On 19 January 2013, it was fun to organize the first civic monitoring visit in Bologna, Italy. We were a small group of journalists, public administrators, and curious citizens. The “Bar Giuseppe”, right in the city center, which had received public funding to renovate its premises, intrigued us immediately. The bar was closed! But we went back there the following year.
“Civic monitoring of public policies is a form of participatory evaluation of publicly-funded projects from the point of view of the final beneficiaries”
Methods and tools for the civic monitoring of public funding since 2013
“Moni-thon” comes from “monitor” and “marathon”, and this is precisely what Monithon seeks to help with: a structured activity of observing and reporting on public policies. Monithon was created as an independently developed initiative to promote the civic monitoring of government spending.
Civic monitoring of funded projects is possible thanks to a combination of open government data and citizens’ collaboration, joined by the goal of controlling how the projects are progressing, and whether they deliver actual results. This participatory monitoring can complement both the official monitoring by public administrations and the evaluation of public policies by academic institutions or research organizations.
The turning point was the Open Data Day in Bari and the Journalism Festival in Perugia in 2014 which followed. During the event’s hackathon, our website was created, based on the open source project Ushahidi, which had been used to monitor elections in Nairobi.
With a zero budget, a bit for the sake of it, a bit for civic passion, and a bit for the pleasure of sharing this passion with an open and curious community, Monithon evolved into a methodology and a platform to share the results of monitoring initiatives. While these groups spread to almost all Italian regions, a central staff was involved in developing common instruments and supporting activities on the field.
The first results were celebrated by no less than the UN’s General Assembly during the Open Government Partnership Awards, which saw the participation of Barack Obama: here the partnership between OpenCoesione-Monithon representing Italy at the event was ranked fourth in the world.
Monithon has continued to grow over the years – involving students, local communities, and NGOs – as a shared and open-to-all instrument and a format to plan and structure civic curiosity. In 2020, Monithon received a grant from the European Commission to create a “Civic Monitoring Network of EU projects for the environment“.
Current team and activities
Now the team includes policy analysts, domain experts, community managers, communication experts, and software developers.
Monithon offers a validated methodology and a toolbox for citizens, NGOs, and journalists. Its tools include the Project Finder, a beautifully designed, interactive map for discovering and selecting funded projects (data drawn from official sources), as well as the MoniTutor. This step-by-step e-learning guide can be adapted to the specifics of each project, which is based on the knowledge and experience of our team of policy experts.
The most successful application of Monithon’s methodology and toolbox has been, so far, within the “At the School of Open Cohesion (ASOC)” program, designed in 2013 and ongoing, for high-school students in collaboration with the Italian government and the Representation of the European Commission in Italy. The initiative also aims to foster the culture of active citizenship, promote accountability for public institutions, and raise awareness of Cohesion Policy among young people. In 7 years, more than 26 000 students and 3000 teachers have participated in observing 800 co-funded projects. Following a call for expression of interest, and with the support of the Commission, the project has been replicated in 5 Member States: Bulgaria, Croatia, Catalonia (Spain), Peloponnese, Thessaly and Ionia Nisia (Greece), Portugal and more have expressed an interest to join.
The main output of each “civic investigation” is a report assessing the funded project’s effectiveness and impact from the point of view of the final beneficiaries and based on the evidence collected on the ground and via the use of public open data. The map of all reports is available on Monithon’s home page and regularly updated.
To date, Monithon has published about 1000 reports from more than 35000 users in 5 Member States in the last few years. Additional three countries are expected to join in 2021. The total amount of public funding monitored is currently well above 10 billion euros. The results of this civic monitoring are often reported in the media, especially at the local level.
Francesca De Chiara
Francesca De Lucia
I nostri partner
- Luigi Reggi (President)
- Francesca De Chiara (Vice-President)
- Antonella Ciociola
- Cinzia Roma
- Maria Stassi