The Pandemic Crisis, Italian Municipalities, and Community Resilience


Abstract


The pandemic caused by Covid-19 has tested the resilience of public institutions, already burdened by a deep and complex crisis (political, economic, managerial). This crisis has revealed a discrepancy between the needs expressed by the community and the solutions adopted to satisfy them. This has been accompanied by a progressive worsening of decision-making efficiency and weak implementation capacity in a context of increasing environmental uncertainty. It is in local institutions, in particular, that the greatest problems are revealed, because of many endemic negative factors: political fragmentation, reduced economic resources, new forms of poverty. Against the background of this scenario, our study aims to analyze the reaction of local institutions to the pandemic crisis by looking at both welfare and communication services. The objective is to identify key features in understanding the resilience of municipalities. In other words, their ability to react and adapt to change, which is essential not only to deal with emergencies, such as the pandemic, but also to make the institution itself sustainable. Our interest is focused on a specific dimension of the resilience of the municipalities, related to collaboration with the third sector. The pandemic has shown that the continuous activism of non-profit organizations has allowed for the continuation of many so-called "ordinary" services, as well as the launch of several initiatives aimed at alleviating other social problems. The research has, first of all, an exploratory character that befits a new and still ongoing phenomenon. The basic questions concern the production of local welfare policies by municipalities. The data show different levels of "interventism" and different modes of communication. On this latter point, we observe the presence of significant attention-seeking among Mayors as community builders able, on the one hand, to reinforce the spirit of solidarity and, on the other, to uphold respect for the rules. On the services side, three main models of response to the pandemic emerge, two of which refer to the public-private relationship in local welfare policies. Findings suggest that these different reactions will have consequences in the immediate future for the management of the pandemic crisis (still ongoing). Specifically, the tendency is to employ a management of services based on partnership-model, which means that public-private collaboration is a pillar of local welfare. This seems to entail a greater legitimacy for individuals or associations to participate in the formulation and implementation of policies.

Keywords: COVID; crisis communication; governance; resilience; social participation; sustainability; third sector

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