YOU ARE HERE A NARRATIVE OF SHIFTING NARRATIVES ABOUT THE BOOSTER PROJECT IN PESCARA AND OURSELVES

Alberto Cottica
Version 3.1 of April 27th 2007

Summary
1. Introduction.....................................................................................................................................3 2. The early stages: stalemate and alienation (July 2006).................................................................5 3. Telling about the project: the integrated tools action and the launch of a communication staff (July-September 2006).......................................................................................................................7 4. Booster in town: meetings and courses design (October-November 2006)..................................9 5. A development strategy on the informal channel: atlas of music creativity and project work (November 2006-January 2007)......................................................................................................11 6. Some good advice to finish off.....................................................................................................14 Footnote 1: hacker tradition and music in Pescara..........................................................................15 Footnote 2: Booster's internet tools.................................................................................................15

www.thehubweb.net

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This document is a deliverable of the Booster project (IT-G2-ABR-033), funded by the Equal European initiative. I wrote it with the invaluable contribution of Marco Colarossi, Elisa Petaccia, Roberto Marrone, Antonio Febo, Paolo Verri and all of the Booster project's communication staff, regional network and development partnership. Anna Natali and Tommaso Fabbri read a previous version and gave me precious advice; I would like to thank Tommaso in particular for his learned explanation of the methodological implication of my modest efforts. Obviously the responsibility for any remaining error or omission (very likely, given the subjective nature of the account) is solely mine. Milano, April 23rd 2007

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1.

Introduction

In July 2006 I found myself working at a project aimed at developing – both in the creative and in the social and economic sense – the music scene of the Italian city of Pescara, called Booster and funded by the Equal programme of the European Social Fund. The partners of the project were the vocational training arms of the three main Italian trade unions, (Enfap-UIL, coordinating partner; Smile-CGIL; Ial-CISL) and two consultancy private sector companies, Pixel (based in Rome, headed by a Pescarese), and The Hub (my own company, based in Milan). I was the only one with any business relationship to the music industry: everyone else was in the vocational training business. For several reasons, and according to several different criteria, the project was not going well: practically invisible, lacking any substantial relationship with other stakeholders in the area, it looked like it was doomed to irrelevance. Besides our own, personal shortcomings and those of the organizations we represent (cultural and technical weaknesses, lack of a unifying common language, low propensity to cooperate) we also had a credibility problem. At the kickoff of the project (July 2005) not only we did not know the area (at least with respect to its music- and creative scene) but the area did not know us. We did not have a strong brand; we did not even belong to a clearly comprehensible category. We were an Equal project: and the people we needed to work with – musicians, local promoters, labels – were not used to dealing with ESF projects, and they found it puzzling that a group of people that did not work directly for some local or regional authority could propose and agenda for change. Worse: in Pescara, as in all of Mezzogiorno, people are generally very cynical towards regional development initiatives, that they interpret more as a way to hand out some public money than as a resource for influencing our common future1. In order to get these people involved and to earn credibility in their eyes we deployed a strategy that yielded far better results – and even more different ones – than was anticipated. I think the most interesting point about this story is the fact that the people who were working on the project have changed people in the team, the role structure within it, the relationships within and without it, our goals and even the physical places we were operating in. In an even more spectacular way, we have changed our narratives, i.e. the way we think about what we do and the people we interact with. As a consequence, this experience did not have the look and feel of successfully implementing a previously decided strategy. The feeling was rather that, as we made progress, the environment in which we moved changed, opening up new opportunities that broadened the space of possible moves – and, consequently, possible results. Looking back on it, I think that the project showed what Lanzara2 calls “negative capability”; in other words, that it accepted to start a course of action with an incomplete map and an inadequate toolkit, planning to upgrade both with information and tools picked
1

Studiare sviluppo, 2006, Lo sviluppo ai margini – Due anno sul campo a sostegno di progetti integrati in aree periferiche del Mezzogiorno, Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze – Dipartimento Politiche per lo Sviluppo, rapporto di ricerca http://www.dps.mef.gov.it/documentazione/docs/2006/1865_Losviluppoaimargini.pdf
2

Lanzara, G.F., 1996, Capacità negativa – Competenza progettuale e modelli di intervento nelle organizzazioni, Il Mulino, Bologna

