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You are here: Home > Diritto di Voto / EU, Italy, Turin > Amministrative 2021/00- introducing - politics in Italy in the era of #COVID19 #NextGenerationEU #PNRR

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Published on 2021-05-27 10:45:00 | words: 4887

This article could be considered a "stub", a signpost that will receive contents at a later stage.

Well, at 4,000 words, it is just to show you how much material I foresee that will be added in the future.

In reality, this article is a first step in a new "thread" within the series DirittoDivoto.

While that series originally was published in Italian since the late 2000s, was part of my online activities also long before 2012 (when I re-registered in Italy).

At the time, I was still living in Brussels, and decided, for one of first elections where Italians abroad could vote for their own candidates representing Italians abroad, to create a "collection" of the political platforms documents of all the political parties that were listed on the ballot.

The reason? At the time, Italian political parties had some curious practices about sharing "why" somebody should cast their vote for them.

And it was a joke in the "Italians abroad" community that we received communications from our representatives or wannabes via Italian consulates... only just before an election.

Then, no further communication until the next round (I had been resident abroad, and registered with AIRE (Anagrafe Italiani Residenti all'Estero) since the late 1990s, both before and after Italians abroad received the right to vote for their own candidates).

The 2016 local elections in Turin where the first elections where I was both again resident in Turin since 1983, and I had time to follow local events.

This short article contains three sections:
_a short recap of my dalliance with campaigns in Italy
_the way forward: a new "Amministrative 2021" series
_what you will find and how will it work

A short recap of my dalliance with campaigns in Italy

Yes, in 1983 I turned 18 and decided to choose a party to support, so that we could have at least (those had been national elections) a real opposition in Parliament.

I already shared in the past how that resulted, as we say in Italian, in being "tirato per la giacchetta" (pulled from both sides) for a while- both the party I supported, and the European integration advocacy I belonged to (I was Turin town secretary of the youth organization).

As you can expect, the end result was that I kept following European integration, kept campaigning for that political party (in Turin, we got a huge result), and... eventually detached from both organizations (albeit I had had a membership card only of the former- never had a membership card of any political party, by choice).

Back then as now, I was bipartisan: I might support somebody on a specific issue or purpose or campaign, but that does not imply that I am a "member of the flock" that mindlessly follow whatever the leader says.

Then, while living first in London, and later in Brussels, I saw the (lack of) interactions between Italian politicians and Italians resident abroad.

Eventually, we Italians resident abroad obtained a quota of the Italian Parliament.

Courtesy of the extreme right, that assumed that Italians abroad had extreme right inclinations- instead, helped to elect a centre-left government.

Once elected, got focused on staying in Rome and getting re-elected, more often than not.

Anyway, as I heard a deafining silence, and at the time Italian political parties were really unusual in their use of social media, created a website where I pulled together, and tried to "harmonize" political platforms to make them comparable.

Obviously, a business bias from few decades (from the 1980s) of working with companies where branches ranged from behemoths to almost one-person-and-an-assistant-with-one-desk office.

So, rules set for the central offices or a large branch had to be "scaled" to integrate within reporting and compliance also tiny offices.

In politics, it was easy: beside the obvious focus of smaller parties on "niche issues", anyway all of them had to show at least a pretense of "appeal to the general population", and thefore it was boring to assemble all the material, but was still feasible to "harmonize", i.e. give an overview on how all of them positioned themselves on each issue.

Comparing? Only partially- as "comparing" often is "interpretation".

Simply- I saw it as a service to the (Italians resident abroad) community.

A bipartisan service- also if I added a disclosure to explain my political inclinations (I know- the usual boring centre-left bipartisan that does not really like a purely market economy but, living in a market economy, strives to make it work properly, i.e. without distortions to favour this or that tribe, and always keeping tab with long-term impacts, not just temporary "winners").

Well, when I re-registered in Italy in 2012, after my Brussels permit expired, I had been obviously kept studying what my country was doing- both upon request from my EU and non-EU contacts, and for personal interest.

I did not want to make the same mistake I had done in 2003, when I prepared to return trusting the voices that came from Italy about a change that... had not happened- at all.

Jump forward to 2016, when I was resident in Turin, and there were local elections, to choose the new mayor.

