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How to launch a citizen participation process?

  • Wednesday, September 2, 2020

  • Blog cover image

    Consulting the population, co-constructing a project or a public policy with the citizens is a new work for the administrations... And much less complex than one might imagine!

    With a solid method, adapted tools and the right intention, citizen participation can take shape in a few weeks. It allows improving public decision making and reinforcing trust between the inhabitants and their elected representatives.

    **So how do you set up citizen participation in your territory? How to organize surveys, promote debate and create a regular link with citizens?

    Fluicity helps you lay the foundations for an effective and impactful approach.

    1. Why: to frame the participation of citizens

    🎯 The vision

    In the words of speaker and management specialist Simon Sinek: "Start with the why!" Indispensable and sometimes difficult to formulate, the "why" defines the ultimate goal of what we undertake. In this case: why do you want to consult citizens? What do you expect from this consultation and participation of the people? What benefits do you see in it?

    Several objectives may be at stake: gathering ideas for the territory, co-constructing with citizens, submitting a simple question to them to test a hypothesis... The use of participation is vast! This is why it is important to define the intentions (political, democratic, strategic...) and the needs that drive you: in short, your vision.

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • What social, environmental and economic issues are the most important / debated in the territory?
    • On what issues is it relevant to consult citizens?
    • Which actors are likely to take part in the consultation and public debate process? Are they aligned with this vision?
    • How does this process fit in with local and regional democracy? How can the two scales be reconciled?
    • How does it fit in with current projects and the agenda of elected officials?

    Lucile Guéroult, customer relations manager and specialist in citizen consultation at Fluicity](lucile.jpeg)

    Launching a citizen consultation is a real experience of democracy. It is based on strong principles of transparency, listening and accessibility. It would be wrong to reduce its objective to political ambition alone... which would simply condemn the approach."

    Lucile Guéroult, Customer Success Manager Lead at Fluicity

    📍The scope

    This initial framework will allow you to define the perimeter of action of the participation: the adapted device (survey, call for ideas, thematic consultation...), the first structural elements of the approach (where, when, how), etc

    The questions to ask:

    • Is it a one-off consultation or an ongoing participatory process? How long will it last?
    • What will be the level of involvement of citizens: consultation, consultation, co-construction...?
    • Does the process cover a district, a municipality, an inter-municipality, a region...? Will it require a particular organization?
    • If the consultation is part of a project, what are the previous and subsequent stages of the project?
    • In view of these questions, what type of participation mechanism is best suited to my needs (survey, call for ideas, participatory project...)?

    📊 Participation data

    Participation data allows you to monitor participation and know if you are going in the right direction to fulfill your objective. It should be defined before you start the project.

    • example: I want to mobilize citizens around a territory project = I will measure the penetration rate, the number of responses to the survey for the diagnosis, identify opinion trends.
    • example: I want to launch a participatory budget and make citizens aware of public spending = I will measure the rate of commitment, the number of ideas submitted and votes, and monitor compliance with the criteria.

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • What elements do I think are relevant to measure for this project (participation rate, number of contributions, registrations on the platform...)?
    • What results of the consultation would constitute a real success?
    • What data will be valuable to me in the future and will help me launch other consultations?

    You have now defined the direction of your citizen participation process. The next step invites you to organize your approach.

    Illustration showing an elected official thinking about the launch of her citizen consultation ](illustration_consultationWorkplan-1_4x-8-1030x747.png)

    **2. How : the retroplanning and the stakeholders

    As with any large-scale project, citizen participation requires a clear organization and proper project management.

    However, it is important to take into account the methodological specificities of participation before launching into its implementation. For example, to know how much time to consult for each mechanism, to identify the strongest moments of participation and how to prepare them, etc.

    The support of a local democracy expert such as Fluicity is strongly recommended to ensure that participation has a real impact and that efforts are not in vain. Our methodology is based on three key moments: Inform / Mobilize / Restore. Three pillars to guarantee the effectiveness of participation and obtain concrete results.


    This step consists of setting all the milestones for the consultation. It is undoubtedly the most complex, but in the end it facilitates all the steering work and anticipates difficulties.

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • What are the different stages of the system I have chosen?

    • What are the contents to be produced and published?

    • What are the key moments of the consultation (more important communication, teams to coordinate...)

    • Are there any deadlines or calendar constraints to take into account?

    Lucile Guéroult, customer relations manager and specialist in citizen consultation at Fluicity](lucile.jpeg)

    This "project management" part can be tedious for the communities. Especially during the first consultations! At Fluicity, we take care to facilitate these organizational steps - knowing from experience where difficulties can emerge."

    Lucile Guéroult, Customer Success Manager Lead at Fluicity

    🔭 **Anticipate the impact!

