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‘Would you change?’: Consumption, Environment, Energy Conservation, and Lifestyle in Casalecchio di Reno

Casalecchio di Reno
Italy

 

Cambieresti? is an acronym for ‘Consumption, Environment, Energy Conservation and  Lifestyles’. The project was originally produced in Venice in 2005 in response to a ministerial call for the implementation of Agenda 21 with the goal of practicing sustainable development in daily practices, consumption patterns, and lifestyles.

In Venice, 1250 households were involved in a one-year trial. Other subsequent experiments were carried out with the support of the Association Cambieresti?, which was formed by representatives of the promoters of the original project. The Casalecchio di Reno experience (2007) is the most successful, thanks to highly developed social capital and a local public administration willing to change its decision-making procedures and its ways of working. In Casalecchio, 125 families participated: for eight months they were involved in neighbourhood meetings, thematic meetings, workshops, festivals, and events. They then established buying and project-oriented groups that still continue, in an autonomous form, the experience initiated with Cambieresti?.

Organization of the project

From an organizational point of view, Cambieresti? can be summarized in three successive stages: networking, communication, and experimentation. It starts with a reconnaissance of potential carriers of local resources (knowledge, participatory, economic, etc.) that are relevant to the issues to be developed. Together with them, the thematic contents to be covered in that context and the operational modalities of the project (e.g., marketing communication, scheduling, incentives for participation, and methods of monitoring) are defined.

This is genuine participatory planning which sets out the contours of the entire operation (actors, duration, agenda of meetings and workshops, incentives to participate, etc.); the roles of institutional, economic, and voluntary bodies; the number of participants that will be involved, and so forth.

Establishment of the project

The communication phase is divided between an advertising campaign, aimed at informing the public about the process that has started, and co-editing a guide to change, with contributions from all partners, standardized in a common language on issues to be discussed.

The testing phase consists of workshops, held mostly by the project partners, and neighborhood meetings. In this phase, the households who take part in the initiative discuss and debate, but also do practical things: testing, manipulating, tasting, building, etc. This experiential aspect seems crucial to the success of a project where a long-term participation is required.

The organizational phase of the project, in the case of Casalecchio, was eight months and was extended to a period of accompanying measures that the participants had committed themselves to develop. This second phase lasted about five months, with less frequent meetings, but with striking results in terms of the groups' ability to create and promote new experiments, especially in the areas of critical consumption, mobility, and energy.

The involvement of different administrative sectors of the local authority has led to the advancement of projects related to Cambieresti? and its related savings goals. With an investment of about € 15,000 (half the project budget), the City of Casalecchio managed to develop a set of policies aimed at environmental savings and sustainable organizational performance.

Main results

The results are valuable in terms of collectively achieved savings, and especially in terms of the relationships established between partners and between the participants, which determine the continuity of the process in self-organized awareness proposals and in projects promoted with a bottom-up approach, characterized by creativity and social innovation.