Governance and participation
“Communicating” perceived needs, governing real needs
Rethinking the sense and value of intermediate bodies
The crisis in governance and participation is closely linked to the deep transformation that is currently running through all parts of society, including in intermediate bodies such as trade associations, unions, political parties, and industrial and commercial delegations.
Intermediate bodies are often called on to carry out important functions of communication within democratic societies but the decades-long process whereby they are weakened and delegitimized stems from the fact that they haven’t been able to reposition themselves following the profound metamorphosis of society that began in the 1970s. The hierarchical, emulative, transmissive communication model has been in place during this period and intermediate bodies have been subjected to it while attempting to survive strong and persuasive cultural and political changes.
Communication to build new participatory processes
For this reason it’s important to underline how important intermediate bodies are and, at the same time, their need to redefine themselves and their way of communicating. By abandoning the old communicative paradigm and constructing communication and mediation environments between the needs – whether perceived or not – of citizens and workers (a bottom-up approach) and strategic lines that come from governance (top-down), they could take on a new slant.
In this way, intermediate bodies would no longer act as the gatekeepers between those who decide and those who have to adapt to the decisions, but as “sensors” on the ground and also overseers of communication environments who, by helping collect and share knowledge about different stakeholders’ needs, contribute and favor participated governance processes.
La mission della nostra ricerca
Neither top-down nor bottom-up
According to the CfGC approach, it is necessary to experiment with alternative solutions to both classic top-down and bottom-up strategies; working with governance and inclusive participation means overcoming the apparent dichotomy between the two approaches in order to construct an organization of communication able to separate and then bring together the subjects involved, reinforcing the identity of the community and fostering knowledge and the generation of awareness.
All CfGC experiences have in common one thing: the importance of knowledge. Knowledge is an incredible, special resource because, unlike others, it doesn’t diminish when it’s shared. On the contrary, it increases. It grows when it’s put to work and its value is evident when applied to addressing needs.
From communication ABOUT a product or service to communication WITHIN a product or service
Incorporating knowledge into the behavior of all subjects, including also production processes – intended in its broadest sense, for example production processes for a municipal statute or a call for bids to assign public funds – is the best way to shift from communication ABOUT a product (typical of the hierarchical, transmissive, emulative communicative paradigm which is currently in crisis) to communication WITHIN a product, which is characteristic of the generative communication paradigm.
Communication ABOUT a product works on predefined elements, according to a typical linear, production-line vision. These elements must be assembled and, once the production process is complete, transmitted using more or less persuasive techniques to a target defined at the outset. This type of communication, therefore due to its nature, lends itself to a reductive fragmentation of the elements that make it up and, consequently, of the objectives according to a quantitative vision of the results.
Communication WITHIN a product, on the other hand, works to aggregate different resources according to a web that is defined as production moves forward, rendering the product to be created (and thus to be used) a communicative tool able to bring different subjects and areas of interest into interaction. The aggregative force ends up favoring production that is always greater and stronger in qualitative terms and, at the same time, quantitatively successful.
Beyond the conflict
The aim of the research is to deepen the relationship between the generative paradigm of communication and the mediation techniques developed and tested in the legal field.
The research activities of the CfGC relating to Governance and Participation originate within the Centro Ricerche e Applicazione dell’Informatica all’Analisi dei Testi (Center for Research and Application of Computer Science to Text Analysis – CRAIAT) experience of developing research projects and looking for alternatives to both classic top-down and bottom-up strategies.
In 2012 and 2013, the CSL specifically focused on supporting and encouraging the participatory process that led the Municipality of Figline Valdarno to join with the Municipality of Incisa in the Val d’Arno in Tuscany: one of the first Italian municipality fusions ever realized.
Collaboration with the Municipality of Viareggio got off the ground in April 2018. The city government wanted to share the contents of the new Regolamento Urbanistico (Urban Planning Regulation) with the principal stakeholders (citizenry, professional associations, economic groups, and citizens’ associations). Definition of the new Urban Planning Regulations, carried out in collaboration with the University of Florence, is an impactful goal for Viareggio and fills a twenty-year-long regulatory gap. For this reason, the Municipality wanted to initiate a participatory process with the involvement of the CfGC to certify its scientific nature.