As I was living and working in Turin, through a European advocacy organization I had been in contact with (closer to the right than the left, but, as I said, I am bipartisan), I attended few debates where all the candidates, except the incumbent mayor, attended.

And attended also other events, where all the candidates, including the incumbent mayor, attended.

My only rule: do not attend one-party events. I did a couple exceptions from the early 2010s to attend events with my family, but, otherwise, when going around alone, I decided to stick to my choice: I do not like the "tribal" element of Italian society, as way too often, when talking about "commons", it sounds as if the talking tribe representative were claiming stake on territory, a kind of "our (tribal) thing (by right)".

Which, in turn, reminds me of a DVD series on the history of FBI that I purchased in London, specifically the episode where a witness was on the stand, and, asked how they called their organization, he said: "our thing, 'cosa nostra'".

No wonder that we cannot defeat mafias in Italy, if we then routinely try to enforce tribal boundaries and allegiances, also when long-term shared interest would dictate otherwise.

And my collection of books about the infiltration of organized crime in Italy, books that I started buying at least since the 1980s, showed a long, long history of expansion, not of contraction, extending up to a kind of "gentrification".

Going back to the local elections theme- frankly, I saw what I wrote often over the last few years: plenty of cognitive dissonance.

From incumbents who had a perception of the voters filtered by their own assessment of their own "grasp" of the hearts and minds of the voters.

To candidates from the opposition who had a kind of messianic perception of their own staff and party ability to "hit the ground running".

And this, in a country where, as I often wrote, not just politics is "tribal", but the spoils system extends way beyond the tradition of "appointing the (temporary) top of the hierarchy", and instead scatters across the whole organization employees who are routinely made to remember who they owe their jobs to.

As I said in 2016, when a staff member of a challenger said that as much as 25% of managers in Turin's town administration were due to retire, and therefore they could change everything...

...yes, but you forget that, out of the other 75%, probably just 1/3 will jump to your ship (as they did not seem to have enough people to fill all the roles that they would have to appoint- as it was confirmed later).

As for the others, as the incumbent party has been there basically for two decades, will be more inclined to dig their heels, considering you a temporary nuisance until the next election- which could even happen before the end of the 5 years term.

And the first few months after the election showed that I was not that much off the mark.

Actually, also the 2020-2021 brouhaha about having a shared candidate was a confirmation.

So, what should I do for the new series?

The way forward: a new "Amministrative 2021" series

I shared in the past how politics in the early 1980s (when I worked on campaigning, also on the "administrative side of campaigning"- direct mailing) was different: people still attended political rallies.

In the early 1990s, when occasionally visited Turin (I was working in Italy, but not in Turin), more than once I saw how politics and political activities had evolved toward what now we call "flashmob".

In my times, we attended rallies singing political anthems, while in the 1990s and 2000s I saw youngsters dancing while walking beyond a truck with loudspeakers... blasting the Italian version of the "Jeeg robot" and "Goldrake" cartoons soundtracks.

A completely different kind of political concept which, curiously, was closer to the old approach of a major political party (the DC, Christian Democrats) to split in countless "correnti", a kind of in-party Gerrymandering to outline territory, count your forces, and then have your numbers play when the distribution of seats was decided.

In the 2010s, that evolved, and right now often it seems as if the main point is just to meet and then find the reason why.

Exposing many to the what I called a kind of leadership obsession (you can read Il Paese dei leader- published in Italian in 2017, but then in 2019 added the link to a follow-up article in English).

Almost one year ago to the day, on 2020-05-28, released an article about Political #times and #political #timing in #COVID-19 times - the case of #Italy.

I will not repeat what I wrote in that article, but I will just share the list of its sections, and use it as a kind of "roadmap" for my current commentary:
_A digression on the Italian "spoils system"
_Change and political reality in Italy
_The first real social media pandemic
_What I will not discuss in this post
_Sovereign Investment Funds and Citizens' Capitalism
_Time and timing
_Capacity planning and crisis management
_Timing and technocracy in a democracy
_Decision-making patterns in Italy
_Cut and Trust

Yes, that article had some formatting and typos issues- but, as you probably know, my website is really an "open air" book drafting and idea sharing venue, so that others can "spawn" (in techie terms, "fork") their own material, without waiting for my own future publications (that, incidentally, might even never see light).

