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Online citizen consultation: which device to choose?

  • Thursday, August 6, 2020

  • Blog cover image

    Call for ideas, survey, participatory budget... The online citizen consultation tools are numerous and diversified! Each one has a specific objective. All of them help guide elected officials in their decision making and participate in a deep transformation of our governance system.

    In order to choose the right online citizen consultation system, it is important to understand the particularities of each one and what you are trying to achieve. Here is a short summary of the main systems and their respective use.

    • Articles, events: to inform citizens and prepare the ground for the consultation](#article-event)
    • The survey: to question citizens on a specific subject and collect their opinion](#survey)
    • The call for ideas: to bring out new solutions on a specific topic](#appel-a-idees)
    • Thematic consultation: to carry out a large-scale project and address all the key issues it includes](#consultation-thèmes)
    • The participatory budget: to co-construct projects with citizens and make them aware of the management of the commune](#budget-participatif)

    Citizen consultation: definition

    Consultation, concertation, participation... Let's start by situating the subject. The definition of citizen consultation can sometimes vary slightly.

    For Fluicity, consultation is the fact of involving citizens in public policies and in the decision-making process. It covers several approaches, more or less engaging;

    • informing** the population about the community's projects and issues,
    • consultation** (gathering public opinion), ** consultation** (dialogue, dialogue, consultation)
    • consultation** (gathering public opinion), ** consultation** (gathering public opinion), ** consultation** (dialogue, exchange, debate),
    • co-construction** (joint implementation of projects).

    We can also speak of citizen participation: a term that accurately reflects the active role that users play in all these processes.

    Image explaining the definition of citizen consultation according to the level of involvement required from citizens](schema_consultation2_2-1030x539xxx.png)

    Which citizen consultation to choose for which use?

    These approaches can be put in place thanks to specific mechanisms. To know which solution to choose, it is first necessary to define the objective of the online consultation. Why do you want to consult your inhabitants? What kind of decision is at stake? Are the users intended to decide, co-construct, or just express an opinion? What part of the population do you want to reach? What are the expected results? etc.

    Follow the guide!

    Articles, events: to inform citizens and prepare the ground for the consultation

    Although it does not constitute a mechanism as such, information is the foundation of the citizen consultation. Well-informed inhabitants will be more likely to make effective contributions. What are the projects in progress in my city? How can I participate in the life of the community? What are its needs? Are there any meeting or debate events planned?... So many questions that the municipality can answer in the form of articles or dedicated events, to encourage the involvement of all, without discrimination, and prepare the ground for consultations.

    Interactive content is also essential to inspire and inform citizens during consultations.

    Features

    • allows for regular information on the life of the municipality,
    • to encourage citizen involvement,
    • to raise awareness of current actions and the vision of the elected official,
    • to highlight the needs of the community.

    Our advice

    • Inform on a regular basis to encourage engagement,
    • diversify topics to reach a wide and varied population.

    Example:

    Since its launch on Fluicity in 2017, the municipality of Aubange has published more than 1,500 articles and events on its participatory platform and organized 17 consultations. Fluicity has become a reflex for citizens looking for information and transparency from their commune.

    Example of articles and events of citizen consultation on Fluicity](Capture-de_cran-2021-02-04-a_-15.38.10xxx.png)

    This proximity lays the foundation for a solid trust relationship and greatly facilitates participation in consultations. During the last participatory budget, for example, the finalist projects received a total of 1,190 votes in only 3 weeks. A great performance!

    The municipality also has the best penetration rate among all the communities present on Fluicity, with 21% of the major population involved in each consultation.

    The survey: to question citizens on a specific subject and collect their opinion**.

    The survey allows you to submit a question or a specific project to the validation of citizens. This consultation is simple to set up and allows you to obtain a response quickly (less than a month). The elected official can then make an informed decision based on the results.