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You are here 3_1.odt up along the way. Negative capability can yield surprising results in terms of effectiveness and innovativeness. Recognizing one's cognitive weakness, in fact, leads to action as an attempt to gain a better understanding of the terrain one finds it himself on; and – this is the real point – action has an ontogenetic potential, which means it can open up paths that simply did not exist before. Paradoxically, according to Lanzara, the map's inadequacy turns out to be useful, because it unlocks action; and action can change things. Pescara is a small city on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, located at the borders of the Mezzogiorno's, Italy stunted development-plagued southern area. The 2000-2006 Sixth Framework Programme, of which our project is a part, lists it as an objective 1 area, plagued by significantly slower growth with respect to the European average. In Pescara, and in Italy's Mezzogiorno in general, the conventional wisdom is that “nothing ever changes”. During the course of the project this position has popped up in the discourse of several people, some of whom are very intelligent and and know the region well. Their experience recommend a business-as-usual strategy, in which connections are more important than results; projects are essentially a way to spread out some public money; local politics is the center of everything; local authorities and institutions are bureaucratic and indifferent and so on. According to these people, Booster was doomed to waste its energies in setting up failures. If we wanted to make a joke, we could say that these people were right: but, since we did not know it, the project ended up being quite successful. This document is intended as an account of this experience. It covers the period going from the first (to the Booster development partnership, in July 2006) to the final proposal (to the local community, in January 2007) of a development strategy for the music and hi-tech creative scene. To account for the changes in the ways we see things I choose a strongly subjective and diachronic point of view, in which special attention is paid to our narratives and their changes. The result is a “tale of sliding tales” about Pescara, the project and ourselves. To try and edit out my current point of view, situated in April 2007, I have drawn heavily on emails, memos and notes on meetings written all along the period in question by me and other team members. Our judgement on the results of this phase of the project is positive; in fact it is positive enough to propose this experience to the attention of the professional community interested in the Equal programme. Despite this, I think that considering it as simply a model for gaining credibility in a regional context would be to lose some of its informational richness: its innovative potential, in fact, rests largely on our awareness of our own weakness, and on the fact that we took up the challenge posed by this very inadequacy. The page is divided into two areas. This larger one, on the left, contains the sequence of the events, “the tale”: The sense of this way of organizing the document is to signal at all times to the reader where in the story he is, picking up both dimensions. Our actions reflect what we thought about Pescara, our project and ourselves at the time of taking them, and not what we think now that this phase is over. The text in bold in the right column, so, has the same function of the boards commonly found in the centres of the cities much visited by tourists: a great red dot over Page 4 of 17
This smaller one, on the right, traces the evolution of mine (or, when possible, of the group's) point of view, “the tales”.

You are here 3_1.odt a map, with the reassuring message “you are here”.

2. The early stages: stalemate and alienation (July 2006)
Pescara is a small city of about 110,000 inhabitants in the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, located in the north of the Mezzogiorno's, Italy stunted development-plagued southern area. The 2000-2006 Sixth Framework Programme, of which our project is a part, lists it as an objective 1 area, plagued by significantly slower growth with respect to the European average. The project set itself a target area that includes the city itself and 24 other municipalities on the coast of the near-to-coast inland, sustaining an overall population of 420,000 inhabitants. This area spreads across three provinces, Pescara itself, Chieti and Teramo.

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Designed in 2004 as a part of rather ambitious plan to bring the music industry to the spotlight of the debate on regional development; and launched officially in July 2005, the Booster project, as of July 2006, has not really produced any result. The only activity really going on is research activity, but even there only one out of the three reports we are supposed to produce – the one I am responsible for – has been turned in. What's more, the partners seem alienated and apathetic (I tried to cooperate with them on the research report, but met with a total lack of interest) and our funding body, the Abruzzo regional administration, seems detached and not committed to putting us in a position where we can work in a dignified way: for example, it has paid our advance with an eight months delay, jeopardizing our ability to meet our deadlines from the very start. But the most serious problem is that, despite my explanations and my references to previous experiences, the project is difficult to understand and empathize with; my partners find it too far removed from their own experience to really get them going. I understand: I have done this before, and they have not. Enfap's Antonio Febo, the project manager, will later summarize his impression of this phase as follows:
I'm not going to deny that, after we submitted our application and the Region approved

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it, the early times have been times of uncertainty, because we were not very clear as to what it was all about, though the project was written in a quite articulate, detailed way, but the question was: “where do we start?”.

So far, this experience has been a disappointment to me. My failed attempt to participate in the research effort of the whole partnership, not just the one assigned to The Hub, makes me conclude that the other are not interested to let themselves be contaminated by the skills and the values that I am trying to propose. So, the best I can do is bear witness, managing my part of the budget so as to communicate – to the community, since the partnership is uninterested – that there are different ways of doing things from the ones they are accustomed to. Only a few month before, at the end of 2005, the official logo and the press conference to launch the project have brought about more bad vibrations. The former is embarassingly ugly; the latter must have set some kind of record, because not one journalist turns up (Antonio explains to me that the conference “is a bureaucratic duty, later on we will deploy the real communication”). This had never happened to me before. Booster is totally self-centred, useless and uninteresting to everyone else. Despite these limitations, the research projects turn out to have some kind of use. One of the reports – assigned to Pixel - is to be a quasi-ethnographic study about the musicians in Pescara. Pixel has contracted out its interviews to a former student of mine, Roberto Marrone, a Pescarese who has moved to Rome and works for a record label. Roberto is himself a musician, he knows the Abruzzo scene well and – helped by a couple of other people, among whom Elisa Petaccia – he collects information and – more importantly – he begins to tell the young people of the city about the Booster project. The only unexpected result of this research is exactly the strong interest that the respondents show for our project. Meanwhile I and my group study the policies towards music and creativity in the UK, and I learn that much of the success of a project rests on its ability to build and closely manage interaction environments in which people are able to communicate well, especially through relaxed, informal channels. At the same time, the fascination that nearly everyone feels for music squeezes a little participatory energy out of partners. Antonio will later declare:
So, there was a round of talks, then we accepted willingly this challenge, as it looked interesting. Tell you the truth, I suggested to step in and develop this project from the start, also because I have always been close to the music scene, both as a music lover as an amateur musician. I used to play guitar in a local band when I was young, I grew up listening to Hendrix, The Doors etc., and I used to go to a lot of concerts, I've seen Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis etc. So I was really happy to be involved in this thing, and I tried to communicate enthusiasm to the others, Leonardo [Pixel's director] was also convinced, I know he is a big music lover too. We spoke in favour of the project in a meeting where everyone seemed to agree, so we kicked off.
Late 2005-spring 2006, research reports and press conference: “Partners manage their budgets and activities on their own, almost jealously. They are not interested in quality, but only in management itself. We, The Hub, can only control the quality of what we do, and pay for, ourselves: given these conditions, the best we can do is bear witness to a quality-oriented approach.”

