Project NOVA
Municipality of Santo Stefano di Magra (SP)

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
After the factory "Ceramica Vaccari", shutdown in 2006, the municipality of Santo Stefano di Magra had to tackle the following social consequences. In fact, until a few years before the plant represented almost all of the town’s workforce and set the economic and social pace in the territory. In those last years, the economic crises hit, making the situation even worse and causing a crises in public funds and resources, therefore making it difficult to ensure the citizens’ welfare. Summing up the problems emerged by the first analysis, which led to the creation of “Project NOVA” , we can deduce the following points: The factory shutdown led to: unemployment, facilities dereliction, need for recovery of the land where once was the plant. The economic crises led to: a stability pact for local administrations which made it difficult to find resources and ensure services. Social consequences: lack of places for people to meet and discuss, marginalisation of the lower class from the economic activities in the territory ( especially youngsters and elderly people)

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The Santo Stefano Magra City Council houses in its territory the former ceramics factory “Ceramica Liguer Vaccari”, one of the largest pottery companies of the 20th Century. The factory was renowned especially because of the production of stoneware which was exported all over the world and it was used for paving as well as for ceramic mosaics. After the factory closed down in 2006, the City Council planned the “NOVA project” (Nuovo Opificio Vaccari per le Arti – New Vaccari Factory for the Arts) with the aim of revive the complex and its history and to make the area an engine for local development again. NOVA is a project for the creation of a hub for “cultural economy” and for the urban renovation of the entire area. Thanks to an innovative form of cooperation between public and private bodies, the City Council has acquired a part of the area on a free loan for the next 8 years. Some of the facilities have been assigned to private cultural operators through a public tender. For the winner projects, NOVA has become a new house. The objective is to transform the area in a hub for cultural production, a place to gather the artistic and creative talents present on the territory. Thanks to the tenders, the city council has set up an important laboratory of ideas and experimental activities, a place for research, for the development of new languages and unconventional knowledge. A place where anyone can be the protagonist or enjoy the activities and the events, an open space for innovation and a link between national and international communities. An active, alive centre to use all year long, at any time of the day. There is a lot of interest around Project NOVA, confirmed by the large number of proposals received. The new operators renewed their spaces and set up their activities with their own budget, without further costs for the local administration. The fundamental objective of NOVA has been reached with the set up of a cultural incubator, where the operators work on their projects while they develop new services for the local community. Furthermore, there will be several activities organised by the local government, such as exhibitions, conferences, the set up of a library and of an Urban Centre. In partnership with the Superintendence of Archival Heritage, the City Council recovered and catalogued the factory’s historical records as well as the old industrial complex. We also acquired a large shed for the preservation and exhibition of the archive records and machinery. The temporary free concession of small portions of the warehouses to creative businesses and to local food companies aims to trigger a bottom-up process of employment and of redefinition of a specific place. The relocation of the library and of the cultural activities of the City Council have the same objective. Because of the large dimensions of the dismissed factory compared to the neighbouring spaces, it is not possible to apply to the area a traditional real-estate approach, with the construction of new buildings. The best solution is therefore to promote a public-private partnership supervised by the City Council for a larger urban requalification project, allowing private bodies to invest their creativity in new services and activities without further expenses on part of the administration.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Cultural projects can generate an immediate positive impact on the economics and social development of a territory; however, this is not always the case. The best strategy, adopted for Project NOVA, puts in place complementary elements: actors from the civil society and from the business world, strong planning and coordination with a long-term approach, attention to the overall quality of the projects, connections to other development projects and to overal development policies and shared management of the funding opportunities. It is a strategically structured plan where different European opportunities can be applied in a unitary project, without relying on a myriad of micro and small grants. Following the main principles of Europe 2020, the decennial strategy for employment growth launched in 2010 to overcome the economic crisis in the Union and to create the conditions for sustainable growth, NOVA IS (and will be more and more): CULTURE, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION and ACTIVE PARTICIPATION NOVA generates growth on a local level, active participation and the opportunity for all citizens to enjoy the new services offered by the associations and businesses who were assigned the factory’s spaces for free, without any further economic commitment on part of the City Council

