimes. Definitely has taught us that there cannot be a true representation, without listening. The local political system is based on the representation: the full participation of the people enriches the administrative action program office of the mayor of topics/issues not considered a priority. The Participatory Budgeting has highlighted priorities in education, social, sporting and cultural. Among the public works particularly felt was the theme of "sustainable" mobility, with the expansion/upgrading of cycle paths (projects proposed by organizations but not by committees of individuals). Finally, there is a positive return on the bureaucratic structure of the Entity and its employees is a small observatory from which to discern the one hand the steps and time required for the determination of administrative decisions (choices for the collective good) and to implement them, on the other hand the work required for the activation of the staff of the tools of direct participation and for the practical implementation of administrative decisions. All this is a chance to rebuild those ties / relationships of trust between citizens and between citizens and the political administration and bureaucracy of the Local government. The city feels more involved in the administration of the city, if he is asked to express their "choice" several times in one reporting period, particularly on concrete projects for immediate implementation that make sense even small changes to improve the welfare of all in the context of the city.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   COMUNE DI RHO
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Telephone/ Fax:   +390293332582/+390293332562
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   tiziana.scaglione@comune.rho.mi.it  
Postal Code:   20017
City:   RHO
State/Province:   LOMBARDIA

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