At the first meetings – otherwise not very effective – everyone comes to me with a personal memory to share: Vincenzo D'Onofrio, project coordinator for Enfap, sings in a gospel choir; Michela Valentini's (of Smile) father is a respected accordionist; everyone has warm memories of concerts or festival they took part in, if only as audience. At this point, though, I do not manage to turn this fascination into participation.

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3. Telling about the project: the integrated tools action and the launch of a communication staff (July-September 2006)
In July I turn in my research report in 1.0 version. The time has come to come out in the open and introduce ourselves to the city. The project is running late: the regional administration's delay in paying the advance caused delays in the activities. We have committed to organize two learning courses, and we absolutely need to launch them in autumn for classes to end in spring 2007. I know by experience that the key to doing a good work in this area is having a lot of applications, so as to be able to pick good students. The problem is that we have kept so low a profile that no one knows us. How can we gain credibility, so that the young Pescarese musicians will want to take our classes? The obvious answer is to exploit my background as a musician and my contacts in the music business. This part of the project seems fit for the witness-bearing role I have in mind: I want to bring to Pescara the best people in the Italian music business to discuss creativity and its social value. Under the influence of my British research work and determined to adopt an informal, “rock'n'roll” communication style, in late July I propose an “integrated tools action”3 in which I take some activities from the Booster application form and I connect them in a consistent meta-action. Three public meetings with as many national-level guests; three invitation-only seminars between these guests and local stakeholders; three “happy hour” info-meetings in bars and clubs to give out information material about the project and the courses; and deliverable documents to collect and share the information gathered from all these activities. I insist for these meetings to take place in places associated with creativity: no public halls for Booster, but clubs like Ecoteca or the Caffè Letterario. We also try to use venues located in Pescara Vecchia, the Old Town, in the heart of the local scene. An innovative feature I build in my proposal is a serious investment in viral, peer-to-peer communication. The idea is to develop the interest that Pescarese musicians declared when they were interviewed. This can be done building around Roberto and the Pixel interviewers a “communication staff”, a small group of people to become Booster's user interface in town. Leonardo proposes that each partner hires a staff member to represent them 4: this should help us bridge the credibility gap separating us from our target (apart from me, no one in the partnership knows anything about the music business, and this shows even in the way they dress or talk). The integrated tools action kick off in mid-September with a three-days workshop in which I try to give the group a basic training. I tell them about my teenage days as a would-be musician in an Italian pre-internet small town, of the importance to open up windows to look at the wide world, of Sebastiano Brusco, my mentor as an economist, of the bands I have been involved in. I try top communicate what the project is about, I insist that it be connotated by an informal, relaxed style to mark the difference with “normal” projects. I set a
3

I know the lingo is horrible, but the project's application form mentions a “tools” or “models action”. In practice, with few exception, staff members will tend to work “for the project” rather than for a partner in particular.

4

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You are here 3_1.odt target of one hundred applications for the courses; I encourage the boys and the one girl to take initiatives and adopt a self-reliant, almost punk attitude. They respond very well: they get someone to design a new logo on the fly (they decide immediately that the old one is unpresentable, and refuse to be associated with it), put up a Myspace page rather than waiting for the official website, that Pixel cannot deliver yet. We set dates and venues for the meetings and the workshops, which endows us with a system of deadlines. My assistant, Marco Colarossi, also takes part in this workshop: he is not Pescarese (he lives in the north), but he is the same age as the staffers and shares a lot of their culture. The group integrates very well from day one. In Marco's words:
Communication between us project staffers was helped since the very start by the fact that everyone was used to internet tools like Skype or Msn. We would meet online for long chat sessions, especially in the evening, and update each other on the work of the day, exchange proposals and opinions defining the new logo, the flyers, the press releases, the copy, the promo material etc. I got immediately the feeling of a team that was united, enthusiastic, willing to cooperate and determined to get results, though a little uncertain in making some decisions in the absence of Alberto, our recognized leader, who was on tour in America. [Their willingness to cooperate] extended to people they had just met, like me, who live 300 miles away. I think that the “Mediterranean” warmth of the Pescarese played a role in this, I cannot imagine the same happening with reversed roles.

