“Moni-thon” comes from “monitor” and “marathon”, and this is precisely what this platform seeks to help with: anintensive 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.  ….

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. ….

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….(More)