You've got your platform in your hands and you see the plethora of tools ready to be used. Now, who should take charge? The IT specialist? The senior manager? The policy officer? The department head? If your answer is to pass it to only one person or one specific division, it's time to think twice. But before that, let's reflect on why it's important to have the right people in the first place.

Why is it important to get the right team onboard?

  • Continuity & Longevity

    • Without the right people on board (i.e. the right skillsets, network and expertise), you risk making the platform and community engagement just another "fad" or "one-off" experiment in the eyes of your members/users. This is the last thing that we want as it not only damages your reputation but also feeds into the feeling of apathy or disinterest that community members may already have - community engagement is about changing that, over time, not perpetuating it.

  • Better decisions & execution

    • Having the right people also allows you to quickly solve problems and execute ideas efficiently by being able to work across different departments and/or levels of governance - tapping into key resources and key contacts when needed. It also saves a lot of valuable time by cutting through all the introductory meetings and approvals!

    • Furthermore, a group with diverse perspectives, insights and complementary capabilities are more likely to be able to identify potential gaps and roadblocks in implementing the platform, which therefore means being more able to identify and create new innovative solutions to solve them!

  • Legitimacy

    • Having the right team on your platform is also crucial in embedding legitimacy into the platform by ensuring the support of key decision makers, enablers and stakeholders. Not only does it build the legitimacy of the platform within your internal organization, but also of the decisions made around it.

What does good internal organization look like?

Good internal organization means having a diverse set of influential and competent people working together towards a common goal. Based on our experience working with over 200+ local governments and organizations, we found that the local governments that succeeded in integrating citizen engagement in their work share these 3 key characteristics:

  1. Centralized: a core team to coordinate the projects put on the platform and align with the different stakeholders

  2. Continuous: repeated participation over time for an ongoing dialogue with citizens

  3. Transversal: citizen participation involving all departments of the administration but also other stakeholders

Below is an overview of the different people and services involved in an online participation platform. The stakeholders involved can be divided into 4 groups. The 'Participation Work Group' is the internal hub and plays an operational role together with the communication service.

This core team is your executive team and the pivot of the platform. This dynamic group preferably has one key contact who is the main contact person to be in touch with our advisor from CitizenLab. That person can then involve colleagues on an ad-hoc basis later on depending on the active processes on the platform. However, the core team remains responsible for ensuring that the platform is well managed, maintained and utilized to its full potential! An example of who should be in this core team could be (at least):

  • x1 Member of Management

  • x1 Technical person / IT Department

  • x1 Communication Team

  • x1 Project Leader (for each active project)

Depending on the size of your municipality, 3 to 8 people will suffice - what is important is the diversity of skillsets, perspectives and experiences in this group.

This Participation Work Group should meet at least 4 times a year to discuss the current processes. For short-term projects, more regular meetings can be held. Internally, the Steering Committee sends out a question to all departments 4 times a year, asking to list what they are currently working on - prioritizing projects and maintaining focus of engagement and participation.


Suggested Role & Responsibility

Participation Steering Committee

  • Management and implementation of the participation process;

  • Monitors the progress of and activity on the platform; decides (in consultation with the project leaders) on the placement of projects on the platform;

  • Advises project leaders on the translation of projects to the tactical implementation.

Management Team

Determines procedures to follow when using the platform, assess which projects should be reported to the council

Council / Board of Directors

Approves the 'Framework for Citizen Participation'

Project Manager

He/she sets up a project and manages and moderates the input within

their project in consultation with the Participation Work Group.

Communication Department

Oversees the platform's branding and marketing, ensuring that the projects on the platform are included in the existing communication channels (e.g. website, information magazine, free

local paper, social media, etc.).

CitizenLab 'GovSuccess' Manager

The project manager at CitizenLab is the central point of contact outside the city and/or department. He/she is the first contact person for the workgroup and for the management team, providing online support and ensures that the procedure for using the

platform is properly followed.

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