Collecting citizen proposals

Keep track of what matters to your citizens.

Stijn Zwarts avatar
Written by Stijn Zwarts
Updated over a week ago

In this article we explain the ‘proposals’ (citizen proposals/ citizen initiatives) participation method. You’ll learn how to customize and activate this unique participation method, how to set the participation threshold and organize feedback on the proposals.

Notes on proposals:

  • Think about the kinds of proposals you would interested in receiving (topic or location specific)

  • Ensure you have the resources to follow through with proposals that meet your submission criteria


What are citizen proposals? 

Citizen proposals 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“). You could for instance compare it with an open "idea box".

Citizen proposals allow citizens to write down their proposals at any time, and gather support for their proposal. Proposals that reach a pre-defined threshold are promised to receive 'a response' from you. A proposal 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.   

Citizen proposals 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 a proposal 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.

Enabling proposals

To open up proposals to the public you need to switch on 3 things:

  1. In your admin panel click on "Proposals". Click on the second tab "Settings". Switch on Proposals.

  2. Add a button to proposals on your navigation bar. Click on "Pages & menu" in the admin panel. Check if 'Proposals' is in the list of pages that is shown on your navbar. If not, scroll down to 'Other available pages' and click on "Add to navbar" next to the page 'Proposals'. The proposals section will be accessible now through the navbar.

  3. To add a proposals section on your homepage, click on "Pages & menu" in the admin panel. Then click on "Edit" next to 'Homepage'. The homepage builder will open. In the column on the left, click on "Proposals" and drag that item to your homepage and decide where on the homepage you want to show the proposals section.

Configuration

Before settings the proposal section it is smart to configure the proposals first. You remain in control of the process by defining the conditions for citizen proposals. Clear rules increase transparency and will make selection easier for you.

User anonymity

If you allow users to participate anonymously, their identity will be hidden from other users, project moderators and admins. These contributions can still be moderated.

Review of proposals

If you switch on 'Review' proposals won't be visible until an admin reviews and approves them. Note that it's impossible to edit proposals once they're reviewed and approved.

Access to this feature depends on your plan.

Cosponsorship

If you want to strengthen legitimacy and visibility for proposal you can enable cosponsorship. Proposals won't be visible until a number of cosponsors has been reached. When you enable this feature, you can fill in how many cosponsors a participants needs for his/her proposal to be able to be eligible.

When someone is creating a proposals there will be a field where cosponsors can be invited to be cosponsor. The cosponsors need an account on the platform and they will receive an email with the invite to cosponsor a proposal.

Set conditions

A. Voting threshold

The number of votes required for a citizen proposal 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 proposals. 3 months, or 90 days, is in many cases ideal.

C. The criteria for a proposal

The eligibility criteria are shared with everyone who starts a proposal.
A commonly used set of such criteria: “The proposal 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 proposals already on the platform"

What can people expect when their proposals reach the threshold in time?

This is the most important step. Here, you’ll define what happens when a proposal gathers the required number of votes within the number of days. The most common option is to invite the proposal author(s) to the next council meeting to present the proposal, 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.

Proposals information page

In this section you can give more information about proposals and with using the pre-filled codes you can automatically populate the information page with the eligibility criteria and what happens when the threshold is reached.

This is what the codes look like:

  • $|initiativesEligibilityCriteria|

  • $|initiativesThresholdReachedMessage|

There will automatically be a link to this information page in the subtitle of the Proposal page.

Moderation

Overview

In the 'Overview' tab, you can easily follow up on all running and new proposals. You can discover who has been assigned to them, how many days are left and how much support they already gathered.


New proposals and proposals that reached the voting threshold are also listed in your weekly email report.

Assign

Every new proposal 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.

Internal commenting

If you are working with other admins on moderating proposals it can be useful to be able to leave comments on specific proposals that only other admins can see. To facilitate this internal collaboration you can use the 'Internal conversation' feature.

In the back-end of the proposal feature, in the 'Overview' tab you can leave internal comments when you click on a proposal. At the bottom you can switch between 'Internal converation' and 'Public discussion'.

Access to this feature depends on your plan.

Status

By default 5 statuses will appear on your proposal back-end and are described below.

If you are on a Premium plan we can also create custom statuses for you or edit the default ones (please contact the support team for through the chatbutton in the bottom right corner in this article or on your platform).

Automatic status changes

3 out of 5 proposal statuses are automatic ones, and can't be manually selected.

  • Proposed: the status when a proposal has been published and still has time to gather support.

  • Expired: the status when a proposal didn't reach enough votes within the preset number of days.

  • Threshold Reached: the status when a proposal did reach enough votes on time.

Manual status changes

The other 2 proposal statuses are manual ones. You can decide when to give which proposal one of these statuses by just selecting the corresponding box on the individual proposal.

  • Ineligible: when the proposal doesn't meet your predefined criteria (which can be edited in proposal "Settings" tab). When this is selected, the proposal can no longer be voted on.

  • Answered: when you're ready to communicate about the next steps for an proposal that reached the threshold in time. 

Note: even if a proposal 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 proposal, visible to all.


Ready to implement citizen proposals on your platform? We're here to help!

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