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On 14th November the event “Mercato come Servizio” took place in the Metronio Market in Rome.

How to revitilise the underused markets? Which new functions are compatible with the exisiting services available? What is the governance model that would allow a better management at city level as well as the internal cooperation amongst vendors? What funding models could be implemented to guarantee sustainability over time?

These are some of the questions the upcoming publication will deal with, stay tuned!

Food markets in Rome, particularly market halls built after WWII are predominantly underused or abandoned, failing to act as community hubs, that is, spaces of sociability, direct exchange and short chain distribution. This situation is a result of the inflexible regulatory framework, and lack of communication between actors.

The workshop series organized at various marketplaces in Rome brought together market vendors, agricultural producers, local residents, social workers, entrepreneurs, recycling and short chain distribution specialists as well as municipal officers, in order to establish links and discuss problems and solutions for outdoor and indoor food markets.

The aim of the project was to bring together actors from various fields to share their perceptions and suggestions for turning underused Roman food markets into community hubs. Creating a network of all the stakeholders took place at two levels. One one hand, workshops held at markets helped participants rethink how marketplaces could work better as public spaces, as recycling facilities, social enterprise incubators, and in particular, as spaces of short chain food distribution nodes, connecting local agricultural producers with consumers. During the project, three types of stakeholders were involved: the city administration (owner of the spaces and responsible for the policies), the market vendors as the main service providers within markets and the local inhabitants as potential clients and proposers of activities. On the other hand, the project collected statements and suggestions from these actors, turning them into an easy-to-share video and recommendation booklet, addressing public administrations and highlighting the importance of cooperation in upgrading Roman marketplaces. 

Addressing a regulatory and communicational problem, the workshops aimed at making visible a specific urban problem by giving voice to the main stakeholders involved in changing the status quo. On the one hand, the workshops created situations of sociability by demonstrating that marketplaces can function as a space for collective gatherings and events that current regulations do not allow. On the other hand, the workshops brought together people and groups who did not know each other, whose cooperations and alliances can serve as experiments to better connect supply and demand both in terms of food as of other services.  The city administration was actively involved in the process: understanding some of the issues expressed by market vendors, city officers and elected representatives helped in removing barriers from the better functioning of markets. Fore instance, a local municipality helped with physical interventions in and around the markets, finding ways to adapt the regulations binding the use of market halls and their surroundings to the actual needs of market vendors and visitors, allowing minor changes in the accessibility and visibility of a market building. In the meanwhile, the Rome Municipality’s responsible for productive activities changed the regulations concerning markets, allowing more flexible opening hours for market vendors.

We have been organising similar participatory planning workshops for years. The methodology, consisting of identifying spatial and legislative problems, bringing them to the fore by a series of events, connecting stakeholders and collecting their perspectives in a communication campaign, can be applied for a variety of situations and problems.

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