This August, we’ve been amazed again at how local governments worldwide are leveraging their CitizenLab platforms to engage with their communities. Whether it’s urban redevelopment, school reform, or community-driven initiatives, in more and more places, residents are taking active roles in decision-making processes. Dive into this selection of community engagement projects, curated by our participation experts, and let these examples inspire you!
Cambridge Council co-creates guidelines for future development with the community (United Kingdom)
Designing neighbourhoods isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s also about creating spaces that resonate with the people living and working in them. With this philosophy guiding them, Cambridge Council has embarked on an ambitious project to draft a detailed design code for Northern Cambridge neighbourhoods.
At its core, this design code is an illustrated document that provides clear guidelines for the physical evolution of an area. It’s a roadmap to ensure that buildings, public spaces, and local amenities not only complement the existing character of the place but also echo the needs and desires of its residents.
The first phase of this project centers around understanding what the community thinks is needed. Through the CitizenLab platform, residents are encouraged to share insights via an online survey and pinpoint specific locations on an interactive map, adding comments or suggestions.
Informational visual of Cambridge Council’s engagement project, showing the timeline for the project
Shortly after the project’s launch, Cambridge’s engagement team already received over 100 completed surveys, more than 120 suggestions on the interactive map, and is witness to dynamic discussions between users.
City of St. Louis asks its community how it should use settlement funds (United States)
We know from experience that some local governments hesitate to delve into open dialogues on sensitive topics, fearing backlash or overwhelming complexities. We also know for a fact that the City of St. Louis is certainly not one of them.
St. Louis took a bold step by launching its CitizenLab community engagement platform with a pressing yet delicate question: How should the Rams Settlement funds, a significant $250 million, be used? The city’s leadership is committed to using it to make big, lasting changes by helping people and improving how the city works. These investments are meant to help the economy grow, encourage more people to live in the city, and make life better for the people who live there.
The project kicked off with an online survey. In the next phases, the Board of Aldermen will pin down the Priority Challenges using the residents’ input, after which the community will be asked to share ideas matching the challenges. In the final phase, the community will be asked to vote for the ideas they most want to see realised.
Screenshot of City of St. Louis’ engagement platform, showing the timeline for the project
The community’s response to the project launch was overwhelmingly positive: within the first two days, over 1,000 residents signed up to the platform, eager to make their voices heard. Today the platform already has over 2,000 registered community members.
As Megan-Ellyia Green, President of City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen put it, “Intentional, meaningful engagement with the community is critical to ensuring these funds are used for equitable and innovative solutions to our city’s biggest problems… this process offers a much-needed opportunity for residents and local government to work together and rebuild trust.”
Want another example of a successful engagement project on a sensitive topic? Read our case study on Wokingham’s waste strategy consultation!
State of Vorarlberg involves the community in school reform through a (first-ever hybrid) citizens’ assembly (Austria)
Vorarlberg may be the second-least populous federal state in Austria, boasting a modest 400,000 residents. Yet, in the realm of community engagement, they’re punching way above their weight class.
Following a petition addressed to the Vorarlberg state government — championed by the state parents’ association, the family association, and the Vorarlberg state student representative — the decision was made to convene a citizens’ assembly to reevaluate the current educational framework.
To facilitate a hybrid approach and make the project more inclusive and impactful, Vorarlberg launched a CitizenLab engagement platform and will add a digital component to their tried-and-true deliberative process – which was highlighted as an innovative example of participation by the OECD.
Example of Vorarlberg’s engagement platform. The text was originally in German and this depiction is machine-translated.
The current phase features an online survey targeting teachers, parents, and students – groups usually well-versed in the use of digital tools and most impacted by the subject. Their insights are vital for charting the way forward. Also in the following phases, the local engagement team will continue to leverage the online platform.
Hattem lets residents choose street name in new neighborhood (Netherlands)
The Dutch town of Hattem decided that for its newest district, ‘t Veen, street names should reflect its unique characteristics and history. Several streets have already been given suitable names. However, a name is still being sought for a street that will connect the newly developed neighbourhood with an important access road.
Back in May 2023, the local government kickstarted the project by reaching out to the community for their creative input. Leveraging the Ideation tool, the engagement team invited residents to put forth their naming suggestions. They provided clear guidelines on what would be a good name.
After meticulously reviewing all the submissions, an impressive 64 suggestions were shortlisted and put up for community voting. The engagement team empowered residents with two votes each, employing the Approval Voting method to select their top two preferred names.
Example of the voting phase on Hattem’s engagement platform. The text was originally in Dutch and this depiction is machine-translated.
City of Magdeburg involves residents in development of a new district (Germany)
Situated on the banks of the Elbe River, Magdeburg is a city with a storied past, experiencing destruction during World War II and subsequently rebuilding and evolving its urban fabric. Known as an Elbestadt due to its riverside location, the city’s landscape offers unique challenges and opportunities.
Since its post-World War II reconstruction, Magdeburg’s inner city has established itself as a residential location. In the future, new residential and commercial buildings are envisioned to rejuvenate and complement the Old Town district. In July 2021, the city council of Magdeburg overwhelmingly endorsed a foundational decision for a new quarter in Magdeburg’s Old Town, envisioned in the Prämonstratenserberg area.
Over the years, numerous ideas have been generated for the potential future district. Recently, the city launched a CitizenLab platform, empowering residents to actively participate in the project discussions.
The initiative is executed by a renowned urban planning bureau from Berlin. With the adept use of the Content Builder, they’ve been successful in presenting comprehensive details about the project, ensuring residents are well-informed and can participate meaningfully.
Example of the project’s information page
Residents are invited to provide feedback on the plans by participating in an online survey and marking specific areas of interest or concern on an interactive map, adding their insights or recommendations.
Have a look at Magdeburg’s platform and how they leveraged the platform’s Content Builder possibilities and engagement methods