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Newsletters > October 2011 > Venice International Conference and Study Visit on civil society empowerment
On 8 and 9 June 2011, the Province of Venice hosted the two-day International Conference and Study Visit on the theme of Civil Society Empowerment, one of the six sub-objectives of People project (SO6).

The international conference titled “Empowering civil society for social innovation”, provided knowledge, insight and debate on the necessity to empower the civil society, involving about a hundred of participants, among them policymakers, civil servants, researchers, experts, organisations of the third sector and citizens from the province of Venice and from the seven European partner regions, Andalusia, southeast England, Stockholm region, Malopolska, province of Noord Brabant and Timis.

The opening session involved the Councillor for social services of the Province of Venice, Giacomo Grandolfo, Mrs. Micaela Navarro Garzón, the Minister for Equality and Social Welfare of Andalusia Region and the manager of the of Third Sector area of Veneto Region, Mr Franco Moretto. They all expressed the importance of citizens' participation for a better cohesion and democracy inside our societies.

After the presentation of People project by the manager of the Province of Venice, Mrs Gloria Vidali, the conference continued with three keynote speeches, assumed by speakers coming from academic field and regional authorities.

Mr Antonio Floridia, manager of the sector Policies for participation of Tuscany Region, talked about democracy and participation forms of civil society, focusing on the deliberative democracy. Furthermore he brought the example of the regional law implemented in his region for the promotion of participation in the elaboration of local policies and concrete occasions where participatory approaches had been established.

Mr Carlo Borzaga, full professor in Economics at the Trento University, pointed out the relation between civil society and welfare policies in the past until nowadays, when an economic crisis and the demographic trends bring new difficulties for the European welfare systems. His conclusions underline the role of civil society not only in the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), but also as communities that offer services in the voluntary and solidarity environment.

Mrs Sartori, assistant professor at the Bologna University, described how internet and ICT can facilitate the spread of participatory actions, but she warned about their potential limits and obstacles in supporting democratic processes.

The last session of the day was dedicated to PEPA, the sub-project financed within the SO6 sub-objective. The partners, University of Pablo de Olavide (Andalusia), Hampshire Economic Partnership (South East England) and ULSS 13 (Province of Venice) presented the results of their activities.

The study visit – a day later – for a smaller group of only the international participants, was dedicated to know the experience of two organisations from the civil society: Fondazione La Casa and Associazione Il Portico. Fondazione La Casa was established in 2001 by various public institutions at municipal, provincial and regional level, organisations of the civil society, including social enterprises. It was presented as an example of how public authorities and CSOs can promote innovative approaches and solutions on social matters, in particular on houseless. Associazione Il Portico works for the social inclusion of people in state of health or social inconvenience offering socialisation opportunities. Citizens with disability problems and other citizens work together in the open community of Il Portico.

A selected set of documents and Italian bibliography, but not only, on Civil Society and participation is available at the PEOPLE Wiki (

Specific materials (interviews, newsletter, statistics, reports) in the field of civil society that are produced by the Province of Venice within the People project were gathered in the Report “Dossier di documentazione”.