Monithon elected as member of the Italian Open Government Forum for 2024-2027 term

Following the vote on March 4, 2024, the composition for the new mandate of the Italian Open Government Forum (FGA) for the term 2024/2027 has been officially approved. A total of 44 organizations from the Open Government Partnership Italy (OGPIT) community participated in the voting process, including 15 public administrations and 29 civil society organizations.

Monithon, as one of the newly elected civil society organizations, is honored to join the FGA. According to the regulation, the Forum plays a crucial role in governing the OGPIT community, which brings together stakeholders from both the public and civil sectors. The FGA acts as a platform for equal dialogue between organized civil society and institutional actors, with the mission of implementing public policies relevant to the strategy, implementation, and impact monitoring of the national strategy for open government.

Monithon, during its mandate, will act according to the principle of leading by example, contributing to the implementation of commitments in line with the national open government strategy.

Key tasks of the FGA include formulating proposals to define open government policies and their contribution to monitoring and evaluating their impacts, defining co-creation and co-implementation methods for National Action Plans, promoting national dialogue on open government policies, and advocating for open government education, especially among young generations.

Monithon looks forward to contributing to the advancement of open government principles and engaging in this significant collaborative effort to enhance transparency, collaboration, and participation in public governance.

Here is the complete list of the new members of the Open Government Forum.

Government Organizations

  • Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale
  • Autorità nazionale anticorruzione
  • Consiglio Nazionale dei Giovani
  • Dipartimento per la Trasformazione Digitale
  • MASE Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Sicurezza Energetica
  • Dipartimento programmazione e coordinamento della politica economica (DiPE)
  • Regione Emilia Romagna
  • Regione Liguria
  • Regione Puglia
  • Roma Capitale – Dipartimento Decentramento, Servizi delegati e Città in 15 minuti –
  • Scuola Nazionale dell’Amministrazione

Civil Society Organizations

  • Associazione della Comunicazione Pubblica e Istituzionale – Compubblica
  • Centro Culturale San Martino, Regione Puglia – Ets
  • Fondaca, Fondazione per la cittadinanza attiva
  • Fondazione Etica
  • Monithon Europe Ets
  • PAsocial
  • React Srl
  • Scuola Capitale Sociale Aps
  • Stati Generali dell’Innovazione
  • The Good Lobby
  • Transparency International Italia

iMonitor, a civic monitoring network to prevent corruption, is launched: join us!

December 9th is the International Day against Corruption, an opportunity to raise awareness of the consequences of this social, political, and economic phenomenon which affects all countries and deprives citizens of fundamental rights, slows down economic development, undermines the institutions, and the rule of law.

We take this opportunity to announce Monithon’s participation in the iMonitor project network, which has been active for a few months in 4 European countries (Italy, Spain, Romania, Lithuania).

Combining the analysis of public procurement data and the results of civic monitoring to help improve the efficiency of the fight against corruption: this is the key objective of the project coordinated by the Government Transparency Institute, financed by the Internal Security Fund and supported by the Italian national anticorruption authority (ANAC).

Starting from the Opentender platform, which has made public procurement data and corruption risk indicators available, and using Monithon’s reporting tool for citizens dedicated to monitoring public spending, iMonitor will, on the one hand, try to provide useful information authorities to address corruption and fraud in public procurement, on the other hand, to promote civil society networks for ongoing anti-corruption efforts in the 4 European countries/regions involved.


To date, the iMonitor network is finalizing a common monitoring reporting template in Spain, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania, and a methodology to engage civic communities in this delicate activity.

The monitoring activities will begin in 2024, and will involve groups of interested citizens with civic monitoring laboratories.

iMonitor brings together Monithon, Oficina Antifrau de Catalunya (Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia), Transparency International Lithuanian Chapter , Romanian Academic Society, National Integrity Agency / Agenția Națională de Integritate (Romania), Collegi de Professionals de la Ciència Política i de la Sociologia de Catalunya (COLPIS, Spain).


If want to participate, shoot us a message at!

Italian government releases open data on Recovery projects

This is one of the most awaited news by Italian transparency advocates, journalists, and researchers. Two years after the launch of the Italian Recovery Plan (PNRR) and countless calls for transparency, it is now possible to access the information contained in the monitoring system of the Ministry of Economy and Finance on the individual projects financed (“REGIS”).

The data is updated to 1 March 2023 and concerns over 50 thousand validated projects , therefore 10 times more than those published in the last release. The total number of projects, including those not yet validated, is almost 140,000.

Data are published in the Open Data section of the national RRF portal “Italia Domani”. The following tables are available:


Our first impression

In the coming days, we will analyze this data to verify its completeness and quality. We aim at contributing to a wider analysis involving content and technical aspects in collaboration with other civil society initiatives such as the Dati Bene Comune transparency campaign.

In the meantime, this data release looks like a big step forward in terms of transparency and accountability of the RRF. Knowing exactly which projects are financed and where, on which topics and with which objectives, it is possible for interested citizens and organizations to verify the progress and the effects of RFF funding on the ground. While other public datasets like OpenCUP contain information about projects only potentially funded by the Recovery Plan, these new data allow to identify which projects are actually being funded by the RRF. Through the Unique Project Identifier (CUP) it is easy for tech-savvy citizens to match RRF data with other existing Italian datasets such as ANAC, Servizio Contratti Pubblici, or OpenBDAP.

Also, information about the location of the projects is included, allowing interesting spatial analyses. The link to the related tenders makes it easier for the users to access the data from the National Anticorruption Authority. Finally, data are accompanied by a minimal set of metadata, briefly explaining the meaning of each variable.

Of course, there is room for improvement. A few initial examples:

  • Unlike government portals like OpenCoesione on EU Cohesion funding, the data on RRF are only published as raw data and included in different tables that need to be matched like in a relational database, through the project ID. This is not an easy job for most citizens, who are required to rely on data intermediaries to make sense of the data.
  • Crucial information is missing on the financial and procedural progress of each project. No information about payments or project status is available, while this should be the main purpose of a monitoring system. No indication is given about when updated data will be released in the future.
  • The description of the projects is sometimes missing or insufficient, making it difficult to understand what the projects are about.
  • Data about actors involved are limited to a subset of the projects and contain only basic information.

We look forward to using these new datasets in our civic monitoring of the Recovery Plan!


Environmental monitoring in Salento

The long work of the Mobius Circle APS – Precious Plastic Salento association concluded yesterday, which used the Monithon method for its first work of civic monitoring of public projects. A work that began last year thanks to the European project Civic Monitoring for the future of Europe , for which Monithon provided a specialized training course on the civic monitoring of European funds.

The monitoring report – the first of a series in various European countries, which we will publish in the coming weeks – deals with the renovation of an ancient rainwater collection channel in the naturalistic oasis of the Canale della Lacrima (financed with the Funds for POR FESR 2014-2020) in the municipality of Campi Salentina. The intervention also involves the strengthening of the surrounding riparian vegetation, in order to reconstitute a woodland nucleus, starting from some very rare specimens of Virgilian oaks found on site.

The monitoring process lasted about a year and was developed with data collection and analysis activities, starting from the information available on the  Open Coesione website in the resolutions published on the website of the Municipality of Campi Salentina. Public debates, working groups, inspections, and interviews which also involved a group of students, active protagonists of the monitoring activities, completed the activities.

The outcome of the research highlighted that it is a useful project which, however, could have been developed in a more complete way, especially since a management plan for the area was not foreseen.

Italian civil society asks the Government for data on the projects funded by the Recovery Plan

On November 30th, 2022, more than 60 Italian civil society entities (here is the full list, updated daily) representing citizens, associations, groups, movements, universities, and research centers, sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and to the Minister for the European Affairs, Cohesion Policies and the RRF, Raffaele Fitto, denouncing the serious delay in making available the data that are essential for monitoring the progress of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The campaign is called “Italy Tomorrow, Data Today”, inspired by the name of the government website ItaliaDomani (“Italy for Tomorrow”).

Monithon has been advocating for years for better data on the planning and implementation of EU funding, including, more recently, on the Recovery and Resilience facility. Detailed and high-quality data are essential for allowing citizens to increase awareness of the use of public funding and collect new information on the individual projects funded through interviews or questionnaires. Have a look at our civic monitoring reports in Italy and other EU Countries.

According to Italian civil society, information on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and its management remains scarce and inadequate. The national government website ItaliaDomani does not yet contain information on the funds actually spent. A the moment, only 4 tender procedures and around 5,000 projects are listed. This data is updated to May 2022 and concerns only 1 billion euros.

In short, there is no single and easily accessible place in which to find what projects are funded, where, and how they are progressing.

The following is the complete text of the open letter (here is the original Italian version, which we have translated into English – sorry for any inaccuracies).


Civil society asks for transparency on the Recovery Plan with a letter to the Prime Minister

Despite the continuous promises from the Government and Parliament, information on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and its management is still very scarce and inadequate. For citizens, associations, groups, movements, universities, and research centers it is not yet possible to monitor the progress of a project and assess its impact.

The budget law for 2021 committed the Government to detect the financial, physical, and procedural implementation data relating to each project of the PNRR and to make them available in an open format, but there is still very little evidence of all this. Currently, published data do not show the state of implementation, or provide any evidence of the impact at the local level.

In the open data catalog ItaliaDomani, the national portal of the PNRR launched by the Government in August 2021 has the goal of allowing citizens to monitor the implementation of the plan and the progress of each investment. However, at the moment there is no available information on the funds actually spent.

According to the second report to Parliament on the state of implementation of the Plan, sent to the Italian Parliament on October 6th, 73,000 projects should have been uploaded to the REGIS system, a national information system for the monitoring of the Plan. However, in the ItaliaDomani portal we can only find:

  • Only about 5,000 projects
  • Information updated to May 2022, concerning only one billion euros
  • Information on only four tender procedures.

Furthermore, there is no single and easily accessible place where it is possible to access project documents or files, which is essential to understand the projects’ goals and context.

Therefore, citizens cannot find out what interventions will be carried out in their neighborhoods and which will have an impact on their lives. They cannot know anything about the progress of these interventions as well, including the Plan as a whole, which is the sum of the individual projects. They will therefore have no way of forming an opinion and of influencing fundamental choices for the country, for the most part financed with funds borrowed from the European Union.

