The year is quickly drawing to a close. That brings along a sense of warmth and family, along with the pleasant prospect of lots of food and bubbles. But it’s also the perfect moment to reflect on the year that lies behind us. What were the topics on everyone’s lips? And what were the most remarkable success stories in the realm of digital democracy?

At CitizenLab we’re looking back at a productive and eventful year. We’ve had the privilege to work with a broad range of different communities, from bustling cities to smaller municipalities hidden between forests and lakes. In this post, we’ll highlight 5 of the best and most diverse cases. But first, let’s dive into some stats!

The CitizenLab-platform: 2018 in Numbers

Our 2018 statistics teach us that the CitizenLab-platform has attracted slightly more female than male visitors. When it comes to age, millennials snatch the crown, because the largest group of people interacting with the platform is between 25 and 34 years old.

Statistics show that slightly more female users interacted with the platform, and that the age group 25-34 is the biggest.
In 2018, slightly more females than males interacted with our platform.
Age-wise, millennials are the biggest group. 

As we analyze the different types of interaction our platform has generated, we find that voting is by far the most common way for people to make their voices be heard. And when it comes to methodology, the lion’s share of all cases chose an idea-based approach to stimulate citizen participation.

Of course, these numbers include some features that are quite recent, like participatory budgeting. We’re looking forward to seeing this chart evolve and scale in 2019!

Statistics show that voting is the preferred action and idea-sourcing is the most favoured methodology.
The most discussed topics this year are mobility and public planning.

Wondering which topics were hot and heavy this year? The main outliers in our database are mobility and everything concerning public planning, e.g. the city’s streets and squares. But virtually every aspect of public life was up for debate and sparked conversation between citizens in 2018.

Now, let’s take a look at the 5 most memorable cases of 2018. Successful idea-sourcing, overwhelming participation rates, admirable implementation consistency and/or smart tech – these are the cities and communities to watch.

The 5 Most Memorable E-Democracy Cases of 2018

I. Ideation in Vancouver

Vancouver skyline - a case in idea-sourcing.

If Heaven’s a place on earth, Vancouver’s probably pretty close. The West-Coast seaport city is praised across the world for its stunning beauty, so it comes as no surprise that it’s one of the densest cities on the Canadian territory.

But its popularity comes at a price: the city suffered skyrocketing housing costs and struggled with providing its inhabitants with affordable housing opportunities. This year, however, the government took matters in its own hands.

After launching the Empty Homes Tax, a measure meant to reduce the number of empty or under-used properties, the city called upon its people for ideas on how to allocate the revenue. This initiative led to over 5.500 votes and 450 reactions on the CitizenLab participation platform, and sparked ideas like co-op housing, the increase of purpose-built rentals and purchasing more land for affordable housing.

II. Mobilisation in Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist mobilised its people against the construction of an artificial test island.

With its wide beaches and beautiful seaside views, Knokke-Heist (33.097 inhabitants) is one of the most popular towns along the Belgian coast. But this year, the city faced a particular challenge that threatened to leave a mark on that natural charm.

A new proposal for the Marine Spatial Plan 2020-2026 included the construction of an artificial test island right off the coast of Knokke-Heist. This would drastically change the outlook of the surroundings, blocking the sea view and turning the sea into a flat, waveless canal.

The local government was outraged, fearing a disastrous impact on tourism, nautical sports and the city’s general atmosphere. They mobilised the inhabitants and visitors of Knokke-Heist to speak up in a petition.

This petition was launched in a broader “Breinstorm”- campaign that stimulated pitching open ideas to improve life and work in Knokke-Heist. Besides, they presented its citizens with the question of the optimization of Lippenslaan- Dumortierlaan – Kunstlaan, Knokke’s golden shopping triangle.

The participation rate of the Breinstorm-campaign was overwhelming, with the island pickle as the hottest topic. Over 6.700 people signed the petition to withhold the construction of the island.

III. Consolidated Democracy in Furesoe

Furesoe is an example case in rooting democracy in different areas of life.

This relatively small Danish municipality (40.629 inhabitants) is situated only 20 kilometres from Copenhagen, and yet it’s surrounded by pristine Scandinavian wilderness. Its implementation of the CitizenLab-tool started gradually, with one project at a time, but saw a quick consolidation of the tool in the local decision-making process.

After a successful project on traffic safety and the remodelling of a local park, the government decided to focus on life and leisure in the community. They stimulated idea-sourcing by offering cinema tickets to those with the most popular ideas, which led to good engagement rates.

But in this case, quality definitely dominates over quantity. Because what makes Furesoe a success case is that the principle of practising civic engagement extends across different sectors, from mobility over public planning to leisure and fun.

And the town councillors are convinced, as well:

“The advantage of CitizenLab is that you can sit at home in peace and still participate in the debate on leisure life in Furesø. Do you, for example, have an idea of how more young people can become part of the association life? Or do you just want to focus on recreational initiatives that work well? In that case, Citizenlab is an easy tool for us politicians.”

Muhammed Bektas, Vice-President of the Culture, Leisure and Sports Committee.

IV. Eco-progress in Grand Paris Sud

Grand Paris Sud (346.826 inhabitants), an intercommunal structure in the southern suburbs of Paris, collaborated with CitizenLab to fulfil a triple mission.

First, they launched a survey regarding the creation of a climate plan. Then, they decided to gather input on the cultural plan. And finally, they targeted the question of mobility and cycling infrastructure.

Parallel to the extensive climate plan that has to scale back the effects of global warming, the community wants to provide cycling as an efficient, economical and environmentally friendly alternative to the use of cars or public transport. To do so, they want to evaluate the performance of the bicycle network, parking possibilities, services for cyclists, etcetera.

The digitized “Plan Vélo” allowed citizens to share their ideas on cycling and mobility via the CitizenLab-platform. Via geolocalisation, they could ‘pin’ their ideas directly on a map of the neighbourhood. This ingenious piece of tech attracted citizens like wasps to the apple pie.

The people of Grand Paris Sud shared over 400 ideas, pinned exactly to the relevant location.

V. Town Remodelling in Marche-En-Famenne

The small Walloon town of Marche-en-Famenne (17.401 inhabitants) wanted the central square to become the place-to-be in town, a cherished meeting point for all its inhabitants. That’s why they decided to give the square a makeover, both aesthetically and functionally.

The city had 4 possible architectural plans drawn up and consulted its residents to choose their 2 preferred plans. The people’s choice would count for 35% of the final decision.

This was a favoured approach: the people of Marche-en-Famenne loved having such a direct say in such a tangible part of daily life. In less than one week, the e-democracy platform welcomed 4.500 unique visitors and turned >1000 of these into active users.

Ultimately, the campaign reached about 25% of the entire Marche-en-Famenne population. In fact, the town of Marche-en-Famenne was so pleased with the CitizenLab collab that they’ll likely dip their toes into participatory budgeting in 2019.

What would you like to change?

2018 has been an interesting year for us, with a broad range of various cases that really show off the versatility of our tool. What was your favourite? And how could we shake things up in your city or town? Let’s talk!

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