Community Engagement for Social Inclusion


Palermo, Capo Monte di Pietà

The neighbourhood “Capo - Monte di pietà” is the test area in which Bond of Union will put in place the work for COMENSI. The district is in the municipal area of the old city centre of Palermo (Circoscrizione I, Palermo). Despite its state of social and economical decadence, the neighbourhood remains one of the most historically, religious and culturally rich. Its boundary is defined by the Cathedral of Palermo, the Teatro Massimo, the court of justice and Quattro Canti (4 corners) the central point of the old town. The neighbourhood is also crossed by the famous market “Capo” one of the most used and visited within the entire city.

The total population of this neighbourhood is 6,422 of whom 1,449 are migrants and/or with migrant background (22.6% of the population mostly coming from Bangladesh). Most of the population (70.1%) is within an age range of 15-64.

Local issues

Specific challenges of the neighbourhood are:

The main obstacle for the inclusion of the disadvantaged adults living in the Capo-Monte di Pietà is the precarious living conditions. Other obstacles are the low level of education and understanding of the benefits of civic participation. The ways to access social services and municipal services to support inclusion (although limited in number and budget) are not well known and shared among the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Therefore, the municipal social services need to be better spread and simple ways of communicating to citizens (in particular with those at risk of exclusion) should be created and tested. There are also no systems in place to encourage participation in the decision making processes.
In 2017, the local municipal department responsible for Palermo city centre launched a series of public meetings in the main squares and meeting points to facilitate the dialogue among the administrators and the citizens. In April 2018 a public committee took place in the neighbourhood Capo-Monte di Pietà. The committee was an opportunity to hear the needs of the residents and to start to create a network among organisations, local stakeholders and residents.

Current position

The interest of Bond of Union toward this area began when the organisation was given a workspace there by the Municipality of Palermo. In early 2016, Bond of Union staff carried out an action-research in the neighbourhood with the involvement of the local inhabitants. The main aim of the study was to identify a need - analysis to understand the perceived needs and address present and future action with and in the neighbourhood. Although initially resistant, the residents of the neighbourhood and the local stakeholders (artisans, workers of the market, etc) became willing to express their opinion, to analyse the problems of the neighbourhood and to identify possible solutions.

The results collected from this research have been used to inform a needs analysis for the design of educational projects in 2017 and 2018. The need to recreate a link and a shared memory among the residents of Capo have been the focus of projects as Youth Map and Urbex addressed to a target of young participants. Using methodologies such as urban exploration, mapping and interviews the young participants had the opportunity to interact with residents and stakeholders of the area and to design simple ideas to resolve the local issues identified.

In the development of COMENSI, Bond of Union directly involved the local municipal department responsible for Palermo city centre, the social services office of the local department, the not-for-profit and volunteering actors located in the neighbourhood, the residents and the workers of the neighbourhood (mainly artisans and workers of the market).