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Survey: Trends in local participatory democracy

  • Wednesday, January 1, 2020

  • Blog cover image

    All over Europe, local democracy and citizen consultation are becoming key issues for local authorities. For 71% of citizens, the main quality of a mayor is listening to the inhabitants. The number of participatory budgets has doubled every year since 2014...

    But beyond the numbers, what are the real expectations of citizens towards local democracy? On which subjects should a public debate be opened? When should local authorities consult their citizens? Fluicity has launched a survey among its users to analyze the trends of local democracy. And to know where to start!

    What is local democracy?

    A little historical reminder! Even if the term seems particularly fashionable in recent years, the first legal mention of local democracy in France dates back to 1982. Indeed, the law of March 2, 1982 already provides in its article 1 "that a law relating to the development of the participation of citizens in the local life would be adopted." In fact, it was not until the law of February 27, 2002, on local democracy, that users really found their place in local administration. Although without real influence.

    With the constitutional law of March 28, 2003, the citizen consultation is finally born in France in the form of new rights. Mainly the rights of petition and decisional referendum.

    "There are many tools that have been developed over the years: the consultations, the local referendum, the creation of neighborhood committees, the public inquiry... reminds us David Carmier, from the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion. In a 2018 report, the National Assembly also recalled that the means of participation were numerous but that the main issue was more their appropriation by elected officials and citizens. "

    Local and participatory democracy

    Indeed, local participatory democracy rests above all on two key elements:

    • the appropriation of tools by all: and therefore, the implementation of inclusive participation processes. This is a mission that Fluicity has pursued since its creation by offering an intuitive citizen consultation platform ( and quality support to local authorities.
    • the common will of citizens and decision-makers to act together for the general interest. To play a key role in the decision making process.

    To help local elected officials better understand how to engage citizens in this process, Fluicity has taken an interest in the expectations of users in terms of public services, local life, city actions etc.

    Trends in local democracy in one image

    Infographic on local democracy trends: inhabitants' expectations in terms of services, city actions, consultation methods, projects, etc.

    To download our infographic in pdf, click here

    Priority needs and projects for citizens

    The themes voted for by the citizens quickly show that Participatory democracy is a priority, in second place just after the environment. The two interests are closely linked and reflect a desire for residents to take responsibility for the issues facing their community.

    The word clouds also make it possible to identify what they are particularly attached to in their city. The first, on the preferred subjects, concerns the quality of life in the commune and its neighborhoods: "shops", "calm", or "conviviality". These topics are directly linked to local politics and to the actions of municipal services.

    The second word cloud is about the priority projects to be implemented by the communities. Here, the words that come up most often are more related to regional policy. Citizens therefore want to get involved in local and concrete issues, but also in large-scale issues such as the environment, transportation or safety.

    However, it should be noted that information and education work** on the competences of the municipality is still necessary to make the citizens more aware of what is (or is not) the responsibility of their municipality, their region, their department, etc.

    A new relationship between citizens and elected officials

    Among the 302 respondents to our survey, 81% do not feel sufficiently consulted on decisions affecting their community. However, 87% say they are ready to get involved, whether it is during neighborhood committees, through citizen initiatives or through a dedicated participation platform like Fluicity. Moreover, the vast majority of respondents would like to be consulted via a mobile application, online devices (website, email), in addition to physical appointments via meetings or neighborhood councils.

    These figures reveal a desire to reinvent the relationship between elected officials, departments and citizens; a relationship based more on co-construction, regular dialogue and transparency of actions.

    How to improve local democracy?

    It is clear that there is a strong desire for consultation and participation among citizens. But how to respond to it?

    If the implementation of a real strategy of local participatory democracy cannot be improvised, it is nevertheless possible to start small in order to get a foothold. For example, setting up regular meetings with the population, communicating on the competences of the municipality, organizing consultative committees, collecting proposals, etc.

    The implementation of an online citizen participation platform** is also an asset for quickly reaching a larger and more diversified population (young people, working population, shopkeepers, etc.). The tool makes it possible to launch participatory processes of varying scope: calls for ideas and surveys, to better understand the expectations of the field**, and even a participatory budget, to launch co-creation projects.

    But the question is also and above all: why implement a more participatory local democracy? The initial intention and the framing of projects are essential to design realistic and feasible projects.

    [Fluicity is at your side to accompany you ( in understanding the issues of local democracy and in all the stages of setting up your participatory projects!

    You can also consult our practical articles and start your participation culture now!

    • How to involve citizens in participatory processes](
    • How to develop a participatory budget in your community](
    • How to organize a citizen consultation on the post-Covid-19 era](
    • How to co-construct the city with the citizens]( ?