Open Data, Civic Monitoring,
Cohesion Policy for the high-school students
Advocacy is a set of activities of an interest group or other organization that seeks to support an idea, a model of behaviour, or a specific political or social initiative, so as to influence the direction of public policy, the allocation of funding, or other decisions that have an impact on the community.
Beginning with the 2007-2013 programming cycle, these reports provided a detailed account of the progress made on the operational programme. They were provided to the European Commission by the government body responsible for the programme by 30 June of each year and included information on financial aspects and any issues encountered during execution of the programme. For the 2014-2020 cycle and from 2016 to 2023, these reports are provided each year to the European Commission by the member state or management authority. They now contain key information on programme execution and on the priorities concerning financial information and other general and programme-specific indicators. Beginning with the annual progress report to be submitted in 2017, they also include information on the intermediate framework targets on the efficacy of execution. With the new 2021-2027 programming cycle, the annual progress report has been eliminated, and management authorities are only required to provide information on operations that include financial instruments based on models specified in the applicable regulations.
The beneficiary is the public or private-sector entity responsible for launching and/or implementing the operations related to the project being financed. This party may or may not be the same as the implementing entity. For example, in the case of aid to a company, the beneficiary is the company that receives the aid, while in the case of the construction of infrastructure, the beneficiary is the entity (e.g. the local government body) contracting out the works.
This is a form of journalism in which the public is involved in gathering information throughout the community, which is first verified for accuracy and then used in news articles and investigative reporting published, for example, in blogs or on social media, so that anyone can read the content, comment on it, and make their own contribution.
Civic monitoring of public policy is a form of active, informed civic engagement in which groups of citizens discuss tools, methods and other efforts to verify how public funds are being spent, beginning with open data published by the government bodies concerned. Conducting civic monitoring of projects that receive public funding entails gathering evidence, news and information, interviewing the people involved in project planning and execution, visiting the work sites, promoting transparency and collaboration, making recommendations for improvements in the projects financed and in public policy.
This is the report to be published on the Monithon platform containing a description of the project monitored and other information extracted from the OpenCoesione website. The report also includes the team’s assessment of the results of the project monitored, recommendations for improvement, and a description of their methodology. Each Monithon report will adopt a standard format to facilitate access and comparability by users of the platform wanting to learn more about the research conducted by the ASOC teams.
These are investment policies that finance programmes or individual projects that seek to make something better by reducing inequality across territories and supporting all who have been left behind. The primary objectives of these policies are to support economic growth, create jobs, improve economic competitiveness, promote sustainable development, and protect the environment.
Cohesion policies differ from ordinary policies in their intentional focus on the territory and their complementary funding, in that they are financed by both European and national funds. For more information on cohesion policies in Europe, visit https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/home_en.
Creative Commons is an international non-profit organization founded in the United States in 2001. The purpose of the organization is to make it easier to licence works that are protected by copyright. Their Creative Commons licence replaces the traditional “all rights reserved” with a more elastic “some rights reserved” in order to make content truly universal, accessible, and even modifiable.
There are six types of CC licence that can be applied to both online and offline content:
A data expedition refers to both the process of and the team involved in “exploring” data and “mapping” unexplored territory in order to unveil hidden stories and solve mysteries in the land of data (see https://bit.ly/3u3SVBW). A data expedition “hunts” for data to help investigate a project that was carried out in your chosen territory with the help of the OpenCoesione website. The main roles in a data expedition are as follows:
Project Manager: The project manager oversees all aspects of the project, coordinates the work of the rest of the team, and keeps everything under control. This person needs to be skilled at problem solving and at handling complex situations.
Blogger: The blogger creates and maintains the project’s blog. Blog posts should never be too long and should attract the reader’s attention right from the start and keep them reading till the end.
Social media manager: The social media manager establishes and maintains the project’s social media presence, ensuring that it is recognizable and engaging while also replying to comments on the various platforms (e.g. tweets, DMs, shares, likes, etc.).
Designer: The designer expresses in images what other explain in words, transforming ideas into graphics and diagrams and selecting the fonts, colours and layout. This person transforms complex concepts into easily digestible pictures that are truly worth a thousand words.
Analyst: The analyst has fun finding and playing with data. This person translates hunches into hypotheses that can be researched in greater detail by the rest of the team.
This is a form of journalism based on numbers and other objective data, particularly when gathered with the aid of advanced technologies. For example, a work of data journalism could be based on research and the processing of data gathered from multiple sources, which is then presented in various types of infographic. In many cases, data journalism is a good example of citizen journalism (also known as participatory journalism).
A database is a collection of real-time data stored and organized in multiple datasets.
