Award Fortuna d`oro 2023

It is with great joy that we announce that the city of Fano has awarded the La Fortuna d’Oro Award to Francesco Tonucci. The ceremony took place this Friday 21 April 2023 at the “Teatro della Fortuna” in Fano.

La Fortuna d’oro (The Golden Fortune) is awarded to the citizens of excellence who have brought prestige to the city of Fano in the world.

Congratulations dear Francesco!

News on Fano Informa (Italian)

Francesco Tonucci's speech at the award ceremony

Golden Fortune Award

Fano, 21 April 2023

An exuberant people reduced to silence

Girls and boys of the Fano Children’s Council, Mr. Mayor, Mrs. President of the Council, authorities and friends of Fano, thank you for this special invitation.

I also send a greeting full of affection and love to the friends of Spain and Latin America, led by Lorena Morachimo, who follow us in striming.

My brother Don Paolo on 19 October 1992 in the Sala della Concordia after receiving the Fortuna d’oro, referring to the Brazilian people, who had become his people for 27 years, defined them as “an exuberant people reduced to silence”. I take up this beautiful and dramatic expression to refer it to the people of childhood, which has been my world of reference for more than 50 years. There is no doubt that the people of girls and boys are an exuberant, lively, often uncomfortable people, and that they have been reduced to silence, knowingly and guiltily by the adult world.

At the age of three my eldest son said “father I discovered” because he already knew how to conjugate verbs. All three-year-old boys and girls know how to conjugate verbs and at six they can speak well. For all of them, verbal language is the most mature, most effective channel of communication. When full of curiosity and expectations they enter school they have to keep quiet and for at least 12 years they will have to keep quiet because at school they only speak when questioned. What they do best is prevented from them.

I believe that the most important proposal that in these 32 years of the “The city of girls and boys” project has been and continues to be precisely this: giving the floor to children, recognizing their competence and ability, recognizing them as citizens and no longer as future citizens.

On 27 May 1991, in a Politeama crowded with the public and especially with children, an extraordinary municipal council was held which approved the birth of the Fano project “The city of children”. On that same day, and the coincidence seems to me significant, the Italian Parliament approved Law 176 for the Ratification and Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child approved by the United Nations on 20 November 1989.

In my sophomore opening speech in May of 1992, I said, “We want to empower children. We want to give the children the floor. We want to arm children with their rights and educate adults to listen to them, without demagoguery, without naivety, but convinced that children have a lot to tell us and it is worth listening to them”.

Following the resolution of the Fanese municipal council, the then mayor Francesco Baldarelli asked me to take on the scientific direction of the project and I, as you may recall, answered yes, but with one condition, that from that moment I would no longer be on his side , but on the side of the children and therefore, probably, often against him. I would assume the role of being the “cana gusa” for the Administration. Fanesi of a certain age know that the “cana gusa” was a pointed cane that the peasants used to prod the oxen that pulled the plough.

I believe I have never given up on this commitment, both in the years in which I led the Fano Laboratory and its Children’s Council, and immediately afterwards, when I led the experience of Rome and its Council with Mayor Veltroni.

In those first years of our project there were those who said it would not last long. And it was a real possibility. Everything about children is fragile and temporary, just get distracted for a moment, just forget about it and it’s over. And, usually, children don’t even protest, accustomed as they are to the generous promises of adults that are easily forgotten or betrayed.

But after more than 30 years, our project is present in more than 200 cities, in 15 countries in Europe and Latin America and has recently begun its presence in France in the city of Montpellier and in Brazil with great enthusiasm, typical of that people of my brother Paolo, with a meeting I had a few weeks ago in the city of Jundiaì in the state of São Paulo and which was attended by representatives of more than 60 cities and more than 20 mayors.

In 1996 the management of the project, with the agreement of the Fanese Council, passed to Rome, to my Institute of Psychology of the CNR, as my research project and then I asked Fano to continue to be the leading city, the experience pilot. In that year, the book “La città dei bambini” was published first with the Laterza publishing house, which edited eight editions, and more recently with Zeroseiup, which published all the materials of our project. This book is now translated into eight languages and takes not only the project “The city of children and children” around the world, but also our city of Fano, which is mentioned more than 80 times in this book.