Obtaining this information, which is essential for citizens to be able to fully exercise their role of control over the work of the public administration, has so far been delegated to the ability or goodwill of individual local administrations, resulting in unequal access to information in different areas of our Country.

As if that were not enough, the absence of information and data accessible to citizens seems to reflect a general lack of reliable data and information also for the decision-makers themselves, who have a duty to guarantee the correct implementation of the plan and to report on it.

The data allowing public administrations to check the actual status of the Plan’s implementation are not yet available, more than a year after the launch of the Plan. On what basis the Government can evaluate the state of implementation of the Plan and assess the impact of investments?

For some time, civil society organizations have been calling for a greater and constant commitment to ensuring transparency in the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Most of these requests have so far gone unheeded.

We therefore ask the new Government for a concrete commitment to publish:

  • All relevant data relating to RRF projects, in an open format and timely fashion
  • Relevant documents and project files for each project funded, following the example of the National Database of Public Contracts or the National Registry of Unfinished Works
  • A quarterly report on the Recovery Plan, with tenders and notices, milestones and targets, approval and progress status (using the example of the data available on the OpenCoesione portal). In particular, a) milestones and targets, b) individual projects (status of approval and subsequent progress), c) calls for tenders and notices
  • Detailed information on the monitoring indicators relating to the three transversal priorities, i.e. reduction of gender, generational and territorial gaps.

The RRF represents an unprecedented opportunity and a challenge for our Country, which involves a substantial commitment and enormous responsibility, considering that a large portion of the funds involves public debt that will concern our generation and future ones. This challenge needs all parties are fully involved, starting with citizens. Transparency and availability of data are the conditions for guaranteeing citizens the possibility of promoting debate and carrying out civic monitoring actions, as well as intervening to avoid waste of public money and wrong public decisions.

#ItaliaDomaniDatiOggi. “Italy Tomorrow, Data Today”. We can’t wait any longer.

Let’s talk about open data and education at The State of Open Data Roundtables

Monithon will participate in the second round of The State of Open Data Roundtables taking place between November 2-4 to gather perspectives regarding the use and impact of open data. The Data for Development Network will convene experts to discuss recent developments around Education, Corporate Ownership, Crime and Justice, Agriculture, and Land Ownership.

Our own Luigi Reggi will discuss perspectives on the use and impact of open data on education in the session “State of Open Data: Education“, hosted by Javiera Atenas, Principal Researcher at ILDA. The panel includes Marwan Tarazi, Director of “Design and Innovation” at the Center for Continuing Education (CCE), Dr. Victoria Marín, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Lleida (Spain), and Priscila Gonsales, Co-founder at Instituto Educadigital.

You can find some background on Open Data and Education in the latest version of the State of Open Data Report.

The session will begin on Wednesday, November 2 at 02:00 pm (CET). Please register here!

The event will also be streamed on YouTube.




Welcome Kohesio, the new tool for discovering projects for territorial cohesion throughout Europe

Well done European Commission! Kohesio – the online platform that collects data and information on over 1.5 million projects financed by Cohesion Policy all over Europe – was launched earlier today by Commissioner Elisa Ferreira, after being published in beta version for a while.

We at Monithon had a look at Kohesio’s contents, which at the moment are only in English, but will be available in all EU languages. On the homepage, Kohesio presents a map that allows you to easily and intuitively discover the European projects active in your territory. The projects can then be further filtered by theme; Research and Innovation, Social Inclusion, Public Administration Efficiency, Climate Change and Risk Prevention are just some of the categories used on the platform.

Kohesio’s source for Italian projects is OpenCoesione, to which Kohesio adds nothing in terms of data quality, georeferencing (projects are displayed on the map at the municipal level), or information return. However, the real value is the opportunity to compare projects funded in all EU countries! Through the project search interface, you can navigate between similar projects in all countries through filters and keyword research. It is also possible to search by funding recipients (beneficiaries). The data can be downloaded in CSV or XLSX format for each country, as separate files for beneficiaries and projects.

We will be testing these tools in our civic monitoring activities during the coming weeks, by focusing on data quality. In the meantime, we suggest the Kohesio’s team at the European Commission to publish APIs: it will be much easier for civic initiatives like ours to access data (only the ones they need), interpret them, and add value.

Edit 9PM: We asked for APIs, but it turns out that a super helpful EU Knowledge graph endpoint is in fact available, which also includes data from Kohesio. Can’t wait to play with it!


Monithon meets the New York Public Library

Yesterday we had the honor to have a conversation with brilliant Daphna Blatt and Caitlyn Colman-McGaw from the New York Public Library (NYPL) about future applications of civic monitoring in New York City.

Daphna Blatt, who is Director of Strategic Research & Analytics at the NYPL, learned about us in the book Mistrust by our friend Professor Ethan Zuckerman, a well-known media scholar and Internet activist, former director of the MIT Media Lab and now an associate professor of public policy, communication and information at the University of Massachusetts.

Public libraries have a key role in promoting citizen engagement in “smart city” initiatives and cultivating civic impact. In particular, the NYPL is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative institutions and a real beacon of legitimacy and identity in New York. NYPL’s programs combine exceptional expertise in data and information with the ability to act as a facilitator of civic initiatives for public accountability and for increasing trust in public institutions. Have a look at the NYC Open Data portal.

We were impressed by their interest in both Monithon’s method and the At the School of OpenCohesion application. Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Manager of Young Adult Educational Programming, asked about the emotional response of high-school students when exposed to controversial public issues – a response that eventually leads to creative suggestions for improving public policies.

Our own Luigi Reggi also mentioned EU policies and initiatives for reducing inequality and promoting social inclusion, which are particularly interesting in the context of New York City.

A final recommendation from the NYPL was to collect more detailed information about the civic impact of our monitoring, for example by assessing civic skills and awareness before and after the monitoring activities.

Stay tuned for future developments 🙂



Civic monitoring of EU policy in Turin shows both positive and negative aspects of funded projects

On May 21, the student laboratory of the University of Turin – one of the activities of the project “A civic monitoring network for the civic monitoring of the European funds for the environment, promoted by Monithon and Lunaria and co-financed by the European Commission – delivered its results. The event was organized with the support of the Metropolitan City of Turin, Europe Direct Turin and the OpenCoesione initiative of the Department for Cohesion of the Presidency of the Council. The discussion was designed for the students to meet the authorities and hear their positions on the possibilities offered by monitoring.

A training experience not only for the students – involved in monitoring six projects funded by the European Union in the Turin area – but also for the administrators who attended the final event during which the students presented the results of their monitoring, highlighting the shortcomings.

The monitoring activity allowed the students to conduct fieldwork activities and check the progress of the projects – selected through the interactive Project Finder map made available by Monithon -, which also allowed them to meet the recipients of the funded projects, and therefore see the real impact they have on citizens’ lives. What basically emerged during the project was that, although useful and well-realized, the users of the services complain of shortcomings, not only due to the lack of maintenance, but also to the implementation of the interventions, which do not always exactly meet the needs of the beneficiaries of the projects.

After the first phase of “inspection”, the students then contacted the public managers responsible for the National Programme “Metropolitan Cities” to ask for clarification regarding the shortcomings they found. This has therefore made it possible to open a round table with the European Commission and the City of Turin not only on the issue of civic monitoring – a very useful tool in monitoring the management of funds – but also on the importance of involving citizens in all phases of the project for a better success of the project itself.

Read the civic monitoring reports [IN ITALIAN]



Cristina Scarasciullo


24-years-old student of Public and Political Communication at the University of Turin. Citizen of the world with Puglia in her heart and a backpack always ready for new experiences. Many different interests that, however, have a passion for writing in common.

164 teams from “At School of OpenCohesion” have completed their civic monitoring!

We want to congratulate the students, teachers, and the “At School of OpenCohesion” team for completing the long civic monitoring program in such a difficult year.

164 monitoring groups – two-thirds of those that started in October last year – have reached the end of the course and are ready to participate in the final selection for finding out which groups will emerge as winners in this edition.

It is an extraordinary result obtained also thanks to the partners and territorial networks that have supported the groups and facilitated the interviews with the subjects responsible for the projects financed by the Cohesion Policies.

Our editorial team supported the groups and commented on the civic monitoring reports that were developed in the third phase of the educational path. The overall quality of the reports is very good, with about 50 reports that resulted particularly effective thanks to their critical analysis, in-depth information, communicative capacity, and the ability to reach a wide audience of subjects in their investigations. About 45% of the reports published on our site received specific comments from our editorial team on the various sections of the report, which guided the development of the research and greatly improved the final result.

READ ALL THE REPORTS HERE, starting with the last one sent.

In such a particular year, it was hard to physically visit the projects, but the students were great at interviewing the responsible parties remotely. To all the teams that have not yet been able to send their Monithon civic monitoring report, we remind you that there is no deadline for sending the report to us!

There is always time to continue monitoring, and we are here to support you.

There is a new app in town: Monithon Project Finder helps you discover EU-funded project in your city

On Friday 16 April was presented to the public the “Monithon Project Finder” – a new web application created by Monithon in collaboration with the designers and developers of Sheldon Studio, starting from the open data published by OpenCoesione, which helps to locate the projects financed in the environmental sector from European funds 2014-2020.

An interactive map allows to perform a search related to funded projects in Italy per municipality and districts: each pin on the map calls out a project. There are over 7 thousand projects displayed, for an amount of approximately 8.9 billion euros, which can be filtered by Municipality, theme, project category, budget, starting year, and implementation progress. The map displays projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the 2014-2020 programming period, as classified by OpenCoesione in the following “synthetic themes”: Environment, Energy, Culture, and Tourism. The data update is as of 31st December 2020.

Among the projects, there are all those relating to energy efficiency of public buildings and enterprises, sustainable mobility, prevention and mitigation of hydrogeological risk and climate change, management of the waste cycle, modernization of water networks, wastewater treatment, protection of biodiversity, enhancement of the environmental and natural heritage.

By the means of the Project Finder, the user can select the most interesting projects to evaluate. Once the project has been identified, anyone can start their civic monitoring activities by clicking on the button contained in the description of the selected project. The civic monitor will automatically access the Monithon work area, where she will be guided step by step in the development of the Civic Monitoring Report thanks to the online guide MoniTutor.

4 steps for finding the projects near you and starting the civic monitoring

The map can be navigated freely, although we recommend that you follow the steps below.

