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In Reggio Emilia, civic protagonism translates into concrete actions thanks to the 9 Neighbourhood Councils, a fundamental fabric for civic participation in shaping the city's future.
The soul of the Councils: co-planning for change
The Neighbourhood Councils are an integral part of the participatory tools consolidated through the collaborative protocol "Neighbourhood as a common good". Positioned upstream of the implementation phase, the councils play a crucial role in co-planning, where the administration and community share objectives of coherence between the needs of the territory and policy programs. The council listens to the needs of the territory, interprets them, organizes them by priority, and carries them to the Municipality. The Area Pact is the product, the actual outcome of the territory's listening done by the council, focusing the objectives of public policies and identifying projects to be realized.
The experience in the Councils: learning to listen and value differences
Valerio Corghi, coordinator of Neighbourhood Council A, representing the territories of Gaida, Cadè, Cella, Roncocesi, and Cavazzoli, shares his perspective: "The experience of the Council was truly significant; we dedicated months of attention, service, and commitment to the citizens, focusing on crucial aspects like knowing how to listen, relate to, and accompany citizens in their interaction with the municipal administration.
The Council contributed to an evolution in the center-periphery relationship, putting citizens at the center and addressing crucial issues like mobility and viability. Coordinating the Council implied valuing every involved person, recognizing and enhancing their respective abilities and competencies. It was fundamental to facilitate and mediate differences, constantly striving to share the sense of collective belonging over individualism, to make 'us' prevail over 'I'."
The successes of the Councils: from participation to the realization of ... miracles
Augusto Ferretti, coordinator of Council G in Gavassa, Mancasale, Massenzatico, Pratofontana, Sesso, shares the success in community involvement: "The first success of the Councils, particularly Council G, was to fill the rooms, what a satisfaction to see such participated assemblies! Through focusing on achievable objectives, Council G achieved tangible results, like the circulation permit for residents of via Duo in Mancasale, who were practically 'entrenched' at home during sports events. In Massenzatico, we contributed to the paving of via Beethoven. From this, the slogan of our council was born: 'If you do the possible to achieve the necessary, sooner or later a miracle will spring forth'.
I must also say that the direct relationship with the people governing the process within the Municipality is extremely useful for us coordinators. And furthermore, I can admit that in my council there are some really strong personalities... probably, my role takes a back seat. However, for me, this is an exciting experience, albeit very challenging, that has enriched my life with significant values."
The young generation of Councils: building community and weaving social bonds
The youngest elected to the councils is Wissal Zyadate, of the Neighbourhood Council H including Gardenia, Porta Santa Croce, San Prospero, Santa Croce, Tondo, Tribunal. Wissal shares: "I find this experience to be interesting. I ran because I thought it was important to better understand my area, as a resident I noticed a lack of community sense. The work was intense, there were discussions, but despite the challenges, the experience was positive, contributing to personal growth and building essential social bonds."
Care, presence, and urban regeneration
Giulia Domenichini, coordinator of Neighbourhood Council B, representing the territories of Pieve Modolena, Carrozzone, Regina Pacis, Bell'Albero-Premuda, Orologio, Roncina, Santo Stefano, offers an in-depth look at the work of Council B: "Our group is young, dynamic, and very close-knit, with an average age of 39 years and mostly coming from the world of associations, participation. We create a positive and proactive climate, and our way of working can be summarized in two words: care and presence. We are committed to constant contact with the citizens. Even before drafting the Area Pact, we received numerous invitations from local associations to participate in their initiatives or collaborate to network."
"Our main initiative concerns the redevelopment of Mirandola Park in Pieve. We believe that this project can integrate various themes, including the care of the territory and urban decor, and the social dimension, particularly relevant in our territories. Our goal is to promote inclusion, street education, and a broader offer for all the fragile sections of our city."
"I believe that the most rewarding part of all this work of the Councils, although challenging, is the feeling of being part of a community and contributing to the reconstruction of the social fabric that has been lost. We are working to recreate that human contact that is so fundamental in these times."
The contribution of the councils to economic dialogue and the safety of the historic center
Monica Soncini, provincial president of Confcommercio, participating as a non-elected member of the Historical Center Council, reflects on the experience: "In addition to the extremely welcoming approach I found in the Council, I constantly commit myself to listening to issues, especially those related to the life of residents, making treasure of them, particularly concerning trade in the historic center."
"From the questionnaire proposed to residents, I observed that among the most raised issues is, indeed, the question of safety, a concern that also resonates among merchants. Even the care of street furniture and the redevelopment of green areas emerge as central aspects. This experience has been extremely positive, numerous proposals have been advanced. The relationship between merchants and residents emerges as one of the crucial nodes to face together, we constantly work to strengthen this relationship in a positive sense."
Participation and proposals for public policies for the environment
Giorgio Vezzani, representative of Legambiente in Neighbourhood Council E representing the territories of Mirabello, Ospizio, Porta San Pietro, San Maurizio, Villaggio Stranieri, says: "The experience in the Council has been interesting so far, it has given the opportunity to meet various associative realities and not only. And it has allowed establishing relationships and collaborations, there has been room for everyone to express their orientation and part of these contributions have flowed into the Area Pact."
"Although still in the early stages, Legambiente has already presented to Council E, as well as to the others where our association is represented, and therefore to the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, as many as 26 proposals. These range from viability to green areas and urban parks, including themes such as combating heat islands, air quality, and waste management. These are punctual proposals, all easily realizable, aimed at improving the environment and the quality of life of citizens. Interest and participation in environmental issues grow day by day, becoming a topic increasingly sensitive to people, starting from young people but involving a wider audience. It becomes a commitment, not only of associations and volunteer citizens, but especially of those who govern, therefore of the Administration."
Neighbourhood Council of the districts: an invitation to participate
The journey of the Neighbourhood Councils proves to be a fundamental chapter in the history of Reggio Emilia. From civic protagonists to active builders of the Area Pacts, these Councils demonstrate that civic participation is an important aspect of urban transformation. The presentation of the Area Pacts, as discussed in the recent meeting held on December 14th, marks a new chapter in the construction of the city's future, shaped by the commitment and passion of those dedicated to the common good.