The three days of the workshop are enough to form a project identity. The staffers – led by Roberto, who has a direct relationship with me - begin to say things like “This design is not Booster” or “Ecoteca and Booster have a lot in common”. This is infectious: I find myself thinking less and less in terms of my company, The Hub, and more and more in terms of the project. I propose to write a project manifesto (in fact, I had included it in my July proposal), that we write together and immediately publish on the website5. The manifesto is meant to share and reaffirm the project's values: I am determined to put values at the core of what we are doing, because I want to disassociate the project from the cynical, money-pumping way of doing development projects in the Mezzogiorno, which I oppose. The manifesto is clear:
[...] Booster exists to give a well deserved chance to the music scene of Pescara and Abruzzo in general. It means to demonstrate that this scene can grow, and offer young people opportunities to grow professionally and develop as human beings. Booster is committed to sow skills in the region; to bring life to the scene; to connect it with the most interesting experiences in Italy and abroad. Booster believes in transparency, honesty, knowledge sharing, meritocracy. Booster wishes to be a partner of all who share this vision. It is wide open to any cooperation proposal, and it promotes a regional network, as widely cast as possible, to work on and with the music scene.

September 2006, launch of the communication staff: “Pescara is plagued by stunted growth, cynicism and corruption: the only role that we, The Hub can honourably play is one of witness bearing. To do this, I need to establish myself as the leader of the communication staff, the interface between the project and the city. I can work well with the kids, opening a window on a possible different future. My recommendation to a young person living here, however, would still be to get the hell out.”

Obviously, the kids need to know what they are promoting, so we devote a lot of the September workshop to talking about the courses. We structure them into units, design moments for students to socialize, talk about internships, concerts, project work. In so doing, we take advantage of the experience of Smile's Massimo Friuli, the only true vocational training professional among us (the Enfap men do not take part in the workshop).

5

http://www.equalbooster.it/online/?p=1#more-1

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4. Booster in town: meetings and courses design (October-November 2006)
The first Boostermeeting is held on October 6th. I'm not there (I am on tour in America) but I hear news of an extraordinary success: more than a hundred participants to the public meeting (featuring alt-singer songwriter Paolo Benvegnù), 30 pre-applications for the courses. Elisa writes:
Hi Marco, we've survived the madness... [...] they are all very happy because there were like 80 people and they thought no one would turn up. You can imagine the good feeling of the moment [...] anyway, everyone is happy, we collected everybody's compliments, so let the good times roll. Benvegnù was great, even this morning during the interview – attended by some of the heavyweights in the Pescara music scene – he was really good in getting them to speak out. And he, too, said we did a great job, that he had never seen so many people at the launch meeting of a course. Stefano did a great job with the press, and Umberto has been all-important these days. Roberto has been excellent, especially this morning. So far the good reviews: we will have time to speak about the bad ones.

I go back to Pescara for the second one (on October 19th, featuring highprofile music entrepreneur Valerio Soave), and that is a resounding success too. I participate in the invitation-only seminar on the same day I notice that the local music businesses have started to participate, and that the dialogue is quite constructive. On November 2nd the third and last meeting is again a success (a little less in terms of audience, since our guest of the day is not a high profile artist or music business executive). But the true surprise is in the number and quality of the participants to the invitation-only seminar: there are 21 of us in the room, with an interested and constructive presence, for the first time, of the Pescara local authority (I have also opened a channel with the regional administration, which I will meet the next day). Young concert promoter Paolo Visci's radically changed attitude is a clear signal that we are gaining credibility: only on October 19th he wondered publicly “who are these people, who come from outside to teach us how to do our job”, on November 2nd he takes active part in the invitation-only seminar. Everyone feels that the project, like the Baron of Munchhausen, has bootstrapped itself out of the swamp. In Antonio's account:
A lot of young people turned up at the first meeting to present the research reports, in October 2006: the room was full, people could not find a seat and had to stand. Frankly we were not expecting it, we remembered our earlier flop and we were afraid of a second one, and we hoped that some people would turn up, or we would have a problem. As we got there we were amazed to see the venue was packed full, and the kids were very interested and asked all the right questions, there was a lot of interest. This episode cheered us up very very much and created the basis for all future activity. After this there were two more meetings that I could not attend, they were managed directly by Alberto in a crescendo of participation and involvement. We were conscious that the project had gotten off the ground.