1. Locate your municipality

From, the first step is to look for a municipality to start from (top left). The map will focus on the chosen municipality: each dot corresponds to a project, and the color depends on the thematic area (e.g. sustainable mobility or environment). By moving the distance indicator just below right and left, you can establish the size of the radius starting from the center of the municipality, for example to consider only the municipal area, neighboring municipalities or the entire province or metropolitan area.

2. Filter the projects to find something interesting

At the bottom, you can raise the green panel to select the projects: you can filter by “category” (there are 28 and they distinguish the projects on the basis of the main activity carried out), or by budget, year of start, progress and presence of civic monitoring reports on the project, indicating that the same project has already been monitored in the past.

3. Pick a project from the list

To see the resulting list of projects, you need to click on the white panel, bottom right. The projects can be sorted by distance, theme, financial value or starting year.

4. Start monitoring!

By clicking on each project, you access a summary sheet that contains the essential data on the progress and description of the project. From here you can start monitoring: by clicking on the button at the bottom right of the card you will be accompanied immediately (if you are not logged in, just log in) on our work area for creating the report and access all the information and suggestions of the MoniTutor. Of course, you can also access the project sheet by simply clicking on each dot!

“Monithon Project Finder” was created to accompany the activities of the project “A national network for civic monitoring of European funds for the environment and sustainable development”, implemented by Lunaria and Monithon – and co-funded by the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission.

Let’s learn how to monitor the EU funding for the environment!

We are happy to invite you to two free online training events (in Italian) on the civic monitoring of EU funding for the environment in Italy on April 16 and May 21. On the second day, we will launch a national civic monitoring network. Here you can find the program and all the info to participate.

If you are interested in participating or collaborating with us, please send us an email at!

Two online events, free and open to all, are scheduled for next Friday 16 April and Friday 21 May, from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm, organized in collaboration with the Sbilanciamoci! Campaign, with the laboratory “European cohesion policies and territorial communication strategies” (Prof. Alba Garavet), and the course “Communicating Europe: institutions, representations and public opinion” of the University of Turin (Prof. Marinella Belluati). What are the environmental projects financed in Italy by the European Union through the resources of the European Cohesion Policy? Where exactly are they located, and what kind of interventions do they envisage? How much are the resources allocated to them, and who manages them in our country? How to monitor their progress and evaluate the real impact on beneficiaries and territories? These are the questions to be answered in the two initiatives in April and May, thanks to the participation of experts, activists from Italian environmental organizations and networks, students, institutional representatives.

This training is co-funded by the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission thanks to the project “A national network for civic monitoring of European funds for the environment and sustainable development”, created by the NGOs Lunaria and Monithon. The project is supported by the Sbilanciamoci! Campaign, the OpenCoesione initiative of the Department for Cohesion of the Presidency of the Council and the Department of Culture, Politics and Society of the University of Turin, the Metropolitan City of Turin, and the Europe Direct Turin.

Download the complete program of the two events on April 16th and May 21st (in Italian)

In particular, the afternoon of Friday 16 April will open with a session aimed at providing – thanks to the interventions of Anguel Beremliysky (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission) and Francesca De Lucia (expert in environmental issues) – an overview on the EU Cohesion Policy and European funds for the environment in Italy. Following, the best practices of civic monitoring animated by Monithon, by the laboratory on European cohesion policies of the University of Turin and by the University of Turin will be presented with contributions respectively by Luigi Reggi (Monithon), Alba Garavet (Europe Direct Torino), Simona De Luca, and Gianmarco Guazzo from At School of OpenCohesion (ASOC). 

Besides, the Monithon team will offer specific training on the civic monitoring of EU funds for the environment and sustainability, which finance thousands of projects throughout Italy. On this occasion, a new interactive platform will also be illustrated – created in collaboration with Sheldon Studio starting from the open data published by OpenCoesione – to discover and promptly locate the projects financed in one’s territory, and access all the information already available such as the financial dimension, the description, the subjects involved, the implementation schedules and the progress. The objective of the event on April 16 is to launch initial experimentation of environmental civic monitoring by “triggering” the autonomous initiative of the training participants.

The event scheduled for the afternoon of Friday 21 May will open with the presentation of civic monitoring initiatives – their challenges, strengths, and the preliminary results achieved – launched on an experimental basis following the training day of 16 April. The discussants for this session will be Willebrordus Sluijters and Andrea Mancini of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission. During the second session, the foundations will then be laid for the process of setting up a national civic monitoring network of European funds for the environment and sustainable development, with a round table of comparison and extended discussion between various organized subjects of Italian civil society. Among the organizations and participants who confirmed their presence at the round table are: Sergio Andreis (Kyoto Club), Gianluca Catullo (WWF Italy), Sabina De Luca (Forum Inequalities Diversity), Anna Donati (Alliance for Sweet Mobility), Paola Dottor (Transparency International Italia), Emanuele Genovese (Fridays for Future Italia), Anna Lisa Mandorino (Cittadinanzattiva), Maria Maranò (Legambiente), Luigi Reggi (Monithon), Sara Vegni (ActionAid), Duccio Zola (Lunaria).

The impact of civic monitoring: the relations with the media and public institutions

Since 2013, Monithon has been developing tools and methods for enabling the “civic monitoring” of public funding. Our “civic monitoring reports” include information on how the projects are developed, how they are progressing, and what is their impact from the point of view of the final beneficiaries, such as citizens and enterprises.

In 2020, 125 new reports were developed and published on our website. The reports mainly come from the students participating in the “At the School of OpenCohesion” (ASOC) initiative, a European educational best practice carried out by the Italian Government. Its goal is to stimulate public engagement thanks to the use of open government data published in the OpenCohesion portal. The ASOC project has been using the tools and methods from Monithon for its civic monitoring activities since the very beginning.

In this post, we present some of the main results of Monithon’s civic monitoring from 2013 to 2020.

But there is more. While our usual statistics on results are included in our complete infographics, we added new figures and cases on the actual impact of this civic monitoring in Italy. We asked ASOC students if and how they could reach the media and the policy makers, and what was the main result of these interactions. We also analyzed the interactions among all actors involved via Twitter.

We found that the monitoring teams were very good at creating connections with policy makers and the media. However, the actual impact on policymaking was limited to a few interesting cases.

Click here to download the complete infographics


The results of civic monitoring

Considering all civic monitoring reports since 2013, the total amount of public funding monitored increased from 7.35 in 2019 to 9.41 billion Euros in 2020. Most of these projects (about 70%) are large transportation infrastructures such as train or metro stations and railways. This is a pretty impressive figure, considering that the total value of the projects tracked in the OpenCohesion website is about 180 billion euros.

Overall, most of the projects that have been assessed obtained a positive evaluation. However, some projects were judged as ineffective (10%), blocked (8%), or in progress with some problems (15%). In particular, problems found were both administrative (11%) and technical (11%), while there were cases in which results did not match the expectations (2.8%), or the project was not effective without the necessary complementary interventions (3.2%).

Each report, of course, includes much more detailed information about different qualitative aspects of implementation. The projects were described from the final beneficiaries’ perspective, and assessed by considering their strengths, weaknesses, and future opportunities. Moreover, the civic monitors always added suggestions for improving the project or replicate it in other contexts. Here is a list of the reports published in 2020.

These results were disseminated using different means, with the aim of reaching out to the people responsible for programming and implementation of a specific policy, as well as to foster an informed debate in the media around the issues that were found.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook were the most used social media. In addition, students were suggested to organize local events, especially during the Italian “Open Data Week” (50% of the cases). It is interesting to note that about one-fifth of the projects managed to be formally audited by local public administrations to discuss their results.

The impact of civic monitoring

The media coverage of civic investigations could be considered one first measure of impact.

63% of the monitoring reports were somehow covered by the media. In particular, local TVs and newspapers were interested in giving attention to the research process and the results. Almost 50% of the teams that responded to our questionnaire stated that they were featured in the local press. Others were interviewed on the radio or featured in local web magazines.

The team Terra di Mezzo created their own web radio on Spotify called Radio Raid featuring interviews with political leaders and key people in the fight against the local mafia. The team told Monithon that “our broadcasting helped to involve not only the population but a wider national and international audience. It made the reuse of confiscated assets, a topic that the media do not usually cover, a symbol of the fight against ‘Ndrangheta in Isola di Capo Rizzuto”.


The students also described if and how they could reach policy makers. 76% made contact with local or national public agencies, responsible for programming or implementation of the monitored project. In some limited cases (7%), the administration did not respond to the requests at all. In other cases, more than one contact request was made to different agencies, with some agencies that responded and others did not (18%). In 2020, the COVID pandemic provided for additional barriers to civic monitoring.

The logo of the monitoring team “Terra di Mezzo” from Calabria

The type of responses also varied. The students received formal or generic replies to their requests (18%), or more specific promises (32%).

For example, the team Watershed from the 2018-2019 ASOC edition monitored the construction of a canal to prevent natural disasters in Palma di Montechiaro, Sicily. They got very concrete promises. “We noticed that the works, although completed, had several limitations. The sinkholes were full of weeds and debris that did not allow the water to enter the pipeline and then drain into the sea, and that some manholes have been stolen and then replaced with boulders that allowed debris to enter the canal. […] Following our suggestions, the Mayor signed a memorandum of understanding for the maintenance of the canal”.

In some limited cases, the suggestions from the civic monitoring were successfully implemented to improve the project’s effectiveness (8%).

The students of the team Panta Rei, who evaluated a set of water purifiers near Naples in 2020, told us that “Our inputs have helped to turn the spotlight on the issue of the project Regi Lagni, stimulating a series of initiatives that have multiplied in this period, […] such as the establishment of a “Special Investigation Commission on Water Pollution” by the Municipality of Castel Volturno (Naples).

In 2018, another monitoring team – Veni Vidi Vico – monitored a renovation project of their own school, the “Giambattista Vico” high school in Laterza, Puglia. “The works, which concerned the water and fire protection system, financed with European funds, were completed, but the fire certification was lacking because the electrical system was not in accordance with current regulations. […] Thanks to our continuous reminders to local authorities, the following year the electrical system was modified and certified”.


Finally, we assessed the degree to which the students were able to form relations with the other actors through the analysis of their Twitter connections. The use of Twitter to document the different steps of the investigations, as well as the public encounters, was one of the requirements of the ASOC program. Therefore, the vast majority of the monitoring teams created a Twitter account and used it to post photos, videos, as well as to mention people and organizations.

