Participation, Local Development and Training of Young Leaders

“Participation, Local Development and Training of Young Leaders”: from the René Cassin Award to international networks of innovative laboratories of research and training of the leaders of participatory local development


On December 14th a seminar was held in Bologna at the Sala Manzi of the Legislative Assembly of Emilia-Romagna Region titled "Participation, Local Development and Training of Young Leaders”: from the René Cassin Award to international networks of innovative laboratories of research and training of the leaders of participatory local development.

The seminar was jointly organized by the Legislative Assembly of Emilia-Romagna Region (RER) and the KIP International School (KIP IS) with three objectives: to disseminate and analyse the outcomes of the René Cassin Award through the testimonies of winners of past editions; to learn about some of the experiences of participatory territorial development supported by the A-L of the Region and to discuss the proposal of creating an international network of training initiatives on the topic of participatory territorial development linked to an international network of territorial laboratories.

Among the participants were: managers and technicians of the Legislative Assembly and the RER services; Professors of the Universities of Bologna, Urbino, Pisa, Milano Bicocca and the University Gaston Berger in St. Louis, Senegal (via videoconference); the Head of the Unit of Programmes and Projects of the Ministry of Local Government, Development and Territorial Management, Senegal (via videoconference); the facilitators of some participatory processes on the regional territory of Emilia-Romagna and many young people - present and by videoconference - who had won the René Cassin Award in past editions, plus the two winners of the current edition (with their families) to be awarded.

Listening to the direct testimonies of Alessandra Pierella (from Senegal), Tiziana Fusco (from Ethiopia) Massimo Fortunato, Giulia Rucireta and Clara Csilla Romano about the impact their experiences had on their professional and personal development was very impressive. From their testimonies it emerged that three factors most determined the success of their work-training experiences: the adequate duration of the training-work grant (10 months); the high quality of the experiences/organisations where they were placed and their relevance to the subjects of study and passions of the young bursary recipients. In fact, these young development and rights professionals continue to work in the fields of international cooperation and in non-governmental organizations engaged in human development and the advancement of human rights, as well as in the private sector engaged in corporate social responsibility. “To acknowledge the civic commitment and merits of this youth” is the aim of the Award, as Yuri Torri, Secretary-Advisor of the Direction of the Legislative Assembly stated during the award ceremony with the new Prize recipients (Valentina Manca and Francesca Accerra), and it symbolises the vision of this Region committed to investing in the new generations".

The second session, introduced by Leonardo Draghetti, Director General of the Legislative Assembly, consisted of two round tables. The first was coordinated by Rossana Mengozzi of the Support Office to the Guarantor of Participation: three concrete experiences, supported by the Legislative Assembly and the Emilia Romagna Region and a method of participation were presented. Claudia Mazzoli, director of the Valle del Savio Union and spokesperson of the project funded by the 2017 Call for bids "What future for the mountains", presented the participatory process aiming to identify a strategy of socio-economic development of mountain communities of the Valle del Savio Union. Sara Branchini, working in the Centro Antartide of Bologna, presented the experience of the Municipality of Anzola that planned a municipal participatory budget. Centro Antartide then used this experience to make a participatory budget model for medium-sized municipalities. Monia Guarino, architect and facilitator of many experiences of development on the regional territory, intervened presenting the "community map", a participation tool used in several development experiences carried out on the regional territory and elsewhere. Lastly, Maria Augusta Nicoli, a director in the RER health agency, presented "Community Lab", an important activity on social innovations in the field of community welfare carried out in partnership with various Brazilian structures. The questions: "What role for universities?" And "What contribution from international connections?" were the subject of a discussion on these experiences.

The idea of establishing an international network of training initiatives linked to an international network of territorial laboratories of participatory development was thoroughly discussed in the second round table moderated by Mirella Orlandi from the Service of European policies, planning, cooperation and evaluation of the RER. The round table was introduced by Luciano Carrino, President of KIP IS.

Oumar Wade (Ministry of local government, development and territorial management of Senegal) and Sambou Ndiaye (Professor of the Gaston Berger University of Saint Louis) participated via videoconference from Senegal. Mr Wade spoke about the reforms underway in the country that are increasingly putting the territory at the heart of national policies of decentralization, local development and participation. He pointed out that the lack of systematic information on local development experiences in the country determines the fact that politicians and technicians are unlikely to take the experiences into account within their national development strategies. Furthermore, the reduced quantity and quality of human resources able to drive and accompany local development prevents the current centralized, macroeconomic and sectoral approaches from being overcome.

Professor Ndiaye illustrated current trends of Senegalese universities in many Regions which are moving towards an organic connection with the territory in order to help develop its endogenous development potential, for example by organizing practical training activities responding to the territorial priorities and an increased focus on community-based action research. An example is the establishment of a University-Territory Research Alliance in St. Louis, which involves Gaston Berger University, the Regional Development Agency and several associations of the Region. Co-constructing knowledge and co-producing development actions are the goals of three ongoing action research processes.

While teaching in Italian universities often remains anchored to traditional and sectoral models as Gabriele Tomei (University of Pisa) claimed, considerable examples of the virtuous university-territory relationship emerged from the other interventions. For example, Angelo Stefanini (University of Bologna) described his experience in the field of health in Africa and on the issue of community welfare in RER. Alberto Giasanti (University of Milan Bicocca) spoke about the experiences in Cuba and Nicaragua; in the last case the University brought teaching directly into the barrios, solving different practical problems and producing the "necessary knowledge".

The value of international relationships in both teaching and research was also highlighted. Giuseppe Giliberti (University of Urbino) informed participants of the ongoing collaboration between the National Research Council (CNR) in Naples and the Universities of the Euro Mediterranean network that are organizing training initiatives for development and human rights professionals. He also proposed to link these activities to the international network of research and training for development professionals presented by Carrino. Alberto Giasanti spoke about the human development PhD program led by the University of Milan Bicocca. That program involves Cuban, Nicaraguan and Argentine universities. Augusta Nicoli reminded participants of the contribution of Brazilian colleagues to the production of social innovations in the RER itself.

At the end of the Round Table, Mirella Orlandi pointed out the interest of RER office of development cooperation, already involved in Senegal, in closely monitoring the work for the creation of the international network.

Sara Swartz, director of the Universitas program of KIP IS, while summarizing the work of the day, highlighted that the territorial laboratories had been the common thread. They were fundamental for the training of Cassin Award winners; they have contributed to the creation of social innovations in the RER also and to the emergence and systematization of social innovations in Senegal; they helped to innovate teaching and to solve practical problems in Nicaragua, Uganda and Tanzania. In short, all the participants agreed that, in the process of creating an international network of training and research initiatives on development, it would be appropriate to prioritize the establishment of territorial laboratories, also because they are most able to innovate university teaching itself.

In conclusion, Director Draghetti pledged to give the contribution of the Legislative Assembly to the creation process of the network proposed by the KIP IS, which, in turn, declared that it considers the RER an important partner in this process. KIP IS informed participants that it is working to organize an international meeting on the subject involving International Organizations, the European Union, national, regional and local Public Administrations, Universities, associations and the private sector operating in the field of circular, ecological and territorial economy consistent with the UN 2030 Agenda.

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