“Moni-thon” comes from “monitor” and “marathon”, and this is precisely what this platform seeks to help with: an intensive activity of observing and reporting of public policies in Italy.
What’s there to monitor? Monithon was born as an independently developed initiative to promote the citizen monitoring of development projects funded both by the Italian government and the EU through the Cohesion (aka. Regional) Policy. Projects include a wide range of interventions such as large transport, digital, research or environmental infrastructures (railroads, highways, broadband networks, waste management systems…), aids to enterprises to support innovation and competitiveness, and other funding for energy efficiency, social inclusion, education and training, occupation and workers mobility, tourism, etc.
Citizen monitoring of these projects is possible thanks to a combination of open government data and citizens’ collaboration, joined by the goal of controlling how the projects are progressing, and whether they deliver actual results.
The Italian government releases the information on all the 800k+ projects funded (worth almost 100 billion Euros), the beneficiaries of the subsidies and all the actors involved as open data, including the location and the timing of the intervention. All the data is integrated with interactive visualizations on the national portal OpenCoesione, where people can play with the data and find the most interesting projects to follow.
The Monithon initiative takes this transparency further: it asks citizens to actively engage with open government data and to produce valuable information through it.
How does it work? Monithon means active involvement of communities and a shared methodology. Citizens, journalist, experts, researchers, students – or all combined – collect information on a specific project chosen from the OpenCoesione database. Then this information can be uploaded on the Monithon platform (based on Ushahidi) by selecting the projects from a list and it can be geo-referenced and enriched with interviews, quantitative data, pictures, videos. The result is a form of civic, bottom-down, collective data storytelling. All the “wannabe monithoners” can download this simple toolkit, a 10-page document that describes the initiative and explains how to pick a project to monitor and get things started. Users can do this individually, but the whole activity increases in its civic importance when done collectively, as it happens during the “Monithon Days” such as the National Monitoring Marathon of February 22, 2014 organized as part of the International Open Data Day. During these events groups of citizens – sometimes under the guide of local organizations – set out on real explorations around their area, to gather information on specific projects of local interest. In doing so, not only do the participants collect useful material to evaluate the effectiveness of the funding and generate awareness around these finance plans, but they also experiment with new forms of control over public policies.
How to achieve actual impact? The Monithon platform is method and a model whereby citizen monitoring may be initiated and a tool for civic partners to press forward, to report on malpractice, but also to collaborate in making all these projects work, in accelerating their completion and understanding whether they actually respond to local demand. The aim of Monithon is to foster a civic use of open data, so that citizens can feel a closer connection with the ways in which public money and EU funds are being employed and ultimately with public policies and decisions. By engaging in the “monitoring marathons”, citizens give benefit to the whole community and, ultimately, to the policies themselves: they can fill missing information, signal errors, report on the actual development of projects, send their suggestions and ideas to policy makers with the final aim to improve the quality of policy design, planning and implementation.
How it all started, and how it evolved. The monithon idea, initially conceived by the OpenCoesione team, was then presented to the “civic hacking” community (namely, the “Spaghetti Open Data” community) and soon transformed into a civil society, independent initiative by an enthusiastic group of developers, activists and journalists.
Monithon has rapidly evolved from being an innovative new platform into a transferable civic engagement format. Since its launch in September 2013, Monithon has drawn dozens of national and local communities (some formed on purpose, other based on existing associations) and around 500 people into civic monitoring activities, mostly in Southern Italy, where cohesion funds are more concentrated. Specific activities are carried out by established citizen groups, like Libera, a national anti-Mafia association, which became Monithon partner, focusing their monitoring on the rehabilitation of Mafia-seized properties. Action Aid is now partnering with Monithon to promote citizen empowerment. Existing, local groups of activists are using the Monithon methodology to test local transportation systems that benefited from EU funding, while new groups have formed to begin monitoring social innovation and cultural heritage projects.
Now more than 50 “citizen monitoring reports”, which take the form of collective investigations on project development and results, are publicly available on the Monithon website, many of which spurred further dialogue with public administrations.
Monithons are also carried out within the OpenCoesione School project (www.ascuoladiopencoesione.it), an innovative course first experimented in 2013-14 school year, aimed at engaging high school students, through practice-based learning that results in a data journalism and storytelling project on OpenCoesione projects’ impact.
IN THE PRESS
Six ways for citizens to assert power beyond the ballot box
di Paul Maassen – The Guardian, 21 Luglio 2017
Re:publica Keynote: The System is Broken – That’s the Good News
di Ethan Zuckerman – …My Heart’s in Accra, 5 Maggio 2015
I beni confiscati organizzati creano cultura contro le mafie
di Andrea Borruso – Nova – Il Sole 24 Ore, 29 Giugno 2014
Webinar: Civil society engagement in well-being statistics: good practices from Italy
di Redazione – Web-COSI, 20 Giugno 2014
Monitoraggio civico: così gli open data educano alla cittadinanza
di Paola Liliana Buttiglione e Luigi Reggi – Queste Istituzioni, 9 Giugno 2014
La trasparenza dei bilanci e l’individuazione dei beneficiari si fa con gli Open Data
di Gianluigi Cogo – Pionero, 6 Giugno 2014
Monithon e OpenCoesione sono la best practice italiana candidata agli OGP Awards!
di Luigi Reggi – Innovatori PA, 3 Giugno 2014
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PA: Open Coesione e Monithon candidati agli Open Government Awards
di Angela Lamboglia – FASI, 30 Maggio 2014
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di Redazione – Enti Locali, 26 Maggio 2014
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di Marzia Roncacci – RAI TG 2, 22 Maggio 2014
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di Stefano Pizzicannella – Innovatori PA, 21 Maggio 2014
Monithon, a Government “Monitoring Marathon” in Italy
di Antonella Napolitano – TechPresident, 14 Maggio 2014
Fondi Ue: Barca, si renda operativa l’Agenzia per la Coesione
di Alessandra Fiora ed Andrea Gallo – FASI 18 Aprile 2014
Webinar Open Government: collaborazione e dati generati dai cittadini
di Gianfranco Andriola – Innovatori PA, 11 Marzo 2014
Come si investe nella cultura? Scopriamolo con Monithon
di FranLeu – Storia ad Arte, 4 Marzo 2014
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di Alberto Cottica – OpenPompei, 3 Marzo 2014
Monithon: il monitoraggio civico delle politiche pubbliche
di Redazione – CAPIRe newsletter n. 86, Marzo 2014
Monithon, il monitoraggio dei cittadini arriva a Torino
di Matteo Fontanone – Digi.TO, 26 Febbraio 2014
Open Data: la pubblica amministrazione diventa innovativa
di Redazione – Tiscali: Ultimora, 25 Febbraio 2014
Così possiamo controllare come vengono spesi i fondi strutturali europei
di Luigi Reggi – CheFuturo, 21 Febbraio 2014
Monithon, dai dati aperti al monitoraggio civico il passo breve delle comunità intelligenti
di Eleonora Bove – ForumPA, 20 Febbraio 2014
Open Data in Italia, cosa è cambiato in un anno? Facciamo il punto con Spaghetti Open Data
di Francesca Battistoni, Saperi PA, 18 Febbraio 2014
Monitorare gli investimenti pubblici? Ora possono farlo tutti
di Cinzia Roma – Quattrogatti.info, 15 Febbraio 2014
Vuoi diventare maratoneta dei dati? Partecipa a Monithon!
di Summer School – Progetto Rena, Febbraio 2014
Gemellaggio Bologna-Cosenza nel nome degli open data
di Alessio Cimarelli – Dataninja, Febbraio 2014