Gemeente Zonder Gemeentehuis - Towards digital solutions for citizen participation

Political participation
Local governments

Citizens’ participation in policy making is considered an important aspect of a well-functioning democracy. Increasingly, local governments are adopting digital tools as a ways to engage citizens in these processes (e.g., participatory budgeting and crowdsourcing platforms). Still, research and experience from local governments shows that the public being reached and attracted by such platforms often remains limited to privileged and already engaged social groups.

We at imec-mict-UGent will investigate how we can broaden and diversify the public that is engaging with digital participation tools on a local level. We will do so in two research phases and by paying particular attention to three key assumptions on digital participation: (1) a need for more audiovisual solutions, (2) a need for more asynchronous and place independent solutions and (3) a need for more offline/online complementary solutions.

The first phase of the project consists of an extensive literature review and benchmark study to analyze existing insights on digital participation tools. We will also conduct key informant research (with citizens and governments) and expert-interviews to identify current needs and innovation opportunities in terms of citizen participation.

Secondly, we will develop and test a new digital participation concept. This concept will be targeted towards a specific participation goal from governmental actors and participation need from citizens who are difficult to reach in participatory projects. This phase will rely on co-creation sessions and Wizard-Of-Oz testing of the concept in an existing participation project in one of the partner cities.

Partners: City of Ghent, city of Oudenaarde, city of Genk, Flemish government.

Duration: June 2022 – April 2023

Contact: Cato Waeterloos

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