A participatory process is a sequence of participatory activities (e.g. first filling out a survey, then making proposals, discussing them in face-to-face or virtual meetings, and finally prioritizing them) with the aim of defining and making a decision on a specific topic.
Examples of participatory processes are: a process of electing committee members (where candidatures are first presented, then debated and finally a candidacy is chosen), participatory budgets (where proposals are made, valued economically and voted on with the money available), a strategic planning process, the collaborative drafting of a regulation or norm, the design of an urban space or the production of a public policy plan.
This article is about the Co-Roma coalition and the activities it is undertaking following the Faro convention principles. The strength of Co-Roma relies in being a coalition of different entities, which allows strategic and inclusive co-governance of urban resources. By co-governance, Co-Roma refers to a collaborative and democratic form of governance which relies on cooperativeness and co-ownership, which enables local citizens to actively participate in the collective use and valorisation of district heritage. Collaborative models of governance have produced ideas such as the current development of electric bike tours, energy communities and artistic exhibitions which are under ideation and structuring by local Co-Roma engaged communities. With a view to putting the Faro principles into practice since the beginning, the Co-Roma coalition has made full use of and supported the application of the principles of the Faro Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society. Among these places there are: the Centocelle Archaeological Park, the Tower of San Giovanni and the Pratone of Torre Spaccata.
The Co-Roma project was launched in 2015/16 with the aim of developing, designing and testing a governance strategy for urban commons and cultural heritage so as to ensure that the city of Rome, its territory and immense heritage can be enjoyed proactively by citizens and visitors in a sustainable way.
The strength of Co-Roma relies in being a coalition of different entities, which allows strategic and inclusive co-governance of urban resources. It supports various experimental and collaborative projects throughout the city of Rome, relying on the cooperation of numerous partners (among others, the neighbourhood cooperative CooperACTiva, the Community for the Public Park of Centocelle -Comunità per il Parco Pubblico di Centocelle- Association) to develop projects and initiatives in the South-East district of the city, especially in the area that includes Alessandrino, Centocelle and Torre Spaccata districts.
By co-governance, Co-Roma refers to a collaborative and democratic form of governance which relies on cooperativeness and co-ownership, which enables local citizens to actively participate in the collective use and valorisation of district heritage. It is a model for integrating multiple stakeholders within the decision-making process of a resource which the community aims to manage. In the co-governance model, if public authorities play a major role, citizens, social innovators and knowledge institutions, to name a few, play and are invited to play a role in the administration of the cooperative processes. Collective governance, pooling economies, technological justice, enabling state and experimentalism, are all key words in Co-Roma’s co-governance values.
As a matter of fact, among the actions taken by Co-Roma’s projects, there has been a large involvement of different actors in its activities. Collaborative and democratic models of governance have produced innovative ideas such as the current development of electric bike tours, energy communities and artistic exhibitions which are under ideation and structuring by local Co-Roma engaged communities. Art exhibitions especially, are considered important occasions for identity building and social inclusion.
With a view to putting the Faro principles into practice since the beginning, the Co-Roma coalition has made full use of and supported the application of the principles of the Faro Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society. On such a basis, it has developed a number of activities and initiatives which enabled local residents and visitors to take part in and enjoy the cultural life of the community. In particular, Co-Roma’s activities in Rome focus on some places of cultural value within the district, to preserve the heritage and promote knowledge and awareness among the inhabitants of the neighbourhoods, the city, but also at the national and supranational level.
Among these places there are: the Centocelle Archaeological Park, the Tower of San Giovanni and the Pratone of Torre Spaccata. The Centocelle Archeological Park, for example, is located in the South East district of the city of Rome. Three different neighbourhoods develop around it, those of Alessandrino, Centocelle and Torre Spaccata, that can be defined as priority and complex district due to the difficulties it faces in terms of development and growth, both from an economic and employment standpoint. The Park’s heritage is stratified in time, from 600 B.C to 600 A.D with regard to the archaeological sites, and from 1901 to 1942 for the modern heritage. At the end of the XX century three Roman villas were discovered within the Park by archaeologists. One of them known as Villa ad Duas Lauros, which belonged to an imperial property and was known as “Centum Cellae” for its large dimensions. This is why the nearest area, and afterwards the entire neighbourhood, was then named as “Centocelle”. Between 465 and 502 B.C., the villa was then donated to the Roman Church.