During the first meetings local musicians and businesses have pointed out a series of problems and inadequacies of the city in the field of music. The meeting of November 2nd introduces another novel element: councillor Enzo Imbastaro (he belongs to the coalition in power) draws our attention to the fact Page 9 of 17

You are here 3_1.odt that Pescara will host the Mediterranean Games in summer 2009; this is a chance to develop the music and entertainment market. The featuring guest of this meeting is Paolo Verri, former director of Turin's city marketing agency, fresh from the experience of hosting the Winter Olympics in 2006; he is in the right position to pick up on Enzo's suggestion and tell us how these events can be used to shape a region's future. For the first time we are speaking about opportunities, rather than stunted growth problems, in a Booster context. During the public meeting, the local authority's official in charge of the culture department, Adelchi De Collibus, adds another piece to the puzzle when he explains that the city's administration encourages cultural promoters to coordinate in joint projects: the culture sector is perceived as too fragmented. Roberto ends his report on the November 2nd meeting almost triumphantly:
The meeting opened up excellent partnership opportunities. On one hand the local authority needs to run several venues and sees a supply of culture that seems inadequate. On the other hand the regional administration seems open to collaborating on the issue of the Mediterranean games, to project an image of Pescara as an European city with a keen cultural life
November 2006, Booster meetings: “Pescara is reacting well, people are a little suspicious but deep down they want to believe in us, the Booster project. The launch of a communication staff allowed for a “warm” relationship with the region, and got the project off the ground.”

Besides these meetings, both the staff (especially Roberto and Marco) and I keep in touch through email and meetings with several local businesses. To keep track of all these relationships, I ask Roberto and Marco to write short memos of who is who; who does what; and who thinks what about the project. The meetings are also useful to confirm a methodological choice we've made: I have chosen an approach of openness and transparency to bear witness to a different way of doing things, but it seems that this approach is yielding results as well. Paolo Verri is the first to speak explicitly about the need to use projects to “create a positive climate”:
People who sit down to think up something to do together cannot afford to leave something unsaid, something thanks to which they are a little smarter than the others. Building a coalition means discussing on a level playing field, each participant must give up some of its authority [...] it is important to understand and explain who each of the stakeholders who sit at the table is, why he is there and what he expects, because if that person does not get it the coalition pact is no longer valid, and he will leave the table6.

On October 20th we hold a development partnership meeting in which we understand that the project climate has changed. The reason is twofold: on one hand the deadline for applying to the Booster courses is less than a month away, which means that, for the first time, we are on a tight deadline to present to the regional administration a full-fledged, and budgeted project for the courses. On the other hand we are now highly visible: the city is watching us, local musicians see our project as a chance. In this situation our development partnership finally gets its act together and behaves like one: Pixel's Maurizio Zammataro, writes the project copying-and-pasting materials produced by me, Enfap's Vincenzo D'Onofrio produces a budget. I put Marco in charge of producing a calendar for the lectures: teachers are going to be artists and music business people, almost all of them friends and coleagues,
6

These phrases made on Marco so great an impression that, months later, he quotes them in some posts of The Hub's blog:

http://thehublog.blogspot.com/2007/04/what-are-you-doing-here-regole-di.html http://thehublog.blogspot.com/2007/03/citizencamp-bologna.html

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You are here 3_1.odt and I need a user friendly interface between them and the bureaucratized style normally displayed by these activities in Abruzzo. I have been able to appoint all of the teachers and decide all of the classes subjects; the course is funded by the budgets of four out of five partners (Pixel has no funds on learning). In late November I run the selection procedures, together with Vincenzo and Antonio. We have had 82 applications for 24 places, the 100 applications target has been closely missed, but I am happy enough with the result. Soon after the regional administration approves our project; on December 20th I welcome the students to the first class.
November 2006, courses final project: “We, the Booster project, have gained visibility in this region, and local stakeholders have some expectations on us. The partners feel this responsibility - also thanks to the communication staff, that recognizes me as a leader and produces results – so they need to deploy the in-house skills, i.e. mine. Cooperation between us is possible and produces good results. I have finally become the project's content manager.”

5. A development strategy on the informal channel: atlas of music creativity and project work (November 2006-January 2007)
The original Booster application form commits us to producing an event, conceived as a shop-window for music creativity in Abruzzo. Dating from the second seminar (October 19th), we begin to talk about producing it together with the people and businesses in our network, which is beginning to take shape. After the November 2nd meeting the idea becomes to produce, together with this network an event to communicate that the Mediterranean Games are coming. I really like the idea: I like the climate of mutual listening between businesses and local authorities that is establishing itself. “doing something together” could build a common experience with a potential to improve communication and mutual understanding among these people, who are also supposedly the main agents of local development. In November and December I continue to think about these issues, especially with Marco, Roberto, Elisa and Umberto. We keep meeting people, taking advantage of every moment I spend in Pescara, and I keep picking up good vibes. It seems undisputable that the project has won itself a positive image. For example, when I am in Pescara to select the students who will make into the courses, I happen to talk to Umberto Palazzo – manager of a rock club called Wake Up – about an interesting band I've heard (one of the members has applied for our courses). A few days later Umberto calls me to get their contact number: impressed by my description, he wants them to perform in his club. In December Elisa and I go as far as to walk up to the Abruzzo International Airport head office with no appointment (we've found ourselves unexpectedly with some free time) and literally ring the door bell; even there we find interest from the marketing manager and a prospective partnership. Meanwhile Elisa and Umberto take me out at night, and I am impressed by the animation in the streets of Pescara Vecchia at weekend nights: the scene is physically visible, I meet musicans, promoters, journalists, my students. It is also obvious that Pescara is an entertainment centre for people coming from a relatively wide area, including Vasto and Chieti. The market is there all right: restaurant and bar owners are making money out of it, musicians are not... yet. But it is pretty obvious that this is not a stagnant city.