    What are the differences with the survey? A survey asks only one question, to which citizens answer in the form of a vote (generally "For or Against"). The survey allows you to go further: simple or multiple choices, prioritization of proposals, details about the participants (age, neighborhood, profession, etc.). It provides an answer just as fast and direct as the survey, while allowing a more detailed analysis.

    At Fluicity, we also offer secure surveys, allowing you to set up online elections.

    Characteristics

    • allows a large number of users to be consulted over a short period of time,
    • on a specific issue that is accessible to all, without the need for prior debate,
    • to gather citizens' opinions, legitimize decision making
    • and to better understand habits, priorities and establish a panorama of public opinion.

    Our advice

    • Ask the question in a concrete and neutral way so as not to influence the answers,
    • Do not create a survey that is too long so as not to discourage participants,
    • communicate the results and the decisions that result from them,
    • make sure that the data collection and analysis are compliant with the RGPD law.

    Examples

    To revitalize its downtown area, the city of Thionville wanted to propose a project that would win over the inhabitants. Thanks to Fluicity, the city was able to easily set up a survey: "For or against the development of free Wi-fi in the city center." With 50% of participants and 80% of answers "for", Thionville was able to validate its project.

    Should we pedestrianize Rue du Commerce? This is the question that the city hall of Paris 15th submitted to its residents. At the end of the 10 days of consultation, 400 of them expressed themselves on the online platform. 27% lived on rue du Commerce or on a perpendicular street, but only a small part of the shopkeepers had expressed themselves. This is valuable information for understanding the reality on the ground, and for adapting decisions or communication later on, by including more merchants.

    Extract from a use case of citizen consultation on pedestrianization in Paris 15

    (See the complete use case of the survey on the pedestrianization of the rue du Commerce in Paris 15e )

    **Anomaly reporting: a device to help preserve public space

    By reporting, the citizen does not participate directly in the decision-making process. Nevertheless, they collaborate with administrative services and contribute to the well-being of the city. On Fluicity, citizens can report an anomaly to the municipality by using a private messaging service.

    The call for ideas: to bring out new solutions on a specific subject

    The call for ideas invites citizens to formulate proposals on a specific topic (mobility, environment, urban planning, etc.) and for a limited time. This format allows for the emergence of new solutions and reinforces the feeling of belonging of the inhabitants to the territory. The latter is in charge of explaining the context of the consultation, so that it gives rise to relevant proposals.

    Note that the call for ideas requires more commitment from the citizens than a simple survey. Its participation is generally lower, but of better quality thanks to the initial framework.

    Features

    • gives citizens a voice, involving them in a specific and precise manner,
    • allows to obtain new solutions on subjects of general interest and public policies,
    • allows elected officials to set the pace of consultations according to the political agenda,
    • Its participation rate is lower, but the proposals are of better quality.

    Our advice

    • explain the issue, the framework and the duration of the consultation,
    • ensure that the ideas are followed up: respond in an educational manner to the citizens about their proposals, communicate about the future of the ideas and the action plan that will follow, explain the competencies of the territory ....
    • plan an analysis phase to identify relevant ideas and analyze opinion trends.

    Example:

    In the context of the development of the Batignolles / Portes de Clichy district, people living and working in the area were invited to express their needs. [And more precisely, their ideas for the development of a 50 m2 room (https://www.flui.city/stream-building).

    Stores, cultural place, space for the youth... 32 proposals were submitted! The community chose to submit 18 of them to a vote, via a survey.

    Online citizen consultation in the Clichy / Batignolles district as part of the Stream Building development by Covivio](Facebook-Ad-1x383x490x.png)

    Thematic consultation: to conduct a large-scale project and address all the key issues it includes

    This format allows you to collect citizens' ideas on a large-scale project: a local authority's recovery plan, the definition of a CSR strategy, an electoral campaign program, etc..

    It is organized around several themes predefined by the organizer and allows to address all these topics in a single consultation. Citizens can post proposals in each of these themes. This approach is also based on openness and collective intelligence. The ideas posted are visible to all and open to comments and votes**, to highlight the consensus and dissensus.

