Metropolitan cities, smart cities: only slogans if we do not start from “public”
Smart, metropolitan, social impact cities: all beautiful definitions, but with the risk of becoming empty, rhetorical, like the many that, in Italy, have been wasted, consumed, simply because those words have not been followed.
For this reason there is distrust on the part of the people, who rightly ask for action.
Instead, we need the courage to make a proposal that goes against the tide: let’s start from the words, we laugh at their meaning, take ownership of their values again. Doing the same thing is harmful. Because before actions there must be words, which establish values, indicate a direction.
And the first word to start from is “public”.
Today the word public has lost all its positive connotations, becoming synonymous with waste, inefficiency, corruption. Yet no innovation will ever be possible without the “public”.
The public cannot be replaced by the private. First of all because the interest it pursues is, precisely, private, and not public, and then because it too is not free from corruption and scandals, both in the profit and non-profit sectors.
Therefore, the first word to be reclaimed is not smart or innovation, but public: a Municipality, a Region, even before being smart, must be able to be public, that is, subject who pursue the common good. It may seem trivial, obvious, but it is not so: it is necessary to start from the ABC before attempting high-sounding projects.
Moreover, it is no coincidence that the World Bank has a sector dedicated to this, to the strengthening of public institutions: it is the main tool for preventing corruption.
How do you go about giving the public word its meaning?
First of all, involving citizens, businesses and other public stakeholders.
We often forget that we are not only users of the public, but also shareholders, since we finance all public activities with the payment of taxes and fees.
So, we have the right to know how a municipality or a region works, our municipality, our region. This means addiction.
Transparency is needed to be accountable. This too, however, is an abused word, because it is reduced to a mere fulfilment and not an occasion for improvement: the result is that today we are inundated with data, which however are not homogeneous, not updated, not comparable and therefore often not usable.
Transparency, on the other hand, must not be an end in itself, but a necessary tool for the evaluation of the public. I do not need to know just how much my Municipality spent, but also and above all how it spent it and for what: even a euro not spent for the common good is a waste to be cut.
Evaluation is a smart, truly innovative way to improve the public, and since to evaluate must be citizens and businesses, Fondazione Etica has created a tool that allows citizens to do it: the Public Rating. What is it for? Not to give report cards, but to spend our money better: this is a concrete tool for social innovation.
As users and as shareholders, we must expect public resources to be used where they are better used and cut where – Municipalities, Regions, Ministries – are wasted.
Rating is also a tool for social inclusion, because it actively involves citizens. One of the many words we have wasted, in fact, is participation. We are all tired of being called to passively participate, for example flagging green or red smilies on public services.
Rating, on the other hand, allows a more mature, non-emotional participation, because it asks citizens to collect and send documents, images, videos, on what happens to them daily in contact with the public. Therefore, an inclusive tool, which we could call the Tripadvisor of the PA.