Monithon: Monitoring Marathon

Civic monitoring of public funding, and projects financed by cohesion policies, based on the availability of open data

Tool Self-Assessmet

  1. Reflect back on the objective of the tool you built: did you exceed it, or fall short? If so, why?

Monithon in short is an independent initiative. That means monitoring marathons. So the aim is to monitor marathons, the efficiency and the effectiveness of EU funding, especially cohesion, funding, so the funding from the Cohesion Policy in Italy and in some other countries in Europe.

My perspective on that is that this initiative did not stamp on, it wasn’t launched, because of an objective that we wanted to reach. It was started as a group of friends, it was fun to discover what the European Union was funding at the time in Italy. And there was this problem of perceived corruption and perceived efficiency in using European funding in Italy. So we wanted to use official data, government data to know more about that. So the initial phase of the tool that I made myself in 2013, I’m not a developer, was kind of a mess, but that was just to have fun, and know more about things without really having an objective in mind. Well, then it evolved. So every year we try to do something, to improve the tools, we add some components, and also, we have developed a methodology. So we also try not to guide people on how to do this kind of monitoring. So, yes, we did not start, as you know, some usually project, start from money and funding then they have objectives and then have to respond, and they have, you know, too, to try to achieve these objectives, in our case, not so sure about that.

  1. What are the tools’ metrics for success and what does metric say – how well did the tool do?

We have some metrics. And we have several thoughts about what could be used as good metrics for the success, not just the tool, but of the initiative in general. So the methods and also the engagement of the people on the ground. We use two metrics. The first is the number of connections, then the local communities that are the users of the tool can create with other actors in their local areas. for example, with the media with other NGOs, or if they are students, with NGOs that are interested in the same topics, and connection with the policymakers.  We think that this is important to improve the social capital and the Civic capital of an area. And especially when we focus on students, we have a lot of high school students and university students that use this method. For them, it’s the first time that they try to know more about European funding and how they’re used. And so,  this is a chance for them to also get to know other people, other organizations that are interested in the same kind of topic or problem that they found, and so on, and this second metric is the actual impact. So, everyone talks about impact, we define impact as the capacity to improve a given intervention or project or whatever they are monitoring. So, for example, if they are monitoring, or the construction of a train station, we measure the impact in terms of how this project has improved, thanks to the contribution of the people on the ground, they did not just monitor them, they do not just take note, of what they have seen, or they produce a report, but they also have suggestions, and they reach out to policymakers and organize events. So, they are trying to influence the policy implementation. So, the impact of this kind of action is if they succeed or not, to involve policy makers, make their voices heard and, try to do this kind of co-assessment and co-production, co-creation of public policies.

  1. Were your assumptions that the tool you built would: increase participation/engagement or tackle an issue/raise awareness correct? Do you think you chose the right approach – and what would you do differently?

Usually, organizations that I mean, historically, traditionally have tried to do this kind of engagement for evaluating policies for what I know, at least they focus on anti-corruption. So fighting on, for example, they look for other organizations or the courts or in Italy, for example, there is an agency that is dedicated to fighting corruption. So they kind of form alliances and form coalition’s with this goal, to find what is bad in public procurement, for example, in tenders or every kind of procedures, procedures that public administration has to use the funding to deliver public policies. So, this is a very good approach.  It’s important to highlight the cases of corruption or misuse of funding, but our focus is not anti-corruption, it is more on evaluating the effectiveness of a policy effect of a single project that was implemented at the local level. So, the idea is that the people are involved in an accountability action. So,  they are asking the people in charge, local political leaders, and local administration to give account to, give information, and an explanation about how the funding has been programmed. So what were the initial goals? What were the initial goals, what was how the project was carried out? And then they evaluate how the project responds to local needs. So they can highlight good things and bad things.  We were able with this approach to partner with several public administrations that were interested in this approach because they could find a way to communicate the results, especially if there were good results. Or try to solve the problems together with the people with the users of a service or the people that benefit from public policy. So we’re kind of proud of this kind of a different approach, not just highlighting bad things, but also communicating good things and trying to replicate good cases. In other instances, for other projects, for example.