We mapped the complex network of interactions among these accounts, each representing an individual or an organization that used the ASOC official hashtags such as #ASOC2021. We considered not only the students (civic monitoring teams) but also all different actors with different roles that participated or were interested in the ASOC program.

More than one thousand national and local actors created about five thousand connections. The two central nodes represent the two main official accounts of the ASOC team, that is @OpenCoesione and @ascuoladioc. We removed another big node in the center, our own @monithon, which systematically re-tweeted and mentions a large number of student teams. Some Europe Direct Centers and the Managing Authorities of the regional programmes from Southern Italy often act as hubs.

Apart from the ASOC team, the students were able to form Twitter relations also with the Policy Makers, including supporting regional authorities (445 connections), NGOs (268), and the media (132).

Increasing impact

We showed how monitoring teams and communities are usually very good at creating relations to conduct field analysis of the funded projects and disseminate their results both on social media and more traditional media.

The results of our questionnaire, which now is embedded in “step 3” of the civic monitoring report, also showed that the average impact of this monitoring on projects’ effectiveness is still limited. Nevertheless, we also received very interesting stories about the creation of real partnerships between the students (including their teachers and communities) and the administrations involved in project implementation.

We think it is crucial to multiply the opportunities for the establishment of such effective partnerships, both at the local and national levels. OpenCoesione, our biggest partner and one of the main open data providers for civic monitoring in Italy, could facilitate this process by further increasing the chances for the creation of new connections, as well as to promote the actual use of the input from the bottom-up in the policymaking cycle. For example, the ASOC team recently organized a series of meetings with selected monitoring teams and representatives of regional and national authorities programming or implementing Cohesion Policy in Italy, with the aim of discussing students’ suggestions for better policymaking. This initiative, called ASOC Talk – a dialogue with public institutions, seems to be perfectly in line with our suggestion.

In addition, we think that Italian NGOs, already involved in civic monitoring as authors of reports or supporters of the activities of ASOC students, could do more for advocating better EU policy and projects’ implementation based on the results of civic monitoring. Students and NGOs should find common topics and interests and form a strategic alliance. The creation of stable connections among interested actors, associated with policy mechanisms for real citizen engagement, could be the way to take civic monitoring to the next level.

MoniTutor is the new online mentor for citizens monitoring how public funding is spent

MoniTutor is a new, Italian online guide developed by Monithon, a civil society initiative that provides methods and tools for citizens that want to monitor how public money is used. Since 2013, anyone can use the Monithon online platform to send “civic monitoring reports” evaluating the effectiveness of public projects funded by the European Union and other funding in Italy. Almost 600 reports have been submitted, which are the output of investigations usually taking months to be carried out.

Now the experience of developing a report is enriched by a step-by-step guide that is tailored to the specific project to be monitored. This means that each public project has its own unique guiding content, based on its size, topic, policy goal, status, and other characteristics. For example, the guide will distinguish between a completed large infrastructure like a railroad and a small research grant. Moreover, MoniTutor’s algorithms support the citizens in making sense of the open data already available for each project by providing an initial interpretation (to be confirmed by a visit or by interviewing people responsible). Open Data are accessed and seemlessly integrated through the APIs of, one the main open government portals on public investments in Italy, currently tracking over 1.5 million publicly-funded projects.

Additional suggestions are provided based on the experience of a network of policy analysts and experts, who volunteered to offer specific recommendations on interesting readings, policy documents, websites, interesting questions for interviews. Thematic suggestions now cover 90% of the different types of projects already monitored in the past.

MoniTutor is accessible directly through the Monithon web page for submitting the reports. Once the user is logged in, she can create a new report and then copy and paste the URL of the selected project from to Monithon. The guide will be immediately generated and displayed through 3 steps: Desk Analysis, Evaluation, and Impact.

The “civic monitor” can read the guide and then fill in the related fields for each step, following the standard structure of a journalistic investigation, or field research. Starting from the collection and analysis of avaialble data and documents on the policy goals and motives to finance a specific project, the user then proceeds to collect information on the ground. This civic monitor – who is often not a single user but organized as a team – collects hard evidence of how the project is progressing and its results by paying a visit to the project, making videos and photographs, and interviewing people responsible. If the project is funded by the EU, for example, MoniTutor provides the names, phone numbers and addresses of the Managing Authorities that decided to finance that interventions, as well as of the organizations responsible for its implementation.

This form of “thick participation” to public policies also includes the possibility for citizens to offer specific suggestions and collaboration to local and national governments responsible for programming policies and delivering public value.

Now the MoniTutor is being tested by thousands of high school students in Italy thanks to the governmental initiative “At the School of OpenCohesion” (A Scuola di OpenCoesione, or ASOC), which has been the main source of reports for Monithon, by far. A replication of the same initiative in additional 5 EU Countries (Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, and Portugal) is currently under way thanks to the support of the EU. We really hope those young ladies and gentlemen will find it useful!

The results of our civic monitoring: an overview from 2013 to 2019

In 2019, 114 brand new civic monitoring reports have been added to the pile of Monithon’s reports, each evaluating the progress and effectiveness of one project funded by the public money in Italy. Considering the total amount of funding that has been monitored, this year marks a new record with more than 3 billion € of public funding, most of which are European money for regional development.

This year, all reports but one have been created by high school students participating in the “At the School of OpenCohesion” (ASOC) initiative, an European educational best practice promoted by the Italian Government to stimulate public engagement thanks to the use of open government data published in the OpenCohesion portal. Since the beginning in 2013, the ASOC project has been using the tools and methods from Monithon during their civic monitoring activities.

The remaining report was developed in June by a group of students from the University of Turin, as the final step of a course that was co-created by the University and the Europe Direct Center in Turin. This annual course is devoted specifically to European policies and civic monitoring.

In this post, we are proud to present an update of some of the main aggregated results of the Monithon’s civic monitoring from 2013 to 2019, with the aim to disseminate this practice to interested policy makers, government employees, journalists and citizens. Therefore, the results include also reports by the students of the previous editions of ASOC, and those created by NGOs and informal groups in the past few years.

Click here to download the complete infographics with the aggregated data from 2013 to 2019

What is monitored

Considering all civic monitoring reports from 2013, the total amount of public funding monitored increased from 4.53 in 2018 to 7.35 billion euros in 2019. Most of these projects (about 70%) are large transportation infrastructures such as train or metro stations, and railways. This is a pretty impressive figure, considering that the total value of the projects tracked in the OpenCohesion website is 140 billion euros. This means that about 5% of the total amount of public funding for Cohesion Policy from 2007 to 2019 has been somehow covered by a civic monitoring report.

We can also note that the European funds are considered particularly interesting for the civic monitoring groups, given that the 72% of the funding monitored cames from the European Union.

Civic monitoring results at a glance

Overall, most of the projects that have been assessed (63%) get a positive evaluation. In particular, 41% are found to be completed and useful, while 22% are still in progress and not showing major problems.

One third of the projects, however, presents some relevant issues. 18.1% of the projects show delays or other problems during the implementation phase. Other projects have difficulties in starting-up, due to administrative or financial reasons (10.7%). More interestingly for the policy makers, the monitoring groups have dedicated special energies to assess the results and effectiveness of the projects, from the point of view of the final beneficiaries.

While the expected results are not achieved only in the 3.2% of the projects, 9.2% are considered completed but also show some problems regarding the effectiveness. The effectiveness of an investment is evaluated in the broader context where the intervention takes place. For example, 2.7% of the projects fullfill their promises in terms of the implementation goals that were defined on paper, but they are also found to be useless without the provision of complementary interventions.

The ideas from the Monithoners

Each civic monitoring report end with a section about ideas and suggestions from the monitoring groups. One third of the reports contains suggestions on how to improve the specific intervention, coming from the analysis of the implementation and from the evidence collected during the visit. Other comments and suggestions can be classified into three main types. The first type of suggestion is to further develop these projects in order to obtain greater impact. In some cases, this means funding contexual interventions to get the most out the initial investment. The second type is about improving the governance of the funding, for example when ministries and local administrations “don’t talk to each other”, or when the voice of the final beneficiaries is not heard by policy makers. Finally, in some cases the projects were so appreciated by the monitoring groups that the main suggestion is to disseminate the results even further by improving the communication to potential targets.

Towards a new year of civic monitoring

We at Monithon are very excited about next year of civic monitoring. For the first time, the “At School of OpenCohesion” initiative will be replicated in 7 other European Countries and Regions during the 2019/2020 school year: Bulgaria, Croatia, Alentejo (Portugal), Catalonia (Spain), Peloponnese, Thessaly and Ionia Nisia (Greece). This is thanks to the efforts and funding from the European Commission, which has been supporting civic monitoring from the very beginning. The nice coincidence is that the first edition of ASOC included exactly 7 schools.

We love this experiment and will be happy to share our knowledge, methods and tools to interested teams in the EU. It will interesting to see how the ASOC method will be adapted to different contexts, while maintaining its focus on Cohesion Policy, which comes with common rules and regulations for all EU countries.

Two More Years of Civic Monitoring of EU Funds in Italy: The Results of the Students’ Investigations

Since the last post on the results of our civic monitoring of public policies, nearly 300 new monitoring reports have been added to the platform, more than twice the number that we had in 2016: 300 new studies, each focusing on one of many projects taking place throughout Italy that are funded by Cohesion (or Regional) Policy. This increase is an extraordinary achievement, making us proud to be part of this experiment in civic monitoring as a proactive way to use public data and to bolster civic engagement and public policy accountability.

Every since its creation, Monithon has positioned itself as both a tool and a research method, putting itself at the service of schools, universities, NGOs and local communities, nearly always as a group of volunteers and following with the philosophy of civic hacking.  To learn how Monithon came into being and about the people who are the driving force behind it, you can read our post from last year.

