Citizens' juries on village development

09. September 2021

Where does the South Tyrolean village of Schenna stand today? And how does the community want to develop in the future? These and similar questions were discussed by the citizens of Schenna in randomly selected citizens' juries.

The local councillors had already intensively discussed the upcoming topics in closed meetings. At the meetings, many questions came to the table that were burning under the nails of the people of Schnen. For example: How do we want to shape space and landscape in the future? What view do young people have of our village and how do they see the Schenna of the future? What does Schenna need as a place to work and do business? What needs to be done so that good coexistence can succeed?

"Schenna is at a turning point"

Local councillor Franz Daprá said: "I think Schenna is at a turning point." In Schenna, a great deal has been invested in infrastructure and educational facilities in recent years, and it is now a question of maintaining and expanding these infrastructures. "In addition, it is important to pay great attention to the coexistence of all population strata and age groups. The focus is also on issues such as mobility, sustainability, environmental and climate protection. At the same time, a healthy growth of the economy in the village must be allowed in order to maintain jobs."

The local council had expressed its support for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. After that it was up to the citizens' juries to come up with concrete proposals for a socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable development of the community.

Four citizens' juries

The local council's goal was to have a village development concept ready by 2022. To this end, it brought the residents of the village on board. In November 2021, they discussed the most important future issues and topics for Schenna in citizens' assemblies. The local council decided which issues were discussed. Four such citizens' juries took plae. In addition, there were two juries of clubs and associations, which also discussed the topics that the local council has set.  A total of 71 Schenner were present and took a day and a half to exchange views on the most important issues for Schenna and to work out solutions to various problems.

"The results of the citizens' juries and the juries of clubs and associations are the basis for further work on the village concept by the municipal council. The citizens advise us," explains Mayor Annelies Pichler. Participants in the citizens' jury did not need to have any special prior knowledge. "You are competent because you live in our village and help shape it day by day," says the mayor. In addition, experts were present to advise the participants if necessary.

"Getting a lot of ideas"

"This way we get to know a very broad spectrum of needs, wishes, suggestions and ideas, and if you set the measures accordingly afterwards, many more people will support them," says Deputy Mayor Sepp Mair, explaining the purpose of the citizens' juries. "That is more successful in the long run. Besides, something better certainly comes out if we get a lot of ideas than if we only talk about it in the municipal council," Mair continues.

A total of 48 people was randomly selected from the municipality's register of residents to participate in the four citizens' juries working on the village concept. The age, gender and, if possible, the distribution according to parts of the municipality were taken into account, so that the 48 citizens represented Schenna on a small scale.

Citizens' jury results presented

The results of the citizens' juries were presented to the public on 28 March 2022. In the form of an exhibition, the participants presented the results of their work and reported on their experiences. Suggestions and ideas were collected once again. Some themes were common to all the assemblies: interaction between tourism and the population, too much peace and quiet in winter, strengthening local cycles, family-friendly jobs in tourism with the appropriate framework conditions in the municipality, mobility, and preserving culture and tradition.

Mayor Pichler drew a positive interim balance of the village development concept, especially with regard to the commitment of the citizens of Schenna: "We as the municipal council were amazed at how much willingness we encountered to participate in the citizens' juries and to engage in exchange about the issues that are burning under the nails of the citizens". The feedback from the jury members was also positive: the exchange was intensive, but respectful, and also enriching.

"Intensively discussed and openly spoken"

"It was a very intensive discussion. In our group, everyone thought a lot, openly spoke their mind, got involved - that's what I hoped for. I hope that this will lead to more attention being paid to ensuring that everyone in Schenna is doing well and that no one is left behind," explained one member of the citizens' jury.

Another member of the jury said: "I was surprised that we discussed so intensively and also spoke very openly, for example, about tourism and infrastructures. I had the impression that the participants were on the same wavelength. It was also good that the focus of the discussion was on the needs of young adults, not only on those of children. Very important was the topic of mobility, i.e. bus connections, and the possibility of a meeting place or a café for young people."

Concept completion in March 2023

The municipal council had then dealt with the citizens' jury recommendations and adopted a concept with a plan of measures in March 2023. "We have drawn up 32 guiding principles for village development and defined concrete measures for their implementation. These measures have been assigned a concrete timetable as well as corresponding responsibilities and are thus verifiable," explained Mayor Annelies Pichler.

Schenna is an Italian municipality located in South Tyrol with about 2,900 inhabitants. It is located about three kilometres northeast of Merano and about 25 kilometres northwest of Bolzano.

More information: Village development: Thinking ahead for Schenna