More and more municipalities realize the value of citizen participation when designing public policies and services that best fit the needs of their inhabitants. Although there are several studies that explain this phenomenon from the academic point of view, very few have a practical approach, with simple recommendations that councilors and citizen participation technicians can apply immediately.
That is why we have carried out this study focused on the real concerns and needs of local governments. To do this, we interviewed councilors and participation technicians from various municipalities and conducted a survey among young people between 18 and 34 years old; with the objective of identifying new strategies to encourage their participation in institutional processes. The study was carried out by Marvin Frömming, associate researcher at the University of Applied Sciences Avans, in the Netherlands. The data collection was performed in Spain but many insights can be useful in other countries as well.
Three main conclusions are derived from the study:
- Participatory budgets are booming, offering a new way to promote collaboration between the municipalities and their citizens. However, several factors that are decisive in the successfully completing of this type of project have been identified.
- The design and execution of participatory processes is a complex activity that is not always carried out in the most appropriate way. The study reveals the persistence of problems – both internal and external – that end up generating tensions in the municipalities’ participation departments. Technology, in addition to being a useful tool for measuring public opinion, can relief some of these tensions.
- There is a total disconnection between local governments and younger citizens. Municipalities strive to involve the youngest generations in their participatory processes. A correct choice of communication channels can have a great impact on the participation rate of youth.
The report shows the evolution of the investment municipalities dedicate to citizen participation and which regions invest more. And finally, practical recommendations are done. This document will be of interest to anyone involved in participatory processes at local or regional level: Councilors or Secretaries of Citizen Participation, municipal technicians, project managers or leaders of neighborhood associations.
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