    The planning should cover all phases of participation, including the analysis of the results and their feedback to the participants:

    • Data analysis**: essential to factoring citizen participation into your decision-making process and identifying opinion trends.
    • Feedback to citizens**: essential for them to understand the use of the consultation, and to reinforce adherence to decisions.

    This final step is the completion of all the participation and the most solid element to recreate a relation of trust with the citizens. Do not ignore it!

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • Who will be in charge of analyzing the results?
    • How will citizen participation be taken into account (guarantee of results, communication on the progress of the project, involvement of citizens in its realization...)
    • How can the results be presented to the citizens in an educational way (computer graphics, event, website, etc.)
    • How to ensure a shared vision of the results and the projects that result from them?
    • What will be the next steps in the participatory process?

    👨🔧 The different actors of the project

    Start by identifying all the people who will be involved in the consultation, define precisely their roles (and in practice, make sure this information is clear to everyone!).

    This concerns the internal stakeholders (municipal and inter-municipal services, elected officials, agents, communication, unions...) and external (service providers, private organizations, other branches of the territorial organization...).

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • Who must be integrated into the project vision and its validation?
    • Who will be the different actors (project team, technical team, communication, decision-making committee)?
    • At what point does each person intervene? Who makes the decisions?
    • Who makes the link with Fluicity?
    • What is the involvement of political decision-makers?
    • Are the current resources and processes sufficient to allow for real participation: processing of ideas, realization of projects, animation of the platform, exchange with citizens, etc.?

    3. Who: the target and the communication strategy

    The mobilization around participation is a crucial point, and a source of some apprehension for the organizers. Will the citizens be there? How to engage a large population around issues of general interest? Once again, you just have to ask yourself the right questions...

    👫 The target

    Note to begin with that a consultation does not necessarily target the entire population. Depending on its purpose, it may involve all or a portion of the population.

    In the context of a launch or the first steps, it is nevertheless advisable to strike hard and on a large scale. It is the opportunity to make known the citizen participation and the intentions of the community, and to sensitize to the public action (rhythm, competences, constraints).

    Lucile Guéroult, customer relations manager and specialist in citizen consultation at Fluicity](lucile.jpeg)

    "Defining the target is essential to obtain a maximum of engagement! In particular to adapt the communication techniques: tone, communication channels, visuals...".

    Lucile Guéroult, Customer Success Manager Lead at Fluicity

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • How can we encourage citizen participation in this demarch](
    • Is there a particular target audience (location, age, activity, etc.)?
    • Are citizens familiar with the consultation process or does it require education?
    • Do they have enough information on the needs and projects of the territory to offer quality participation?
    • According to the population: is it necessary to plan a physical participation in addition to the digital platform (paper questionnaire, permanence in town hall...)?
    • Can I count on local actors to help me?

    📣 Communication

    The role of communication is multiple: to make known the consultation and its progress, to answer questions, to make people want to participate, to relaunch citizens and maintain an active participation, to communicate on the results... It must therefore be planned over time and not only at the launch of the participation!

    Questions to ask yourself:

    • Which communication channels are the most relevant to reach the target / the entire population (social networks, flyers, posters, website, newspaper ....)?
    • What media should be used (visuals, articles, logo, catchy titles, etc.)?
    • What budget should be planned? On which media to insist?
    • How will the citizens be accompanied (help in understanding the consultation, in submitting ideas...)?

    Fluicity pays particular attention to citizen engagement, which is the key element of successful participation! We ensure the simplicity of our online participation platform and the education of the proposed content. We work in collaboration with the administrative services to facilitate participation and help them with their digital inclusion issues.

    **4. Anticipating difficulties

    If it comes at the end of the article, this point is far from trivial. It's about listing all the little (and big) annoyances that could shake your participatory project... and finding solutions to face them more serenely.

    The questions to ask yourself

    • Are there any calendar constraints? Are there any particular news items that need to be taken into account?
    • Any legal issues to consider?
    • Lobby or opposition reactions (internal or external) to anticipate?
    • (to be completed by you)

    Lucile Guéroult, customer relations manager and specialist in citizen consultation at Fluicity](lucile.jpeg)

    "These difficulties can be a source of apprehension. But they should not prevent from launching participative processes! Fluicity can help to overcome them.

    We did it recently with the first participative budget of the Bertrix municipality, by helping the mayor to present his project to the municipal council and to write his answers to the opposition."

    Lucile Guéroult, Customer Success Manager Lead at Fluicity](

    Are you ready to take the next step? You still have some doubts or questions? Do not hesitate to contact us for a detailed analysis of your needs!

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    Illustration summarizing the questions to ask before launching a citizen consultation