  1. What are you hearing from users? What do they enjoy in tool? What do they find challenging?

They enjoy our impact. I’ve already said that earlier, it’s very fun to do because it’s an activity that you do as a group. So you have different roles in the group, those that are more focused on data analysis, others are more interested in doing interviews, and you can meet new people. So it’s an exciting thing to do for young people, but also, interested people, generally speaking to where the money is, where public money’s going? And they like that. Everyone has, for example, assumptions, right? They already have some opinions, and they want to test them. And sometimes they get disappointed because the reality is different from what they imagined. So it is something that isn’t interesting to do. So they enjoy the opportunity to use, for example, government data, not our data, but official data from public administration. And many of them are not aware that there is a lot of information on the web that you can use to track the project. You have to understand how the projects are going and if they’re stuck, if they’re delivering some results, what kind of indicators are used. So there is a kind of a world of data and information. And that few people are aware of .So this is another interesting thing. I think that it is challenging because it requires a lot of time. So it’s a very long journey with several steps. It is even longer for students to participate because of the school year, but the NGOs, for example, it’s, it’s a challenge for volunteers in NGOs because they are not paid to do all this analysis, you know, and so we try, to create, projects to apply for grants and try ways to transform this activity in financial sustainability.

  1. Did your tool deliver what you were hoping for? Are they useful for your key user audience? Are they being adopted?

Yes, I think that I think that the tool evolved, as I was talking about, based on the feedback from the users. So first the very first version was just a Google document, with some key questions to ask. And there was the structure of the Civic monitoring report. And then there was this tool that was basically on the usual platform. Then we developed a new platform, it was custom. So the tool itself, and then the methods evolved based on what the users thought about. And because mainly, we were the users initially. And then there was the community that, through time, was very much involved in the development of all that. And also that the partnership with this ASIC project at the School of Urban cohesion was crucial for finding new users, for example, high school students, but also students from six, seven countries. In Europe, there was a project that was funded by the European Commission. So the tools also evolved based on the different needs of different countries. So it was translated and the idea is to customize the tool. So for different kinds of data that we have in different countries. So yeah, I’m happy about that,  I think that everything can improve and there are many things that we want to improve. We have an online guide, for example, that is very useful for the users, to know exactly what are the steps that have to follow. And, it’s easier for them to retrieve documents to know exactly where to find the information. It kind of helped them in understanding some of the languages. But this is very limited. It’s just a couple of web pages and gives just some key advice and key questions for doing the monitoring. 

  1. What worked well through the implementation process? What areas have room for improvement?

I think that tool could be much more detailed and could contain much more information. So, yes, I think that there is a margin to improve much more, but still, it is useful, and it is adopted. The strategy was the partnership, I repeat that the strategy was the partnership with the public administrations. So, this ASIC project, for example, is the main source of reports of users, and this is a government project it is based on the presidency of Council of Ministers’ presidents of the conciliar So, it is one of the highest institutions in Italy. So, it is important to use it as a way not only to have a team that is paid to do the online course, and a key part of this course is using monitoring. So, we can say that we have, we can leverage, we can use this, this organization, which is very complex and costly, to make people use our tools. So, this is very important for us. And the same thing is for the universities, we have courses that are already given, they are already there, and we propose our tools to them, and they use our tools without, you know, additional costs or legal costs. So, I think this was the strategy from the beginning. And I think it works.

Another challenge, for example, is to conduct a monitoring process that can continue over time. So, now, many reports that we generate are based on what the users see at a given time. But they are not usually able to follow what happens in the following years because for example, they are high school students. And, when they finish the course they go away from home to universities. And they are not willing to follow what the project is doing in the following years. So, one challenge is to find different users, like activists, volunteers, and local NGOs, that want to kind of adopt a project. And because those projects usually take a lot of time, sometimes 10 years or 15 years. So it’s important to have this continued, to continue monitoring this to continue to exert some kind of pressure to get what we want to get, better results. Because it’s not, it’s not easy just to have an impact. If you just do it once. You have to do that many times or over time. 

Tool ID

  • GOAL:
    Monitoring  public funding
  • URL:
  • Made by:
  • Country:
    2013 – to  date