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You are here 3_1.odt Interestingly, we are communicating well with these people on what I call “the informal channel”. When I travel to Pescara, Elisa and Umberto are almost always with me, and we meet people over dinner, or even by night in clubs. I schedule a meeting over dinner with the people running the Web Music Festival in Francavilla; have a clarifying conversation with Vincenzo Andrietti of Soundlabs Festival in a bar facing the railway station; pick up a convinced and convincing declaration of support from Intercity's Vincenzo D'Aquino at 2.00 a.m. at the Wake Up club; prepare the next day's meetings eating pizza at night, with the communication staff but, more and more often, also with local businesses, non-profit associations and even local authority officials. Meanwhile Marco and Roberto (helped by the rest of the staff) pile up files about the companies and NGOs we have crossed paths with (they will come to be about 40). In November I read in Repubblica that the Abruzzo regional administration has an ongoing projects on map-building for e-government, so I ask Marco to get in touch them and propose them to use their technology to build a thematic map of Pescara's music scene, linking our data (via a simple geographic tagging, Flickr style) to an online map of Abruzzo. He builds a link with the administration's cartographic service, and the proposal goes down well7. As we wait for the map, we work at a document to contain and organize the information we have collected: it is another part of the integrated tools action, to which we refer as “the map document”. At this stage, I have changed my mind on several things. I do not think anymore that change is impossible in Pescara; on the contrary, I am surprised by the interest surrounding our project, with all its limits and its lack of a prestigious brand. What's more, Booster partners – for all their uncertainties and structural fragility – seem willing to believe in the project, rather than considering it just another way to capture some funds. Finally, the project itself seems to show the potential to be more than just witness-bearing; my perception is that it is influencing the way in which the stakeholders in the music scene think about the city and about each other. Between November and December I decide to take a risk: propose to the music scene's stakeholder to join forces in a strategic alliance to force music and creativity into the regional development agenda in Pescara. On November 17th I send the development partnership a proposal. To begin with, I write,
The integrated tools action, launched on The Hub's proposal, has largely succeeded in gaining Booster and its development partnership as a credible for Pescara's music scene. The numbers are self-eloquent: more than 200 attendance at our public meetings, invitation-only seminars with more than 20 participants, more than ten small businesses or cultural NGOs that cooperate on a regular basis with the project [...] 82 applications for our courses.
November-December 2006: “Endogenous growth is going on in Pescara's tertiary sector, as is shown in the animated streets of Pescara Vecchia by night. We, the Booster project, can detect them and access its main actors, because we share their style and behaviour code. Rigour and informality are the key to win their support for an agenda for change.”

Despite these positive signals and the development opportunities we have spotted
I am convinced that this region's stakeholders lack the ability to coordinate to build a large-scale proposal. There is too much old distrustfulness, too many grudges and misunderstandings. So far Booster has managed to prevail on this unfavourable atmosphere: overall, people have met in a constructive, even happy way. My feeling is

7

The service is staffed by young people, who like the idea a lot, though the administrative employees require us to go through a lot of red tape to authorize the collaboration. At the time of writing, the service has started the geographic tagging even without a formal authorization. The initiative was taken by one of the coders, frustrated by the buraucracy!

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You are here 3_1.odt
that these people (our regional network) require us to continue this bridge building work.

I go on proposing to stimulate the companies and NGOs in our network to unite and demand a seat at the table of the strategic decisions about the region's development. I also propose to support them in this journey towards unity and to use the final event (Booster's project work) to this end, turning it into a jointly (with the other stakeholders) produced event to communicate the Mediterranean Games. But there is a problem:
If we say we are going to contribute to a co-produced event which is part of the Mediterranean Games communication campaign we need to be very clear as to what we want to do, and how much money we will put into the effort, and then do it at the maximum level of quality we can deliver. We can't absolutely afford to lose face on this, because this would imply the loss of that credibility that, today, enables us to produce strategic aggregation [...]. To do stuff like this we need to rethink Booster's budget as a resource that is managed BY THE PARTNERSHIP, not by individual partners, to be channelled towards the regional network for the interest of the general public. I am aware that this is absolutely NOT what an ESF project is requested to do. The normal situation, lamentably, is a formal control regime: the registries, the protocol numbers, the logos on the covers. So, we could well stay out of it. Of course, I stand for doing it, as best as we can, because I think this region needs it. But if you feel uneasy about it, it's ok. I will call and email everyone and tell them look, we've changed our mind, we can't do this.

