In previous posts some contextual aspects of public participation are reviewed. In this post we describe our experience to make thing happen when talking about public participation and citizen involvement. It is necessary to emphasize the importance of a right participatory process as the use of digital tools providing access to all citizens.

How do we proceed? The definition

Any participation process can be standardized in certain steps, and the first one is  the definition:

  • Publicly acknowledge any previous experience on citizen participation
  • The organization leading the of the participatory process should address it as a cross-cutting issue
  • Identify the actors involved in the issue at the local level, because they should be also involved on the definition of the public participation policy.
  • Start the participatory process with a Leading Group for accompaniment and validation, developing the next tasks:
    • Establishing what should be understood by citizen participation
    • Critically evaluate the results achieved so far
    • Identifying what would be the main issues of interest
    • Identifying intervention methodologies
    • Designing the process through work plans

Hereon, the implementation phase takes place through the use of any of the methodologies described in the previous post, to end with impact assessment and accountability.

The indispensable ICT tools. IMPLEMENTATION PHASE

The process of advising and creation of a public policy on public participation requires ICT to make participation processes really accessible. Citizens should have the possibility to express their opinions and, therefore, physical attendance is not a must.

The partnership between U·TRANS and Milgrams makes possible the use of digital tools such as web platforms, or even a simple mobile App for allowing citizens formulate their proposals, as well as to share them among the community through integration to other apps (Whatsapp, social media).

Design of the Public Participation App

Design of the Public Participation App

The application is divided into four modules.

  • Module 1. Registration / Log-in. The system can allow both free access, generating a user and a password, or restrict it to the residents of the municipality through the verification of officially provided data. In addition, users may be asked for demographic data, maintaining their anonymity, to be used for the information/management step.
  • Module 2. Gathering of proposals. This tool allows citizens to formulate their proposals and vote the others proposals, in order to know which are the most popular ones. The more votes a proposal collects, the more priority should be for public officer. It is based, in fact, on pioneering experiences such as the White House requests website ‘We the People’ or the website of ‘Decide Madrid’, launched by Madrid City Council in 2015.
  • Module 3. Participatory Budget. This module implements a voting system for participatory budgets, so that citizens can vote and decide the most relevant actions, being aware of the opportunity cost that their decision may entail.
  • Module 4. Citizen consultation system. Citizens have the power to decide these issues where it wants to listen their opinion, answering closed questions. For instance, deciding to change the name of a street, deciding between two architectural proposals, either answering yes / no or assigning votes among several options.

The system is customizable according to the needs of each municipality, adding the suitable modifications as well as adapting the APP design to the municipal corporate image.

Evaluation of Impact and Accountability. EVALUATION PHASE

Once data is collected, the App has a management system that allows technical staff to exploit it efficiently, helping to respond and to improve the management of participatory processes.

This step includes the visualization of the results of the process, the analysis of the data obtained according to demographic variables or the location of the user are contemplated, in such a way that process can be optimized and conclusions can be drawn. A professional team will support the organization of the planning process, implementation and public presentation.

On the one hand, based on the experience accumulated by U·TRANS in participation processes in several municipalities such as Sallent, Tossa de Mar and Calella, we offer a service to support the definition of public policies on public participation. As a conclusion, the training of technical staff and the definition of the participation process are not enough. There is also a need for actively searching for resources, technical support in the development the process, the contribution of ICT solutions and the evaluation of its impact and accountability systems.

On the other hand, we collaborate with Milgrams to design ICT allowing implementation and data collection and to customize it according to the needs of each municipality. So far, Milgrams has successfully implemented digital platforms in Gavà, Castelldefels, Santa Coloma de Farners, Celrà, Sant Just Desvern, Torroella de Montgrí, Montcada i Reixac or Sant Boi de Llobregat.

 

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