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Rewarding green actions: a digital platform for citizen engagement in Prato

Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ), a project launched by the city of Prato, funded by the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) programme, will regenerate selected districts of Prato by developing high density green areas – so-called urban jungles. PUJ also aims to increase social inclusion and promote the sustainable development of the urban environment. Towards these objectives, Prato has deployed a new section on greenApes, a digital platform that aims to change the lifestyle choices of its users, by attributing real or symbolic rewards to those who engage in sustainable actions.

In 2018, the Municipality of Prato adopted a new masterplan. Among its themes, the environmental objective is articulated in the urban forestry strategy that includes the analysis of the benefits of urban green environment by the Florence-based think tank PNAT and a Forestry Action Plan developed by the Milanese Boeri Architects. As part of this strategy, the Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ) project aims to regenerate selected districts of Prato in a sustainable and socially inclusive way by developing urban jungles. These new areas with a high density of greenery, immersed in the urban structure, multiply the natural capacity of plants to break down pollutants, restore the use of soil and space in the community and transform marginal and decaying areas into active green hubs within the city. These redesigned areas not only will contribute to improve the quality of the air, but will also activate positive social, cultural and economic dynamics.

The greenApes digital platform helps citizens learn about the importance of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to tackle urban challenges and adopt more sustainable behaviours and lifestyles. Virtuous behaviour will be supported via gamification and real-life rewards by local producers (e.g. organic producers, local stores, sustainable brands and providers). Citizens will earn points by inspiring the community with their green actions, through connecting with the digital app. These so-called BankoNut points will provide them rewards and discounts from commercial partners who can thereby enhance their visibility through loyalty schemes. The city will benefit of this incentive-based citizen-engagement scheme that will also support other activities of the project.

Photo (c) City of Prato

In Prato, the greenApes app was launched at the end of May 2021. Currently the app has 677 subscribers who carried out 14,000 actions of sustainable mobility, automatically registered by the app and therefore representing the largest portion of positive actions. 108 awards were distributed among 20-30 stakeholders from the territory. 1644 good practices have been shared, such as using seasonal recipes, generating 14,600 claps, similar to likes in other social media.

Citizens can become part of the community in three simple steps. They can

1) download the greenApes app on their phone and select Prato as the province of residence;

2) record their virtuous behaviours with the app (walking and cycling, buying zero km products, volunteering, etc.) and take part in the “Challenges”;

3) acquire BankoNut points, the virtual currency of the platform, which can be spent in the “Rewards” section of the app, where many local businesses provide discounts, gifts and experiences, thus contributing to a sustainable future for the city.

Sustainable practices, such as eating local, seasonal and vegetarian meals, using public transport or car sharing, biking or walking, recycling, repairing or upcycling, purchasing second-hand or eco-labelled products, have become opportunities for citizens to access both the cultural services of the city and to receive discounts in various shops.

The opportunity launched by the Municipality not only helps to educate citizens to appreciate and respect the city’s environment but it also generates an efficient circular economy, connecting citizens with local businesses.

Many shopkeepers and local producers from different productive branches have already joined the community, including Rifolab, Antico Feudo, La Bottega degli Artigiani and Puro Cashmere from the textile industry, Molino Bardazzi from the agricultural sector, Agraria Pratese from the gardening sector and the local brewery Birrificio I Due Mastri.

In addition, besides connecting many productive activities with the greenApes app, the Municipality of Prato actively contributed also to the creation of synergies between the cultural entities and events that animate Prato. Therefore, by attending cultural events and places, citizens can accumulate BankoNut points that can be spent on cultural rewards, such as tickets for concerts, shows and museum admissions.

Currently, more than 20 cultural organisations are engaged in the programme, including art museums, textile museum, cultural centres and movie theatre and theatre. Among others Pretorio Prato, Museo del Tessuto, Centro Pecci, Officina Giovani, Politeama Pratese and Teatro Metastasio.

greenApes is a digital platform rewarding sustainable actions and ideas. Cities can choose the behaviours they would like to reward (green mobility, waste sorting, energy savings, participation and volunteering). By doing so and sharing their action, citizens’ will receive rewards and at the same time inspire others.

Photo (c) City of Prato

The introduction of digital and mobile technologies has profoundly changed everyday life, transforming the way people communicate and interact with one another, but also the means of consuming or producing services and experiencing places. In the past decade, gamification practices gained popularity in addressing real-life concerns. More precisely, gamification concerns the mobilisation and implementation of ludic elements in order to manage “real” issues and affect human behaviour.

Technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, additive manufacturing or 3D-printing, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things, have long entered the public discourse. It is increasingly clear that digital changes, known as “Digital Revolution”, are becoming a key driving force in societal transformation. The transformation towards sustainability for all must be harmonised with the threats, opportunities and dynamics of the Digital Revolution. Digitalisation is not only an “instrument” to resolve sustainability challenges, it is also fundamental as a driver of disruptive change.

Written by Daniela Patti and Giovanni Pagano from Eutropian. The article was first published on the Urban Innovative Action website as part of a series of articles supporting the Prato Urban Jungle (PUJ) project.






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