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Trails of Participation-Sentieri di Partecipazione | Civic Europe
Environment and sustainability, Youth participation and empowerment

Trails of Participation-Sentieri di Partecipazione winner

Fostering youth participation and community dialogue across villages through community action to preserve the woods and forest trails.


Who is behind this?

Paola Beltrami

Associazione DragoLago


Who is joining forces?

Ente di Gestione delle Aree Protette del Ticino e del Lago Maggiore


Radio 6+


Istituto Comprensivo Statale del Vergante


The following municipalities of the following villages have already officially expressed their support to the project: Gozzano, Ameno, Invorio, Orta.


Idea pitch

Depopulation, lack of opportunities for youth, isolation and neglected commons are all challenges faced by the 7 villages involved in our project. We want to revive our communities, reconnect them and mobilize them for the preservation of one of their most neglected andvaluable assets: the forest and its dense network of trails which has connected our villages for centuries. We believe young people should lead this process, through civic participation, dialogue and community organizing.

Where will your project idea take place?

Orta, Miasino, Armeno, Gozzano, Ameno, Invorio and Bolzano Novarese, in North-West of Italy.

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Our challenges are the lack of opportunities for youth participation in public life and the lack of accountability and care for community commons, in particular the forest trails’ network. The project area is part of the “Ticino Val Grande Verbano” Biosphere Reserve but the woods and the forest trails are neglected. Local communities are little aware even of being part of the Reserve and lack skills to organize for the preservation and local authorities’ accountability. Local youth have demonstrated interest and will to get active in their communities through civic action. We have accompanied many groups of teenagers in activities to preserve the local nature and heritage. However, these activities are mainly limited to the school time and are not available for older teenagers (14-18).

Who are you doing it for?

At least 80 girls and boys aged 11-14 and 20 youth aged 15-18 will be directly supported. Indirectly, the action aims at inspiring all the 1270 teenagers living in the area to become active in their communities. At least 8 teachers in 4 schools will also be involved. The initiative’s activities will mobilize at least 1,000 people across the 7 municipalities, from kids to elderlies through community events. Local public administrators of at least 7 municipalities will also be engaged as well as other local stakeholders such as farmers living in proximity of the forest trails, local small enterprises and local actors that play a role in the forest protection. Gender and diversity balance will be ensured in all activities.

How do you plan to get there?

>>4 Workshops on sustainability and community-based preservation of commons will be conducted for the CCRs (11-14 years old) in partnership with local secondary schools. The CCRs will also meet to get to know each other and identify topics for common work.
>>A Community Activation Lab will be organized for 20 youth (15-18) from all the municipalities. This group will also conduct a consultation with local youth to design a proposal for youth inclusion in local policy making (ex. inter-municipal Youth Council), which will be presented to local administrations.
>>Raising community awareness on the forest trails. The CCRs’ teenagers will create a map of problems of the trails, through active exploration. Problems identified will then be presented and discussed with local communities through community dialogues/campaigns facilitated by the older youth
>>A Forest Community Action Week will be organized to get all the community (including local administrators and refugees hosted locally) to explore the forest trails, understand their beauty and to gather ideas on how to maintain the forest trails through community involvement (ex. putting signals, how to report problems, etc.) A proposal will be drafted and publicly presented.
Local national and international tourists will be also involved through 2 walks organized by the youth in order to sensitize and raise their awareness.

What are the expected results?

Through the initiative, at least 100 teenagers and youth will have led an intensive experience of community engagement and mobilization,gaining practical skills on dialogue facilitation and community action. These skills will remain and can be used to tackle other community problems. We expect that the whole community will be much more aware and determined to contribute to preserve the forest and its trails. The local existing mechanisms for youth participation (CCRs)will be strengthened as they will be connected across municipalities. Teachers will also improve their skills on civic education. A community-based preservation mechanism for the forest trail will be co-designed and social cohesion will be reinforced. Local administrators will also be held accountable and will be more engaged.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

All project activities will be mainly led by local teenagers and youth through the existing Teenagers Youth Councils (11-14 years old) and a group of older teenagers (15-18) who will be also tasked to co-design a proposal to improve youth inclusion in local policy making. Community members will be involved in dialogue activities where they will be encouraged to constantly express their opinions and views. Civic education is an important component of the project; at least 4 workshops will be organized on sustainable local development and community-based preservation, to make teenagers aware of the active role citizens can play in protecting local heritage and nature. Through a Community Activation Lab older teenagers will also receive practical training to directly engage with communities.

Why is this idea important to you?

Paola Giroldini, 50, co-founder of DragoLago. She has been working with local youth for over 10 years on civic, environmental and peace education.
Paola Beltrami, 33, has a background in international cooperation, mediation, social entrepreneurship and citizen activism
Silvia Terzera, 23, is graduated in Tourism and Local Community Development, with a focus on community resources' sustainable management
Olga Lilia Espinosa Arias, is Mexican but has been living in the area for over 30 years. She is an Art Therapist and expert on Intercultural communication. She has organized many community workshops on these topics
Erica Bussandri, 22, is also expert in Art Therapy and currently works to support women victims of human trafficking
All the team members have a deep knowledge of the area

€ 35690,-

Total budget

€ 31890,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Facilitators and Coordination costs : 14.400 € (2.400 € by Gozzano Municipality)
Transportation Costs for Participants: 1.700 €
Environmental Expert & Educator/Trainers: 4.740 €
Graphic Design & Video Making: 2.000 €
Stationery & Materials: 250 €
Community Facilitators Kits: 600 €
Digital Subscriptions: 300 €
Community Activation Lab - activities: 2300 €
Forest Community Action Week - activities: 3.800 €
Radio costs: 400 €
Insurance: 1.400 € (400 € DragoLago)

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We would love to receive feedback on how we can make this initiative even more sustainable. We would also like to think of ways to involve more international tourists and temporary inhabitants in our project, because they are an important component of our area’s socio-economic life.