Anyway, if you are curious "what I will not discuss in this post" was true then as now: I shared in the past and will share in the future many more articles about industrial policy, which, since summer 2020, has an added dimension, collected under the banner of #NextGenerationEU (in Italy #PNRR), which really means... the outline of a EU-wide industrial policy.

As I reminded yesterday on Facebook, "dirigisme" is a political economy concept in France, but, actually, it is common parlance that is shared across the whole of the EU, more now than ever before, since Brexit.

And, incidentally, it is part of what qualifies me as "economic liberal of the left": a market economy, but with some adjustments, albeit I would not go as far as "dirigisme".

Another element that I added within that prior article, under the section "decision-making patterns in Italy", started in March 2020 with the first COVID19 lockdown, and that continues today, is having an early morning run focused on Italian newspapers (their digital editions).

While I was working in Turin 2015-2018 my early morning routine was more multinational, but since 2020 I found appropriate to focus on Italian newpapers as, I think, also without the #NextGenerationEU and #PNRR, we are in Italy at a pivotal time.

Yes, "pivotal", to quote former PM Blair, the Senator from Northern Texas, as he was called in a famous TV debate in UK, when he was trying to "sell" a war to the local audience- a war for which UK had provisioned 700mln GBP including the post-war rebuilding, while local newspapers reported 3.3bln GBP well before rebuilding.

Those who worked with me know how much I dislike all the business casual misuse of "Gung-ho" military lingo, such as "collateral damage", "war room", etc.

Too much misplaced testosterone, in business, and too little consideration on the consequences that usually are well understood by those using professionally such concepts within the original context.

As for the "cut and trust"- is the title of a 1920s book, and wrote also another article just on that theme, but the concept is, again, relevant now, in our COVID19 times: we discovered (?) that we cannot do without bureaucracies.

But we also discovered that we need to have properly designed and informed bureaucracies, if we want to have as fast a reaction and adaptation time as needed to cope and, whenever possible, pre-empt and adjust for issues, while also monitoring and continuously re-assessing risks.

Keeping bureaucracies "operational" and yet ready to cope with risks implies also something else: having additional costs and somebody in charge of that invisible, apparently occasional, body of knowledge, and tasked with the purpose of ensuring that bureaucracies (including health and security) bureaucracies will be ready to use those skills if and when needed.

Something that routinely we discover that is forgotten in Italy, as I saw since the late 1970s- preparedness (and maintenance) are considered costs, not investments to mitigate risks, and therefore routinely are the target of misguided "savings", as it is sadly routinely news in Italy, both in the private and public sector.

I do not like our Italian penchant for "investigation commissions"- as a kid, looking at my family history and the history of organized crime, corruption, and other distortions, read plenty of original material, including from the XIX century, and saw a routine.

The only element that apparently is never delivered is a "lessons learned" cultural and organizational change implementation: but we are second to none in (usually long, long, long delayed) assessments.

The closing paragraphs of that article were:
As I posted only few days ago: more than flattening hierarchies, to restart during the "living with COVID-19" times, we would need a streamlining of communication.

To ensure that communication reaches where is actionable, and that those who identify signals worth processing have them reach where a decision is made

As speed of change is an element that can differentiate being able to jump on the "restart" train vs. just tagging along

Do not forget the context: simplification is often "delayering", with an unbalancing potential on workflows that generates entropy.

And, as everybody knows, most certainly we do not need more organizational entropy in Italy...

I still think that that is the case: moreover, now that we have 500bln EUR (forecast) more on the table (well, at least on the "debt tallying table").

What you will find and how will it work

My "Amministrative 2021" series will be focused on the local element, but will be complementary to the "larger picture", Italy and EU, that instead is covered by other article series.

A small service announce: I will release a "navigation map" during the summer- with over 300 articles online (and few hundred more that are not visible, e.g. those published since 2007, when I was living in Brussels).

The aim? To make easier to navigate content, if you are interested in finding all the material about something that is more complex to find than what you can find now with the "search by tag cloud" features (through articles, or within the text of books that I published since 2013).

Now, the same concept applies if you just focus on the area of Turin, Piedmont, Italy (yes, I was born here in 1965).

There are multiple dimensions to it (business, social, political, technological- and any mix thereof)- but this series "Amministrative 2021" will be looking at a specific element.

