“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 initial civic monitoring group in Bologna (2013)
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.
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.
The Monithon team at the EU Hackathon in Bruxelles (2015)
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“.