This year we are prouder than ever, because the quality of the reports we are publishing is constantly improving. The studies conducted over the last two years have, in almost 90% of cases, included an on-site visit to the project headquarters – the infrastructure or the location where a project financed with public funding is being conducted – involving the collection of data, videos, photos, and documents.  During these last 2 years, over 95% of our monitoring groups have conducted on-site interviews: 76% interviewed the public or private party that received the funds, and 56% interviewed residents of the local community to assess the project’s effectiveness from the perspective of the final beneficiaries of public policies. 38% were able to directly interview the public representatives responsible for the initiatives (mayors, town or regional councilors, province presidents, etc.) That’s not all: the ability to reconstruct the “administrative history” of funds provided, and the details of that reconstruction, are qualitative aspects that can be observed when reading the monitoring reports, beginning with the map or the list. In almost every case, you can find original videos containing the content of the interviews and each study’s principal findings – investigative data journalism on a small scale!

These results are largely the fruits of incredible work on the part of the project team from the OpenCoesione School (or ASOC), from the Italian “A Scuola di OpenCoesione), which uses Monithon during “Esplorare” (Explore), the most important phase in its educational programme in Italian high schools. It is where we can see how adept the students have become at interpreting, understanding and using public data, so as to hold institutions to account for the investments made in their neighborhoods or cities. In the most recent edition alone, spanning 2017-2018, around 5000 students were involved, under the direct guidance of 300 instructors working throughout Italy.  Nearly 88% of the reports you can find on are the result of these research activities.
The OpenCoesione School is constantly growing and raising its profile. Indeed, in recent years, the OpenCoesione initiative, which provides funding and coordination for ASOC from within the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, has contributed to imparting an awareness of the practice of civic monitoring within regional public administrations and within national and European institutions.

There is no lack of similar programs at the university level. Thanks to the impetus provided by the Europe Direct center, every year the University of Turin holds a course devoted specifically to European policies and civic monitoring. The work carried out by the MoniTOcamera (2017) and MoniTOsitadela (2018) teams speaks for itself, taking its place alongside earlier studies, which are likewise of the highest quality. In Turin we also find a super interesting spin-off project, whose progress deserves to be closely followed: Monitorino.

In addition to providing support to schools and these early experiments in universities – of which the University of Pescara has recently become a part, with its course in Urban Planning – another of the Monithon community’s newest initiatives is the Sibari Integrity Pact (Calabria), which, thanks to Action Aid, has truly taken off, with the introduction of the first civic monitoring schools for members of the local community. This initiative is a game changer, not only for the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and for local communities, but also for the European Commission, which recently adopted it as a model (see p. 26) for similar future initiatives aimed to fight corruption and encourage civic engagement.

In this post, we would like to share with you some of the enthusiasm and enjoyment that we experienced, as well as some of the discoveries – both positive and negative – that were made while putting together these monitoring reports. Here, too, we will begin with an analysis of our civic monitoring results: Which projects were examined? What were the main “assessments” reached? Then we will move on to recommendations for public decision-makers.

Monitoring of European Funds to reduce regional disparities

From the end of 2016 to May 2018, the number of monitoring reports rose from 177 to 475 – quite a leap! Each report, with a few limited exceptions, provides detailed information on a project initially chosen by a monitoring group from a list of approximately 950 thousand projects published on  Thanks to the open data, we can link the findings of the monitoring projects to the principal characteristics of the projects being monitored, such as scale, funding sources, and thematic categories.

We thus discovered that the total funding for the projects monitored amounted to over 4.5 billion euros, of which over 3 billions’ worth had been subject to monitoring in the last 2 years alone.  Over half of these projects are financed by European Structural and Investment funds (ESIFunds). These are funds managed by the central and regional administrations, intended to reduce the gaps that exist between the different parts of the country (which is why there are many more projects in Southern Italy than in the Central and Northern regions). However, the number of monitored projects funded using resources that the Italian government makes available with the same objectives (“national funds”) is growing.  Whatever the case, whether these funds are allocated from national, European, regional or local budgets, they are all taxpayers’ money.

Using open data from OpenCoesione, we can also categorize projects according to theme. It goes without saying that the enormous resources needed to build or improve transportation infrastructures are also reflected in the sample of projects monitored. Indeed, the 53 projects that fall into this category account for nearly 3 billion of the total amount of funding.  Take, for example, the Crotone Airport, which is expected to provide an essential stimulus for the local economy.

As in our last post, the theme that users once again found most interesting was culture and tourism. This category is comprised of 141 projects, for a total of 530 million euros – investments which are essential for our nation and to which the competent authorities, who might be encouraged to participate thanks to civic monitoring, could make a significant contribution. We are talking about a truly vast number of different projects: from the restoration of the Royal Palace of Caserta to the renovation of the Apollo Theatre in Lecce (here is a link in English), from the Capuchin Monastery in Grottaglie (Taranto) to the Chilli Pepper (“Peperoncino”) Festival in Diamante, in Calabria.

There is also a new entry to our list of themes: social inclusion, and it is the sixth-most monitored to date. 38 projects, for instance, finance the reuse for social purposes of property confiscated from criminal organizations (e.g. the creation of the Centre for Antimafia Studies in Calabria) or the development of welfare services (such as the “Casa della Salute” health clinic in Bosa, Sardinia).

The assessments from the monitoring groups

The monitoring groups’ assessments of the public projects they investigate is the most essential element of their activities. Taken as a whole, their assessment has remained largely unchanged over the last two years. The majority of financed projects (64%) earned positive assessments. Of these, over two-thirds have already been completed and deemed to be useful, while the remainder are still ongoing, but what has been observed so far bodes well.

Some investments came as a pleasant surprise to the monitoring communities, who had a chance to discover them and explore them in more depth. One such investment assessed during the 2017 and 2018 monitoring was the renovation of the historic town center of Barletta, in Apulia. According to the team, called Reconstructing History (“Ricostruendo la Storia”), the project “led to an improvement in the quality of life for residents of the historic center and a moderate increase in tourism flows”. The solar power plant in Montefiascone, near Viterbo, has also had a positive impact in terms of “economic savings and a decrease in pollution in the surrounding area”. Yet another example is the MArTA (National Archaeological Museum) in Taranto, which, thanks to public funding, “received its highest ever number of visitors in 2016”.

The young people from the team “Cristallo dello Zingaro” in Trapani, while monitoring the safety projects at the Zingaro Nature Reserve, were struck by what they found: “The first thing that captures tourists’ attention is the unparalleled beauty of the land and seascapes”. The “masterful skill of the expert laborers in attempting to make everything as natural as possible, without however forgetting the primary purpose of their work, which is to safeguard people who are walking there, unaware of the dangers that the local area may present, was clear to see.”

The projects that did have problems represented approximately one-third of the whole: 11% have been completed but appear to be ineffective, while the remaining 21% are still ongoing but are having difficulty moving forward.  The assessment remained deferred on 3% of projects, which had only just begun. In a little while, we shall go into more detail regarding the difficulties encountered.

First, however, let us examine whether or not assessments changed depending on projects’ geographical locations. In this post, we will focus on the 4 regions with the greatest number of civic monitoring reports.
They are the main Southern Italian regions in terms of total European and domestic cohesion policy funding received.  The region with the highest percentage of positive assessments (68%, just slightly higher than the national average), shown in green in the chart, is Apulia. The region with the greatest number of problems, on the other hand, is Calabria, where just over half of projects received negative assessments. The statistic relating to projects which have been completed is striking, since these are more difficult to remedy. Nevertheless, these assessments are not set in stone. According to the authors of the reports, as we shall see below when we discuss recommendations, actions targeting “surrounding conditions” may restore even these projects’ effectiveness.

Moreover, as a general disclaimer, it goes without saying that Monithon’s sample of monitored projects is not statistically representative of the projects funded in the 4 regions. The projects in this sample are way too few and their selection depends on the choices and interests of the students. So this comparison is not about the regions’ performances on managing ESI Funds.

What factors determine a negative assessment?  The 300 reports most recently included in our calculations all basically confirm the same problems. Aside from the projects which never even got off of the ground – for example due to issues associated with access to funds, the granting of permits or licenses – a large number of public projects (10.9%) became blocked when already underway, due to problems of an administrative nature.

The principal problem found, however, was once again a general delay during the implementation phase of projects with respect to planned schedules (on OpenCoesione, for example, you can find information on planned timetables). This issue affects 18.1% of total projects monitored.  This is the case, for example, with the construction of a biotechnology center, which should be quick to keep pace with the newest developments in scientific research, but at the time of the monitoring visit was already 7 years behind.  In some cases, funds are linked to a specific project, one which cannot be separated from its context of implementation. Thus, in the province of Milan, the redevelopment of the wetlands along the Olona River is 2 years behind, “because the park’s redevelopment is linked to other projects related to the river, which have been impacted by bureaucratic complications”.

There is no lack of projects which are entangled amidst different funding sources, public administrations which are only partially responsible for them or who do not provide direct access to the work undertaken. In some cases, the students’ dedication is not enough to help us understand whether or not the money has been spent. And if it has been spent, what for? Why, despite public data stating that a large amount of funds have already been spent and accounted for to the European Commission, is there still a “lack of funding”? Here below you can find the doubts expressed by the young people in the “newscast” they put together about the renovation of the old historic district of the village of Senerchia, in Campania (in Italian).

Let’s now take a moment to examine the final phases of public project monitoring, which are even more intriguing: results and impact.  It is during this phase that the assessments of residents can provide a valuable source of information for administrations. However, with the exception of the most notable projects, residents are unfortunately not able to accurately gauge the usefulness or effectiveness of every financed project. Bear in mind that, even taking into account only those cohesion policy investments made between 2007 and 2015, there were about 1 million financed projects! Civic monitoring groups, however, can come to our aid by applying the principles of “crowdsourcing”, in other words, the ability of “crowds” to collect accurate data by dividing up the work of an assessment – immense in and of itself – into small tasks assigned to individuals (or, in this case, one project per group), in the same way that Wikipedia is collaboratively written.

In our case, an analysis of the qualitative data collected shows that only 3.6% of the projects examined were found to be unsatisfactory. This percentage is in line with the findings of our last report, and is relatively low. These are cases in which funding did not lead to adequate implementation. One such example, it would seem, is the water treatment plant in the municipality of Paola (Cosenza), where “sludge disposal issues and problems relating to plant management continue to exist”.  We find a similar issue with the funding for the development of a social computing platform for the University of Milano-Bicocca. In this case, due to a lack of additional financing that the university had been counting on, it was unable to do anything beyond the creation of a prototype, which can no longer even be viewed, as it was created using obsolete technologies. Graver still is the case of the Papardo di Messina Hospital’s Oncology Centre, which has unfortunately featured on the news. It simply “does not exist”.