Turin (and Turin's Metropolitan Area, which really has a disproportionate weight on the whole Regione Piemonte) has often been a "laboratory" for many initiatives, and the routine local complaint is that Turin builds, and then some other areas "pilfer" that reservoir.

Well, my usual reply, since the 1980s (when, personally, I started being asked to do something on behalf of somebody else, and then told that eventually would be my turn- and I still get the same message over 30 years later), is that local élites, whenever see anything growing beyond their control (or anything that they do not understand), try to re-assert control, even when cannot provide resources to develop the initiatives.

I look forward to read, within political platforms of local candidates and their coalitions, something more practical that the usual complaining about lack of attention from Rome, or the equally usual pie-in-the-sky-that-we-will-eat-all-by-outselves-but-everybody-else-should-pay-for attitude (Turin seems keen in churning out each week a new way to "invest" money provided by others).

As I wrote in that 2020 article, I think that "capacità progettuale" is not just about designing, it is also about designing something that is feasible- and implementing it.

Which implies, in our complex world, to often look outside your own tribal circles- if I want talent, I do not really care if that talent "belongs" to another tribe, and I do not even bother to re-create that talent in my own tribe.

Moreover, I do not even really worry if, by asking another tribe to lend talent, I am giving credit to another tribe for having built skills that my tribe did not.

In my case, easier: I belong to no tribe- but you got my point.

You need to aggregate the resources needed for the purpose at hand, not just the resources that you would consider under your control.

Do the start-up way, start with a MVP- something that can be a good base to build and expand on.

There are plenty of examples in this territory where it worked- being bipartisan, I will neither quote nor point at specific examples, as any choice would be considered locally "tribal".

The side-effect? The first article of the series, after this introduction...

...will be published when candidates will have been selected.

Again, to repeat:
1. I was born in Turin in 1965
2. probably, after completing high school in 1984, the longest time I lived in Turin continuously was... 2015-early 2019, when I worked everyday in Turin
3. my experiences in Turin since the early 2000s, moreover since my 2015-2019 times, professional and personal alike, left no local single thread of emotional link: collateral damage of local attempts at proving various theories, or co-opting in various tribes, that resulted only in a waste of time and resources and permanent damages to the main reason why somebody stays somewhere- personal roots
4. therefore, I see things from a different perspective- as somebody born in Turin, Piedmont, Italy; and as a returning Italian who is a foreigner in his own country, with no local roots except cultural.

And my cultural roots have obviously a political and social impact- but on a macro-level, not on a micro-level.

As I said often: on the job, I have no relatives, no friends, no enemies- just acquaintances, who might or might not share a purpose temporarily, and maybe even a long-term shared interest in keeping the overall system in working conditions.

I do not really care if, by doing something that I consider positive (not necessarily for myself, but at the macro-level), I generate advantages for a "competing tribe".

I think that in business as well as in social and political competition keeping the environment safe and sound for all present and future players is more important than winning a short-term gain with a "après moi le déluge" attitude.

For the time being, my comments on negotiations, primaries, etc will be mainly via my facebook profile.

Incidentally: there, I post each morning, certainly before 9am, and often before 7am, selected articles from Italian newspapers and associated commentary- including political commentary.

Hence, if you want to follow that "work-in-process", just follow my Facebook and Linkedin profiles: if I post something that is not public, is only because it is a reply to a post that is not public, but my own posts on both are almost always public.

As, since at least the early 2000s, in Italy I have no privacy, as I was jokingly shown also in Brussels, and also routinely told at lunch and dinner in Rome, when I was told details about what I had done during the day or evening before, or even my electronic exchanges: a side-effect of not belonging to any tribe but still being potentially useful (or potentially hurtful- a matter of perspective) due to experience, connections, etc.

But 2016 was not 2008, and 2021 is not 2016.

In our times, we will see a further change in political approaches and attitudes- partially linked to COVID19 issues, partially to #NextGenerationEU and #PNRR, but also partially related to the "disposto combinato", as we say in Italian, of the convergence of all that, plus the need to overcome decades of decline (more visible in Turin economy than in other areas of Italy, despite all the glitter and announces about events, food fairs, etc), and the need to rethink our economic and social model, before it becomes unsustainable.

