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Organize a digital survey in a neighborhood

  • Tuesday, October 18, 2022

  • Five years ago, the commune of Woluwé-Saint-Pierre in Brussels launched its citizen participation platform. An innovative decision at the time, which has since been extended to many municipalities in Belgium and Europe.

    Today, Arthur Del Marmol, cabinet manager in charge of mobility and digital transition, tells us about their latest online consultation on Fluicity: a survey targeted at a neighbourhood.

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    Arthur Del Marmol, head of the firm in charge of mobility and digital transition.

    Before using Fluicity, how did you organize your neighborhood surveys?

    We used to do consultations through flyers that were distributed to all the boxes. This could concern the installation of a speed bump or a one-way street. It was very punctual on subjects that directly impacted the concerned residents.

    In order to answer, the citizens had to send us back a reply coupon indicating if they were in favour or against the development. They had the possibility to add a comment in a rather limited space. Then, we collected the answers by mail or by post and we retranscribed them one by one in Excel format to know the rate of favourable to the project. This took a lot of time and resources.

    It was quite a laborious process since we had to write, print and distribute several thousand copies within a neighborhood, so that people could read and respond to the information.

    What were the limitations? Why did you change your method recently?

    It was a laborious process both for the administration and for the citizens who wanted to participate in the survey. But what kept us from changing the method for these consultations was the important digital divide in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre because we have a population whose average age is quite old. Nevertheless, we wanted to test and see if citizen participation could not evolve and be done online for neighborhood topics.

    What have you put in place to simplify these consultation methods?

    We innovated by offering citizens the opportunity to complete an online survey. To ensure that only residents of the neighborhoods concerned could respond, we used our platform, Fluicity, which allows them to include a condition of access to the questionnaire, depending on their place of residence. By indicating a street in the neighborhood, they could answer the survey; otherwise they were redirected directly to the end of the questionnaire without the possibility of answering.The platform also allowed us to elaborate a more complete questionnaire with more general, more open questions than those we used before.

    Afterwards, we had to inform and communicate about the survey with a simple circular distributed in all the boxes. The novelty was the QR code that led citizens directly to the online survey. For this first experiment, we gave citizens the possibility to send us the questionnaire by e-mail or post. Then, we only had to export the results of the online questionnaire, add the few answers received by mail before sending it to the research department. In the end, this facilitated both participation and data processing!

    Before, we could easily take more than 3 days to process the responses. Now, we took less than a day."

    What were the results of this first consultation?

    We received almost all the responses online! This confirmed to us that this barrier that is the digital bill, is less and less. It also saved us time and resources to analyze the results. We received more responses than in our previous surveys on average: more than 10% of the neighborhood responded. It's easier to take your phone, scan a QR code and enter the survey to answer... than to start going to the reply slip, photocopy it, send it back. We realize that we could afford this type of procedure more often. We don't have to make sure every time; the possibility to answer in every way by every means. Sometimes it is not necessary.

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    Would you recommend using Fluicity? And, will you continue to use it in this way?

    Yes, it's a tool that needs to be appropriated, not only at my level, but at all levels of the municipality. I think that, very clearly, it can meet this need and it would allow us to do it in a regular and more efficient way in the collection of results and participation... and clearly I recommend it.

    Fluicity has given us a certain regularity in the way we organize the surveys within the population.

    Any final words?

    Overall, what I like about Fluicity is that you can feel the will to adapt and evolve according to the communities. On several occasions, I said to myself that it would be good to talk about filtering, QR codes, and many other needs that you have adapted to. It's really a strength to listen and improve your tool based on the user experience.