CitizenLab’s mission is to build stronger democracies by making public decision-making more inclusive, participatory, and responsive.
In 2021 we had the highest impact on making decision-making more participatory (check out our 2021 impact report). This year, we’re happy to report we’ve made even more progress, as our highest impact was on two areas:
out of 7
out of 7
Let’s turn the spotlight onto key projects from across our three impact areas and take a closer look at some of this year’s impact.
CitizenLab’s impact starts with increasing participation levels. Whether a government chooses to consult, involve, collaborate with, or empower their residents through community engagement, we help ensure people have opportunities to participate, the quality of input and processes is elevated, and that participation influences the political agenda.
One way to make public decision-making more participatory is to shift power and share agenda-setting with the community. In the United Kingdom, Newham - one of the biggest and most diverse boroughs in London - did this by using community assemblies to identify priorities for neighborhood projects through the first permanent sortion-based citizens assembly in England. The consultation was open to all residents, who were invited to submit ideas for projects. To reach as many people as possible, Newham combined their in-person assemblies with online projects. Here’s a snapshot of what they achieved:
Here’s a snapshot of what
Over 8,600 participants on their platform
An average 510 participants in each of their
8 Community Neighborhood Working Groups
An average of 26 ideas per neighborhood, with an average 153 comments across ideas
82 projects were chosen, approximately 10 per neighborhood
The council allocated funds for the ideas -
£25,000 per neighborhood in the first round, and £100,000 per neighborhood in the second round.
Read more about Newham’s participatory process of identifying local priorities.
I was surprised at how many of the participants at the conference went straight home and continued the debate online. Several [community members] took ownership to reply and comment on other citizens' posts. It works really well and is something we would like to continue working with in other contexts.
Rie Kjellerup Eigtved, Chief Consultant for Rudersdal
Municipality in Denmark
Traditionally, many people have found it difficult to participate in community engagement initiatives, which often didn’t account for the varied work hours, caretaking responsibilities, language access, and wide range of other barriers that can arise in life. This often meant that the diverse perspectives of community members were left out of the decision-making process. At CitizenLab, our work has an impact on engaging more people, reaching more representative groups of residents across projects, uncovering unknown community needs and interests, and building community members’ civic knowledge. We do this by bringing engagement online, to meet people where they are - in their homes, on their phones, and away from traditional engagement barriers that may have previously stopped them from participating.
A comprehensive plan defines the vision and activities for the city’s investments and growth for the next 20 years. During the development of its last comprehensive plan, the City of Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, found that they were mainly hearing from groups and individuals who were already familiar with the planning process and enjoying access to power, resources, and amenities. So in 2022, with inclusion and equity being the top priority, the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) set out to bring in and amplify more voices from historically underrepresented communities. Since 95% of the population has access to the internet in their homes, to meet everyone where they are,and to lower any barriers to engagement, OPCD decided to use digital engagement for their process.
As a result, the comprehensive plan will take into account feedback and input from their engaged community of residents. Here’s a snapshot of their platform’s reach across the community:
Here’s a snapshot of what
1,930 total registered users
Over 18,000 page views from Seattle residents
2,348 participants in the first engagement survey, which was available in 7 languages
3 community-driven priorities identified: housing availability and affordability, transportation and mobility, climate
Read more about Seattle’s inclusive approach
to community engagement.
Equitable community engagement is not a passive process. Cities, planners, and engagement specialists need to be proactive and intentional in their efforts. That means finding populations that are often left out of the conversation and meeting them where they are. Partnering with existing institutions and organizations can make more efficient use of limited resources in the process.
Samantha Yannucci, Director of Planning and Community Development of KO Consulting of Ombud in the American City of Struthers, Ohio
It’s one thing for governments to launch community engagement projects and for community members to participate. But when it comes to more responsive public decision-making, we want to see feedback loops are closed, community input and feedback efficiently processed, and decision-makers listening to community feedback when crafting policies.
The City of Leuven, in Belgium, wanted to invest in a greener and more climate-robust city. In fact, Leuven wants to be a climate-neutral and smart city by 2030. So, they launched a campaign and turned to their community for ideas for more greenery and less concrete in their city. Using the mapping feature on their engagement platform they asked residents to indicate which places were most suitable for such a change. The results?
Here’s a snapshot of what
Over 300 residents participated
A total of 139 ideas were proposed, and voted on over 770 times
8 ideas were chosen by the jury, and the municipality announced the winning ideas in a video on its websit
After the project closed the municipality invited participants to continue engaging on the topic by providing public fundss for changes like the installation of green roofs and rainwater wells and offering reduced-cost trees and plants for private greening initiatives by residents.
Read more about how Leuven’s community engagement influenced decisions (only in Dutch).
By constantly looking at the future from a different perspective, we have identified opportunities and challenges to develop a future that is robust and takes into account a number of uncertainties. We also used those visions of the future in a broad [community engagement effort] in which more than 3,000 citizens posted more than 700 ideas or reactions. This gave us an idea of what [the community] finds important. We then defined options that are part of a robust and supported long-term vision on mobility for Flanders. Based on all these insights, we have designed a long-term vision that is future-proof.
Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works in Belgium