The Public Administration, as we know it, is about to change. The digital era has arrived. An unprecedented transformation that will affect all public organizations is coming. New legislations are making it compulsory for local and regional governments to offer all of their services online. This is true in Europe but also in many other countries.
One of the novelties introduced by some of these laws is the new mandatory prior public consultation procedure, whereby online citizen engagement will be an essential requirement in the development of regulations. In this post we explain everything you need to know to comply with the prior consultation requirement. We will also give you 5 keys to take advantage of it. If you have any questions or want to know more, contact us.
The opinion of your citizens matters
The prior public consultation will take place when the regulatory initiative is in the project or preliminary phase. In some countries, it must be present both in the procedures of elaboration of new norms and in the modification of the existing ones. Citizens and organizations that want to express their opinions must have at least a couple of weeks to participate in the consultation. The competent body to carry it out is the Area or Department to which the project or regulatory project in question corresponds, and must do so through a citizen engagement website. In other words, in order to develop any regulatory initiative, it will be essential to have a website where citizens can inform themselves and give their opinion.
5 keys to take advantage of the prior consultation process
The idea is that citizens can give their opinion about the problems that the rule intends to solve, to what extent it is necessary and if they agree with the objectives pursued. And if they disagree, they will still be on time to propose alternatives. After all, prior consultation is about citizens providing useful information to councilors and public servants. Therefore, it is important to encourage citizens to participate and get them to make valuable proposals. How to take advantage of the prior consultation process? We give you 5 keys:
- Interact with citizens: The best way for your citizens to participate is to listen to them and make them feel useful. After a consultation, it is highly recommended to assess the main contributions and indicate the reasons that have led to the incorporation of some of them and to reject others. Greater Manchester Combined Authority listened to the proposals of its citizens, obtaining a more cohesive and participatory regulation for the region.
- Design strategies to stimulate citizen engagement: Normally, citizens are not familiar with regulation procedures, which makes it difficult for them to participate. Taking measures to stimulate engagement can give very good results. These are the cases of the City Council of Vienna and the City Council of Elche, which managed to increase the engagement rates thanks to this kind of strategies.
- Develop a communication plan: Citizens will not be able to participate in the consultation if they do not know that it exists. Raising awareness about the importance of participating is key to obtaining valuable contributions. The Government of the Island of Menorca designed a communication plan that combined face-to-face workshops with online actions and achieved quality proposals that became real public policies.
- Approve common guidelines for all prior consultations: City councils can undertake many regulatory projects. If each prior consultation process had its own particularities, it would be tremendously confusing. It will be easier for citizens to participate if all consultations work according to common guidelines.
- Launch an attractive engagement website: It is essential to pay attention to the usability of your citizen engagement website. It must be clear, simple and accessible. A good website will attract more citizens and have a positive effect on engagement rates. Municipalities such as Rivas Vaciamadrid already have an attractive participation website that is giving them very good results.
Prior consultation is a must
Everything indicates that there will be no more delays. The forecasts of the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 and the recommendations of the European Union and the OECD are very clear: the online engagement of citizens must be implemented as soon as possible.
Ignoring the prior public consultation process can have serious consequences for your City Council. All those regulations that omit prior consultation could be declared void in many countries. That is why more and more municipalities realize the importance of complying with these requirement, although not all of them are equally prepared.
How to turn this change into an opportunity
Opening to online participation is not easy. The first obstacle arises while choosing a technology that fits both our needs and our pocket. In Kuorum we have been helping local and regional governments in several countries with their citizen participation technology and projects for years. Making sure they manage to increase participation rates while reducing the workload of their teams. And thus turning each participatory process into an opportunity to learn more about the problems and desires of citizens. If you are interested in complying with the LPAC regarding citizen participation and you think we can help you, don’t hesitate to contact us.