Based on the idea that cultural consumption is important both for enriching yourself as a person and strengthening the fabric of our society, in 2016 the Italian government introduced a 500€ cultural bonus for all 18-year-old people living in Italy. Young people can spend it on cultural items and activities such as going to theatres, concerts and museums, buying books, etc. They have to register online and then spend the money through the dedicated website 18app.it, accessible from any device. This was promoted through an extensive online campaign on social media by the government.
Bonus Cultura represents a welcome for those who reach the age of 18 and a reminder of how crucial culture is, both for personal enrichment and for strengthening the social fabric of the country.
The initiative has been welcomed by 18-year-old citizens, who face a difficult economic landscape when they leave school: high unemployment, a lack of secure, long-term contracts and an economy that has performed dismally for a decade. Every 18-year-old has been entitled to claim 500€ and spend it on culturally enriching pursuits such as going to theatres, concerts and museums, visiting archaeological sites, and buying books.
Young people who turn 18 can access the fund by registering through their unique digital identity (SPID), and then spend the money, through the dedicated website 18app.it, accessible from any device. They have six months to register and one year to spend all the credit. The process is entirely made online: each user can create vouchers which can be used to make purchases. The vouchers can be printed or downloaded to smartphones and tablets for making in-store purchases and can also be used to shop online.
Giving each teenager 500€ to spend on culture means investing in their future and allowing them to participate directly to their county cultural and social life. In order to make the initiative well-known and to make the users a pro-active part of it, a social media campaign has been made on Facebook and Instagram. For the first time ever, the Italian government decided to choose social media as the main medium to talk to citizens and the results are outstanding.
The official Facebook fan page gives information and collects users feedback also through direct messaging. At the moment, the numbers are the following:
Followers: 49k; Reach: 3,5 mln; Engagement: 12 %; Messages received: 15k
Followers: 14k; Reach: 1,4 mln; Engagement: 6 %
Young citizens are not the only one who benefited from the innovation. Also cultural merchants were part of the project since the very beginning: not only big players, but small ones too. The participation of merchants is relevant and the result of the hole project is a measurable growth in cultural consumption.
A mobile native app is about to be released. It is an open source software. The open collaboration has created a network of digital specialists that work together in order to constantly improve the innovation.
The innovation is now at its third edition and a fourth one is already provided for the following year. In the meantime, government has changed twice. The social media campaign is still ongoing and the expected results are even bigger than the present ones. The constant activity on social media, including direct messaging, is extremely helpful and effective in terms of accountability , web reputation, transparency and stakeholder participation. As a result, the users seem to be more trustful towards the government and more involved in its proposals.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Bonus Cultura is a unique case all over the world. By giving each teenager 500€ to spend on culture, Italy promoted a cultural policy where the focus is on the demand instead of the supply, and the recipients are very young.
The project is entirely digital and for the first time ever, the Italian government decided to use mainly social media to promote it and to establish a direct and pro-active interaction with citizens.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Bonus Cultura is the result of a collaborative work led by the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. It sees the contribution of different actors: Digital Team of Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Italian Digital Agency (Agid), Computer Technology General Society (Sogei), Public Insurance Services Society (Consap).
The users themselves are involved in the design process of the innovation by giving feedback and comments.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
– All citizens born in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
– Businesses part of the culture sector
– Government officials involved in the design and users of the platform/social media to better understand citizens’ needs.
– The media, which played an important role in disseminating information.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
We are able to make a comparison between the three editions of the project. It is possible to measure the results and impacts on users and stakeholders by looking at data and by analysing the social media insights. The entire amount of potential users is approximately 550k per year. Here below, some numeric results.
First edition - 2016/2017 (ended): 356k people registered - 162mln € spent - 4,4k merchants active -30k Facebook fans - 3k Instagram followers - 6k messages received on Facebook
Second edition - 2017/2018 (ended): 417k people registered - 192mln € spent - 5,3k merchants active - 46k Facebook fans -11k Instagram followers - 8k messages received on Facebook
Third edition - 2019 (ongoing/started on January 7th): 283k people registered -27mln € spent - 5,3 merchants
49k Facebook fans - 14k Instagram followers -1k messages received on Facebook
We expect for the current and future year a significant increase in the number of people registered and in the total amount spent.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge has been the relationship with young citizens about cultural supply which is not very familiar to them. Young recipients had problems with the online platform and revealed to be more comfortable with face-to-face interactions and mediation processes.
At the very beginning, there were technical problems, mainly related to the unique digital identity (SPID) which is the preliminary step before the registration. The two different deadlines (June 30th for the registration and December 31st for spending) were also difficult to be communicated to the young people and their families. Another critical issue was the illegal use of the Bonus made by some recipients and merchants.
To address this issues, a social media and crisis management staff was created. This working group has been able to face different problems acting both on front and back office and making connections between all the actors involved in the project.
Conditions for Success
The success of Bonus Cultura is due to different conditions:
1. a strong political will allowed the project to begin;
2. a complete regulation was written;
3. effective processes and guidance were implemented;
4. the right tools were chosen (platform and social media);
5. an organizational model was created, with the involvement of different professionals;
6. human, financial and communication resources are in place;
7. citizen’s needs and feedback are crucial;
8. the staff members are professional and motivated.
Due to its success, a similar platform, named Pass Culture, is being experimented in France.
In my opinion, the innovation has a high potential to be replicated and further developed in the future, in Italy and other countries. It could eventually lead to a European Cultural Bonus.
As we know, internet and the digital experience are part of our everyday life. Therefore, an effective open government innovation should have a deep digital implementation.
From the Bonus Cultura experience I had the opportunity to learn that the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and citizens participations need to be promoted through digital solutions and that effective digital solutions are based on a complete process engineering and on the collaboration of different government bodies.
The positive and pro-active relationship between people and governments can be translated into digital services accessible by any device, and mainly by smartphone. Moreover, a daily and quality communication with the public services users can significantly contribute to the improvement of the institution reputation and accountability.
Bonus Cultura - 18app is a best practice also from the organizational point of view. In particular, it revealed that the approach “open collaboration with a clear guidance” is effective and enables to constantly monitoring and improving the innovation.
12 February 2019