In fact, to explain the project, I mentioned in the book the many experiences started and implemented in those first five years of activity. I mention a few: the Council of Girls and Boys opens, which has never interrupted its activity up to today and which today honors us with its presence; at the request of the children, the City Council decides on the right of children to play in the squares of the city; and decides on the free opening of the spaces intended for paid sporting activities for an afternoon period; experiences of “Let’s go alone to school” begin in the Poderino and San Lazzaro districts; in these same districts the characteristics of the streets are being modified by widening the sidewalks to favor the independence of pedestrians; Casa Archilei is defended by a very advantageous sale to remain an urban environmental education center; some participatory planning interventions are carried out with the children on areas of the port and back-beach area; the small tourist guides are formed, who study our city and tell it to groups of children and visiting adults in the summer; every year the last week of May is dedicated to children with initiatives, meetings and exhibitions that see the participation of many Italian cities and the first foreign cities: the week ends on Sunday with the closure of the two major road arteries to traffic with this sign: “Today the streets of Fano were closed to cars because they were given to children to play with”; the Fanese tourist signage is renewed with small aluminum totems suitable for children and people with disabilities; a campaign entitled “My city and I” , approved by the “Ministry of Public Education” (as it was correctly called then), engages dozens of cities for several years on various themes of the city and brings to Fano testimonies and projects from all over Italy, during the week of May; with the children, proposals are evaluated to improve the stay of the children at the Ospedaletto (the children’s hospital of Fano) and it is studied what a restaurant and a hotel could be like to be suitable for children.  

An intense activity that unfortunately has not known or been able to always maintain this pace and this level in the following years, but which has regained interest and strength in recent years with the syndicate of Massimo Seri.

Allow me a brief reflection on the dramatic history we have experienced in the last three years, I am obviously referring to the pandemic,

The pandemic has been a very important test for everyone. Many have suffered it humiliating and complaining, someone has overcome it taking advantage of it to change and grow. The Italian school has chosen as its slogan: “School doesn’t stop”, but the world had stopped and where was school going? She actually didn’t stop, she went ahead with her programs and used the platforms to teach and dictate homework, and our children, locked up at home, watched the army trucks carrying the bodies to Bergamo, the school explained the dinosaurs, Napoleon. My niece, finishing eighth grade, was studying Romanticism.

In that same period we sent a message to the mayors of our cities, in the various countries, asking them to urgently convene the Children’s Councils. We too used the platforms we didn’t know, but we used them to listen to the children, so that the children could talk to each other, so that they could make observations and proposals to their mayors to better experience such a difficult period. The experience of the school, not only in Italy, has been a disaster, it has disappointed the pupils, the families and the teachers themselves. And in the end we asked ourselves: how much did the students lose in those long months of isolation? The experience of our Councils was a success, children and families liked it, often fortnightly meetings became weekly. During the pandemic our project grew and I personally had to learn how to use the platforms and hold a number of conferences, meetings and interviews like never before in my life. The truth is that everyone, even the students, despite school, learned a lot in those months, we should just be able to bring it out and value it.

Some significant proposals of the Children’s Councils of Argentina: In a meeting with a deputy minister they asked that children be recognized the right to computer connection and the Government approved it; the children at the children’s hospital said they needed the internet more than oxygen. A child protested that his father, mother and dog could leave the house but not him. A little girl proposed putting a button on computers to turn off the teacher.  

The Children’s Council of Latina proposed the change of article 6 of the Municipal Police Regulations which said: “Playing in public places is prohibited” and the City Council changed it with: “The Municipality of Latina, in compliance with the article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child promotes children’s play in public places and for public use”.

What does this acknowledgment mean in relation to all this? I’m not interested in reading it as a recognition to myself, but rather as a renewed commitment of the city of Fano, of my city, for this project which has opened a very important door in adult culture: that of listening to children, a real listening, interested, to take advantage of another point of view, a point of view different from ours and which, taken into account, enriches ours. It enriches our politics and brings it out of the dangers of self-referentiality, of the self-sufficiency of adult pride and opens it to the needs of others, of the little ones, of the least.

With this award, the city of Fano somehow renews its trust and commitment to take up the path started in 1991 with conviction and helps me to answer a question that I am frequently asked in many countries, even far away when they tell me : “We want to get to know Fano, the city where the City of Girls and Boys project began ” and they add “What can we see again other than what we have read in the book?”

Here, I would like my city to help me, to give me important reasons to invite the cities of the world to Fano, to see concretely what it means to listen to the children and take their suggestions into account.

As long as my strength permits, I will continue to accompany this project of ours.

For all these reasons, I thank first of all the girls and boys of Fano. I thank Francesco Baldarelli and Massimo Seri for understanding all the administrators who have succeeded in these 32 years, I thank Alfredo Pacassoni, Gabriella Peroni, Beatrice della Santa, Paola Stolfa and all those who have carried out the project.

I dedicate this award to my family, to my father, my mother and Paolo, to my brothers, children and nephews and to whoever would probably have been silently prouder of it and who certainly had the greatest merit.

Thank you