Article (in Italian) by Jason Nardi, Solidaius Italia, RIES
Much has been said about Mondeggi Bene Comune – fattoria senza padroni: an example of an intentional community that takes care of a territory, in this case an immense rural estate on the outskirts of Florence. The community was set up in 2013 for the self-management of about 200 ha of the former Mondeggi Lappeggi srl company, which had gone bankrupt with debts, been abandoned for years and put up for sale. The estate, owned by the Province of Florence (later Metropolitan City) consists of arable land, woods, farmhouses and a manor house of historical and architectural value. The guardianship and custody carried out by citizens (many of them young 20-30 year-olds) has prevented the sale of the property and reactivated the abandoned agricultural activities, in one of the largest experiments in self-managed collective agriculture and agroecology in Europe. The estate recovery project is currently included by the Metropolitan City among those financed by PNRR funds, in the Culture and Social Inclusion axis. The preliminary has been defined by a technical group from the University of Florence that has been interacting with the Mondeggi community during the first half of 2022. In the published version, co-design is envisaged as a form of involvement of all stakeholders… and this is where we come in.
Solidarius Italia, in fact, has been a member of the Friends of Mondeggi Committee for over five years and has participated in much of the process that has led to this result… still to be verified with the public body, with which there is finally a real interlocution. The Mondeggi committee is debating internally how to rethink the Mondeggi of the future, preserving the core of ‘common’ and ‘self-managed agro-ecological community’ – a combination that is not easy and in which different visions clash.
While the PNRR/Next Generation Europe may appear to be a great opportunity for the ‘sustainable’ development of post-pandemic Europe, it presents many critical points, both financially and in terms of management. The speed with which funds are to be used penalises citizen participation in project design and civic monitoring of their implementation. Solidarius Italia has proposed to the Mondeggi Community to support a public co-designing process, involving a wide network of stakeholders, to define the shared proposal to be presented to the Metropolitan City in the official co-designing process.
We therefore submitted the proposal with a Europe Direct call for proposals, which was won and will therefore make it possible to activate from January 2023 a series of meetings and workshops for self-education and facilitation, including the European dimension of the project (with online meetings with European networks already active on the theme of Commons with which Solidarius collaborates – see for example: https://www.solidariusitalia.it/transizione-allecosistema-dei-beni-comuni) and information on the PNRR, as well as the economic sustainability and governance of Mondeggi 2026 (when the work financed by the PNRR should end). The workshops will be conducted with the support of experts in the management of participatory processes and appropriate methodologies.
In the meantime, as Solidarius Italia we have drawn up and shared a proposal, to be implemented in collaboration with other realities that have already begun working on structuring an overall project. It consists of three activities, namely a Rural Solidarity Emporium and an associated Inn, a School of Agroeconomic Activation (and on commons) with a Germinal Laboratory to help develop solidarity economy projects in the area. The idea is to provide a space for general and holistic training on the ecosystems of commons and circuits of local, national and international solidarity economy (on some occasions, inviting European and other experiences) for the germination of new initiatives of self-management, food and energy sovereignty, mutualism and shared management of resources – and the strengthening of existing ones – according to the values described in the Mondeggi Charter of Principles, the National Network of Emerging Common and with Civic Use and the Italian Network for Solidarity Economy – and in collaboration with other associations in the context of Mondeggi Bene Comune.
The solidarity (rural) emporium and the Locanda combine the sale of the Mondeggi farm’s production with that of other local, agro-ecological products, or of solidarity economy and ‘off-market’ circuits, and the direct participation of consumer-producer members in the management and promotion, with reference points in the towns of the Metropolitan city (farmers’ markets, shops, gas stations, catering cooperatives, etc.).
If – and there are still many questions and obstacles – this path of co-planning goes ahead as we hope, the Mondeggi of the future will be a great experience of solidarity and transformative economy, a reference point for many other similar experiences that may multiply in the coming years.