    Features

    • provides a clear and engaging framework for participants thanks to the themes,
    • allows for multiple facets of a project to be addressed and a wealth of information to be gathered,
    • Users are free to contribute to the theme they want or know best. This approach limits discrimination and allows everyone to engage with equality.
    • the voting and commenting system allows to quickly identify the most popular contributions, the consensus and the dissensus.

    Our advice

    • define precisely the main objective to keep a clear guideline and simplify the analysis of the contributions,
    • take care of the explanation of each theme. Why not turn each one into a challenge to make participation more fun?
    • propose elements of reflection and inspiration to the participants (articles, studies, examples of proposals...),
    • invite the cultural and associative network, companies or even schools in the area to collaborate to enrich the debate.

    Example

    Logo of the online citizen consultation Get Up Wallonia](get-up-wallonia-logox116x116x.png)

    As part of its post-Covid-19 recovery plan, Wallonia has chosen Fluicity's thematic consultation to organize the largest online citizen consultation ever launched in Belgium. The objective of Get Up Wallonia: "to build together the Wallonia after the Covid-19 pandemic. A prosperous, generous Wallonia, where life is good."

    5 themes were privileged: economy, environment, solidarity, employment and citizenship. In 5 weeks, 9,370 citizens joined the consultation, via the online platform mawallonie.be or a dedicated paper questionnaire. 51,000 contributions were registered. A success!

    The recovery plan is now being developed.

    Online citizen participation platform Get Up Wallonia

    The participatory budget: to include citizens in the realization of projects and to make them aware of the management of the municipality

    The participatory budget offers citizens the opportunity to decide on the use of part of the municipal budget. Managed by the elected official and the administrative services, it is entirely personalizable (budget envelope, needs of the commune, duration, criteria for project admissibility, etc.). It generally lasts between 3 and 6 months and can vary in its course: citizens choose how to distribute the budget envelope among different projects, or can propose their own project ideas - which will then be submitted to a feasibility study and a vote.

    [Discover the different steps to set up a participatory budget (https://get.flui.city/blog/elaborer-un-budget-participatif-commune-conseils/)

    In the space of six years, participatory budgets have exploded in France: from 7 active approaches in 2014, to 170 (for the moment) in 2020. And for good reason: this participatory democracy mechanism is particularly rich. It includes all the key steps of citizen consultation (information, consultation, consultation, co-construction). It deals with a sensitive subject (the budget, taxes) and has strong educational virtues: raising citizens' awareness of the distribution of finances and the [competences of the commune] (https://get.flui.city/blog/competences-commune-explications/), better understanding of public action and its constraints, more frequent dialogue... Elements that contribute directly to reinforcing the legitimacy of decisions, and confidence in representative bodies.

    Features

    • includes citizens directly in the management of the commune's budget
    • raises awareness of public action,
    • a project that lasts several months and requires follow-up, frequent communication and the involvement of departments,
    • a more or less engaging format for citizens: from project leader to simple voter.

    Our advice

    • Take care of the initial framework, which will facilitate the implementation of the entire project: rules, budget, calendar, eligibility criteria, communication plan, etc.
    • Ensure transparency in the decision-making process: explain why projects are not eligible, communicate at each step, etc.
    • Include citizens on the project selection committee,
    • Consider a physical way to participate to include more citizens (e.g., voting or dropping off projects at city hall).

    **In April of this year, the municipality of Bertrix made the bold choice to launch its first participatory budget in the middle of the city. The objective: to imagine the Bertrix of tomorrow. The bet was a success! In only 3 months, 10% of the population (from 18 to 88 years old!) mobilized on the Fluicity platform, 45 ideas were submitted and an inclusive project was born. A look back at the success of this flash budget.

    Want to get started? All your participatory democracy initiatives can be facilitated thanks to Fluicity's support and expertise. Don't hesitate to contact us for more information!

    Contact us**

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