Italian Capital of Culture: A cultural-based strategic development policy

by Francesca Velani

The Italian Capital of Culture programme was established by Decree-Law 83/2014 and subsequently converted into law. It was created in analogy with the vision promoted by the European Union through the European Capital of Culture and aims to support, encourage and enhance the autonomous planning and implementation capacity of Italian cities in the field of culture so that the value of cultural leverage for social cohesion, conflict-free integration, identity preservation, creativity, innovation, growth and finally economic development and individual and collective wellbeing is increasingly understood.

Up to 2022, as many as 115 realities have taken up the Capital challenge (even aggregated and/or applied more than once), from which 125 dossiers have emerged. It is precisely the participation and the collective vision underlying the proposals that have been recognised as the real result of this public policy, since they have aimed at generating cultural-based territorial development programmes whose approach, year after year, is highlighting a growing capacity of the participating cities to align themselves with visions of growth that are strongly systemic in terms of structure, territorial breadth and intersectionality.

Today, it certainly represents a privileged tool for grounding the principles and missions set forth in the European Agenda for Culture, in the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, again in the PNRR, as well as in the Charter of Rome, which affirms the transformative role of culture in sustainable development to support communities in addressing economic, social and ecological pressures and needs. It is precisely the Rome Charter that calls for the full recognition and integration of culture and the creative economy in development processes and policies, involving all levels of society, including local communities, as an engine and facilitator for the achievement of the Goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, i.e. its inclusion in all Agendas of governments around the world as a cross-cutting element and nurturer of the full and sustainable development of individuals and communities.

From policy to strategic projects of cultural-based territorial development
The Capital call directs those involved towards the adoption of tools for the improvement of the cultural offer, the growth of social inclusion and the over-coming of the cultural divide; the use of new technologies and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship in the cultural and creative sectors; the in- crease of tourist attractiveness; social and environmental sustainability1. It is also a means of promoting reflection on governance and the assessment of the impact of the proposals - asking for strategic and technical specifications already at the dossier writing stage - as well as on communication and accessibility. Through the call, Capitale tends to generate synergic participation in cities in terms of both human and economic resources, and as it has unfolded year after year, it has seen the winning cities bring to the ground increasingly complex activities, with increasingly important and transversal investments. In this framework, reflection on the models of governance of culture has naturally become central, both from a strategic point of view, in the sense of a broader sharing between the parts of the public-public and public-private system involved, and instrumental, by inviting reflection and proposing management models capable of supporting the renewal proposed in the various projects/dossiers. There are many cities that have understood how the path underlying Capital is the true value of this challenge: because it makes it possible to give substance with public-private and inter-institutional unity to a series of proposals in response to contemporary challenges, community needs, innovative medium- and long-term visions, also through the experimentation and/or affirmation of replicable and assessable models - starting with governance -. These are assets that together make up the great patrimony that remains with the participants, regardless of whether or not they win the title.
And in this sense, the Recommendations produced by the first commission that evaluated the 2016 and 2017 candidates deserve a mention. The paper attributes to the project the merit of directing the cities to respond to the dynamics of alienation and fragmentation of the local community and the disarticulation of the social fabric and interprets the significance to be attributed to the title for that city that, by taking up these challenges, succeeds in expressing the greatest innovation with respect to the involvement of the population and the capacity to “open up” the existing reality, introducing new subjectivities and new initiatives.

Governance for Cities of Culture: a public-private model from Parma 2020+211
To understand the choice of governance of Parma 2020+21 it is necessary to start from the objectives of the dossier and the logic of the programme it contains. Culture beats time, the programme of Parma 2020+21, was conceived as a strategic plan for territorial development based on culture, and written by gathering stimuli from cultural institutions and the entrepreneurial system. It identifies a path of comparison and public-private experimentation dedicated to the valorisation, strengthening and stabilisation of the cultural and creative industry system, both in its more accredited and traditional forms and in its more emerging and experimental ones. Public-private dialogue and collaboration between the world of culture and the other sectors (tourism, social and health, environment), with industry at the forefront, were identified as key to achieving the objectives of stabilise a public-private collaborative platform aimed at cultural production, broadening and including audiences, and raising cultural consumption among young people; promote creative-driven entrepreneurship; make the tourism-cultural system accessible, through a set of services and technological tools that systematise the valorisation of resources; make Parma a place of stable reflection and confrontation on the combination of culture and democracy, on the civic and constitutional values underlying the development of an open and inclusive community, innovative in its social dynamics.

