Citizen initiatives allow you to keep track of what your citizens deem important, right on your very own participation platform. You’ll always have a good sense of what’s missing on your policy agenda. And you offer your citizens a place to give input on topics that aren’t covered yet by one of your existing projects on the platform.
You set the rules, and when an initiative meets these rules, you promise to ‘do something in return’. If it doesn’t meet the rules, it stops right there.
You remain in control at all times, and our platform gives you the necessary tools to be able to monitor the activity on the platform.
What are citizen initiatives?
Citizen initiatives are a continuous form of bottom-up participation. This type of participation differs from the current idea-gathering approach of the platform because it doesn’t fit into the limitations of an existing project. Rather than responses to a fixed question asked by governments (ie “what colour should the bins be?“), these are items initiated by citizens themselves (ie “we want to change garbage collecting routes“).
Citizen initiatives allow citizens to write down their proposals at any time, and gather support for their initiative. Initiatives that reach a pre-defined threshold are promised to receive 'a response' from you. An initiative may be a simple request to the city, but it might also require the city to play a supporting role in the spirit of co-creation.
You remain in control of the process by defining the conditions for citizen initiatives. Clear rules increase transparency and will make selection easier for you.
A. Voting threshold
The number of votes required for a citizen initiative to be considered. As a rule of thumb, this is often expressed in % of your total population (ie 1-3% of the population).
B. Days to reach threshold
The amount of days one has to gather that support. It’s important to find a balance between allowing enough time to rally support versus motivating people to actively work on their initiatives. 3 months, or 90 days, is in many cases ideal.
C. The criteria for an initiative
The eligibility criteria are shared with everyone who starts an initiative.
A commonly used set of such criteria: “The initiative should…
- Be within the competences of our local government
- Serve the common interest, not a personal one
- Not discriminate on gender, race, age, …
- Not harm others
- Be viable in terms of budget
- Be viable in terms of timing
- Not be part of an existing plan already
- Be different from other initiatives already on the platform"
What can people expect when their initiatives reach the threshold in time?
This is the most important step. Here, you’ll define what happens when an initiative gathers the required number of votes within the number of days. The most common option is to invite the initiative author(s) to the next council meeting to present the initiative, and where the council will give an official reaction on it.
But it is totally up to you to offer something that suits your context most and that fits your needs and available resources.
Some alternative options:
- Expert advice from someone within your organisation
- Internal referral to the competent team or department
- Logistic/financial/communication support
This choice is clearly shown to all citizens, so they know what to expect and what not. It’s all about managing expectations.
Customize the success stories
All platforms currently have 3 default success stories to inspire citizens. Contact us if you would like to make some invisible or if you want to add local inspirational cases.
Once you've finished the configuration steps above, you're ready to enable the citizen initiatives on your platform. This is done by the simple toggle in the 'Configuration' tab. Only when this toggle is on, initiatives will become visible to your citizens.
In the 'Overview' tab, you can easily follow up on all running and new initiatives. You can discover who has been assigned to them, how many days are left and how much support they already gathered.
New initiatives and initiatives that reached the voting threshold are also listed in your weekly email report.
Every new initiative can be assigned to yourself or one of the other admins on the platform. By doing so, that person becomes responsible for the follow-up and will be notified when her/his action is required.
Automatic status changes
3 out of 5 initiative statuses are automatic ones, and can't be manually selected.
- Proposed: the status when an initiative has been published and still has time to gather support.
- Expired: the status when an initiative didn't reach enough votes within the preset number of days.
- Threshold Reached: the status when an initiative did reach enough votes on time.
Manual status changes
The other 2 initiatives statuses are manual ones. You can decide when to give which initiative one of these statuses.
- Ineligible: when the initiative doesn't meet your predefined criteria.
- Answered: when you're ready to communicate about the next steps for an initiative that reached the threshold in time.
Note: even if an initiative is expired or didn't reach the threshold yet, you can always decide to already/still move forward with it (e.g. because it matches your existing policy plans).
Selecting one of these manual statuses will require you to give a written update to that initiative, visible to all.
Ready to implement citizen initiatives on your platform? We're here to help!