A dataset is a structured set of data extracted from a database. In its simplest form, it is presented in the form of a table in which the data is presented in columns and rows. A dataset may also be a collection of images and audio files. A spreadsheet application is a common tool used to create and manage datasets.
This term refers to the analysis of projects that have yet to begin, meaning that the status of payments on OpenCoesione is 0%. Once it has been verified that the project has not actually begun, the objective of this type of analysis is to determine the reasons for which work has yet to begin and to recommend potential solutions. It is also possible to verify the utility of the project “on paper”, especially if the planning phase has not yet been completed, and provide recommendations for how future project execution can be more effective.
Desk analysis is the process of researching, analysing and processing available data gathered from official sources (e.g. ISTAT).
This refers to the right to easily access documents and other information that is required to be published on the websites of government bodies for the purpose of transparency in government (as required in Italy, for example, by Italian Legislative Decree No. 33 of 2013). This right may be exercised by anyone in the event a government body should fail to publish such information by sending a message via certified e-mail to that body’s unit responsible for ensuring transparency and preventing corruption.
ESI Funds are specific funds set aside for the implementation of cohesion policy, to which roughly a third of […] is allocated. These funds are managed jointly by the European Commission and the EU member states and include:
The use of these funds requires co-financing by the individual member states themselves.
The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 member states. It was first established in 1957 as the European Economic Community (EEC) with the goal of strengthening economic collaboration among six nations (i.e. Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg). The name was changed to the European Union (EU) in 1993.
The great extension and territorial diversity of the EU result not only in geographic and cultural differences, but also economic and social differences both among the various member states and within the member states themselves (such as among the various regions in Italy). Hence the need for solidarity policies that could ensure territorial cohesion and balanced development across Europe.
This is the entity that actually executes the project. In the case of public works, it is the entity awarded the contract and that actually executes the works. For a project to purchase goods or services, the executor is the entity awarded the contract to provide the goods or service (source: OpenCoesione).
Fieldwork is the process of generating new information through interviews, surveys, questionnaires, etc.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), versions of which have been implemented in more than 100 nations worldwide (including in Italy by Legislative Decree No. 97 of 2016), establishes the right for anyone to have complete access to information held by government bodies except where restricted in order to protect public and private interests as defined by law.
Georeferencing is a technique that assigns geographical coordinates to a piece of digital content, so that it can be shown in systems such as Google Maps. In this way, it is possible to search for that place of interest and get back its positioning on a map in addition to the other types of information typically provided by a search engine.
Bodies of local, provincial, regional and national public administration (including health care authorities, publicly owned companies, etc.) are required to publish information about their organization and activities, including what monies they spend and what those monies are used for, and this information makes an excellent starting point for civic monitoring and research. In Italy for example, publication of this information is required under Italian Legislative Decree No. 33 of 2013, which also specifies the type of information that must be disclosed. The right to easy civic access ensures that all citizens may call for the publication of any required information that may be missing.
This is the numerical code that identifies a team of students participating in At the School of OpenCohesion. It is shown in the upper-left corner of the team’s profile page.
These are metrics of the size of a project and the progress made in its actual implementation (e.g. km of cycling routes planned and constructed, sq m of redeveloped land, etc.).
The implementing entity is the entity responsible for actual implementation of the project or the party that receives the funding.
Although often used interchangeably with indicator, an index is a combination of multiple indicators, such as showing how a given indicator changes over time. For example, the body mass index (BMI) is the ratio of a person’s weight (in kg) to the square of their height (in meters). The static number itself is an indicator, but its value comes from comparing that number either over time or to the average for a given population, making it an index.
An indicator, sometimes also called a metric, is number calculated on the basis of variables with the intention of describing a given statistical phenomenon. For example, the employment rate is an indicator of the labour market of a given region and is a percentage calculated by dividing the variable of the number of people employed by the total population in that region.
An infographic is a mixed visual and textual representation of statistics and other news and information (using pie charts, maps, tables, etc.). It is a portmanteau of the words “information” and “graphic”. The purpose of an infographic is to summarize a complex set of information in a captivating, easily digestible manner to facilitate more effective communication and increased understanding.
This is Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, a public research institute that produces official statistics and coordinates the work of the various units that make up Italy’s national statistics system.
Italian national funding for cohesion policy and “special projects” in support of certain cities, municipalities, provinces and regions falls under the Development and Cohesion Fund (DCF), along with other complementary funds that are not fixed over time but rather depend on decisions made by Italy’s Parliament from year to year.
A journalistic style should be used when writing project descriptions and reporting on the results of civic monitoring. This style aims to be easy to understand by the vast majority of potential readers. It should be thorough yet to the point as well as be engaging content to read. An effective piece of journalism should always aim to answer the five essential questions: who?, what?, where?, when? and why?
This is the publication of information related to an event in the form of multiple tweets posted in real time.
