#Milano | Citizen engagement | Rationale

Here are some key-points of Citizen Engagement Strategy, to be followed by brief Reports on off-line events aimed at engage local communities.

Milan Citizen/Community Engagement (Feb-April 2016)

Milan-pilot (February to July 2016)


  • Enabling citizens with the project tools and opportunities, to frame and solve care-specific problems (off line presentations and workshops);
  • Facilitating conversation between partners, stakeholders, citizens (on-line storytelling/challenge framing and local activities reporting);
  • Mobilizing collective intelligence to address problems of public policy.

Specific goals:

  • To present Opencare as an opportunity to develop personal ability to make their own care representation/decisions;
  • To get insights from users (for selecting topics and work objects);
  • To invite them to participate in co-design sessions.


Local Open Care team (City of Milan and WeMake) meets “active” communities: citizen/groups of people used to collaborate in order to find solutions to emergent social needs or care-related solutions; some of them are “territorialized” communities (as their practices are embedded in specific areas of the city).

  • Elderly people with a common passion: dancing “liscio ambrosiano”
  • Parents of disabled children
  • Migrants
  • A “Social street”


We’ll root OpenCare approach within existing networks of care, helping them to move further steps towards community-driven solutions.  

We intentionally excluded methods of engagement such as institutional meeting or round table with stakeholders/organizations representing specific targets or interests.

Conversely, we consider “clusters” of practices to identify and engage people starting from their direct experience and considering them in a way “experts” of their everyday life and the related “care needs”, without the intermediation;

We’ll encourage “soft” intermediation of the Third Sector, where needed.

General guidelines:

1 | Simple

Issues (and concepts) facing Opencare can be complex (collective intelligence, collaborative approaches, openness, etc…), but the actions needed to be taken or the messages to be understood need to be simple.

Within citizen engagement, participation and co-design methods, a usually reported challenge is related to bridging and translating professional and technical terminology into a language that can be easily understood and that people can connect to their daily lives and problems.

2 | Reciprocal

“Giving for getting”. Especially when a Public Administration try to engage citizens asking them to contribute to a project, it faces the problem to incentivize them with concrete benefits in exchange for their time, effort or behavioural change, signing a sort of implicit “pact”.

Particular attention should be paid to this aspect, in order to avoid misunderstandings and unfulfilled expectations.

OpenCare engages citizens on care-specific challenges and envisages implementing concrete solutions to be co-designed by citizens themselves and prototyped by wemake.

3 | Inclusiveness

Different approaches are needed to outreach and engage a wider public, including migrants, the elderly, disabled people and other social groups.

To engage effectively with citizens, one needs to ensure that the process is genuinely open to heterogeneous groups, not only the digitally confident. This must be organically embedded from the beginning.

4 | Push approach, not pull

To involve people, and in particular specific demographic groups, we need to go where those people are, instead of assuming they will come to us. Instead of a pull approach where for instance a traditional consultation assumes that the people will go the place assigned to be (either physically or virtually) to engage citizens, OpenCare needs to go where the people are really. These are maybe unusual locations for public administration to go.

5 | Online-Offline balanced interventions

Online apps and platforms can be useful to engage citizens and collect input. Face-to-face and group interaction is likewise valuable for driving discussion and co-creating solutions, particularly with non-digitally savvy groups. Online and offline approaches also come with different expectations that must be considered. There are many examples of both used for diverse ends. The nature of the online and offline interaction is very different.

Online information enables the quick sharing of an important amount of content and enables swift short reactions, while offline approaches are necessary to reach less digitally savvy groups such as the elderly or less educated citizens that might not be otherwise included.

Offline engagement also allows face-to-face discussions, sharing of feelings and perception, the building of trust, impressions, making a sense of community, sympathy and empathy, as well as co-creation and solution building.

Particular attention should be paid to understand benefits and limits of different settings.


  • March, 12th 2016,  Milano - Arci Olmi:

Opencare meets an older age group used to dance old-fashioned style (in collaboration with Mare Culturale Urbano)

  • March, 17th 2016, Milano - Villa Pallavicini:

Opencare meets a group of Migrants

  • March, 30th 2016, Milano - WeMake:

Opencare meets a group of Parents of disabled children (joined to x Vivaio Association)

  • April, 19th 2016, Milano - Spazio “Welfare di tutti”:

Opencare meets the members of S. Gottardo Social Street


Sounds great

Ok, thanks for this.

In practice, all of these things struggle with the issue of incentives. I used to deal with structurally similar situations, when I was the director of a government initiative supporting creative projects in Italy’s Mezzogiorno. The Italian govt placed a high priority on enterprise/job creation in the south. We had plenty of money. And yet, the more we tried to “do it right” (we chased fledgling entrepreneurs in small villages and underprivileged areas, we put money on the table), the more we found ourselves talking to, somehow, the wrong people. Monetary incentives brought out the sharks. Targeting vulnerable groups fostered an unhealthy relationship, with the people in question assuming a dependent relationship. Reciprocal, inclusive, sure, but how?

In practice, we ended up doing two things. They did not constitute an elegant solution, but it was a decent hack.

  1. We refused to hand out any money. We could, and did, point to many initiatives funding creative projects. We pointed out that, for people to want to pay for your ideas, you need to do up front work to make that idea clear and robust, and we could help with that. We were offering a free service, and keeping it separated from the actual funding. We did do a challenge, with a monetary reward a year. I think the small amounts in OpenCare are very much in that tradition: they signal respect, but are not big enough to distort incentives. In the startup scene, incentives are very distorted – there are even jokes about it. But the dark world of "incentivi alle imprese" is no joke. 
  2. We focused on what you call "pushing" only in the very first step of the engagement process. We would go out of our way to go where the creatives (whatever that meant) met, to make ourselves available and encourage: but after that, we would allow people to self-select. The rationale is this: like my project of 2008, OpenCare does not need to appeal to absolutely everybody. It needs to appeal to the people that build the care services which, then, will appeal to everybody. The Helliniko Metropolitan Community Clinic was not dreamed up by long-term unemployed Greeks: the first mover was a senior doctor in Rhodes. The clinic itself, though, is open: not only it targets unemployed people, but it allows them to help run it.

Community connectors as allies

Another idea is to grow appeal and legitimacy within certain groups by bringing on board of OpenCare people who are informal community leaders, or the first who really seem to get the value of OpenCare for that group.

Then they become your liaison in that space, spokesperson or connectors on the ground who can adjust the message and keep it simple. That very much depends on the resources you have of course, just an idea. It also lowers the burden for you going in as outsiders.

In the elderly group, maybe Mare Culturale Urbano worked as that kind of ally?