The logic of the programme
From the point of view of its components the Programme has been conceived as a system of projects, with internal or external responsibility, some of which with outputs aimed at being completed in the year of the Capital, while others - pilot projects and tools - aimed at the creation of intangible and tangible infrastructures aimed at generating lasting benefits (the city branding, the communication hub, the portal, the itineraries system, the pilot project actions, etc.).
The progressive realisation of the project outputs and the change implemented in the results, make it possible to progressively contribute to the achievement of the strategic objectives of Parma 2020+21, according to the logic expressed in the graph below, which represents the link between vision - programme and projects.

By the will of the municipal administration, the programme’s coordination structure was to be a dedicated one, without prejudice to the responsibility of the subjects in charge of individual projects. From all this, the starting points for defining possible governance scenarios for Parma 2020+21 were those of a programme that
• would be developed with the guidance and technical direction of the PA
• envisaged a collaborative synergy between the public and private sectors;
• envisaged public and private financing.
Three management hypotheses were therefore considered. The discriminating factor considered was precisely the degree of involvement to be reserved for the private entity (PE).

a. Public management: the public administration maintains the operational unit (hereinafter Business Unite - BU) within its organisation, defining its staffing and consequently identifying the dedicated human resources, drawing them from internal personnel. In the absence of available internal professionals, the staff complement may be supplemented with external appointments entrusted in accordance with legal procedures. The PE supports the programme through economic disbursements in the form of sponsorships and contributions to human and material resources.

b. Outsourced management: The administration issues a call for tenders for the operational management of the Parma 2020 Programme, which envisages the establishment of the Business Unit according to predetermined staffing levels and competencies, as well as the assumption of the current coordination role. The Technical-Operational Director of Parma 2020 (culture manager) is in charge of the relevant proceedings. The private party that won the tender will manage the grounding of the programme and dialogue with the Municipality according to the terms of the tender specifications.

c. Complementary management: the Administration operates as in case (a) and also joins a public/private Newco, established with predominantly private participation and completely private capital. The objective of the Newco is to raise private funds for projects that are not financed by the administration itself. The Newco will implement its objectives through an agreement with the Administration, taking charge of the coordination, communication, and general secretariat of the programme.
The Municipality of Parma has identified the third option as the one to be implemented, and together with Parma, io ci sto! and UPI - Unione Parmense degli industriali, has set up a committee called Comitato per Parma 2020, with mixed, mainly private capital.

The Committee for Parma 2020
The Committee, established on 11 October 2018, concluded its activity in April 2023, conferring its tangible and intangible “assets” to the city administration, as provided for in a specific agreement. It was established as a non-profit body with the institutional aim of supporting the achievement of the objectives and the implementation of the city’s candidacy dossier as the Italian Capital of Culture, strengthening public-private collaboration and enhancing cultural fruition as a tool for community growth and social inclusion. The Committee was created to enhance the cultural heritage of the territory, making the nomination an opportunity for the development of the creative industries and the improvement of Parma’s image in the national and international context.

Since the date of its foundation, many realities have taken the field and joined the founding promoters with the aim of supporting the process of enhancing the times, places, potential and aspirations of the territory, supporting the development of the cultural system as a tool for community growth and social inclusion. To achieve its purpose, in fact, the Committee works in collaboration with Institutions, Administrations and Public and Private Bodies involved and,

in particular, with the Municipality of Parma, owner of the dossier and related funding, which retains the governance of the entire event, as well as the power to grant the relevant logo at its sole discretion.
Depending on the Committee’s membership procedures, defined by the articles of association together with the specific annual membership fees, there are three main categories of Members, in addition to the Founding Promoting Members: Founding Members, Supporting Members and Ordinary Members. Each of them, as further detailed in the following paragraphs, is represented on the Committee’s Board of Directors.
All subjects (public, private, natural persons, companies or entities) that have joined the Committee have acquired rights and duties as set forth in the Committee’s Statute, which regulates its operation and defines its institutional, instrumental, accessory and related activities.
With reference to its institutional activities, the Committee ensured that the necessary funds for the achievement of its institutional purpose were found, availing itself of the contributions of its members and that of any other body or person interested in the initiative. It took care of the relational aspects with the public and private entities involved in the initiatives to ensure all possible synergies and achieve coordinated management of the initiatives, also through the promotion of coordination tables, working groups, meetings or other opportunities for aggregation. It has undertaken to plan an appropriate work and communication plan, to take care of the promotion of the initiatives undertaken, and to implement any other operation useful or necessary for the achievement of its purpose, including conferring appointments, acquiring instrumental services and goods, and anything else that may be appropriate for the definition of the project and the realisation of related events.

