A progressive loss of faith in institutions
The latest data from the Istituto Demos research institute regarding Italians’ faith in institutions (Gli Italiani e lo Stato, XX edition) point to a scenario which cannot be ignored if we want to work not only on institutional communication as well as on communication as a supporting structure for society, the economy, and culture. A notable loss of faith was recorded for all institutional subjects. Faith in the European Union, to cite the most marked case, fell by 18%. While the most recent tendencies (2016-2017) are mixed: if faith in municipalities fell by 6% (from 39% to 33%), unions had a notable rise (Italian unions CGIL +8%, CISL and UIL +6%); the fluctuations regarding other institutions are less significant. Analysis of these data makes one thing clear. Beyond the normal yearly fluctuations, all institutions are being called on to reactivate relationship dynamics based on a reinforcement of faith and a development of social capital. These elements are historically the basis of our Italian quality of life, but we must develop them as soon as possible with an outlook toward the future.
Communication to build new participatory processes
The CfGC applies the generative communication model to analyze, plan, and create participatory processes and inclusive decisional processes for institutions. And not only. It’s enough to consider the world of cooperation and the ever more urgent needs in this direction with regard to the world of enterprises and organizations.
To deal with the widespread problem of participation, it’s necessary to have awareness: this goes well beyond the institutional dimension, involving businesses, associations, organizations with diverse missions, and single citizens. There is an increasing need in all elements of society for techniques which support the building of relationships, processes for dialogue, and cooperation and collaboration with the aim of offering precise operative proposals.
The CfGC approach to "Governance and participation"
Neither top-down nor bottom-up
The CfGC (and previously the CRAIAT) has been working for years in the area of governance and participation, carrying out through its numerous projects research and testing alternatives to the classic top-down or bottom-up strategies. In fact, according to the generative communication paradigm, working with governance and inclusive participation means overcoming the apparent dichotomy between the two approaches in order to
construct an organization of communication [...] able to separate and then bring together the subjects involved in the life of an agency with a pulsing movement that goes from the center toward the periphery (policy direction) and then from the periphery toward the center (participation). This reinforces the core of the mission, the identity, and the vision of that community, and fosters a generation of awareness. (Toschi)
The CfGC works in the area of governance and participation at various levels, carrying forward projects for single agencies, businesses, and associations as well as on a territorial, regional, national, and international scale.
In this context theoretical and practical efforts come into play to rebuild and redefine, in many different contexts, the often eroded communication that links those who have the authority to govern with those who have delegated it. The strategic objective is to radically redefine the concept of representation.
This process aims to reinforce and legitimize those responsibilities linked to representation which are carried out in a communicative environment that is completely new and unrelated to those that weaken them. In this new environment, those who are represented are included.
This principle has been applied in numerous situations of governance. For example in cooperative enterprises, through a relaunching of relationships between management and members, and in institutions and, of course, public agencies, where co-planning and participatory pathways have involved all stakeholders. In this way, fresh communication for inclusive participation is created which in turn fosters dialogue regarding expectations and needs, for instance on the part of citizens with expertise and administrators with technical knowledge.
From communication ABOUT a product or service to communication WITHIN it
The thing that all CfGC’s experiences have in common is the important role of knowledge. Knowledge is an incredible and special resource because, unlike others, it doesn’t diminish when it’s shared. On the contrary, it increases. It grows when its used and its value is evident when applied to addressing needs.
Incorporating knowledge into the behavior of all subjects, which means also into production processes--to be understood in this very broad sense to include, for example, production processes for a municipal statute or a call for bids to assign public funds--is the best way to shift from communication ABOUT a product (typical of the hierarchical, transmissive, emulative communicative paradigm which is currently in crisis) to communication WITHIN a product, which is characteristic of the generative communication paradigm.
Communication ABOUT a product works on predefined elements, according to a typical linear, production-line vision: elements to be assembled and, once the production process is complete, transmitted using more or less persuasive techniques to a target defined at the outset. This type of communication, due to its nature, lends itself to a reductive fragmentation of the elements that make it up and, consequently, of the objectives according to a quantitative vision of the results.
Communication WITHIN a product, on the other hand, works to aggregate different resources according to a web that is defined as production proceeds, rendering the product to be created (and thus to be used) a communicative tool able to bring different subjects and areas of interest into interaction. The aggregative force ends up favoring production that’s always greater and stronger in qualitative terms and, at the same time, quantitatively successful.
In decisional processes this latter approach--communication WITHIN a product--is a fundamental strategic choice. It’s not necessary to limit communication to the products of governance: it’s governance which must propose itself as a strongly communicative and inclusive environment, defining its objectives which in turn will therefore be more and more qualitatively relevant.
Rethinking the sense and value of intermediate bodies
The crisis in governance and participation is closely linked to the profound transformation that is currently running through all parts of society, and therefore also through the intermediate bodies such as trade associations, unions, political parties, industrial and commercial representatives, and so on with whom the CfGC has collaborated regarding research projects at regional, national and international level.
Intermediate bodies have been called on to carry out important functions of communication within democratic societies. The decades-long process whereby they are being weakened and delegitimized stems from the fact that they haven’t been able to reposition themselves following the profound metamorphosis of society that began in the 1970s. The hierarchical, emulative transmissive communication model has been in place and intermediate bodies have experienced it in their attempt to survive strong and persuasive cultural and political changes. These changes based on the idea of changing everything--the digital revolution--in reality mean changing rather little, if not in the sense of reinforcing the same persuasive strategy.
One of the CfGC’s tasks is to underline the irrevocable role of intermediate bodies and at the same time their need to redefine themselves and their way of communicating. They should assume a new perspective by abandoning the old communicative paradigm and constructing environments of communication and mediation between the needs of their base--whether perceived or not--and the strategic lines that come from the operative apex.
In this way, no longer the gatekeepers between those who decide and those who have to adapt to the decisions, but as overseers of communication environments where the knowledge of the various prospective stakeholders involved is fostered and, in turn, so are the processes of participated governance.