Much more common (10%) are those projects that were implemented with good results, only to be deemed ineffective when viewed in the wider context in which they were made available. Even if the funds allocated for these projects in and of themselves were spent correctly, the effectiveness of the projects for their final beneficiaries remains a fundamental criterion on which any assessment of the success of public policies must be based. This is the case with the Multimedia Mountain Museum in Sicily, which only was open on one occasion, “due to high operating costs and a lack of staff”. Three very similar cases are those of three civil protection plans, for the Municipalities of MarcianisePalomonte and Casalnuovo di Napoli respectively, which received development funding but invested nothing in communicating what they had done to their local communities – which, as was discovered in the course of the interviews conducted, did not even know these plans existed.  Another example is that of the redevelopment of Piazza Savignano in Aversa (Naples), which was a complete success but, according to the monitoring group “did not bring about the social inclusion which had been the true crux of the project”.

Here you can find the video by the extremely capable young people from the FreeDam team, who monitored the Lordo Dam project in Calabria, with the interviews they conducted with local residents and the press conference they organised with the mayor, the bishop, and the president of an environmental monitoring centre.

A considerable number of the projects described immediately above constitute a significant subgroup: successfully implemented but useless in the absence of complementary initiatives which could unlock all of their potential effectiveness.  The center for the terminally ill in Oristano is complete, but “is still not hooked up to the electricity grid or city water” and “has yet to receive accreditation from the Local Health and Social Services Department (ASSL)”. It is therefore unable to be used, “a cathedral in the desert”.  More glaring still is the case of the South Fort in Reggio Calabria, whose redevelopment left our young people “open-mouthed”. “The structure is welcoming and attention has been paid to even the smallest details. The Fort appears suddenly around the last curve in the road, in all of its restored majesty and military linearity.” What a shame it is that the public cannot get to the fort, because the road is impassable and there are no signs to show the way.

The most recent recommendations from our monitoring groups

In 2017 and 2018, the quality and variety of suggestions has continued to grow – a true goldmine of “good ideas” for local decision makers!
Overall, the types of recommendations have followed the same trend from year to year.

A portion of the projects monitored (12%) are so useful that the main recommendation is to continue to further develop these projects in order to have an ever greater impact. Thanks to public financing, some of the buildings in the “Oasi la Valle” nature reserve on Lake Trasimeno have been renovated. Other buildings in the park, however, could be repurposed to “serve as laboratories for the education of young people, including those with disabilities, to help them learn skills such as how to manage a small botanical garden”. Let’s look at another example. Once the renovation of the Santissima Trinità Complex in Torre del Greco (Naples) is completed, thanks to over 4 million in funding, a “virtual exhibition” could be created, “which illustrates the history of the local area and the places that are its heart and soul, through the creation of a special app that encourages visitors to visit those places in real life”. For another example, let’s take the repair and renovation of the Barletta stadium: after the initial 1.3 million invested, why not “increase the number of people who want to get more involved with sports, including through the many events organized by the different sports clubs that use the field on a regular basis?”

In other cases (7%), the monitoring groups complained of “governance” problems. These occur when public administrations “don’t talk to each other”, and political conflicts and a lack of coordination are piled on top of existing bureaucratic problems. Unfortunately, this was the case with the project for the improvement of the Messina-Palermo and Messina-Syracuse railway lines, worth 28 million in financing. According to the monitoring group, the work is stopped, with only 10% of total implementation achieved, given an absence of “clear objectives on an institutional policy level”. In addition, it appears “essential” that “a network that can coordinate the actions of all of the parties involved be created”.  In other cases, recommendations encourage the creation of a collaborative governance system, one which could involve local residents, schools and communities as active participants. For instance, the students from the “Dream Energy” group in Casal di Principe (Caserta) have offered to design and implement “projects that are in the interest of the community, with the active participation of local residents”, so as to raise awareness regarding the extremely useful “Pio La Torre” Centre for Environmental Education and Documentation, a bastion of legality. This is possible thanks to “constant contact between schools and public institutions”.

As in past years, the last two years have seen numerous (14%) recommendations for improving communication on the amount of good that public investments – including European funds – are doing for local areas. This applies to projects, both large and small, that have been monitored over the past two years. Even the simple construction of a multistory parking garage in Somma Vesuviana (Naples) can help to meet the need for improved mobility, but it is necessary to have “greater publicity for the project and encourage more people to use it”. Turning our attention to the Municipal Selective Waste Collection Centres in Martina Franca (Taranto), the “civic monitoring team intends to actively contribute to the implementation of an information programme, which has been planned to help raise awareness and communicate methods of use and the importance of this new service. The team is offering to create videos to disseminate this information, to participate in ‘environment days’ in the square, to organise and lead educational-play activities for children, [and] to implement a Telegram bot to inform people about selective waste collection services”.

Lastly, the bulk of recommendations focused on specific suggestions regarding individual projects, dealing with issues such as how to unblock a problematic situation or how to improve a key aspect in terms of effectiveness. Dozens of civic monitoring reports contain specific recommendations, which are at the disposal of the local administrations and the companies that are implementing these public projects. For example, with regard to the project dealing with the redevelopment of the Seveso in Sesto San Giovanni (Milan), the students are convinced that “one way to stop the Seveso from overflowing its banks would be to construct a stormwater holding basin, but before the water enters such a basin, it must first be filtered”. The excellent study conducted by the Corsari Assetati team contains a fair number of suggestions on how to use the wastewater generated by the Acqua dei Corsari water treatment plant in Palermo: “uses include irrigation, street cleaning, machine cooling, extinguishing fires, but it could also simply be used for periodic cleaning of the sewer system, so as to prevent the streets from flooding.”  These types of recommendations were also discussed on May 22, at a ForumPA workshop.

The potential of civic monitoring: assessing effectiveness from the user standpoint

The most interesting potential application of civic monitoring may, however, lie in its ability to determine to which specific project, within the broader area of implementation, funding should be allocated. In this way, it is possible to provide precise recommendations to enable a more fully effective use of public finances, one which includes not only those aspects related to the implementation of planning within predetermined timeframes and administrative and financial constraints, but also takes into consideration the actual usefulness of the project within its local area.

It is extremely interesting to note that many monitoring reports, especially during the last two years, have placed great importance on “surrounding conditions”, those which make it possible for financing to truly serve to meet the needs of community residents and local businesses.

A case in point is the Epizephyrian Locris National Archaeological Museum, “one of the most important archaeological sites in the world”, which is in need of commitment on the part of national, regional and local institutions for its development and promotion, for example to help “improve the quality of the roads that lead to it, making them more accessible to more effective modes of transport, and for more welcoming hotels and accommodation facilities”.   The funding for the Scalea (Cosenza) airfield is also of scant effectiveness if “the Regional public services and hotel infrastructures are not improved so as to better manage tourist accommodation during the summer season”.
The same is true for much smaller-scale projects as well, such as the expansion of the Restricted Traffic Area in Aversa (Caserta), which is useless without the “presence of traffic police at the entry points and constantly operating video cameras” or a “geolocation system for bicycles, to prevent them from being stolen”.

In conclusion, the potential applications of civic monitoring in the public policy sphere are becoming apparent. What began as a game in 2013 and gained structure as a method in 2014 has taken root, in following years, as a part of actual “classes for the citizens of tomorrow” that are being taught in schools, universities and civic communities, with more people trying it out in ever more useful ways. The monitored projects, while still far from representing any sort of statistically significant sample, have been the object of in-depth studies, which have led to the generation of new data and information and, in many cases, “good ideas” as well.  To the public administrations falls the task of knowing how to make the most of them!

The light and the dark side of the use of EU funding: the results of Monithon’s civic monitoring

It has been four years since the team of the Italian national portal of open data OpenCoesione, while taking part in the first gathering of the Spaghetti Open Data community, proposed to transform a hack-athon into moni-thon, that’s to say a civic monitoring marathon of public funding.

The idea was and still is simple: to choose a project that had received funding on OpenCoesione, organize ourselves into groups and personally go and verify how the money had been spent.

In this post we will discuss the results of the Monithon initiative four years after its first experiments in Italy: Which projects were monitored? How? What were the opinions of users about the public projects? What problems were detected and how can they be solved?

In a second post we will see what impact the monitoring had, in terms of creating new relations at local level and improvements in public decision making.

Four years of civic monitoring

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 centre, which had received public funding to renovate its premises, intrigued us immediately. The bar was closed! But we went back there the following year. We went to take photos and knock at the door of schools in Bologna that had received funds from the Province to finance works, putting all acquired information into a Google Doc.

The initial civic monitoring group in Bologna (2013)

It immediately became clear that just one day was not enough for a proper monitoring. We needed to make appointments for interviews, to analyze data before hand in order to find the exact address of the projects to inspect, to collect all the details in one place…. proper research work that requires weeks or months, as well as appropriate means. Basically what we call Slow Hacking.

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, the website was created: at the time it was a large map that pinpointed the most interesting projects to monitor. The code was based on an adaptation of the open source project Ushahidi, which had been used to monitor elections in Nairobi. The group included data journalists, analysts, activists and open data enthusiasts.

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. The Civic Monitoring Reports allow us to collect information that can be compared even when prepared by different monitoring groups. While these groups spread to almost all Italian regions, thanks to the campaigns launched during the Open Data Day of 2014 and the “Primavera di Monitoraggio Civico” (Spring of Civic Monitoring) of 2015, a central staff was involved in developing common instruments, in supporting activities on the field and validating reports that were being prepared for publication.

The first concrete 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. The judges were struck by the capacity of a government initiative for open data to actively involve so many people.

Monithon has continued to grow over the years thanks to the schools that take part in the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione, but also thanks to the involvement of universities, local communities and national associations, as a shared and open-to-all instrument and a format to plan and structure civic curiosity.

Who performs civic monitoring?

The authors of the report are mostly, and increasingly, the teams of high-schools that are involved in the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione (ASOC), one of the initiatives of OpenCoesione. The students – who are extremely motivated – have happily “taken over the control” of the Monithon platform with dozens of new reports each year, and with a quality level that has improved dramatically over the years!

We are also counting a lot on the future contribution of higher education students. In this post we discuss the adventures of the group of students in Turin of MoniTOreali.

