Cities and municipalities are daily looking for ways to involve their citizens in policy and decision making. Using online applications are a common practice. But how do you install such an application in your daily operation and organization, within the radar of existing decision-making and consultation processes? How do you involve not only citizens, but also the right people inside your organisation? And how far do your colleagues should get involved? Here you can read who does what in a good internal work process.

Who should be involved? How are the tasks of the various stakeholders divided? How do you involve internal and external stakeholders? What is the workload for each one of you? Who is who? Who does what? What is the workload?

Obviously not everyone has the same tasks and the workload is well distributed, but it is important to know and point to the different roles.

1. CitizenLab

The project manager and specialist online participation at CitizenLab is the central point of contact outside the (municipal) organization. He / she is the first contact person of the superadmin or project manager and offers 100% support at the start of the platform and is always available for online support of the various stakeholders within the organization.

2. Policy maker

In order to achieve a supported and successful process, it is important that the platform receives the necessary political support. Not only financially, but also morally and in terms of communication. A mayor, a councillor or the heads of department involved may not always be actively involved in the actual implementation of the platform, it is very important that they at least know about the existence of the platform. They can be the ambassadors of the platform and communicate about it to keep everything on the agenda.

Perhaps within your organisation there already exist a memorandum on citizen participation or participation policy. Or maybe people from inside the political majority already expressed themselves on the importance of citizen participation? The responsible person is the one who should make the link with the online platform. At the launch of the platform and (e.g.) every 3 months all politicians should receive an update (interim evaluation, feedback) in their inbox, to make sure the stay updated.

    • Task: create account on the platform, inform the city council at the start and (e.g.) every three months
    • Interesting: the aim of structured participation process is to strengthen the policy cycle and create more support for decision-making processes, so a policy maker can save valuable by following what happens on the platform.
    • Workload: no extra workload on top of daily operation
  • Example: mayor, city councillors

3. Project manager / superadmin

The central person within you administration and the first contact person of CitizenLab. He / she receives 100% support and guidance from CitizenLab, ensures that the policy makers remain involved and directs the department or department heads. The superadmin invites project moderators to the platform and shows them how they can use their own project page.

    • Task: determine the strategy, initial setup with CitizenLab, policy manager (s), invite head of department and project moderators on the platform (through ‘Invitations’)
    • Workload: 1 hour / week (a bit more at the launch, a lot less along the way)
  • Interesting: as a project manager you do not have to manage all project pages on the platform. You delegate, keep the overview and activate others with the help of CitizenLab where necessary.

4. Communication manager or department

A successful platform stands or falls with good communication, both at the launch and throughout the entire process. The platform must therefore be embedded in the broader communication strategy and must always be included in existing communication channels (website, info magazine, door-to-door advertisement, social media, …). The communication manager determines together with the project manager and with CitizenLab how and when this happens. Don’t forget that sometimes the platform can also be the perfect channel to support an already planned campaign.

    • Task: make sure that people are able to reach the platform when they visit the home page of your organisation. Put a widget, news updates, articles en feedback info on your website. Make sure to include evaluation of the platform in the content calendar of your internal communication
    • Workload: half hour / week (one hour / week at start-up and strategy determination)
  • Interesting: the platform is not just ANOTHER communication channel that needs to be maintained. First off, the platform is there to strengthen existing communication and interaction. An article both on your website AND the platform is not necessary. The platform offers all possibilities (images, video, calendar, editor, ..) to communicate about your campaign, events and get people involved.

5. IT department (or website manager)

Before launching a platform it is useful to ask some help from your IT service or the person responsible for your website management. CitizenLab needs a brief contact at the start of a platform with the person responsible for the configuration of a domain name or the setting up of a referral. The intervention is also necessary if the website of the municipality needs to be linked to the platform (e.g. via a widget or an extra button)

    • Task: connect the platform to the homepage of your organisation, with the help of the CitizenLab development team
    • Workload: one time intervention, at the start of the platform.
  • Interesting: not all organisation have a full-fledged IT service and sometimes this intervention has to be done by the communication manager responsible for managing the websit

6. Head of department

Unlike a project moderator, a department head does not necessarily have to be active (eg during set-up or for moderation) on the platform, but it is important that he / she is involved, to make sure that the input finds it way to the policy domain. A project moderator reports to his / her department head, who checks whether the input can be fitted into existing policy / budget cycles or perhaps hand him/her new insights. Intermediary results or feedback moments can be organized in the context of a consultation between departmental heads or the management team (BE).

    • Task: create a login on the platform, manage project moderators, make sure the input of the platform is on the agenda
    • Workload: minimal, information obligation
    • Interesting: policy-specific matters can be checked immediately with the head of department and do not have to pass directly through the superadmin.
  • Example: department head green space, cultural officer, member of the management team, …

7. Project moderator (internal)

Project moderators are the active pivot of the platform and have a well-defined task: setting up and maintaining his / her project page. The project moderator determines the focus of his / her process (objectives, timeline, target audience, process …) and gets the necessary freedom. A project moderator thus completes a project page depending on what is intended in the short or long term within its operation. He / she can comment on ideas and moderate within his project, look for interaction. One project can have different moderators. A platform can have as many project moderators as necessary. Projects can be active, put on draft – while working on it – or they can be archived

    • Task: designing the project page, involving the target audience, bringing input to policy maker
    • Workload: depending on the timeline phase and the degree of participation varying from 0 to 2 hours / week.
    • Interesting: a project moderator can use his / her project page to collect permanent input, to organize a temporary consultation (eg survey, spatial plan, scenario planning, gathering reactions or votes), but also simply to inform target audience (for example about a new plan or proposals).
  • Example: cultural officer, spatial planner

8. Project moderator (external)

The (only) difference with an ‘internal’ project moderator is the fact that they do not have to be active inside your organisation. They can be volunteers from an advisory board, presidents /director or a civil society organisation or people from an organization looking for a place where they can interact with their audience. An external project moderator should  the super admin about how they use the platform.

    • Workload: similar to internal project moderator
  • Interesting: a superadmin can easily invite an external project moderator online and can immediately start with the CitizenLab Online Start-up guide. Not all municipalities want external people to make use the platform, others do.

9. Users (ie residents, citizens, members, students, organisations)

Everybody! The people who register on the platform, in the first place you target audience, but also the audience of every project moderator. People can interact on the platform with a personal profile (name and surname visible for others ), but they can also create a profile for the organization, the board, the neighborhood, etc. that they represent. Other user only get to see the first and last name. Email Adress is not shown to other users.

Some useful take-aways:

    • Determine in advance what decision-making process your project fits into. What needs are you planning to fill in?
    • Make the right appointments in advance and determine your objectives (share agreements). Don’t hesitate using already existing agreements in that respect.
    • A platform helps you support your policy making process. It is not extra work, but supports your daily work;
    • Determine who the stakeholders are at the start and limit their tasks
    • Make sure to show stakeholders how an organisation-wide public participation platform can strengthen existing processes
  • Ask CitizenLab for input, tips and support! We’re here to help!
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