Project Journey

Road to impact

Ending (and continuing) our Project

We have finally come at the end of our project! The last months were all dedicated to finalize the activities and to reflect on what we have achieved and how we can continue the work we started through the project.

In October, we still had the opportunity to organize a training on “Active Listening and Youth Participation” for a group of young people from the Invorio Youth Council. The training exposed some key techniques and methodologies to start and facilitate active listening processes at the community level in order to understand the complexity of the social context and also get in touch with its different interests and needs. Also some members of Dragolago could attend this training, which provided us with very useful ideas and information on how we could continue and deepen our work with the local communities and young people.

Now that we are at the end of this journey with Civic Europe, we have realized how much we learned throughout this project and we are thankful for the opportunity we had to implement our project but also to network and get to know other associations around Europe.

We are going to continue our work on the preservation of the trails and the involvement of young people in the next years and we hope our paths will cross again!

Paola on Dec. 10, 2022
Road to impact

“Forestival”: a community action week for the preservation of the forest and the trails

May was a very busy month as the project team finalized the preparation of a community action week for the preservation of the forest and trails.

A team of around 20 young volunteers was already formed in April to work on this event whose aim was to mobilize communities and directly get them involved in the discovery and preservation of the trails. The team was led by Dragolago, the Consulta Giovanile and the “Volpi di Invorio” (Invorio’s Foxes) a young local association mainly formed of young mountainbikers and hikers which aims at improving the accessibility of the forest for the local community.

The team brainstormed and came up with a catchy name for the event : Forestival, a name that was considered more appealing also for young people in the area.

The Forestival took place from 18 June till 2 July 2022 with most of the activities being held outdoors in the forest and trails.

The workshop Living Green was proposed again to a wider public; at least 2 walks were organized to clean the trails, prioritizing those trails that were the most neglected. 

Forestival’s events interacted with other activities that took place in the same period where Dragolago was involved; this was a mindful decision in order to amplify the outreach of the project’s activities and avoid overlapping with other local events.

In this sense, local CCRs organized a walk through the trails to accompany community members to the artistic show “Voli Radicali” (Radical Flights), an environmental show played in the woods and on the shores of river Agogna, to raise awareness on the alien plants that are replacing native ones in a big part of the forest. Also, Dragolago led the implementation of an Outdoor Game in the forest, a game that was developed to bring participants into the woods and make them discover and understand its ecosystem better while having fun.

The 2 weeks of activities ended with a one-day community celebration; on 2 July, workshops for families and kids as well as a community dinner and concert were organized to celebrate and foster community relationships.


Paola on Sept. 24, 2022
Road to impact

Mobilizing the community for the preservation of trails and the forest

In March, April and May so many things happened !!!

The Kids Municipal Councils (CCRs) have participated in the Living Green workshop, an activity that helped children develop the necessary sensitivity and awareness to be able to observe the forest. Members of CCRs were also trained to be able to lead the Living Green workshop and propose it to other kids and community members. Over 3 week-ends CCRs proposed this workshop to community members.

Accompanied by the environmental expert and 2 local artists/facilitators, CCRs explored and observed the trails and the forest, with the help of artistic observation booklets created by the artists.  The results of the observation were then discussed during 3 workshops where CCRs developed artistic maps of the trails. This activity allowed each CCR to come up with suggestions on how to improve the preservation of the trails to be presented to local administrations.

To broaden the outreach and involve more kids, Dragolago also proposed an Outodoor Game in the forest involving 5 classrooms of local schools, to allow children to explore the woods.

On parallel, the team, in cooperation with the Consulta Giovanile (Youth Council), continued its work of engagement of young people across the 7 municipalities. With the results of the world cafés with local youth, the final program of the Community Activation Lab was designed and registration was open. However, the youth response was not satisfactory. The team realized it was necessary to do much more outreach and engagement and came up with the activity of Aperi-attivo. The activity was an “aperitivo” (happy hour), which is a common practice of young people in the area to gather, including a specific fun activity that could raise youth interest on public participation in their area. A first Aperiattivo was organized in Invorio and proposed a quiz game on the local territory.

Paola on July 29, 2022
Road to impact

Trails of Participation has started !!!

Trails of Participation has finally started !!!

Since October 2021, we have created an internal team of collaborators and volunteers to start the preparation of all the activities. We have reached out to 3 local schools to design workshops and artistic mapping activities. The activities will be led by the Kids Municipal Councils (CCRs) to mobilize their communities for the preservation of the forest and trails. We have also partnered with the Consulta Giovanile (Youth Council) in Invorio, a local group of active youth, to better understand the challenges to youth participation in our communities and design together the Community Activation Lab.

In the last week of February, we have started to engage local youth, organizing world café events to present the project activities and get ideas and suggestions. We have also started the activities with the CCRs, proposing the Living Green workshop, the first step of the activities we will organize with them.

The project's volunteers' group is getting bigger, as more young people in the area are contacting us to join the activities. We are thrilled to see how the next activities will unfold.

Paola on March 4, 2022




Idea created on April 17, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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