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Private actors starts their activity with the local community: The Cardelli & Fontana contemporaryart (an international gallery), Music Factory (a multipurpose Music Center), Fitram Association (Museum of public transport), Scarti Cultural Association (a group of young artists, operators and theatre art specialists) and The Room of Necessities (in-house production and marketing of design products made from industrial waste): NOVA Project is a huge think tank yielding ideas and activities oriented towards experimentation, research, development, production and the search for new languages, new knowledge and new techniques.It is a place where youngsters are both cultural production makers and beneficiaries of activities and events.It is a place open to all innovative proposals linked to the most dynamic realities in town and in the national and international scenario. It is a dynamic centre available 24/7 all year long. The agreement signed by the operators and the Municipality is among the innovative partnership forms between public and private bodies: in fact operators will avail themselves of the venues for free during the bailment; in return they will commit themselves to reorganise the place making it liveable. Moreover they will have to grant services with an important social repercussion for the local community. Opening of Library and Urban Centre: cultural meeting point for the community, place of public service for the citizens Opening the multipurpose hall and Historical Vaccari Archive: The project's aim is to find a proper location for the ”Ceramica Vaccari Archive”: a suitable conclusion of a work which lasted several years involving the recovery and cataloguing of historical materials and old tools still abandoned in the plant. The project aims to create a multi-functional area with an archive and an exhibition where cultural and creative activities and shows can be carried out, making it the engine of social life not only in the Vaccari history museum but also in the whole area. The preservative renewal project will mostly concern the exterior. We will only carry out a few changes necessary to make the building suitable to the new functions in agreement with the safety regulations delivered by the superintendence in charge. In the inside, we will create new rooms and spaces that will be completely separated from the existing structures. These venues will house the new archive, new services (toilettes, ticket office, stages...) and an interactive exhibit about the history of the Vaccari factory. Opening of residence for Artist: to promote mobility on part of the artists. Travelling gives artists the possibility of confronting their creative flow with that of peers from other countries and other cultures and to expand their professional network. The residence programmes are integrated within the cultural and social fabric of the territory and they promote the free circulation of ideas and artworks amongst a vast and diversified audience, as well as facilitiating contacts with the art market. Events – during 2015 NOVA hosting the second ediction of: NOVA Summer, The 2014 edition of the “Ex Ceramica festival” sees NOVA's debut as a promoter of great international music. NOVA Summer is a series of events patronized by the Municipality in line with the path already undertaken; NOVA creative sites:The Nova Project starts officially in the spring of 2014. On the 14th and 15th March the “NOVA Creative Worksite” takes place, a two-day workshop on creative requalification in Italy and Europe. The objective is to reflect on the changes in the industrial spaces and in the corporations that used to manage them. Different actors involved in this metamorphosis came together to share experiences on the topic. The Nova Creative Worksite made the desire to transform the whole area explicit, and it was a declaration of the ideals that will inspire the project for the years to come. For the former calibration shed, owned by the Council, it was its debut as a multi-purpose facility, hosting performances, screenings, laboratories and, most importantly, new narratives, in order to identify the best suggestions for a new creative management of the area.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Logders. The first project’s stakeholders are the recipients of the spaces within the Vaccari plant. Businesses and cultural associations that chose this hub has the headquarter for their activities. Just like good neighbours, they manage the common spaces and events together with the City Council, and they carry out important functions on the territory in collaboration with schools, centers for the elderly and other public places. They represent the new generation of cultural entrepeneurship: young people and women whose work activates innovative and long-term processes in the context of our new entrepeneurial system. They do business, create jobs, promote sustainable development. Private subjects. Patrons and sponsors. Around Project NOVA we created new forms of private sponsorisations, starting with the construction of the artists’ residences on part of the harbour companies and with the sponsorisation of events. Raising awareness on the importance of private bodies to promote these initiatives allowed the Municipality to solve, at least in part, the problem of cuts to public spending for cultural activities. Citizens. They are the main recipients of the project: young people, schools, elder citizens… underpriviledged citizens who need special policies in education, work, cultural events, social activities. Apart from these categories, the entire area will benefit from the requalification of the abandoned spaces; and the requalification itself was made possible thanks to the attention raised around Project Nova. The global recovery of the area will be made possible thanks to the participation of its citizens, like in the set-up of a general plan for the area compatible with the people’s needs and with the safeguard of determined public functions. The plan will be the object of an international contest in which the City Council will commit to follow the indications given by its citizens.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
From the early phase of Project Nova, the Municipality has decided to integrate different resources within a unique, multi-layered project. The municipal offices’ experience in project cycle management allowed to elaborate a comprehensive strategy for converging all assets in one “Machiavellian” objective: using culture as the engine for territorial growth, as the centre of a Public/private partnership which is fundamental for the supply of public services. Thanks to this approach characterised by a strong leadership and rigorous organisation, we were able to activate a series of resources: Human resources: the staff of the Santo Stefano di Magra City Council, the staff of the assignees of the factory’s spaces, the citizens and volunteers of the local NGOs, an exceptional force at a national level; Financial resources. The recovery of the Ceramica Ligure was carried out by the current owners, thanks to the intervention of the City Council. The acquisition of the plant and the establishment of the Vaccari Historical Archives was carried out by the City Council, in part thanks to a State grant. Performances and other events are sponsored by various private bodies, as well as the establishment of the hostel / artist residence. Particular attention is also given to the 2014-2020 European Planning for structural direct funding. Technical / Professional. Close collaboration of public offices on a local, provincial and regional level. The management is curated by specialised foundations. Creative direction, project management and services are managed by the private assignees companies. Necessary interventions will be carried out by companies based in the Santo Stefano di Magra City Council