After a period of archaeological excavations promoted by the Municipality of Rome and the National Public Administration of Culture and Heritage, the Roman remains have been buried again, due to lack of funds to be able to realize the musealization of the area and the entire area was made a public park. The Park was opened to the public in 2006, closed due to security issues from 2008 to 2010, and currently 33 hectares out of 120 can be visited by the public. Inside the area of the Park, there is also another building from the Roman era, the Osteria di Centocelle, dating back to 300 BC. It could either be a mausoleum or a nymphaeum.
In 1909 the area that today is the one of Centocelle Public Park also hosted Wilbur Wright’s flying demonstrations and an airstrip was constructed to the first airport in Italy “Francesco Baracca”. The airport has not been in operation for many years and then was closed. Only the runway inside the park still remains. The Park has been subject to many urban planning projects such as: a metropolitan railway- of which there is still an uncompleted gallery - started during the facist era and stopped at the beginning of the Second World War; the construction of ministerial departments public offices (former Eastern Management System, “Sistema Direzionale Orientale – SDO”); it eventually became state property, managed by the Municipality of Rome. Such an imposing project failed to meet the requirements for actualization also due to the strict planning constraints required by the Ministry of Culture in order to protect the archaeological site. After many years of difficult management, even though the Park continues to be the subject of illicit occupations, it has attracted public interest in light of the intense work carried out by local communities, based on the enhancement of its social capital. Working in this Park means working in a complex area, which not only should be improved as an urban commons, but also as a natural commons, as an important archaeological site, and part of national cultural heritage.
Heritage should not only regard the past of a community but should also reflect the present and the future of local and national communities. The initiatives on the Archaeological Park of Centocelle and other heritage spots in the district, having witnessed many centuries of human activity, are a perfect example of how important the consideration of past, present and future is in the planning of sustainable heritage governance and liveability of cities.
Moreover, heritage is strictly linked to sustainability and the Faro Convention itself considers the importance of promoting cultural heritage, alongside with the protection of natural landscapes and biological ecosystems in order to preserve them for future generations. The democratic aspects related to the Convention enhance the shared responsibility aspect which citizens should have together with other stakeholders in the conservation of the natural environments they live in, or close to. Sustainable tourism in fact is another action taken by heritage communities to highlight this important aspect.
In order to promote sustainable tourism, Co-Roma has promoted heritage days and bike tours. Such initiatives have gathered great consensus among the local community and the citizens of Rome fostering the approach to the preservation, enhancement and care of heritage urban commons. Heritage days have been promoted under the Heri-tour initiative. Such walks have been very important for local communities since they have enabled citizens to grow awareness and take greater care of the park’s cultural heritage which had lately been neglected and left to itself. Moreover, the Co-Roma Faro Heritage Community in Centocelle, has the aim to expand and transfer its good practices to other activities which Co-Roma is taking on in the city of Rome.
On the same model of heri-tour, the Co-Roma coalition is also taking on an electric bike tour initiative, finding a pro-active solution to issues developed due to the pandemic by organizing the designing the initiative as an outdistanced bike tour.
The Faro Convention is an important step toward a more inclusive and innovative approach in promoting European cultural heritage, creating a structure for cooperating at local level. It underlines important democratic and human rights aspects, including communitarian and societal aspects in its principles. Places and objects are not important only in virtue of being a cultural heritage, but in virtue of what people attribute to them, and to the values these represent for people. If beauty is the eye of the beholder, then cultural heritage should be also in the hands of local communities. The participation of citizens has become an ethical obligation and a political necessity.
In conclusion, Co-Roma is a synergic and proactive coalition of entities on the territory, which actualizes the FARO principles by promoting heritage walks and micro-regeneration activities to enhance democratic participation and building on community process that ensures to map and involve local actors, enabling the definition of a multiple helix process. The districts on which the Co-Roma coalition operate, are particularly suitable for co-governance purposes and commons regeneration practices and experiments. In fact, there are many environmental, social and integration issues related to the neighbourhood of Centocelle. At the same time, nonetheless, there are many actors that can stimulate processes of collaboration and participation for the development regeneration of the area.
The application of FARO principles allows positive consequences in network building. The FARO convention is no longer only an international convention in Italy. The Italian state has ratified the convention and is currently awaiting a law decree which will enable its enforcement as national law. This means that the perspectives for new heritage communities to prosper are extremely positive, and that there will be many opportunities in the future for the FARO principles to spread.