The managing authority is the public or private-sector entity at the local, regional or national level (e.g. a government ministry) appointed and approved by an EU member state to manage and implement an operational programme (National Program (NP) or Regional Program (RP) for the 2021-2027 cycle). The authority’s primary responsibilities include:
A “Monithoner” is a person or group of people who conducts civic monitoring of projects financed by public funding, generates reports, and publishes them on the Monithon platform.
Monithon is an independent platform of civic monitoring of projects financed by public funding. It is particularly focused on cohesion policy funding in Italy and is based on the availability of open data on the various projects being financed. It includes the civic monitoring reports uploaded by the monitoring groups, and these are reports are free to consult.
MoniTutor is a guide to the civic monitoring of projects financed by way of cohesion policy in Italy and is provided by Monithon. It is made available when a Monithoner begins to prepare a report for the Monithon platform at www.monithon.eu. The guide contains a series of questions and suggestions to help the monitoring team in preparing the report. The suggestions and other information provided in the guide depend on the characteristics of the project selected (e.g. progress, type, theme, etc.) because the MoniTutor serves to facilitate interpretation of OpenCoesione data (even if not published on that website) or of data from other sources.
On-site monitoring is the process of going in person to where the work on the project is actually taking place in order to observe and monitor the progress being made.
Open data is data that is accessible online and is available for use and dissemination without restrictions. Technically speaking, these requirements of accessibility and availability mean that the data must be downloadable in formats that are both legible and editable. Open data helps to make government more open and transparent, while respecting the rights of data security and confidentiality.
Open Government is a policy first launched in 2009 by former U.S. President Barack Obama and then adopted by other countries, including Italy, with the goal of making public procedures and decisions more transparent and open to citizen participation.
OpenCoesione is the initiative of open governance that promotes the principles of transparency, collaboration and engagement in cohesion policy in Italy. The website www.opencoesione.gov.it provides access to open data related to the various projects financed throughout Italy with the help of national and European cohesion policy funds. This data can then be used in civic monitoring and research. With the start of the 2021-2027 programming cycle, OpenCoesione began work to update its website, which remains the sole portal on transparency in cohesion policy in Italy again for this cycle.
The funds included in the 2021-2027 Partnership Agreement must be enacted by away of operational programmes prepared by the member states or other duly appointed authority. These may be either regional programmes (RP) or national programmes (NP) enacting structural funds (either ERDF or ESF), the specific contents of which have been evaluated and approved by the European Commission. Each programme sets the priorities, objectives, resources supporting the funds, and corresponding national co-financing. These programmes are accompanied by supplemental programmes financed by a portion of the funding allocated to national co-financing.
This is a form of journalism in which a journalist conducts research with the help of communities of individuals who are particularly impacted by or interested in the issue. These people may, for example, play an active role in gathering and analysing information or sharing news and ideas.
The partnership agreement is the document prepared by each member state and approved by the Commission that defines the strategy and the priorities of that member state as well as the methods for making effective, efficient use of ESI Funds in pursuit of the European Union’s strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. At present, it is possible to view the agreements for both the 2014-2020 and the 2021-2027 programming cycles.
The point of view is the perspective from which the story is told. For example, a story can be told by one of its characters in the first person or from the point of view of an outside observer in the third person.
Compared to the 11 thematic objectives for the 2014-2020 cycle (see definition below), new cohesion policy defines five investment priorities in the areas in which the EU can make the greatest contribution. With the new 2021-2027 programming cycle, cohesion policy has set the following five major policy objectives: a smarter Europe, a greener Europe, a more connected Europe, a more social Europe, and a Europe that is closer to its citizens.
Primary data is data gathered first-hand, such as through questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, or direct observation. Secondary data is data that has been gathered previously by other people or organizations, such as official statistics, third-party research, and reports and other documents produced by others.
The cohesion policy framework is organized into seven-year cycles, plus three additional years for the actual completion of projects that would otherwise be defunded (for the 2007-2013 cycle, only two years were added). For example, the 2014-2020 cycle comes to completion in 2023, and the 2021-2027 is already underway, so there is some overlap in the programming cycles.
The programming entity is the entity that decides to finance the project. It is generally a national or regional government body (source: OpenCoesione).
The beneficiaries are the users of a service or members of a community who are ultimately impacted (hopefully in a positive way, but there may also be negative impacts) by the project financed. Civic monitoring normally takes on the point of view of the recipient when assessing the efficacy of the project.
As the starting point for civic monitoring and research, this chart summarizes the main details of the project to be monitored, as selected following the data expedition process.
The recipient is the public or private-sector entity or individual that is solely responsible for either the launch or both the launch and the execution of the programme’s operations.
