In the last three months, the CitizenLab team accompanied more than ten cities and municipalities in launching their online participation platform. With each of these platforms, we saw different examples to collect the intelligence of their citizens. We wanted to share with you this variety of use cases:

  1. Combining both cities scenarios & citizens input
  2. Consulting the citizens on spatial questions
  3. Launching an open idea box

Combining both cities scenarios & citizens input

Two cities, Lokeren and Dendermonde, have the same need: they are in the phase of creating a masterplan for reshaping their train stations and and its surroundings.

How did they do it? They are putting forward several ideas and scenarios on which people can comment, and at the same time are still collecting new input from people who live around the train station, but also from commuters, local businesses, etc. This way, each stakeholder of the neighbourhood has a say in this.

The two cities combine offline and online citizen participation efforts: for example online crowdsourcing through the CitizenLab platform and then being present on the field, organising a workshop week or a poster campaign.

The input that is gathered during the workshops in Dendermonde will also be shared on the platform, so that it becomes the go-to place to collect all the citizens’ ideas and insights. Lokeren also plans on consulting the citizens on that content with an offline survey that will be distributed in the municipal paper bulletin.

Dendermonde is already looking at other applications of the platform, for example looking for the right spot to build a skate park within the city, together with the citizens’ help, because who better than them know their urban space.

In this use case, the two cities didn’t give a blank page to citizens but provided some guidelines of what the options could be. Even if it could feel that the frame of creation was narrowed, it didn’t restrain citizens from sharing developed and constructive arguments, and in such a participation process the quality of the input is as important as the quality, if not more!

Consulting the citizens on spatial questions

Between the two municipalities of Overpelt and Neerpelt lays a large scale development plot. The municipality of Overpelt decided that this is the perfect area (close to centre) to densify and thus to build qualitative housing, taking into account the rural identity of the municipalities.

creative ways platform

The same as in Dendermonde or Lokeren, the public authorities decided to put forward different ideas and proposals on how an empty space could be used, with the aim to inspire citizens.

Also in Meppel, in the Netherlands, the platform was used with the same goal: city putting forward some scenarios on a large scale development plan (Noordpoort) and they interacted with visitors and inhabitants both with offline events and the CitizenLab platform.

In Steenokkerzeel, the citizens could pick among six mobility plan scenarios, at the end there will remain one. A particular neighbourhood in the municipality suffers from severe traffic diversion during rush hour (linked to the traffic to and from Brussels) and the still quite rural municipality wants to find a solution to this traffic issue. To do so, they have put forward different possible scenarios that they could implement and on which they look for the input and opinion of the inhabitants, the ‘local experts’. The showing of the different scenarios and collecting feedback happened in the summer. Then, 2 scenarios made it to second round and were discussed during a neighbourhood meeting. After a final voting the ‘winning’ scenario was put to input and will be tested shortly.

Collecting intelligence on multiple themes: the open idea box

Most cities and municipalities, if they didn’t choose to consult citizens on a specific topic, open up big ‘idea boxes’, by topic for example, in which citizens can share ideas and discuss their implementation on the long run (i.e. there is no fixed end-date).

In Anzegem, Bassenge and La Hulpe, this reflects on the way they use the platform: the aim is to collect broad feedback of the citizens, using general themes in different phases.

bassenge platform

Anzegem is looking for mobility solutions and ideas to improve the overall life quality. They will for example focus on the input of youngsters and young families.

As for Bassenge and La Hulpe, they chose to work with open categories, with the idea of narrowing it down at a later stage.

In Bornem the first focus is put on one specific neighbourhood. There, additionally to the platform, the city installed a little caravan where the citizens can pass by and share their ideas. They also put flyers with the address of the online platform on the doorknobs, etc. What the city wants to achieve there is to really listen the citizens on their general needs in the neighbourhood.

In Roeselare, the city is looking for input focused on the sustainable development goals and what you can do as a citizen or as a citizen group to make the city more sustainable. This went hand in hand with a communication campaign (press release, project slogan, own logo etc.).

So what should we take away from these examples?

  • The CitizenLab platforms can be used in many ways and are a very good repository of the cities’ (and the citizens’) creativity!
  • Most of the time, the cities link the use of the CitizenLab platform together with offline efforts in order to make it more impactful
  • The cities that were the most successful in gathering feedback really focused on communication during the launch and the first month of the platform being online
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