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Educational labs with local schools and centres for the elderly The agreement signed between the Council and the private assignees of the spaces entails the private bodies to organise cultural, social and educational activities for the underprivileged subjects of the municipality, in exchange for the free usage of the spaces and the services of the Project NOVA cultural hub. Thanks to the project, children, the elderly and people with disabilities have opportunity to develop new skills. Recovery of the abandoned area Current owners have pre-emptively tempered the area of the Project NOVA (13000 squared metres), and they care currently in the final phase of the recovery of the adjacent area (12000 squared metres). The recovery project was made possible thanks to the intervention of the City Council, but it will bring opportunities of economic growth to the current owners as well. Furthermore, the project is based on a free bailment to the City Council. By the end of next year, less than 10 years after the shut down, an industrial complex as big will be entirely tempered and recovered with minimum expenses on part of the city council. Youth employment support and economic development Project NOVA is a cultural hub currently hosting 5 cultural and creative businesses that were able to develop their activities thanks to the collaboration with the City Council, which did not supplied direct funding. Thanks to this initiative, the Santo Stefano di Magra City Council has promoted the development of youth employment on the territory and therefore to the economic system in general, such as cultural tourism in the area. Establishment of a long-term public-private partnership The economic, social and environmental benefits of the PPP have been outlined since their establishment in the 2003 Green Book of the European Commission. Other the following years, PPP became fundamental to supply services and welfare at a time of crisis and cuts in public spending. Project NOVA promoted the encounter, the awareness and the development of common objectives aimed at improving the lives of the area and its citizens. In particular, the City Council has established partnerships with: The factory owners: for the recovery of the area and an 8-year-old bailment for the promotion of the area Private cultural and creative assignees: with the objective of providing public-utility services The local businesses, through sponsorship Active participation on part of the citizens The active participation of the citizens to the project allowed to put into place a series of actions aimed at making people more awareness of their territory. Furthermore, they will be able to delineate better their needs through special assemblies