The 2020+21 Table
The implementation of the programme was entrusted to the Department of Culture, which collaborated with the Committee and all the other sectors of the authority - from tourism to the environment, from mobility to social issues -, with the institutions of the territory and the private system, beyond the city’s borders, to promote and gather the energy of the entire Emilia region, represented by Destinazione emilia, the regional authority for the enhancement of tourism.

To implement the grounding of the project, the Committee and the Municipality set up an Operating Table (T20+21), a place of operational confrontation between the human resources of the two entities and the other actors of the ter- ritory with respect to the individual projects being implemented, whether large or small.

The Table gradually became the privileged meeting place for public and private stakeholders on the day-to-day running of the area’s activities - systemic or individual - that had a socio-cultural or tourist matrix with a direct or indirect impact on the communities.

An operational unit was set up within the Committee with the task of coordinating and monitoring all Parma 2020+21 projects (public and private), a business unit (BU) that worked in synergy with the City Council team dedicated to the im- implementation of the Programme. The BU was composed of professional figures experienced in public/private project management, communication, fundraising, sponsor management, etc... This operational unit included specially appointed staff.

Monitoring and Returning Results
Parma 2020+21 wished to demonstrate how investment in culture is determinant for the achievement of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda and for this reason developed a reporting and monitoring system based on this report, which moves from the framework published by Unesco in 2019, Culture| Indicators 2030. The resulting tool, born from the collaboration between the Municipality of Parma, the Committee for Parma 2020, Promo PA Fondazione and Deloitte, is dedicated both to the final restitution of the results of Parma 2020+21, and to the implementation of a data dashboard that year after year can be used by the city both to align sector policies and to develop new projects in line with national and international objectives.
The model intends to reflect both the conceptual and strategic vision of Parma 2020+21, which is characterised by the involvement and synergic participation of public and private actors, according to three guiding principles:

• transparency in returning the work done, to strengthen trust between and with stakeholders;

• verification and confrontation with the stakeholders involved in the pro- gramme to investigate and deepen their legitimate needs and expectations;

• policy alignment, to improve and understand what actions to put in place year after year to move the system towards the objectives: wellbeing, skills building, inclusion and resilience.

The UNESCO Culture| Indicators 2030 framework was the main methodological source of inspiration used. Thanks to the analysis of the 22 thematic indicators and the relative calculation methods or KPIs proposed by UNESCO, mainly dedicated to public institutions and political decision-makers, those most applicable to the reality of Parma and the Italian Capital of Culture Programme were selected and - where necessary - rethought in relation to the specificities of a cultural programme with a specific timeframe and, consequently, with different characteristics from the public and political contexts of prevalent application of the framework.
The dashboard and method that emerged are naturally the result of an in-depth analysis of the principles, techniques and methodologies recognised today for monitoring the environmental, social and governance variables of specific activities and taking into consideration other national and international experiences of measuring the impact of cultural events.
This is an initial project that may be subject to additions and improvements in the future, also in consideration of the reporting experience realised for Parma 2020+21, but which represents the first step of aggregation and adaptation of different methods and practices.

The Parma 2020+21 Committee represents a replicable operational model, the experimentation of which required the deployment of considerable human, intellectual and economic resources, in terms of relations, administration and management. The governance model developed has given substance to a contemporary vision of culture as an investment in the well-being of the community and has allowed it to evolve, thanks to the continuous sharing with the private system (business and the Third Sector), which has contributed concretely by investing time and resources in the process.
Beyond the city of Parma and its path, it is evident how the governance system today is a determining and conditioned element in achieving the objectives of a great territorial programme. Together with the professionalism that the city involves in key cultural positions, its architecture allows (or does not allow) the involvement of stakeholders and the promotion of a constant constructive dialogue with them, the indispensable fulcrum of a project that intends to achieve lasting infrastructural, social, cultural and economic results.

Vice-president of Promo PA Fondazione, since 2005 she has been the director of LuBeC - Lucca Beni Culturali, the international meeting on valorisation and innovation in the culture - innovation - tourism chain that promotes the creation of public/private management and valorisation systems. Technical- scientific coordinator of the Magna Charta of Voluntary Work for Cultural Heritage and the Network of the Cities of Culture. Editor of the candidacy dossier for the City of Parma as Italian Capital of Culture and coordinator of the programme for the Capital of Culture Parma 2020+21. Involved in cultural-based territorial development projects, she supports organisations in implementing public-private policies between culture and sustainability. She works on cultural welfare as a driver of social innovation so that it may become a policy of reference for the country.