The role of public facilities and civic centres in a citizen participation ecosystem

When considering sustainability, scalability and the transformative impact of citizen participation, it becomes strategic the promotion and articulation of a global participation ecosystem that shares the same values, vision and objectives. This model of participation, in addition to being shared, must be effective and efficient, which is why one would consider necessary that it also has a globally shared set of infrastructures in the field of participation. These infrastructures are, among others, an Administration coordinated at all levels so that it can optimize the available resources, a business sector that shares the participation model and collaborates in its improvement, consensus methodologies, technologies that incorporate these values ​​in their design and methodologies and, finally, a network of training actors that share frameworks of skills, concepts and learning resources.

Public facilities network within an ecosystem of citizen participation

The Administration (taken as a whole) has several networks of public facilities —telecentres, libraries, civic centers, centers for young and old people, etc. An ecosystem of citizen participation can collaborate with the Administration’s networks of public facilities by superimposing a (new) layer of democratic innovation on the existing equipment networks. It is, then, not about creating a new network of facilities, but rather offering the existing ones a portfolio of services related to citizen participation, democratic quality and social innovation in politics and democracy, so that they enrich and complement what they currently offer to the citizen.

At the same time, it is about contributing to the transformation of public facilities that has already begun: from facilities that provide services to facilities that become citizen infrastructure.

The entry into the Information Society, as well as the advances in all areas of the social sciences, mean that the mission and organization of these facilities are in the process of being redefined. Among others, there are some aspects of this redefinition process that we want to highlight:

  • The evolution towards more citizen-centered models, where assistance and accompaniment also give way to empowerment strategies.
  • The equipment governance model as an important factor in achieving its mission, the organizational design and the services it offers.
  • The inclusion of elements of social innovation for the co-design and co-management of the centers.
  • The incorporation of ethical and integrity codes, as well as democratic quality both in the operation and in the intrinsic values ​​of the services.

We here propose a set of strategic and operational goals that could lead the development of a network of public facilities within an ecosystem of citizen participation.

Goals of the network of public facilities within an ecosystem of citizen participation

Strategic goals

  • Convert civic facilities into reference spaces in the municipality in terms of citizen participation.
  • Raise citizens’ awareness about democratic quality, citizen participation and innovation in political and democratic processes.
  • Support local administrations in projects of citizen participation and social innovation in political and democratic processes.
  • Support citizens in citizen participation processes, increase their participation and open up the sociodemographic range of the participants.
  • Promote social innovation projects in the field of civic action, politics and democracy.

Operational goals: participation processes

  • Train the facilitators of public facilities in Open Government: transparency, open data and participation.
  • Creation of a digital mediation protocol on citizen participation for public facilities in the Administration, with the aim of supporting citizens with less digital competence in online participation processes.
  • Support citizens who have more difficulties to participate in citizen participation processes on digital platforms.
  • Involve citizens who are experts in digital participation platforms to support citizens who are less knowledgeable about the platforms or who have greater difficulties using them.

Operational goals: social innovation in politics and democracy

  • Train the facilitators of public facilities to be agents promoting the creation of democratic innovation projects.
  • Help citizens define, pilot, replicate and scale social innovation projects in the field of civic action, politics and democracy.
  • Promote and support the development of democratic innovation projects within the logic of social innovation.
  • Articulate networks of social innovation in democracy at the local level.
  • Standardize and enable replicability and scalability of democratic innovation pilots.

Share: