I am a very passionate about politics. More specifically I am a lover of democracy and the first goal of my life is today working for that in order to make people’s life better. I am a “participatory democracy developer” ad my job now is to develop projects of participatory budgeting in the cities.
It started long time ago. I finished the secondary school - degree in electronic and telecommunication! - and I was struggling to find a job. No way.
So it was usual to spent time watching tv, especially in night time…but no, not watching porno movies… worse: political talk shows! Even worse, the favourite one used to be Porta a Porta, a programme anchored by Bruno Vespa where the guests are usually politicians! I know, that is crazy, but the creaziest thing was that I found them damned interesting (perhaps - yeah! - that could be the reason of my aversion to politicians and to elitarian democracy).
Well, to make a long story short, I enrolled at the University, faculty of Political Science, and from that moment on I’ve never stopped being interested on politics and, more recently, on democracy: BA, MA, PhD.
I was studying in UK (Leeds University) when I discovered participatory budgeting, probably the most innovative form of democracy: basically, it is a way in which citizens can directly decide how to spend public money and elect special representative for that. That would have been my PhD thesis. And that was.
After my filedwork in Porto Alegre in Brazil (where I had the good fortune to meet the founders and long time activists) I had the chance to implement without restraints a concrete experience of Participatory Budgeting in a small town called Canegrate. That meant that I could finally put into practice what I was trying to explain (with any results) during the academic conferences I used to participate. Canegrate Partecipa was launched and in three years it has been considered a best practice from many institutions: the Provincia di Milano awarded it as the most innovative project of e-democracy, it was selected as the best example of participatory project by the Scuola di Alt(r)a Amministrazione, and by the FORUM PA, the Forum of the Third Sector. Actually it worked: during the last edition, almost two thousand of citizens (nearly 15% of the population) decided directly how to spend 100.000 euro for public needs.
The democratic mechanism is quite simple: citizens formulate proposals, public servants evaluate them and citizens vote the priorities, those who must be realized right now. They must be aware of simple rules: the more they are, the more they get. That is to say, they should make the effort to gather and come up with a joint or common project which is much more likely to find widespread support from the bottom up. In this sense, being aware of the economic restraints (the budget) is a valid incentive to realize that we are part a world of limited resources and nobody can pretend to get simply what they want. Today, citizens do not vote projects according to the knowledge of the common resources, they vote people according to somobody else’s promises (which problably do not know how budgets neither)…
This large interests around Canegrate Partecipa, allows us to spread the idea as well as the practice in itself beyond the borders of Canegrate and the Province of Milano, as many other Municipalities were curios to know and experiment it.
Today new and more sopisticated projects of participatory budgeting are carrying out in two Municipalities - Cernusco Lombardone (LC) e Cascina (PI) - and soon in an entire Province (Pesaro-Urbino). To be able to coordinate all them together and provide citizens as wella as local authorities for a useful and friendly tool, we are creating a web-based platform for participation and participatory budgetings.
What lies behind participatory budgeting?
There are several forms of democracies and democratic processes, but I believe we should first understand how human being, society and the world work. Afterwards, we can imagine and develop democracy.
In a nutshell, according to my opinion society is relation; agency depends on social structures as well as social structures depend on agency. People interact to each other and to “the world out there”, si that intelligence and cohesion can spread only if information is shared and cooperation is promoted. Therefore, democracy is the poltical system which allows people to communicate, to be informed and to affect the sphere where they live. All these are the basic principles of the web. Therefore, democracy should broadly take the form of the web in the sense that people must be free to participate and self-organize in accordance with their natural forms of aggregation.
People gather into specific themes, interests and projects and they do not really gather around political programmes. As a result, democracy should be based on participation over projects: people should be able to decide which and how develop project as well as to elect somebody who reflects their ideas. Those people will be responsible to find the synthesis, but the synthesis should be the interaction of such existing communities.
(to be continued… )