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
While defining the project, the Municipality created a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan divided in the following steps: 1. Evaluation audience identification: defining target groups ( youngsters, elderly people and private businesses involved in the project) 2. Creation of an assessment questionnaire: we created a questionnaire to check the state of the art on relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, outcome, sustainability following the Europe Aid Cooperation Office model. 3. We created a working group responsible for the results processing and communication. 4. We identified the following process indicators: number of participants to educational workshops, number of participants to social activities organised by recipients, number of events organised, number of participants to the events, squared metres of requalified and renewed land. 5. Main result indicators: users’ level of satisfaction, citizens’ level of satisfaction, private partners’ level of satisfaction and awareness, external users’ level of satisfaction.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Contrary to what was previously foresaw during the writing up of Project NOCA, the main obstacles did not come from the private actors: the participation to the assignment of the spaces has been very high, especially considering the dimensions of the City Council and the technical and financial support of the economic subjects. The main difficulties came from the active participation of the citizens and the City Council itself, because of decisional, cultural, and administrative problems. However, these problems were overcome by following the European guidelines and thanks to the help of independent bodies. It was also communicated in order to gather more and more support on part of the local population. This also allowed to overcome the largest bureaucratic obstacles, with the development of a positive working environment and growing participation on part of the citizens which allowed each subject to operate at its highest potential. The most delicate part was the contact with the citizens, at first not interested in taking part to the project but then more and more involved. When the project started, the first positive repercussions made the citizens enthusiastic of the initiative, and trust in the Project NOVA kept growing. This is a particularly positive aspect especially when considering the current mistrust in politics on part of many citizens.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
A fundamental premise for the analysis of these data is that Project NOVA is currently in progress and it will reach full potential only in next few years. From the examinations made between January and November 2014 we can observe: Initial objectives: dealing with the negative impact on the territory following the factory closure (occupation, tampering, recovery of the area); providing new solutions to the problems cause by the crisis (youth unemployment, services, the presence of common social spaces); trying new forms of sustainable welfare without losses in quality. Outturn in 2014: Tampering: 14.000 squared metres entirely cleared, 120.000 squared metres at an advance stage, with the removal of toxic waste, contaminated land and mapping of the territory; Public Services: organisation of laboratories, guided visits for the citizens. Five educational laboratories have been organised by the assignees for the 2014-2015 school year. A laboratory on active aging will start over the next few months. During spring 2015 the Vaccari historical archive and the Multipurpose Hall will be inaugurated. Occupation: five cultural and creative enterprises were established on the territory, mostly employing people under 35 and women. A sensible increase in cultural tourism during the events and performances was also registered (five main events with the participation of 300 to 700 people, also coming from outside the area) Requalification of the area: 13000 squared metres were renovated (works will be completed in spring 2015) and saw the active participation of citizens to events and performances. Many local associations and private citizens have applied for free concessions of parts of the area. The preservation and promotion of the factory’s historical heritage was safeguarded after the shut down of the activities had interrupted the connection with the territory.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The economic aspect of sustainability is often the most neglected in social projects. On the contrary, the municipality managed to endorse this aspect by commending the entrepreneurial approach distinctive of our public-private partnership. Therefore, a cultural association entrusted with the “Project NOVA” management and implementation will be created. It will be a self-financing no-profit organisation made up of several experts who will appraise the association thanks to their expertise. Private bodies will deliver their expertise in resource management, financing and marketing to seek the visibility and success of the project. Funding will be diversified and internal training will be developed with great care in order to make projects interesting and useful for all kinds of sponsors. Moreover, cultural and creative enterprises will be able to deliver goods and services to the market, therefore creating an internal financial backing. On the other hand, public bodies will work to maximise the welfare deriving from the exploitation of these resources. This partnership will allow the coexistence of self-funding activities and social values. Communication is followed with great care thanks to a communication plan which identifies the main target groups , our message and the best tools to spread it. The channel we use to reach young people is mainly represented by social media, storytelling initiatives and flash mobbing together with a traditional and institutional channel. The communication plan is followed by some experts among our partners.

 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)
“NOVA set up a new frontier. A new way to produce culture, a new synergy between the government, local associations and the citizens, a new path to decide, together, the future of the Municipality of Santo Stefano di Magra and the Vaccari factory.” This sentence expresses in a few words the essence of the “Project NOVA” and its values. Participatory integrated planning, carried out by several business, social and private bodies in our territory, is of the utmost importance for our local administration. In fact, it allows the creation of satisfaction and approval, a better allocation of resources to meet the real needs of the society and more economic and human resources without added costs. The fact that local administrations must be trained, efficient and competent to become plausible partners for private businesses is often neglected.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Municipality of Santo Stefano di Magra (SP)
Institution Type:   Other  
Contact Person:   Valentina Tresso
Title:   Dott.ssa  
Telephone/ Fax:   +39 3425779553
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Piazza Matteotti
Postal Code:   19037
City:   Santo Stefano di Magra
State/Province:   La Spezia

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