“There is nothing that cannot be changed by knowledgeable and informed social action, provided with purpose and with legitimacy. If people are informed, active, and can communicate around the world; if a company assumes its social responsibilities; if the media become the messengers rather than the message; if political actors react against cynicism and restore confidence in democracy; if culture is reconstructed from experience; if humanity senses its intergenerational solidarity by living in harmony with nature; if we venture into the exploration of our inner self, having made peace between us. If this occurs, while there is still time, thanks to our informed decisions, conscious and shared, then maybe we can finally live and let live; love and be loved.”
– Manuel Castells
The wisdom and the density of the words of such a maitre à penser of contemporary culture as Manuel Castells clarify, better than any other reflection, the ideal culmination of the processes of participatory democracy that structures like the “Urban Center” or the “City Houses” are called upon to host.
Behind the success stories of contemporary urban policy lies the capacity of an ‘enlightened director’ to manage a virtuous dialectic between the various (privileged and widespread) stakeholders of the urban scene through patient, tireless, compelling work towards solidifying consent.
The identity of such a director may vary in different cultural contexts (non-profit organizations, academic institutions in the United States, local governments or various individuals in Europe and in Italy), but transparency inthe decision-making framework is a common goal in all contexts, and Urban Centers should represent true “glass houses” for the construction of shared political transformation of the city.
La “cifra” dell’efficacia di un Urban Center risiede infatti nel saper contribuire alla crescita della presa di coscienza delle potenzialità di protagonismo sociale degli attori, facilitando il passaggio dall’apprendimento alla valutazione, insegnando ad ascoltare, educando alla partecipazione, mettendo a sistema molteplici iniziative che necessitano di uno scenario di coerenza.
The calculation of the effectiveness of an Urban Center resides in being able to contribute to the growth of awareness of the potential of social role of the actors, facilitating the transition from learning to assessment, teaching to listening, educating to participation, and putting in order the multiple initiatives that require an atmosphere of consistency.
Confirming a series of insights and foreshadowings already nascent in the literature of the discipline, the issues arising from the review of national case studies and comparison with international experiences (particularly US models) come together in some key interpretations that UC participants have chosen, in order to guide and encourage contributions from all stakeholders, to publish their point of view on our site.
The interpretative keys of the of the UC phenomenon proposed by the Lab, on which the contributions from all writers should be based, are as follows (in multiple languages):