The municipality launched its participation platform “Doe Mee Leiden” at the beginning of 2020 with a survey on the redevelopment of the Roomburger Park. The intention was to look at how the park could be transformed into a fully-fledged recreational park. With more than 950 participants, this survey turned out to be a smashing start to their community engagement project.
Leiden is currently using its platform to involve residents in various neighbourhood developments. Participants can submit their opinions, ideas and suggestions. The questions on the platform cover a wide variety of local topics: What should happen to the Roomburger Park? What will be the overall traffic plan for the Houtkwartier? And what will be important for the renovation of the sewers, streets and greenery in the Vogelwijk and Raadsheren neighbourhoods? What is noticeable within the projects is that the municipality combines various participation methods, allowing residents to complete a survey, post an idea or participate in an online workshop.
“The DoeMee platform enables us to offer tailor-made community engagement and is a good addition to the offline participation possibilities. Some residents prefer to fill in a questionnaire, while others like to talk to local residents. The platform gives us, as a municipality, more opportunities to shape participation and allows residents and other stakeholders to participate in various ways.”Hester Tuinhof, communication advisor of the municipality of Leiden
Regeneration of the railway neighbourhood
One of the larger community engagement projects on the platform revolves around the future of the Leiden railway station area, where many parties and interests converge. In order to steer this discussion in the right direction, the municipality itself first drew up a clear starting point: the so-called Area Agenda. This document describes eight agenda items that together determine the direction for the future of the station area. These items cover topics such as the neighbourhood’s image, sustainability, its role as a hub for public transport etc. On the participation platform, residents can download the file or watch a short video in which project manager Jelle Deurman explains these eight topics further.
As the project will run for a longer period of time, Leiden decided to divide the trajectory into phases. After the Area Agenda had been drawn up, the information phase started, in which information was collected from residents or shared with them in various ways:
By means of a survey, residents could give feedback on the area agenda. This survey was completed almost 300 times.
- By means of a flash questionnaire, residents could let the municipality know what they think of the current image of the station area, and what atmosphere it should have in the future. Almost 400 Leiden residents contributed to this phase.
- Leiden organised five video walk-in consultation hours which were attended by a few residents and professionals.
- Some Leiden residents had a speed date with the council member responsible for Sustainable Urbanisation, Spatial Planning & Housing.
- In addition, the municipality also shared instruction videos about the aspirations, the eight items on the agenda (the video above), and the process. In total, these videos were viewed almost 1000 times.
Leiden has taken the time to provide clear feedback on the results of this participation, and uploaded all reports and results to the online platform.
After the information phase, the project passed on to the contribution phase. During the first part of this phase, the future of the station area was considered together with Leiden residents and a survey was conducted on how people experience the public transport hub around Leiden Central Station. In an effort to maximise transparency Leiden didn’t way for the phase to end to start sharing outcomes, and shared initial results halfway through this phase. . During the first part of this phase, the future of the station area was rethought, together with other Leiden citizens:
- Consultation on new residential areas through digital workshops: Leiden organised two workshops with a small group of residents to discuss the plans for new residential areas. This was done on the basis of questions such as: (1) How would you like to contribute to the development of the park? (2) How would you like to contribute to the development of the residential streets? (3) How can connection to the canal be improved? For each of these workshops, two sessions were organised.
- A follow-up survey on the railway station area’s image: As a follow-up to the questionnaire on the current image of the railway station area, the municipality organised workshops with stakeholders and interested parties, diving deeper into what the railway station neighbourhood should look like and what energy it should radiate. The input led to an identity compass, on which Leiden residents once again gave their opinion by means of a survey.
- A photo competition: Residents are allowed to submit photos that illustrate what can be done better or what is beautiful about the station area. Leiden will reward the most original entry with a dinner party.
The municipality of Leiden also tapped into new forms of participation in the contribution phase. For example, a “Meeting Route” was organised at the beginning of September. Residents could sign up for this walking route through the station area, during which conversations took place at various outdoor locations in the area.
Shaping the new station area together
“Together we improve the station area” is Leiden’s motto… and that’s what exactly what the city is doing! Even if the participation project for the station area is still in progress, it already has strong elements. Anyone visiting the community engagement platform will quickly notice that a great deal of care and attention has been devoted to the various participation possibilities: residents are given both the opportunity to make an accessible contribution (via photos or surveys) and the opportunity to really engage in conversation (via workshops or walking routes).
It is clear that the municipality has thought carefully about the platform and has taken care of strong communication by providing transparent and timely feedback.
“Community engagement is not possible without communication. For example, we inform people when we start a participation trajectory, and when we conclude a phase within the project, we share a summary of the results as soon as possible. In addition to the report, we place the most important conclusions on the platform so that this information is easily available”.Hester Tuinhof, communication advisor of the municipality of Leiden
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