Being bipartisan and, moreover, being probably about to have another relocation abroad, I will be an observer, albeit maybe I will be temporarily again working in the territory.

If the latter will happen, I will resume doing what I did in 2016: attend events on the territory, and did what I did in London, Paris, Zurich, Brussels, and, yes, Turin in the past, i.e. in all the locations where I lived or worked for a while.

Meaning: I like to listen and then ask questions, to further listen, instead of just "broadcasting" my ideas.

My way of influencing, also in business activities where I was charged with cultural and organizational change, process improvement, commercial negotiations?

Asking questions. As, often, the framework of the question, and the context when it is asked, amount to a "nudge": communication is never neutral- hence, communicate considering the potential impacts, not just to win a temporary argument.

As I wrote above, and as I repeat once in a while online, also when talking about the political party that usually vote for (PD), I prefer "orchestration" (i.e. assembling a coalition of the willing, to quote another foreign politician) as an attitude, and dislike a "après moi le déluge" attitude, which instead is quite common in Italy, and not just in politics.

I think about long-term sustainability, not just sustainability while I am sticking around or reaping the benefits.

I know that in various environments I risk being too persuasive due to my background and multi-faceted experience: therefore, I prefer to share what I think online, where everybody can read it, as a "neutral ground", and maybe prepare counter-arguments.

I always found quixotic that attituted so common in Italy for "leaders" or wannabes to win arguments, to read one book, or set as "trendy" one book or author, and then try to converge discussion on their interpretation, hoping to silence anybody who has not joined in that "read what is trendy".

That could be a way to win an argument, not to produce change.

Because I still believe what I believed when I was 18 and toying with politics in Italy and abroad, beside moving my first steps in business activities (sales, software programming, ghostwriting): it does not matter how old you are, how much experience you have, how many degrees or titles you collected.

We are all humans- and, in my experience, sometimes it was a kid as I was who asked, from outside all that "layering" of experience and pre-built knowledge or tribal "tabu" on what should be said or not said, the question that changed the perspective.

When I was 43, after seeing my true detailed CV listing all the projects and initiatives I had worked on, as requested as a background check by a company, a friend said that I was 143 and lying about my age.

Now that I have experience, the danger of imposing wrong solutions just because I found analogies that are not there except in subjective perception of reality, is even greater.

I like learning something new everyday, as I wrote in my motto on Twitter.

Because, whenever I learn something new, I have to initially "set aside" whatever I know, before I "connect the dots" with what I learned by experience or by "knowledge transfer".

And whenever you take a break from all that layering that you built up in your past...

...you often can find fresh ideas and solutions that can be useful to leap forward- including in what had been your routine, now seen under a different light.

As I wrote yesterday morning when I was asked to summarize my motivation (and, incidentally, my experience) in banking (a couple of decades in few languages), in the end I saw that my experience is just that.

Orchestration- nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, you have some "specialties", and routinely I had to "dig deeper" into a specific subject just for a project or an initiative, while once in a while developed expertise that I kept "alive" while that still made sense.

But, frankly, in our complex world, it is the "orchestration" that delivers innovation and change.

I do not know yet if I will study the "laboratory Turin" on the ground or... from the (virtual) sky, but I think that the forthcoming elections (not just in Turin- also other major Italian towns are going to hold elections) will be useful also to "outline the territory".

Yes, since early April I am studying again Go from scratch, this time doing a small amount at a day, and hoping to then, after few hundreds of lost games, to meet humans to play with.

Simply, now there are wonderful (free) tools to help you understand your mistakes and choices, and I still think that considering a "territorial" game instead of an "attacking individual adversaries" more appropriate for our times, as did since the early 1990s, when I read my first book on Go, as part of my study of the Japanese business and social culture (I was attracted by the "ringisho" and the various element of management culture that increased flexibility and spread decision-making across, including of course Kanban, Kaizen, etc.)

We Italians way too often delve into details, and forget that our collection of details makes sense only to insiders (notably, ourselves and our tribe), while, if we want to understand and be understood, we have first to have a mutual understanding on the roadmap, the "big picture", then we can start dealing with details.

Let's see what happens.

For the time being, next I will start my series "Going Smart" focused on the financial industry (which, in my view, as I wrote in the past, in the future is not going to be what is now).

Stay tuned!