ToNite: Empowering local residents in the regeneration of their neighbourhood

Paris, France, May 2021 – Efus organised a workshop on the ToNite project for local and regional authorities and other actors who are interested in replicating the approach, methods and tools developed by the project in Turin (Italy) in order to improve citizens’ feeling of security at night, on 29 April. Led by and implemented in the City of Turin, ToNite focuses on two neighbourhoods situated near the Dora River. 

As a partner, Efus is in charge of helping the municipality ensure the project’s transferability to interested local authorities in Italy and other European countries. It is organising a series of workshops as part of this mandate. This one (held online) was focused on three activities: ethnographic and social research, engagement and empowerment of the local community and stakeholders, and community dialogue through a mobile app.

Co-producing solutions with local communities

Introducing the webinar, Fabrizio Barbiero, ToNite coordinator at the city of Turin, presented the project, which seeks to improve feelings of security by improving the liveability of public spaces. He explained that the targeted neighbourhoods are empty at night, as public services only function during office hours and there is no night-time economic activity, which fuels a general feeling of insecurity and of not belonging there. “At night, the function of public protection rests in the hands of the local police, who intervene as per a traditional approach of law enforcement and control,” he explained. “As for local residents, they just go elsewhere; they leave the neighbourhood.”

Funded by the European Union’s Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) programme, ToNite is an ambitious urban regeneration project based on “collaborative policies, social empowerment and the active participation of residents, stakeholders and local communities.” Over a period of three years (2019–2022), it conducts six types of activities: 1) ethnographic and social research in the target neighbourhoods, engaging local stakeholders to analyse residents’ perception of security; 2) engagement and empowerment of local communities and stakeholders; 3) development of a digital platform to analyse and complement data about urban insecurity; 4) actions of urban regeneration in the target areas; 5) opening new local services that can generate social impact, in particular in the evening and a night, through financial and technical support; 6) impact assessment of the actions carried out in the target areas. 

Ethnographic and social research 

Mara Zocco from Experientia, an experience consultancy partner in the project, presented the in-depth ethnographic and social research they conducted to gauge how local residents live and feel their neighbourhood, in particular at night. 

To measure citizens’ experience of insecurity, they conducted 36 in-depth interviews with local residents and stakeholders, led 5 exploratory walks, and created one online, map-based questionnaire. To assess the City of Turin’s monitoring needs, they conducted 6 interviews and organised 2 workshops focused on the role of technology. 

This led Experientia to create 9 ‘personas’, archetypes such as ‘the quiet merchant’, ‘the vigilant mother’, ‘the enterprising immigrant’, ‘the disillusioned senior citizen’, or ‘the empathetic co-operator’, which epitomize how residents bond with their neighbourhood and to what degree they feel they can act on/influence what goes on there. 

The insights gained through this research was modelized into an Urban Security Conceptual Data Model, giving the City of Turin a workable model to assess the different factors contributing to feelings of insecurity and what can on the contrary dispel them. 

Empowering local residents

Giuliana Gheza, of the social innovation consultancy Social Fare, a Turin-based startup and partner of ToNite, then presented the actions they took to empower local residents and involve them in the future regeneration of their neighbourhood. Instead of asking people what is wrong in their neighbourhood, they focused all their work on helping residents define ‘what is strong’: their neighbourhood’s qualities, specific identity and hidden gems. 

They did that through a series of online questionnaires and workshops that gathered on average some 65 participants each. (It is to be noted that this work was carried out online because of the restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. It would have been ideal to do it on the ground.) The main purpose was to bring forward ideas for urban infrastructure intervention, as well as of services that could be of interest for local residents, but by its collaborative nature, the work in itself created bonds and a feeling of belonging among participating residents. 

An app that tells stories about the place

Lastly, Francesca Zanutto, from another Turin-based startup, Espereal, presented a mobile application developed with the objective of enhancing community dialogue. Titled ‘Tellingstones’, the app tells stories about places (monuments, public spaces, other types of landmarks) and people who offer services there (such as local businesses and local associations). The stories appear on the user’s phone when she/he walks nearby a place or a service provider. It is a practical way of highlighting the strong points of a neighbourhood, of making it better known to residents and visitors alike, of promoting local businesses and services, and in the end of making local residents proud of where they live. 

The app can be used and adapted anywhere and is easily transferable to any interested city anywhere in the world. 

More to come in the weeks ahead

The ToNite project goes on and Efus will make available for its members more ‘transferability tools’ such as workshops and factsheets on specific aspects of the project. Furthermore, there will be a dissemination event during Efus’ international Security, Democracy and Cities conference (20-22 October 2021). 

> The ToNite project’s website
> Follow the ToNite project on Efus Network/Nightlife topic
>  If you need more information, please contact Tatiana Morales (morales@efus.eu) and/or MartĂ­ Navarro RegĂ s (navarro@efus.eu) at Efus