Guide citizen dialogue – for viable ideas.

With WE THINQ, citizens are easily mobilized and motivated to become
engaged in urban planning.

Do you need to engage your community? If you work in the public sector, the answer is probably yes. If you want to create services and respond to issues that are important to your citizens you need to find a way to engage with them. But your citizens aren’t exactly knocking down your door. They have lives, and jobs, and kids. Helping you is not their top priority. So how can you get them to come to your events, use your services, and give you feedback and ideas? Organisations that have successful citizen participation programs get new ideas, public support on policies, and trust from their communities.

Let’s take a look at an example of citizen participation to give you an idea of how it all works:

"The 'We Shape Usingen' project has demonstrated that the underlying WE THINQ software is very well suited to on-line municipal participatory projects. Our experience with WE THINQ was consistently positive."

Alexander Handschuh - Project Manager of the Innovators Club of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities wanted to improve citizen engagement in their urban development projects. They had not used an online tool before, and wanted to see if using an app like WE THINQ could help them engage with more community members. During the three-month-process helpful and constructive dialogue between citizens proved the project a success. The dialogue involved 60 ideas, 500 comments and 400 participants (4% of the population). Clear points for intervention and implementation were identified to act on. Idea Management in Action

Organisations that are using on-line platforms to reach out to their citizens are seeing change happen in their communities. Creating a platform where it is easy for citizens to take part in discussions and submit feedback is an essential part of an engaged community.

Seem daunting? WE THINQ has you covered! Read through our FAQ to get all the information you need about citizen participation.

Photo: Ryan Mcguire

1. What is Citizen Participation?

Citizen participation is a process which gives individuals an opportunity to take part in public decisions. Citizen participation empowers individuals in the community. Citizen participation can take place in many different forms. From open hall meetings to an on-line community like you would find on WE THINQ, or a combination of both. From the ancient democracies in Greece, citizen dialogue has played varying roles in governmental organisations throughout history. While it is pretty much agreed upon that citizen participation is a positive force, it is still something difficult to find in many cities and communities. By seeking civic engagement, you will be leading the way for a more open and innovative public sector.

2. Why do We Need Citizen Participation?

Because true democracy needs a voice. Asking your citizens about their ideas, needs, and desires will help ensure that you create services and programs that benefit your community. It will also create a sense of trust and ownership in the community. If citizens can see what you are working on and what your ideas are, they are more likely to support you in upcoming initiatives. Community engagement is a means to ensure that citizens have a direct voice in public decisions

3. Who Uses Community Engagement Processes?

Governments, public sector organisations, and individuals who want to make a difference in their community. The German Association of Towns and Municipalities, as mentioned above, uses citizen dialogue initiatives frequently. The European Commission runs town hall events around the EU, and Creating Frankfurt a citizen participation project.

4. Who Will Participate in My Dialogue?

This will vary depending on your goals and the resources available.Citizen participation initiatives benefit by having as many people as possible involved. To get the most amount of people it is important to get the word out. Build a basic website for your project and get help utilising it for search engines. This will help people find you. Citizen apps are still a new trend, and people will not know that you are out there. Approach people you know in your community, join social media, and consider advertising on- line (Facebook or Google adwords) and offline. Ideally you will have a good mix of diverse citizens for your project. With the right communications strategy, you will attract an array of citizens to your platform.

5. How Will Citizen Engagement Help My Organisation, Group, City or Government?

By giving the public a voice and listening to them, you ensure that your citizens feel like a valued part of the community. You can find new partners and fans that will help you achieve your goals. Your projects will become more meaningful because you know the community you are serving. There is a lot of distrust and dissent between the public and the public leaders. By increasing civic engagement, you will be a driving force in closing these gaps and creating a better community.

6. How do I Get Started and Build My Community?

If you are using an online software like WE THINQ, it only takes a couple of minutes to get started! You can begin by inviting people that you already know and then outreach to others, asking them to join your community. If you are ready to get serious about running an innovation challenge, we offer a free tutorial with 7 helpful lessons. Get started today!


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