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The neighborhood scale: a lever of citizen engagement on which to capitalize!

  • Tuesday, April 13, 2021

  • Blog cover image

    Based on where the inhabitants live, the neighborhood councils, solidarity and neighborhood networks are powerful mobilization vectors for the population. However, these "ultra-local" participatory democracy mechanisms can also reach their limits if they are not integrated into a global vision of the community.

    So, how can these micro and macro scales be articulated so that they complement each other? How can we convert citizens' commitment to their neighborhoods into a sustainable commitment to the territory? Explanations and examples.

    Valorize the information and mobilization potential of neighborhoods

    The role of neighborhood councils is to allow residents to be informed about local projects and to offer their consultative point of view. If some elected officials remain cautious about these "participatory bodies," it is undoubtedly for fear of seeing more contestation than exchange. And yet, it is precisely by opening up dialogue that neighborhood meetings and councils offer a valuable opportunity for information and education.

    This scale constitutes a strategic entry point with the population: to inform citizens about the stakes and projects of the territory, to mobilize them in a targeted manner on issues that concern them directly (their commitment will be all the stronger!), to collect their needs and grievances, or even to make them aware of communal and inter-communal competencies.

    Some inhabitants will be more inclined to express themselves with the representatives of the councils, than with the elected officials. Citizen ambassadors can also emerge and constitute facilitators or relays of the citizen's voice in the participatory democracy.

    Read more: How to encourage citizen participation in local life

    Neighborhoods are therefore places of information and mobilization that decision-makers have every interest in promoting. However, there are certain elements that must be taken into account...

    **Mobilizing from a distance: neighborhood council elections are held online in Montigny-le-Bretonneux!

    Aware of the strength of commitment of the neighborhood councils, and of their key role in the local participatory democracy, the town of Montigny-le-Bretonneux did not let the Covid-19 pandemic take over! The city of 33,000 inhabitants opted for online neighborhood council elections thanks to the secure survey proposed by Fluicity, on its citizen consultation platform. A success!

    Visual of the online participation platform of Montigny le Bretonneux which carried out its district council elections online](2021-03-24_18-43-17.png)

    • Results: 3.48% of the population engaged in 2 weeks, more than 800 online votes to designate the representatives. And a digital transition carefully orchestrated by Fluicity and the city services, to include the whole population in this process and prepare the ground for the following citizen consultations. Discover their feedback on this secure online election in our written review

    or during our last webinar

    Reconciling the micro (neighborhood) and macro (territory, municipality) scales

    However, it is clear that regional planning, city policy and the structuring points of a mandate cannot be considered solely at the neighborhood level. Urban cohesion** is based in part on the transversality of spaces and the problems of housing, mobility, transport, facilities, etc.

    This point can be resolved by taking into account two elements:

    1. **Be careful not to silo neighborhoods.

    This is a particular risk with neighborhood networks. While they promote solidarity and social cohesion, they can also lock residents into their own perimeter and reduce the chances of mobilizing them on city-specific projects (who really has the time to multiply local commitments, and subscribe to two participation platforms?)

    Another disadvantage is that these independent tools offer only limited visibility to elected officials (and other residents) on citizen concerns and actions.

    1. Establish clear links between neighborhood and municipal projects.

    The municipality of Ganshoren is currently consulting residents on a strategic axis for inter-municipal mobility.

    5,000 paper forms have been distributed to mailboxes and a survey is being conducted on Fluicity to mobilize residents around the design of this axis. Ganshoren is counting on the local mobilization of the residents, while being aware that the project goes beyond the geographical limits of the targeted neighborhoods.

    It is a very structuring axis for Ganshoren, there are two schools, the swimming pool and the church,_ says Magali Cornelissen (MR), alderman mobility and urbanism of Ganshoren. It attracts a lot of people from our municipality but also from the neighboring municipalities because it connects two important regional sections.

    An explanatory video has been put online on Fluicity to make participants aware of the constraints of the redevelopment of this axis and its role in the vision of the public space.

    Fluicity capitalizes on local engagement to improve the impact of participation

    At Fluicity, we have therefore designed a way to manage both global and ultra-local initiatives, and to capitalize on the strong engagement that the latter produce.

    With our "affiliated spaces" offer, each territory (municipality, metropolis, intercommunality, region...) benefits from a main consultation space in its name, as well as several affiliated spaces (by neighborhood or by municipality for example).

    Example of a commune with a main consultation space and affiliated spaces dedicated to its districts](2021-04-14_17-56-16-1.png)

    Autonomous, these affiliated spaces can launch their own citizen consultationss (calls for ideas, surveys, events), relay their information or promote that of the main space, thus offering it increased visibility.

    The advantages of this organization are numerous:

    • the ability to inform/consult the population in a more targeted manner and benefit from a higher level of engagement,
    • the possibility of draining this commitment more easily from the micro scale (neighborhoods, communes) to the macro** scale (territory) by developing the culture of participation, information and curiosity.

    This pulling effect has been observed between the municipality of Thionville and its agglomeration Portes de France - Thionville. In June 2020, the municipality of Thionville organized a survey "For or against the gradual reopening of schools", on the Fluicity platform, which received more than 1,600 votes. As a result, the participative space of the agglomeration Portes de France -Thionville (80 000 registered users) counted 300 additional registrations that same month, when a classic consultation organized by the agglomeration usually generates about one hundred.

    • centralize participatory approaches, data, and projects on a single citizen consultation platform. Nothing is lost!

    Several territories have already opted for this offer, including :

    • The Economic Office of the Province of Namur (BEP) which thus sponsors the Namur municipalities wishing to implement citizen participation.

    • The city of Montigny-le-Bretonneux**, which dedicates its affiliated spaces to each of its districts. A very logical online participation space following the neighborhood council elections that took place on the same platform!

    Want to know more about our affiliated spaces? Request a demo!