neu&kühn, companion and developer of online projects with public participation, presented their recently published analysis for the project group E-Democracy & E-Participation on the 8th of April, 2010. In the context of a best practice analysis more than 30 international e-participation examples were reviewed and important factors for a successful collaboration highlighted. The analysis works as guide for administration, politics and institutions. Authors Kirsten Neubauer and Peter Kühnberger view social media as an opportunity for dialogue, building of trust and mobilization.
E-participation examples of various sizes were reviewed – from small town councils with about 2.500 citizens to megacities. The following e-participation projects represent a selection of the analyzed projects from the areas of environment, damage reports, budget and urban development. The home countries of these projects are mostly in the Anglo-American area and in Scandinavia, where local as well as national initiatives for participation can be found. The German speaking area is more likely to be focused on regional topics.
Urban development: Essen has to grow quieter
This project introduced so called “noise places” in the city of Essen, Germany. These noise places were marked on a map and suggestions how to handle them were made by the users, which could be rated and commented on. 943 suggestions and 1,143 comments were made and served as a basis for concrete measures. In a second phase, these measures were prioritized and through a package of urgent measures (i.e. financial aid for noise protection windows) decided on.
Damage Reports: FixMyStreet
FixMyStreet enables reports of citizen concerns, damage, pollution and similar issues via internet or mobile phone and shows if and how these reports are handled. The described places are marked on a map. Another project in the area of damage reports for citizens is Maerker Brandenburg, active in Germany.
Financial planning: Participatory Budget Cologne
In November 2009, following the motto of “Your city – your money” a second time, ideas and ratings were collected. About 10.000 citizens of Cologne, Germany, took an active part and offered 1,254 suggestions with 4,664 comments and 38,470 ratings. The top 100 rated suggestions were reviewed for practicability and costs and passed on for a decision. The steps required for implementation can be tracked on the website.
Recommendations for successful e-participation projects
Successful projects all show similar patterns in planning and implementation. Using these patterns as a point of orientation minimizes the project risks.
· The phases of information, dialogue and feedback are essential.
· The topic needs to be of interest to the citizens and must be tied to their daily lives and environment.
· The combination of different participation tools is promising.
· Online users need to be taken serious and answers to their concerns should be personal, up to date and formulated concretely.
· Precise questions help to avoid insults or general statements of displeasure.
A summary in German can be ordered free of charge at www.neuUndKuehn.at