The allocation of cohesion policy funding prioritizes disadvantaged regions. Most European funding, for example, has gone to regions with per-capita GDP below 75% of the EU average. Over the course of the various programming cycles, Italy’s regions have been classified as “Objective 1” and “Objective 2” (up to the 2000-2006 cycle), “Convergence” and “Competitiveness” (for the 2007-2013 cycle), and “Less-developed”/“Transition”/“More-developed” (for the 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 cycles). For the 2021-2027 cycle, Italy’s regions have been classified as follows:
For cohesion policy projects financed by Italian national funding, classification of the regions is unchanged from the previous cycle.
The right to be forgotten is the right for an individual to have their personal information removed from a database should there no longer be a public interest in being aware of the news (e.g. one’s full name in connection with a court case). However, the right to be forgotten is not without limitations, so it is left to the courts to uphold the right on a case-by-case basis.
In Europe, applicable legislation (i.e. Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation No. 2016/679) requires a data controller to inform other data controllers of cancellation requests of personal information that they also process.
A screencast is a video showing what a user can expect to see on their screen when performing a given task. Screencasting is typically used for tutorials or for presenting digital content on another device and normally includes a voiceover to explain what the viewer is seeing on screen. At times, a screencast may also include a picture-in-picture of the person speaking and may be accompanied by a musical soundtrack.
A screenshot is a static image of a screen or section of a screen of a digital device that may be shared or included in a webpage or document for illustrative purposes.
This is the English translation of the Italian Codice Unico di Progetto (CUP), which is a unique, 15-character (alphanumeric) code used to identify public investment projects in Italy. Each SPC corresponds to a set of information that provides a snapshot of the decision by a government body to execute a specific project, including all information needed to categorize that project.
Sources are organizations, individuals, documents and other sources of information on facts and events. The sources of all information used must be cited in the civic monitoring report.
A spreadsheet is an electronic file format that provides an efficient way to run calculations on data and produce related graphics. It is based on the paradigm of a table made up of cells in which you can enter text, numbers, or formulas.
The formulas can be either simple equations or based on predefined functions that carry out specific types of operations. The cells are the fundamental building block of a spreadsheet and are identified by column and row indicators, typically letters for the columns and numbers for the rows.
Spreadsheets enable you to:
The most common tools are:
A statistical study involves gathering data by way of a complex process of generating statistical information and then summarizing that data in a manner that describes a given collective phenomenon. A statistical study takes place in the following major stages: planning, execution, analysis, presentation, and publication.
A statistical unit is the subject being observed in any individual phenomenon that makes up the collective phenomenon, such an individual person, a family unit, or an organization. The set of statistical units is known as the “statistical population”.
A statistical variable is a characteristic that may vary in the phenomenon being observed and can be one of two types: qualitative (or “categorical”), i.e. when the mode is expressed in words, such as place of residence, hair colour, profession, education, etc.; or quantitative (or “numeric”), i.e. when the mode is expressed in numbers, such as age, weight, income, height, number of businesses, etc.). For example, if we are observing the population “student body”, a qualitative variable might be place of residence, while a quantitative variable might be student age.
From the Latin statisticus (meaning “of the state”), the science of statistics dates all the way back to the 16th century. Statistics is the study of collective natural or social phenomena that can be measured, studies, and quantitatively described using mathematical approaches.
Story format: This is the medium or format selected in which to tell a story. A few examples are provided below. For more information, see the Guide to Civic Monitoring Tools here.
This term refers to the chain of events that make up a given story. A story can typically be divided into three main acts:
For the 2014-2020 programming cycle, these objectives represented the themes and areas to which European cohesion policy funding was to be directed. Cohesion policy funding for the 2014-2020 cycle focused on the eleven thematic objectives based on the priorities set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy and as specified in Regulation (EU) No. 1303/2013.
In Italy, the principle of transparency, i.e. full accessibility to information that concerns the organization and activities of government bodies, was first defined by Italian Legislative Decree No. 33 of 2013 and then expanded by Italy’s Freedom of Information Act (Italian Legislative Decree No. 97 of 2016) with the goal of promoting civic engagement and monitoring of the actions of government and the use of public funds. More specifically, the publication of information in the possession of government bodies aims to promote the engagement of citizens for the purpose of: ensuring they are aware of the number and types of services provided and how those services are provided; preventing corruption and promoting integrity; and subjecting every phase of performance management to broad-based control in order to continue improving.
This is the process of telling a story with visual aids, which may be photos, charts, infographics, video, etc. The goal of visual storytelling is to more fully engage the audience in the story through interactive techniques. For more information on the tools that may be used in visual storytelling (e.g. Canva, Timetoast, Infogram), see the Guide to Civic Monitoring Tools here.
Open Data, Civic Monitoring, Cohesion Policy for the high-school students