In the period 2013-early 2014, while we were in the phase of defining the methodology, the majority of reports were prototypes created by the Monithon staff or by individual citizens, some of which members of the initial group that experimented with the tools in their cities.

The peak in the use of Monithon by local communities occurred in the spring of 2014 during the Open Data Day, when 12 cities throughout Italy did a “Monitoring marathon” simultaneously, all video-connected to Rome. Some of these communities remained active and continued to put pressure in order for problems to be solved.  This is the case of the association Monithon Calabria or of the informal community Monithon Piemonte, which were explicitly created to promote open data and the civic monitoring of European funds.

Over the last two years we have witnessed a strengthening of partnerships with major national associations. For example Action Aid Italia has participated with Monithon in a number of civic monitoring initiatives in the regions of Puglia, Marche and Emila-Romagna, which culminated in the joint participation in the Integrity Pacts tender of the European Commission, a huge project that has just started and offers great expectations! The networks Libera and the Gruppo Abele are another example of collaborations that have been ongoing for 3 years, thanks to which Monithon was able to develop a methodology for the civic monitoring of assets seized from criminal organizations, and of the relevant public financing, which was also used to start another grassroots project, Confiscati Bene.

What is monitored?

There are 177 Civic Monitoring Reports on Each one of them examines a project financed with public funds: almost all of them (94%) were chosen starting from Looking at the number of projects, 177 analyzed projects seems like a small number compared to the 930,000 currently listed on OpenCoesione. The truth is that the selected projects are often significant from a financial point of view, and this is why the total value of their funding exceeds 1.26 billion euro. It’s mainly resources that have been granted by the European Structural Funds and the connected national co-financing (which means the European Regional Development Fund and to a lesser extent the European Social Fund).

The majority of the Monitoring Reports put the spotlight on projects for the preservation of the Italian artistic and cultural heritage, often very interesting for the citizens themselves, such as the renovation of museums, theatres, castles or archaeological sites, for examples the House of Venus in the Shell in Pompeii.

In terms of public resources, however, it is transport infrastructure that holds the record with 714 million euro of monitored funding, equal to more than half of total funds. These are expensive and complex projects, which users have a lot to say about in terms of real impact. The post that was (far and away) most read by users discusses the 152 million euro allocated for Palermo’s rail circuit: a group of citizens, many of whom active in the Open Data Sicilia community, carried out an investigation to retrace its history.

But there are also other types of project. The environmental theme is close to many people’s heart and 21 monitoring reports deal with this field. These are interventions that tackle the risk of hydro-geological instability (also in Milan!), composting plants (for example in Salerno), purification plants (in BeneventoCatanzaro, etc.), networks for air quality control, sanitary sewers (see for example Palermo).

Monitoring groups are also interested in examining public interventions for the requalification of their cities or neighborhoods. With regards to urban policies, for example, a very in-depth analysis was carried out in March 2015 about the Walls of Pisa in the context of local territorial development.

The nine research projects that were monitored were rather significant from a financial point of view. They range between medical and biotechnology research, to the construction of prototypes for the energy sector or of Information Technology.

Who is monitored?

OpenCoesione calls them “implementing bodies”, as they are referred to in European Fund jargon. They include Public Administrations, bodies or state-owned, semi-state-owned companies or private companies that have the formal responsibility of implementing projects financed with public funding.

The monitoring has privileged the local dimension. There are few projects managed directly by Ministries (9%), Regions (11%) or Provinces (7%), while 43% are implemented by Municipalities, a level that’s obviously close to the interests of civic monitoring groups.

A 22% share of Reports came to grips with the fragmented and complex world of local governance, interviewing state-owned companies, in-house bodies, municipalized companies, hospitals. Others monitored local public authorities include park entities, mountain communities, government departments, schools.

Only 8% of reports examined financing provided directly by privately-owned companies. In many cases these are not public subsidies for enterprises, but privately-owned companies that implement public interventions, such as the construction of rail infrastructure.

Where are the monitored projects?

Those who live in medium to big-sized cities in the South of Italy, and who pick up on this kind of thing, will have noticed in the most unlikely corners – in metros, outside churches, in public parks – a signpost with the EU’s flag that indicates a European funding. This is because the majority of European Funds, as well as national ones for territorial cohesion  aimed at reducing the divide between Italian regions,  is concentrated in Southern Italy.

It’s no accident then that the majority of monitored funding is in the South, and especially in the provinces of Palermo, Naples and Bari, where the value of examined projects reaches 100 million euro. Among the greatest exceptions are Florence, Milan and Turin. The provinces of Sassari, Ragusa, Lecce, Cagliari, Nuoro and Monza follow with more than 20 million euro monitored.

What are the sources of civic monitoring?

How did the monitoring groups manage to collect the information? Almost all of them did desk research, so using the web to find information and pieces of news, starting with OpenCoesione’s open data. A special catalogue is represented by administrative sources, so public documents that often help to rebuild the project’s history and to answer questions such as: Why was the project funded? What are its objectives? Who is involved in the decisions that led to its funding?

An 88% share of the groups inspected their projects, physically going to verify the progress of the project or the accomplished results, with videos and photos. In some cases the site inspection was not performed simply because the project…. wasn’t there! For example, it hadn’t been started yet and had remained a dead letter. This mustn’t necessarily be seen as a negative factor: the projects are tracked by OpenCoesione from the exact moment when funding begins and the works  are yet to start, but will hopefully start shortly after.

Those interviewed include people responsible for the interventions, such as public administrators (74%), the final beneficiaries, such as users of an infrastructure or service, and public representatives, such as  town councilors, mayors or Province Presidents (28%).

The results of civic monitoring: the users’ assessment

Let’s have a look at the actual results of the monitoring. First of all, it’s never easy to describe the results of a complex project: for sure nothing is ever perfect, neither is it all to be trashed. The “grey” areas are often prevalent and the qualitative assessment of Monithon users almost always reflects the difficulty in being clear-cut. What’s more, it’s Monithon’s own methodology that induces users to give importance to different facets, highlighting both the strong points and weaknesses of what they are examining. To understand this, you just have to read individual reports of

In 2014 however, during a presentation at the Center for Civic Media of the MIT in Boston, we were asked: “How do you think you will aggregately represent your results if you only have detailed qualitative descriptions?” Good point. So in 2014 we introduced the “synthetic assessment”. A way to force the monitoring team to choose between a defined set of synthetic options.

What emerges is that the badly perceived European Funds didn’t perform so badly after all. A total of 67% of projects is assessed – with all the caveats – positively. In particular, 44% had been completed by the time of the monitoring inspection and was seen as useful. 23% is still ongoing but without major hiccups.

Among struggling project, 24% is ongoing and is also facing problems during the implementation (for example, it has been blocked), while only 6% of those completed are seen as ineffective.  Only 3% could not be assessed because the projects had just started.

It’s also interesting to see the assessment differences according to examined fields. Among the most relevant themes in terms of monitored financing, those that generated a more positive overall assessment are (considering both projects “completed and useful” and those “proceeding well”) research, transport and urban policies.

The themes with a more negative assessment are those in the fields of environment, culture and tourism and education. However it’s in the field of projects for cities that the highest percentage of “completed and ineffective” results are concentrated (10%).

The problems

Moving on to the weaknesses, we can ideally position the projects in a time sequence which starts with the launch and the financial management, moves on to the implementation (the actual works), then to the result (so to see if what was promised was delivered) and finally to the impact (if what was created is effectively useful from the point of view of final users).

A total of 5% of projects was blocked during the launch phase and so they never started, for example due to a delay in the granting of a permission, or because of legal disagreements or judicial inquiries. For example the Municipality of Matera received a 2.2 million euro funding for a Museum that was never built, at least up until April 2015, when the monitoring took place.

Problems of an administrative nature affect 12% of monitored projects, for example due to failed transfers of financial resources, cut funding or to blocks caused by bureaucratic procedures. For example two major research projects are struggling because of problems in effectively accessing funding: a biotechnology research center in Palermo (22 million euro, monitored in April 2016) and a project for the creation of an ecological minibus in Catania (450,000 euro, April 2016).

The center for youth aggregation “Cura et Valeas” in Locri (Calabria)

Almost one fifth of projects had problems during the implementation phase, which led to longer or shorter delays. There are many reasons for this: technical problems, lack of financial coverage and delays in the provision of funds, ongoing judicial inquiries, etc. This is the case for example of an old people’s home in Monte Sant’Angelo (Foggia), where works were only partially completed and, at the time of the monitoring inspection in April 2015, there was an ongoing legal procedure between the municipality and the contractor.  A more serious case is the one of the restoration of the Church of Galatone (Lecce), which has been in progress for 20 years and has yet to be finished despite the European financing (monitored in May 2016). Things went slightly better with the “Su Siccu” bike lane in Cagliari, which was finally completed after 11 years.

Only in a small part of projects (3%) were the works finished, but the results were no longer what was initially expected. The difference between the result and the real effectiveness of the project is a thinner line. The impact of the project can be negative even if the result is completely compliant with what was promised on paper, something that occurs in 6% of examined projects.

First of all the project might not respond to user needs: in the spring of last year the high-school “Galante” in Campobasso  asked citizens for their opinion about the new service to match the demand and availability of work of the Employment Center. The verdict: the service is a failure.

Or the project might be finished, but not completely operational. Although the renovation of a centre to welcome refugees in Bovalino (Reggio Calabria) was completed successfully, the structure risks being abandoned due to “a lack of furnishing and staff for the management”. This is what was verified in April 2016. A similar destiny also awaits the centre for youth aggregation “Cura et Valeas” of Locri, which was created using a building seized from a criminal organization and specifically renovated. In order to become operative though an association needs to take over its management and for the time being the Municipality’s call for bids has been deserted and nothing seems to be stirring.

The case of the Ancient Thermal Baths of Castellammare di Stabia are also disturbing : they were restored with a 12 million euro funding, but at the time of the monitoring in May 2016 were still not open to the public and “ 4 years later have been left in a state of abandonment and serious neglect”, given that the “works financed with European funds was never inspected, also due to the crisis of the management company Terme di Stabia S.p.a., that went bankrupt in 2015”.

Lastly, an infrastructure can be created perfectly, but may lack the authorizations necessary for it to become operative. This is what happened to the helicopter rescue pad in Agira (Enna), visited in March 2016, when they were just waiting for a final approval stamp from ENAC to allow it to open.

