Liège is one of the biggest cities in Wallonia and certainly the most vibrant. No wonder it has been the frst to partner up with CitizenLab in the region, which has been rewarded by a huge success. Liège has chosen CitizenLab in order to crowdsource its “City Plan” containing policy priorities for the next few years.
After an open call to ideas, the City opened the votes and will ultimately designate which among the best ranking proposals will make up the City Plan.
The popularity of the platform owes to a great mix of online engagement, expert conferences and citizen workshops. The adhesion of the City workers has also been outstanding, with sustained feedback efforts and permanent contact with users. It’s now more than 14% of Liège’s 200,000 inhabitants who have been browsing the platform, with over one thousand ideas and more than three thousands comments submitted.
“We have been pioneers in citizen participation, but this time we really want to accelerate and change paradigm so as to hit a milestone”. This was the declaration of Strategy Director Jean-Christophe Peterkenne at the time of kick-starting Liège’s online participation. “The platform will allow us to see broader tendencies take shape”, he added, defining the purpose of this collaboration with CitizenLab. The platform was indeed shaped as a loose framework, with no limitations and the possibility to submit ideas relating to the future of Liège at large.
The Liège administration did a great job in making sure the majority of residents would be well aware of this extraordinary initiative. This communication success relied on well-targeted, smart efforts such as a fun and creative Twitter and Facebook campaign, a dedicated email newsletter and personal presentations of the project by the mayor to neighbourhood committees.
Liège could also count on CitizenLab’s advice regarding the formulation of its communication on the platform itself and on mixing fruitfully its online and offline approaches.
A concern frequently expressed by local governments is that some users could take the chance to voice unconstructive ideas or injurious content. Yet it must be pointed that the Liège platform manager only had to ask users to moderate their posts about 5 times out of more than 1,000 ideas, i.e. in less than 0.5% of cases. And had they missed it, the CitizenLab platform makes sure that most of the inappropriate content gets at the bottom of the public display or is agged by users directly to the platform manager.
All in all, the general impression has been one of surprising originality and useful contributions.
Citizens were able to share their ideas and comments for 4 months. The city administration then received a dedicated support of CitizenLab to present the data in clear, workable excel sheets summarising the whole input. The city then realised that citizen ideas mainly belonged to 8 topics and CitizenLab helped them reshape the platform along those categories for an optimal navigation by citizens.
The stage was ready for citizens to express their votes, which they did in unprecedented numbers: about 95,000 votes casted!