Data

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Planning & Development
Science & Technology
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Budget - Local
Government Spending
Location
Říčany
Tchéquia
Links
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/ricany/
https://en.d21.me/produkty/participatory-budget
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Deliver goods & services
Research
Approach
Co-governance
Direct decision making
Civil society building
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Total Number of Participants
1022
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Negotiation & Bargaining
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Voting
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
New Media
Public Hearings/Meetings
Type of Organizer/Manager
Academic Institution
Local Government
Funder
Říčany City Council
Type of Funder
Academic Institution
Local Government
International Organization
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Implementers of Change
Appointed Public Servants
Elected Public Officials
Stakeholder Organizations
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Final_Progress_Report_D6.2-6July2018.pdf

CASE

Participatory Budgeting in Říčany, Czech Republic

First Submitted By sergiosilva

Most Recent Changes By sergiosilva

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Planning & Development
Science & Technology
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Budget - Local
Government Spending
Location
Říčany
Tchéquia
Links
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/ricany/
https://en.d21.me/produkty/participatory-budget
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Deliver goods & services
Research
Approach
Co-governance
Direct decision making
Civil society building
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Total Number of Participants
1022
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Negotiation & Bargaining
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Voting
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
New Media
Public Hearings/Meetings
Type of Organizer/Manager
Academic Institution
Local Government
Funder
Říčany City Council
Type of Funder
Academic Institution
Local Government
International Organization
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Implementers of Change
Appointed Public Servants
Elected Public Officials
Stakeholder Organizations
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf
https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Final_Progress_Report_D6.2-6July2018.pdf

The Czech pilot took place in Říčany, a small municipality of 15.000 inhabitants, located close to Prague. The Říčany pilot was the first to employ the EMPATIA platform in an active PB cycle.

Problems and Purpose

The pilot was structured to integrate the EMPATIA platform into the city’s multi-channel participation strategy, whose principal online tool prior to PB was the city website and D21 polling platform, used for the “Řidim Říčany (I Manage Říčany)” initiative. This initiative is a year-round outreach program to solicit the feedback and preferences of citizens involving a range of (non-budgetary) city decisions, including priorities for improvement of city services, the theme and timing of cultural events, etc. [1]

The decision to integrate the team into the city’s multichannel participation strategy built upon an earlier agreement to make Říčany a “model city” for participation in the Czech Republic. Mayor Koren had first made contact with D21’s Managing Director Tomas Rakos in March of 2015, following his successful independent campaign for mayor of Říčany. As part of his progressive plan for renewing local democracy, Mayor Koren expressed a desire to create a Czech “laboratory of multichannel participation” in partnership with D21, itself launched as an democratic reform project in 2013 and as a participatory consultancy in 2015. Thus the “I Manage Říčany” project was conceived to test and iterate different approaches to citizen inclusion over a two-year period.

Though Mayor Koren had expressed interest in PB as early as spring 2015, it was decided that a first year of participatory processes would allow the town’s citizens - of whom only a small portion had actively participated in town affairs -- to “ramp up” their involvement with lighter participatory activities such as surveys and referenda, prior to taking on the more time- and budget-intensive PB process.

While Mayor Koren gave his agreement in principle in the spring of 2015 to launch PB in the event of a positive result of the EMPATIA proposal, a number of administrative steps needed to be taken to fulfill Říčany’s local statutory and logistical requirements. Helpfully, the European Commission’s approval of the project in fall of 2015 came about after several months of successful “I Manage Říčany” polls launched on D21’s voting platform. A key selling point for the mayor’s team was the active role they would be able to play in designing the PB modules of the team around their needs, beginning with the idea-gathering module which would need to be tested and launched to coincide with the commencement of PB in fall of 2016.

Other administrative steps were relatively painless and straightforward. These included the preparation of the contractual arrangement between EMPATIA and the mayor’s team, and notably the data gathering and ethics requirements, all of which were accepted by Mayor Koren without resistance. Ethical transparency being a central plank of the mayor’s campaign platform, the strong research's team commitment to protecting the data of participants and spreading high-quality PB tools regardless of city size or sophistication, were both additional strong points of the team approach in the estimation of the mayor’s team. 

As the Czech pilot partner, D21’s team gave in-person support to Říčany’s town leaders and administrators throughout the whole process of PB, as envisioned within the cooperation agreement formalized in May 2015. In this capacity, D21 facilitated workshops with city staff and participated in a series of meetings with political stakeholders to define the rules and timeline for the process, to advise on how to conduct an effective information campaign, to train the town’s new PB coordinator, and to facilitate the neighborhood assemblies. The pilot platform was developed as part of WP2 by software developer OneSource.

The town administration conducted the technical evaluation of proposals without external assistance. Finally, as requested by the city, D21 provided its voting platform for the voting phase and used its platform to provide the detailed analysis of the results afterwards. The EMPATIA platform was used principally in the informational and ideation phases of the PB process. [2]

The main goals to be tested in the Říčany pilot were the following: 

● Multichannel innovation (connecting different channels of participation). This was especially important given the integration of PB into an existing participation initiative, “I Manage Říčany.” It was critical that citizens not be confused about the relation between the two processes and to harness participation in the earlier process for the purposes of PB.

● Inclusion (lowering the barriers to participation). For this objective, the most important consideration was ensuring that older residents less comfortable with technology feel able to use and interact with all stages of the process including the online ones. 

● Efficiency (optimising time spent by citizens and municipal staff). This was also an important objective, given the lack of experience of the city with PB and the modest size of the city administrative staff. In addition, the team hypothesized that Říčany’s first PB process can serve to reinforce trust between citizens and local government through the exchange of information and the co-design of project proposals. [3]

Background History and Context

Říčany is among the very first cities to pilot PB in the Czech Republic. Though a small city (population 17500) with limited capacity in its municipal administration. The amount of resources available in Říčany signals the strong political commitment that the city expressed toward the implementation of participatory budgeting. In comparison, Wuppertal, a city of more than 20 times the size provided less money for the budget to be decided by the citizens. Another signal of the strong political support that the process received is the fact that the mayor participated in the co-design phase of the process and he was present during many face-to-face events.

Ríčany has very little past history with citizens’ participation. The city previous the implementation of the EMPATIA pilot had developed a citizens’ digital panel that was surveyed through the D21 platform. The pilot implemented integrated to this pre-existing consultation process an ideation phase conducted face to face. The results of such ideation phase where then subsequently uploaded by city officials in a website constructed via the team platform.

The EMPATIA platform was mostly used for information purposes. Then the ideas after being reviewed by the city staff were uploaded in the D21 survey platform and D21 was subsequently used to conduct the vote and the impact evaluation survey of the process.

Given that this PB process was the first of its kind in Říčany and was also the earliest pilot of the team project, a number of challenges emerged:

  1. Administrative capacity. The PB coordinator hired in October 2016 by the town was a new team member with duties that extend beyond PB.
  2. Low public awareness of PB. Participatory budgeting is still a very new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, with the first-ever PB process being conducted by the 10th district of Prague earlier in 2016. Citizens of Říčany are expected to have a low level of prior awareness of PB, how such a process bears upon their quality of life, and the various ways they can participate in it.
  3. Low public awareness of town budget and services. A significant part of Říčany’s population work in Prague and have oriented their lives toward issues in the capital city. As such, not all citizens of Říčany were expected to be aware of the city budget and how the budget impacts their quality of life. Motivation to participate in PB was likely to be a special challenge for this population.
  4. Utilization of an early prototype of the EMPATIA platform. The Ríčany pilot was one of the first pilot of the organizer's platform and that implied that a lot of elements of the platform were not yet ready.

Given the size and nature of Ríčany, the team have very limited data on the presence and participation of civil society organization to the PB process. Ríčany did not include a satisfaction battery in the pre-survey and did not collect a unique ID required to complete the pre-post impact evaluation survey. [4]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Říčany is among the very first cities to pilot PB in the Czech Republic. Though a small city with limited capacity in its municipal administration, progressive town leaders have made a significant investment of public funds to realize its first-ever PB process: 5.000.000 Czech crowns, or roughly 185.000 €.

In economic opportunity and quality of life, the town benefits from a location just a few kilometers outside of Prague. The majority of Říčany's inhabitants work in the capital city, with public transport taking commuters comfortably into Prague within half an hour. On the other hand, living in the shadow of the capital has some drawbacks for the town’s civic cohesion and fiscal management. A large number of the middle- and upper-class inhabitants, for example, use their apartments and houses in Říčany for an “overnight stay” only. Many of these erstwhile residents of Říčany both work and pursue their interests and leisure activities in Prague, where they also keep a permanent tax residence. The fiscal challenge to Říčany is significant: the town both loses the direct fiscal support of potential taxpayers and the matching contributions paid by the Czech state to municipalities on a per capita basis. 

The mayor of Říčany is Vladimír Kořen, a progressive and popular independent politician, broadly known for his time hosting a television show on scientific and social issues. His party, Klidné město (“Quiet Town”) won an absolute majority of all votes in the most recent municipal elections in October 2014, winning fourteen out of twenty-one seats on the town council. Mayor Kořen, with this strong political mandate, announced as his goal the increased participation of citizens in public affairs, to deepen their involvement in community life, to motivate them to declare their permanent residence to be Říčany by including them in town decisions, and notably by letting the people select or prioritize investment projects financed by the town. 

On 15th May 2015, D21 and the town of Říčany signed an accord embarking on a two-year series of civic engagement initiatives, entitled “Řídím Říčany” (“I Manage Říčany”), or “ŘŘ” for short. This campaign, jointly administered by town administrators and the D21 team, consists of a series of in person and online dialogues with citizens through the D21 voting platform; the objective for the campaign is to steadily build a community of participants in a range of discussions on town planning and common needs. 

