The Flemish city of Leuven (101,000 inhabitants) has made the leap towards citizen participation.
With the slogan “Leuven, maak het mee” (a play on words that implies both “experience the city” and “co-create the city”), the capital of Flemish Brabant aims to consult its inhabitants. In June 2019, the Leuven city council launched a large-scale participation campaign to gather ideas about the city’s future. At the end of the ride, these ideas will form the basis of the strategic multi-annual plan. And with this plan, the city will map out the priorities for the upcoming years (2019-2025).
Citizen participation is one of the main priorities for the Mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani. “In the next couple of years, we really want to invest in citizen participation, even after this campaign is finished. It’s an extremely important topic to me. Every inhabitant of Leuven has a voice, and we would like to hear it. This is how we, as a dedicated and committed community, can look forward to a bright future,” says the mayor.
In the first phase, which lasted until 9 July 2019, residents could post their ideas for a greener and more pleasant Leuven. At the end of the ideation phase, the city’s platform had collected no less than 2000 citizen ideas. This means that over 2% of all inhabitants in Leuven city and the municipalities of Kessel-Lo, Heverlee and Wilsele have actively participated in the participation project by leaving their ideas on the platform. More trees, safer bike lanes, game libraries and outdoor fitness equipment – these are just a few of the ideas that could give us a peek into Leuven’s future.
“I am infinitely pleased that so many people made their voices be heard and shared their ideas with us. The many positive ideas strengthen our policy and enable us to set priorities that reflect reality. The user-friendly and clear CitizenLab platform has certainly contributed to the success of our campaign.” - Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven
All that talk about ideas brings us to the following question: what keeps the people of Leuven up at night? Which topics are on their minds, and where do they see room for improvement? If we look at the statistics, we see that the five most popular and most discussed themes highlight fairly general and overarching issues. The themes of mobility, public space, nature and biodiversity, housing and sustainable development gathered the largest number of ideas.
At the end of the ideation phase, the platform had gathered over 3,007 registrations, 2,208 ideas and 2,210 comments.
Now that all the ideas have been collected, it’s time for the next phase. This summer, the city council, assisted by experts in the relevant sectors, will analyse all the ideas in detail. How much does an idea cost? Does it match the other ideas of people in Leuven?
The college of the Mayor and Aldermen will evaluate all the ideas and will provide public feedback on every idea, no matter whether it will be implemented or not. That way, Leuven aims to build a united future that everyone can support. “I want to build a city with room for innovation, democratic experiments and new projects,” says Ridouani. Amen!