Engaging Citizens to Revitalize Public Spaces
in Bologna, Italy
Virginia Farina, the mother of a young girl, thought the areas between the street and sidewalk along Via Lombardia in her neighborhood could be made into a garden where children could play and neighbors could stop and meet with one another.
During Bologna’s first ever participatory budgeting process, she brought up the idea in her local Laboratorio di Quartiere, where citizens can meet with city staff and explore their ideas. Each year the city sets aside 1 million euros to fund citizen proposals, which are voted on by residents. The laboratory connected Virginia to other community groups developing greenspace in the neighborhood. An expert from the city helped her learn what was possible and refine her proposal.
“We try to connect the people to the city and to other resources,” explains Michele D’Alena, who coordinates the laboratories. “It’s an opportunity to listen to people and hear about their concerns and their ideas, to work with our citizens to make our city a better place.”
To Virginia’s surprise, her proposal won. But the process isn’t over. Like all of the initiatives that begin in a laboratory, it is a collaborative design effort from beginning to end. Virginia is now working with a city architect to design the greenspace where her daughter will soon get to play.
“I didn’t expect to be a leader,” she says, “but now I’m a leader in my community.”