Back in 2014, when Sergio Rizzo, an investigative journalist for the newspaper Corriere della Sera, revealed that only nine percent of the European funds allocated for Italy were actually used, the Italian government used OpenCoesione to disclose projects totaling 100 billion euros of EU financing. The government then launched a massive public awareness campaign to empower citizens, youth, and high school students through A Scuola di OpenCoesione (ASOC, “At the School of OpenCohesion”) to become on-the-ground citizen monitors of projects.
Alessandra, a nineteen-year-old girl from Calabria, Italy, is one of the many students actively engaging with ASOC, an innovative educational program promoting principles of active citizenship in Italian schools. ASOC began with open data on projects funded by European and Italian resources, and teaches civic monitoring and research on European and Italian public funding. It has allowed over 25,000 young people to be active citizens who feel they can make positive change in their region.
OpenCoesione, an innovative online platform covering public spending, was part of Italy’s OGP action plan and has become a benchmark for all government departments to develop a coherent and consistent open data policy. The portal provides stakeholders and the government with a tool to foster transparency and citizen engagement on crucial issues.
It was important to Alessandra not to remain indifferent to social problems, but rather to become an active part. She’s been involved in several issues over the years, including environmental remediation and mafia crime. Through the Terre di Mezzo project, she was involved in monitoring a 1.5 million EUR renovation of a farm and building confiscated from the local mafia ’Ndrangheta. The project focuses on investigating a building’s current condition and potential, through the analysis of relevant data coming both from official sources and from bottom-up, citizen monitoring initiatives. Alessandra chose to be involved in this project to help promote the culture of legality in Calabria, an area in which the mafia is very influential. Thanks to the success of these projects, the area is becoming one of community and change.
Alessandra’s involvement with ASOC taught her to trust her local institutions and that her involvement can make a positive impact in society. It helped her understand how important active citizenry is to a healthy and strong democracy and how transparency can fight corruption. ASOC has helped create active citizenship in Italy, and the reform continues to inspire other OGP countries to design and implement similar initiatives. The program has been replicated in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, and Spain, and will soon be activated in France, Austria, and Switzerland.
Alessandra is one of the thousands of citizens who, thanks to OpenCoesione and its international derivations, have become interested in seeing a transparent process of development projects and feel empowered to be active citizens.