First Rehearsal of City Assemblies at Factory Grisso: “I’m No Utopia anymore”

First Rehearsal of City Assemblies at Factory Grisso:

by Pietro Perelli

“Today we have tried to tackle an important issue, what should be the role of citizens in a system of government that calls itself democratic. The topical issue is also given the events in Ukraine”.

With these words, Rodolfo Lewansky, Professor of Participatory Democracy and Analysis of Public Policies at the University of Bologna, begins to explain to the attendees what we tried to do during a meeting called “City Assemblies”. A new tool for deliberate participation in the factory Grisso.

“We did this – he explains – with an experiential approach, we proposed to try to communicate some of the issues related to participation by asking participants, students, but also adults, with specific questions in the format of a dialogue structure called the World Cafe. A very used and simple method, it is not the only one, but it lends itself well to these situations”.

The meeting was promoted by references to Donne per la Terra, Extinction Rebellion, Fay-Nice Association, Movimento 5 Stele, + Europa, Teachers for the Future, Politics per Caso Committee in Ferrara. The participants, divided into groups and prompted by some questions, discussed democracy and ways to develop it. He specifically reflected on and discussed citizens’ gatherings, a tool still little used in Italy intended to encourage the active participation of citizens in democratic life.

“The goal – explains Lewansky – is to think about how we govern ourselves, about democracy, what its limits are and how it is possible to renew it”. “Today – says the professor – it is clear that regimes based only on representation are clearly in crisis all over the world, certainly not only in Italy”. So how can this crisis be answered? “Involving Citizens”. And this partnership is “not utopian, it is being done recently and not only locally but also nationally and even globally”.

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The example that Lewansky cites is that of France which “cast climate to the convention, 150 citizens drawn in lots to be representative of the French population”. These “have been discussing policies on climate change for a year and their proposals have gone directly to the French parliament which is discussing them”. Of course it would be necessary to understand “what would they do with it”.

However, this “way more and more cities and regions, from Paris to Brussels, from the Ostbelcian region to the city of Gdansk, from Scotland to Spain to Portugal, but also from Mongolia, Australia, Japan, are being tested. Including citizens “Seriously involved – he emphasized – that is, his opinion really matters and authorities should take this into account and respond publicly”.

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