Stéphane Beaudet: "The elected official has a role of referee and educator in citizen participation"
Monday, May 3, 2021
Mayor of Courcouronnes since 2001 and Evry-Courcouronnes since 2019, Stéphane Beaudet is, as he says with a smile, a young "old mayor". Also President of the Association of Mayors of Ile-de-France (AMIF) and President Delegate of the community of agglomeration of Grand Paris Sud, he noted, experienced, analyzed "the disconnect" between citizens and political bodies. "A long-standing and very powerful groundswell". After numerous consultations on his territory, he is convinced that citizen participation has a crucial role to play in the renewal of democracy. But not at any price.
Here is a look at his vision of citizen consultation, the difficulties that elected officials may encounter in their territory, and his recommendations for civic tech.
Affirming the complementarity between participatory and representative democracy
Portrait of Stéphane Beaudet, mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes, interviewed by Fluicity on his point of view on citizen participation](Ste_phane_Beaudet_-_Evry-Courc.jpeg)
_Stéphane Beaudet, mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes
"Consultation is a fairly recent process. Historically, citizens have never had so much opportunity to speak out," says the man who saw the birth of neighborhood councils, digital participation tools and the explosion of social networks.
However, this is not the case for the elected official, who fears that this new responsibility is not properly supported or understood. "There is a paradox between the possibility of being able to consult and consult, thanks to digital technology, and wanting to give collective power to people who don't necessarily have the skills or knowledge needed to manage a territory."
For him, a preliminary question must be asked: **"We too often confuse citizen participation with the question of democratic representation."
Two notions that are effectively placed in opposition, when the real issue is, on the contrary, that of the complementarity between participatory democracy and representation** How can these two democratic pillars be intelligently combined to bring about a new, more peaceful and constructive form of decision-making?
For the mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes, we must begin by giving elected officials back their power of arbitration.
The elected official: a role of arbitrator and teacher in citizen participation
"To be a politician is to decide for the common good, it is to know how to make a decision! In the case of citizen participation, it is to take the responsibility of posing the adequate framework, according to the political vision, the territorial stakes, the legal obligations, etc.
"Even if there is co-construction, there are specifications to respect, there are invariants," reminds Stéphane Beaudet. The elected official has a valuable peripheral vision that allows him or her, based on different elements, to say what is co-construction, consultation and information. This is his referee role. He also has the responsibility to share his findings and **to be a teacher. We then keep the principle of participatory democracy, which completes the representation."
The elected official has a valuable peripheral vision that allows him to say what is part of co-construction, consultation and information.
If he recognizes that a deep crisis of confidence has marred relations with elected officials, he urges them not to sink into distrust "on principle". "Let's stop believing that they are systematically wrong, or that they act for their own interests or those of their party. Elected officials are probably the ones who think the most about the general interest with the associations - especially the local elected officials! - in a society of self-centeredness. "
"The lack of interest in politics is not only due to politicians" concludes the mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes, referring in passing the citizens to their responsibility.
How can civic tech help territories to involve citizens in public decision-making?
As a player in local democracy, civic tech has a strong methodological role to play alongside local authorities, so that a constructive dialogue can take place. Stéphane Beaudet sees several issues on which to work for this collaboration to be fruitful.
- **Reconciling overall issues (macro) with the problems of local residents (micro)
The territorial strategy can sometimes be contradictory with the very local problems of the inhabitants. The challenge of consultation will be to reconcile these interests** and to provide citizens with the necessary context for informed participation.
**2. Reconciling the short term and the long term
"The world is moving fast. Young people have more and more difficulty in projecting themselves. The inhabitants are less sedentary than before... Working on the Evry project for 2040 is no longer of much interest to them!" laments Stéphane Beaudet.
For long-term participation, however, it is necessary to succeed in getting the inhabitants interested in concrete and immediate issues as well as in structural and long-term projects. If this dual time frame is already complicated on a daily basis, "between the management of a pothole and the city's future over 20 years", it is even more so when it comes to [involving citizens] (https://get.flui.city/blog/animer-demarches-participatives-impliquer-les-citoyens/).
**3. Ensure a proof of the consultation
Consultation alone is a tool. To have an impact, it must be analyzed and provide evidence that the citizen's voice has been taken into account. This step is essential to build trust - both in the process and in the decision makers.
For Stéphane Beaudet, the difficulty is precisely to provide this proof: "How can we ensure continuity in the consultation process? How can we trace the thread of a public decision in order to demonstrate how the citizen's word has shaped/influenced it?"
A challenge that Fluicity has fully taken into account in its consultation methodology and in its Data science service offering.
4. Instilling a civic culture in citizens
Education is fundamental," insists the mayor of Evry-Courcouronnes. Being a citizen means first of all defining what makes up the "common purpose". The question of "why we are together" is essential. We lack a cultural background, intellectual construction around the "good life together", real ethical and political debates.
We lack a cultural background, an intellectual construction around "living well together", real ethical and political debates
If "improving the educational background" seems to him to be essential, he also counts on the support of civic tech to "make citizens more responsible" and to ensure that their commitment and their positions take more and more into account the collective.
"I expect civic tech to share a culture. That we work together to organize the speaking out and to put up the dikes". Challenge accepted!