Participation and Environment. The Local Dimension of Governance
Department of Sociology and Social Research University of Trento Trento, Italy
Panel preferences: Citizenship and Governance / Governance Structures and Political Institutions
The paper tends to explore the multidimensional concept of governance through a theoretical and an empirical perspective. The former is based on recent literature and contemporary debates stressing the importance of linking governance with issues like political participation, role of civil society organizations, subsidiarity and territorial policies. The latter focuses on empirical evidences emerging from a research on Italian extra-urban contexts characterized by different way of putting governance into action.
New social actors, interest groups and local communities are broadening the traditional political arena in several western contexts and they participate in facing the challenges of economic globalization and the crisis of political systems. However, new forms of participation consist of lights and shadows: the text briefly summarizes the main themes related to this dual nature of governance, trying to emphasize its real impacts on local policy-making and on citizenship involvement. Participation is a key concept in governance studies and one of the main issues is about the capacity of local political context to actively involve not only stakeholders but all traditionally excluded actors. The article argues that the introduction of governance practices constitutes a radical change especially in local context with small demographic and administrative dimensions. Particular attention must be paid on the implicit connection between local communities and high level of political and social participation. Moreover, in local context the involvement of civil society and citizenship in policy-making is often linked to the concept of social and environmental sustainability. Indeed, inhabitants' participation at local level is often seen as a fundamental tool for new policies of local self-sustainable development based on endogenous resources and know-how.
For these reasons the article investigates the different outcomes of governance strategies in some small Italian municipalities that have implemented some good practices both on environmental sustainability and on participative aspects. Starting from the analysis of interviews, the paper tends to evaluate the determining factors that could generate successes and failures of policy making.