Another emblematic case is the problem of the lack of complementary interventions, possibly financed by other types of public funds (national or local), without which also the examined project will not have the right impact.

This is the case of the renovation project of the Old Hamlet of Cerignola (Foggia), visited in April 2016: everything was completed in time and to high standards. Unfortunately due to a lack of adequate policies for urban valorization the hamlet suffers from “neglect”, “dirt” and “phenomenon of stray animals”.

Another example: a social innovation project has created a prototype , but in order  to have a real impact it needs further financing to be launched on the market and to generate positive effects on the life of people. This is the case of Energy@Work near Brindisi, which was monitored in 2014.

Users’ suggestions

“And what happens now?” Civic monitoring groups, having assessed the results and the impact of a project, are asked to provide the most precious component of the initiative: ideas, recommendations, concrete proposals that can lead to improvements.

The majority of user advice, which concerns 36% of monitored projects, are accurate and specific suggestions for the examined project. They can be of a technical nature (for ex. the materials to be used for a renovation) or of a procedural-administrative nature (how to improve relations between two institutions, or the verification procedures to release payments…). Some suggestions, for example, regard the possible use of renovated assets (for example, those claimed from criminal organizations), so that they are truly useful for the local communities.

Other suggestions highlight the need to improve the project’s communication (15%). This is a good sign. It means that the project, almost always assessed as useful, needs to be communicated in a better way to ensure greater effectiveness. Furthermore this is an old obsession of those in charge of the communication of European Structural Funds, who believe  that funds – so Europe – are only mentioned  when there are negative situations, while good things are not communicated or are communicated badly. This is also true for comments according to which the monitored project should be continued or developed further (6%), for example to transform an experiment into a “fully operative” reality.

Lastly, some comments (7%) concentrate on the need to improve the projects’ governance. This term indicates many things: to improve collaboration between institutions to resolve problems of an administrative nature, to improve coordination between public and private bodies, but also include the citizenry more in decisions about how funds are used, and in particular the final beneficiaries of the interventions.

A new power

All in all, this small journey in Monithon’s civic monitoring proves at least two things.

The first is that using public data for a real accountability action is a huge effort, as well as an amusement. The data, despite being open, does not answer the universe of questions for responsible administrations, but on the contrary raises more. The novelty is that the funds we explored have reached that critical mass of transparency that allows anyone, as long as he or she is well organized and willing to study (that’s right, to study), to use the available information as a base for further research. These generally lead to the discovery of something useful also for the administrations, for example the impact of financed projects on the life of people.

The second is that, having acquired new tools, local communities are willing to work hard. You can see this in the very adult faces of the young kids that thanks to civic monitoring projects start to understand how public policies can improve their cities or guarantee more opportunities for their future. You can understand this by looking at those entities that everyday work to achieve their civic objectives and that by learning how financing works are provided with new weapons, acquire new powers and are more effective in using their energies.

Are our public administrations ready for all of this? How many of them are in turn willing to make the effort to listen, be accountable and take the necessary steps? As they say, we will find out in the next episode. In the next post we will examine the impact of civic monitoring, so whether and how the results we have seen have been used and what changes have they generated. We will report some cases with the intention of starting a good discussion. Which, of course, can already start now.

Monithon shortlisted for the ODI Open Data Award

We’re happy to announce that Monithon was included in the short list of possibile winners of the Open Data Institute Open Data Award!
The ceremony will take place on the evening of the 4 November in London during the ODI Summit, a 2-days conference with talks and training opportunities.

The panel of international judges includes Beth Noveck, director at The Governance Lab @ New York University and Rahma Mian, ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow, Pakistan.

The Open Data Institute was founded in 2012 by Professor Nigel Shadbolt, chairman of the Institute, and Tim Berners-Lee, recognized as the inventor of the World Wide Web.
Now the Institute is at the center of a global network of “nodes” aiming at “catalysing the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value”. The Italian node of the ODI is based at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler – Digital Commons Lab in Trento.

In this spreadsheet you can find all the nominees in the award 5 categories: Business, Innovation, Social Impact, Publisher and Individual Champion.  Monithon is included in the Social Impact category, and is in great company! The UNHCR, MySociety, the Social Investment and Finance Team at the UK Cabinet Office and Internews Kenia have all been shortlisted in our category.
We are also very happy to see other initiatives from Italy like Enel (Open Data Business Award), OpenPolis / Depp (Innovation), and Regesta.exe (Publisher).

Fingers crossed! 🙂

The NeverEnding Story of the Bike Lanes in Cagliari

During International Open Data Day on February 22, The Sardinia Open Data association joined the 2014 Monitoring Marathon promoted by and launched a local initiative – a civic walk – to pay a visit to the Su Siccu bike and pedestrian lane in Cagliari that received funding from the European Union.

The aim of this citizen monitoring was to understand the reason why eleven years of work were necessary to build a six hundred and twenty metres cycling/pedestrian path. We did so through on-line and off-line tools as we reported in our citizen monitoring report here on (in Italian).
The connected mapping party we organized – a little walk with GPS and notebooks to take note of thing of interest and localize them on OpenStreetMap – gave us the chance to check in detail every additional service and equipment installed along the path to improve the use of the public area.


Su Siccu (from Sardinian language, the dry area along the sea) is a portion of the city cost line, between the dock Molo Ichnusa and the Bonaria shore. Walking along the path you can admire a stunning perspective of the Cagliari’s gulf on one side and the shrine of Bonaria with its majestic staircase on the other side. Behind the path there are small kiosks, called “I ricciai”, where people can buy fresh sea urchins, local bread and white wine.

Until a few years ago this area used to be in poor condition. Now its redevelopment is part of a special program of urban development financed by European Regional Policy, called “Programma integrato per lo sviluppo urbano e la mobilità ciclabile, pedonale e pendolare nell’Area metropolitana di Cagliari” (“Integrated program for urban development and mobility in the Cagliari area”).

The story begins in the 2003 when the city was governed by the mayor Delogu. That year an agreement was signed to demolish a wall that divided the Ichnusa dock and the Garau dock, which was part of a military area managed by the Navy. The wall was dismantled in 2005 and the decision was that it would be used for public benefit. The building of the new path actually started in 2006.
The pavement was refurbished and new service areas were designed to adapt the place to its new function. A wooden sidewalk was built along the “Ammiragliato” building.

Once the first and second part of the path were almost ready, the project stopped. The whole area enclosed couldn’t be accessed until 2012. In that year the construction restarted but unfortunately many damages occurred since the place had been abandoned for six year.

On October 8th 2013 the path was ready, and could be inaugurated. On January 8th 2014 also the wooden walk path was open. After eleven years, the project cycle lane along the sea finally ended and Cagliari inhabitants now can use and enjoy the public area.

Su siccu path is only one piece of a larger project that includes a suggestive itinerary starting from the city centre, continuing along the sea and then leads to the regional park of Molentargius-Saline, a famous wet area, to reach finally the Poetto beach, where another cycling lane is going to be build shortly.

Su Siccu path is not only important from a naturalistic and touristic point of view, but is also crucial for the effectiveness of local mobility. In fact, it is part of a wider project of alternative paths and connections that everyone hope to have available as soon as possible.
Cagliari is rapidly becoming a metropolitan center with an increasing amount of people commuting from the surrounding areas. A more efficient public transport is a frequent demand from citizens that institutions have to handle every day.

During our monitoring we met a lot locals complaining about the delays of the works and the lack of information from the city government.  In their opinion, public money is not used efficiently and it does not make real benefit to the citizens. Sardinia Open Data could hear and witnesses the voice of cyclists, who recognized the that project is now completed and enjoyed the results.  However, they still could not realise why it took such a long time to build this lane and think that the overall investment was too large compared to actual results.

Kevin Legge, a local citizen from Cagliari Città Ciclabile association, pointed out in a short interview that he wishes that the city government will pay more attention to cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. At the same time, he recognizes that cyclists, pedestrians and drivers often disagree on what should be the best mobility solution.

In conclusion, urban redevelopment and local mobility are key component of the future development of the city of Cagliari. This is even more pressing since Cagliari is now candidate to become one of the European Capitals of Culture 2019 and is waiting for the final verdict. Civic awareness is more than needed to build the future in a way that ensure a real participatory process that involves all citizens in key local policy decisions.

Monithon at the United Nations – 4th place at the #OpenGovAwards!

The partnership between OpenCoesione (government initiative) and Monithon (civil society) represented Italy at the Open Government Partnership High-Level Event held on September 24th in the United Nations Building in New York.  The partnership was nominated through a public consultation that took place at the end of May 2014. The result is incredible – a fantastic 4th position and a brilliant “Silver Award”, based on the votes of an international panel of experts.

It was a great honor to represent Italy (and Italian civil society in particular) with my friends Carlo Amati, Simona De Luca e Aline Pennisi from the OpenCoesione team – and being recognized in front of Barack Obama, Francois Hollande and 9 other heads of state, official delegations from 65 countries and hundreds of civil society representatives. Unfortunately, the Italian political representatives were missing.  It is also good to receive better scores than other OGP founding Countries with longer traditions of openness and transparency than Italy such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands.

Photograph by Evan Abramson for OGP

In the video from the official streaming of the United Nations, you can watch the awarding ceremony. The full video also includes the brief speeches by the representatives of the 3 top teams Denmark, Montenegro and the Philippines.


What the judges say about Italy. The international panel based its scores on the applications from the different Countries and considered 4 different criteria: Credibility of Partnerships, Depth of Engagement, Evidence of Results and Sustainability.

If we analyze the scores as published on the OGP website (here the CSV of the data that I scraped), we discover that Italy is in the #1 position for 2 criteria out of 4!

Great expectations.  I really hope that Italy will actually invest on such a crucial topic for democracy, institutions and the economy.  We would like to win an award that considers not only the best practices but also the average value of the initiatives in a Country.

Everybody knows that awards are not really important in themselves, but I think they can help inspire more ambitious objectives for the future. I would like to thank all the OpenCoesione team as we share the same exciting adventure – and in particular Damien Lanfrey and Chiara Ciociola for their fundamental help in drafting the application for this award.
I speak on behalf of the Monithon initiative when I say Thank You and Congrats to all the people who are so enthusiastically being involved in the citizen monitoring of public policy!

2014-09-24 17.14.19


Photo credit – OGP/Evan Abramson.