On the 29th the partnership meets up. I don't get the full support I would like to, nor the commitment to share parts of the budget as had happened with the courses; what I get is a “forward, but with caution” sort of position. I don't like it, but I see the point: despite my efforts and some promising conversation, we cannot establish a good relationship with the regional administration8. Since we do not know whether they, our managing authority, approve our decision, we need to be very careful to present what we are doing as “business as usual”, ensuring it is formally consistent to the forms we filled back in 2005 (though the latter is based on a knowledge base which is a lot narrower than the one we have built up since!). The map document, renamed “Atlas of the musical creativity in the Pescara metropolitan area”, is finished by early January 9. While we work on it, we organize by late January a public meeting that was not planned by the integrated tools action document; we think of it as a sort of feedback to the circa 40 among small businesses, cultural NGOs and local authorities we have been interacting with in autumn 2006. We also plan to use it to make two high-profile proposals: (1) found an umbrella organization to represent the music scene and (2) use it to propose to produce, in the summer 2007, an event celebrating Pescara's creativity, communicating at the same time to the citizenship that the city means to make the most of the Mediterranean Games opportunity. Booster volunteers to support the organization-building and event designing processes, and to produce its own project work event as a part of this larger event. In December I work hard to make sure everyone turns out for this meeting. I start with the regional administration and the city's local authority, checking that the date we pick does not clash with the calendars of the key officials. Not that I want them to speak: on the contrary, I think their presence as simple participants, listening to a proposal just like companies and NGOs do, would
8 9

December 2006 – January 2007, Atlas of music creativity: “Pescara has the potential for change, given the willingness of some of the relevant stakeholders to work towards a common goal and by the Mediterranean Games opportunity. We, the Booster project, can contribute to this change, launching a challenge to the city and volunteering to support the strategic aggregation process of the city's music scene.”

This problem is still unresolved at the time of writing. http://www.equalbooster.it/online/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/atlante-della-creativita.pdf

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You are here 3_1.odt give out a strong signal of the favourable cultural micro-climate surrounding Booster. On January 22nd we meet up in Ecoteca and I launch our two proposals. To my astonishment, they are both accepted without discussion. My impression is that the Pescarese are a little shocked, but they perceive this thing as “a chance that cannot be missed” (as Intercity's Vincenzo tells me). This meeting is also the communication staff's finest hour: it is clear that the kids are running the project, and the companies and NGOs know them well and relate to them, while they ignore completely the seniors of the development partnership (they stand out of Ecoteca smoking, a nice symbol of their visibility loss). Only Vincenzo seems determined to play a role for Enfap. The consensus to our proposals, obviously, force us to scale up the project, opening immediately another phase... but this is another story, which is still going on.

6.

Some good advice to finish off

I wrote in the beginning that this account is not meant as a model to gain credibility in any local arena. Despite this (and aware of the methodological tensions between etic and emic approaches that underpin such an attitude10) the Booster project's narrative at the moment seems to me to be strong enough to generate some good advice that I mean to keep in mind as I venture in my next projects. Here they are: 1. 2. infiltrate. Recruiting into the project people that belong to its target allows to take advantage of their knowledge about it. invest on the workgroup. Train it, support it, give it space to take initiatives, build up its credibility with respect to the rest of the project's organization. go viral. Group members, if they believe in what they are doing, will put their personal credibility behind the project; this makes communication a lot more effective. It will be perceived as word-ofmouth within the community rather than as top-down advertising. connote the project with an aesthetic that the target group can recognize as its own. The institutional-bureaucratic style normally used for ESF projects in Italy is almost always worse than useless. Certainly so with young, creative people. open the project and its decision making process towards third parties as much as possible. In a situation of mutual distrustfulness among stakeholders, too much discretion is perceived as suspicious. above all, take action and don't yield to the cynicism of “change is impossible”. If the main goal seems out of reach, the thing to do is most likely to go for a less ambitious one, keeping in mine that the action taken to reach the latter may open up a path towards the main goal that seemed unreachable at the start. Maintaining some negative capability for a first (long) phase of a project is advisable.
I owe this observation to Tommaso Fabbri.

3.

4.

5.

6.

10

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Footnote 1: hacker tradition and music in Pescara
In the last months of 2006 I decide to enrich the Booster network with some firms and NGOs that focus not on music, but on hi-tech. We have found out that Pescara has a strong hacker tradition, and that this has generated a good competence pool on ICTs, and on open source software in particular. Given the appetite for technology of the music business in the third millennium, we find it logical to strengthen the ties – that were already there anyway – between the hacker and the music scenes. So I decide to try and bring the hackers into the network. I write in the Atlas:
To use an idiom that has begun to spread in the Booster workgroup, rockers and hackers know each other, hang out with each other, share interests and experiences. So Denis Roio, a Pescarese hacker who moved to Amsterdam, develops an open source program for djs, FreeJ, and for audio webcasting, MuSE; cybernetic and artificial intelligence expert Luigi Pagliarini (who works between Italy and Denmark) co-founds Ecoteca and organizes there PEAM (Pescara Electronic Arts Meeting 11); the Zapotek collective organizes electronic music events, embracing at the same time the open source philosophy; the Premio Web Italia (Italian Web Award) promotes a music festival; both Ecoteca and Orange (Pescarese clubs, ndr) are committed to use only Linux for their data systems. We think this closeness is an extraordinary resource not only for the music scene, but for the city at large. As is well known, the ability to use creatively the internet and ICTs in general has become a primary competitive driver; furthermore, the hi-tech world is a formidable generator ofinnovation – not necessarily technical innovation only.

Both Roberto and Elisa have close ties with the hacker community and guide me in this exploration. They warn me repeatedly that they are pretty marginal to the city's life, so much that many of its most prominent members work outside of Pescara (some have moved to different countries). They have a point: we find that they are generally tech savvy, but they feel left out and are generally pessimistic about the possibility of a positive change. Also, they are not used to collaborating outside of a narrow circle: some of them, anyway, get involved.

Footnote 2: Booster's internet tools
The Booster project is a heavy user of internet tools, that has made interaction – hence the work – a lot easier. Improve these tools and train workgroups to use them well is a path we think it is certainly worth going down. They are: email – My “Tools action” folder contains, at the time of writing, 296 messages. I have used it a lot as an source to build an account of the discussions related here. Obviously, the willingness of some group members (like Marco) to communicate in writing is an advantage for communication and rigour, and it leaves a trace that can be searched for self-assessment. Skype – Skype is a platform for voice communication over internet (VOIP). in the November 2006-January 2007 period Marco, Roberto, Elisa and I did a lot of conference calls on Skype: they are easy to use and free. Since I live in
11

http://www.artificialia.com/peam2006/index.html Among the partners of the 2006 edition are ClapDance (a Pescarese music promoter), Mente Locale (a local newsmagazine) the national magazine Music Club and the music information website Rockit.

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You are here 3_1.odt Milan, Roberto in Rome, Marco in Reggio Emilia and Elisa in Pescara, the advantage to call the group to an “evening chat” to gather ideas is clear. The Skype client tells you when other users in your address book are online, so I could even call a conference on the fly when I saw that the others were online. Mailing lists – The Booster project maintains three mailing lists. The first one, used by the students, was started on January 25th; at the time of writing more than 350 messages have been posted on it. In mid-February we started the other two, one for a group of people involved in designing the Summer 2007 event and the other for another group working on a possible umbrella organization of the music scene. Both groups include people working in the Booster project and people from our regional network. The former was terminated when the event proposal was finalised on April 4th, at 77 messages posted. The latter is still going, and has conveyed 33 messages at the time of writing. Our impression is that this is a simple, yet effective communication channel, useful to integrate “live” meetings supplying a space for long-ranging reflections that there is no time to make during meetings as well as for trivial matters. Some moderation intervention was necessary to teach students netiquette; almost none of them knew how to use a ML in a work environment. Google Calendar – This utility allows to build and share online calendars, easily accessed through any web browser. As per my suggestion, Marco went live with a calendar for Booster classes in November: this initial tools later developed into a general project calendar that keeps track of non-teaching events too, like meetings among us or with third parties, steering committee meetings etc. The calendar is accessible via the project's website, so that students can use it too. Elisa, Marco and I have editing privileges, others are limited to read-only access. http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=b8cfpt3gsomv7ithk2eodvf78g%4 0group.calendar.google.com Myspace – Booster's Myspace page (www.myspace.com/progettobooster) was launched in September 2006, in a phase in which we still did not have an official website. In a few days it hit 600 page views. In the following months the project website (www.equalbooster.it) went live, and the staff abandoned the Myspace page, which retrospectively could have been an interesting experience. Today the page views are 1,726, with 95 “friends”. Blog – As we worked on this document, we came to the conclusion that blogs, with their knack for the agile, informal “note scribbling” and explicit subjectivity (each post is signed by an individual blogger) can be an excellent source to tap if one is interested in writing “a narrative of sliding narratives”. Unfortunately a true Booster project blog does not exist: only on February 15th have we launched an experimental workgroup blog (www.blogspot.com/thehublog), on which, so far, only Marco and I have posted (Elisa was invited to contribute, but she never posted anything). This seems a very promising tool, especially from the point of view of project monitoring and assessment. Project website – After several delays and false starts, www.equalbooster.it went live in autumn 2006. It features some “institutional” pages, and serves as a reservoir of the deliverables we produce (like the research reports, the project Manifesto and the Atlas of music creativity); it also supports the three mailing lists supporting the project. In general, however, the services supplied by a dedicated website are nowhere near as good, in usability terms, as those Page 16 of 17

You are here 3_1.odt supplied – for free – by the various web 2.0 “social network” platforms. The lesson we draw for the future from this experience is to allocate the bulk of the financial resources to producing and managing content. Almost any technology that a project like Booster might wish to use, from mailing lists (Yahoo! Groups) to blogs (Blogger, Splinder, WordPress), form fora (Ning) to platforms for sharing dosuments (Scribd), images (Flickr), music files (Myspace) and videos (YouTube) is an abundant resource in 2007.

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