For example, Řídím Říčany used D21’s platform to successfully complete 12 citizen polls in the first 18 months of the campaign (May 2015 - November 2016). More than 1600 of the town’s 15.000 citizens registered their personal email in the D21 platform, with an average of 600 participants in each poll. D21 assisted in an information and mobilization campaign making use both of traditional and state-of-the-art methods to promote the Řídím Říčany initiative. Articles have been published regularly in the monthly “Říčanský kurýr” (“Říčany Courier”), and volunteers regularly distribute information leaflets in the streets, at bus stops and at the train station. 

In addition, as part of its outreach strategy, and in coordination with D21, city officials advertised the participation campaign on billboards and town lampposts; a regular stream of updates were posted on the city’s Facebook page and a special microsite was created for information on all polls and events. Finally, regular email messages from the mayor, as well as invitations and reminders were sent by D21 platform to registered participants. These initiatives helped prepare a new atmosphere of civic dialogue that laid a foundation for the launch of the city’s first-ever participatory budget in the fall of 2016, as well as a trust in digital tools offered by the town hall as a reliable and easy-to-use channel for citizen input. [5]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The participation in PB, 1022 voters, included 400 more city residents than in any previous participatory exercise under the multichannel

campaign. Participants in earlier phases of “I Manage Říčany”, having provided their email addresses to answer previous polls, were given specific calls to action to participate in PB at every phase of the PB process, and 65% of all voters casting a PB ballot online did so as a result of these calls to action. No residents reported confusion about the integration of multiple tools within this larger campaign, though several inquired as to the project and were pleased to hear that Říčany was part of an international consortium funded by the European Commission. [6]

The “Prekvapte Říčany” (“Surprise Říčany”) homepage was the main point of entry for citizens into the PB process, both for information on the unfolding of the process and the direct contribution and modification of project proposals. All email and social media “calls to action” from the city directed citizens to this link (www.prekvapteŘíčany.cz), a url in Czech with the more familiar “.cz” suffix. [7]

Říčany’s first PB cycle was broadly considered to be a success, achieving all the principal goals that the mayor’s team outlined at the launch of the planning process in spring 2016. The integration of the platform was less smooth than hoped, but also largely produced the desired results from the perspective of city stakeholders. Here were the following key statistics: 

● 29 project proposals were submitted by the residents of Říčany through the platform and defended at four neighborhood assemblies; 

● The quality of presentations at neighborhood assemblies was considered very high, with proponents showing detailed mock-ups and powerpoint slides elaborating their ideas; 

● 1.691 residents registered to vote in PB process (via D21 platform); 

● 1.022 total voters : 52% female / 48% male; 

● 70% of ballots case online / 30% cast in-person; 

● Ages of users: 11% aged 15-29 ; 64% aged 30-49 ; 17% aged 50-64 ; 8% over 65 ; good demographic match for city population, with a slight under-representation of oldest residents; 

● Winning projects - including bicycle parking at railway station, an industrial park for teenagers, and improvements to city sidewalk network - are already in implementation phase as of November 2017; 

● All political and community stakeholders agree that PB should continue in Říčany. [8]

Methods and Tools Used

The EMPATIA platform was used principally during the phase of ideation (idea-gathering). It served as the major interactive channel between town administrators and citizens from the launch of PB in September 2016 until the end of the idea-gathering phase in November. The information provided by citizens on the platform regarding their project ideas served as the core of discussion for the neighborhood assemblies, the basis of the city’s technical review, and finally in synthesized form as the content of the PB ballot presented to all Říčany citizens in May 2017. 

Due to the integration of D21’s platform in previous voting and polling processes within the city, its use focused in the first instance on the informational, idea-gathering and technical review phases. The main requirements from the city team were that (a) information on PB rules and project scope on the platform be communicated simply and clearly; and that (b) users be able to upload supplementary materials to the platform regarding the details of their project (including photos and related documents). Simplicity of design and ease of use - including ease of translation into Czech by city administrators - were paramount.

A key discussion point in the requirements gathering process was whether or not to enable the EMPATIA module related to the creation of user profiles. Though the utility of user profiles was acknowledged with regard to a more in-depth understanding of the user based in the community (user profiles would include address information, some demographic information, etc.), it was decided that the most imperative value in the first year of Říčany’s PB was ease of access and rapidity of uploading ideas into the platform. The added time required of users to create profiles prior to uploading their ideas was considered potentially too onerous for first-time participants, and thus only an email address was required of users to submit proposals, which were then reviewed by city staff prior to their publication on the “Surprise Říčany” PB site. [9]

Technology/ Tools

The main visual elements of the “SurpriseRicany” homepage were the logo and slogan of the PB process at the upper left of the page, a central image of the town hall as seen from street level, and an explanatory text at centerright explaining the purpose of the PB process and giving a call to action to participate. Below the call to action in the explanatory text, there were two buttons: one linking to the an explanatory page on EMPATIA, outlining its purpose, legal relationship to the European Commision, and general conditions respecting user rights and responsibilities; the other outlining was the ethical commitments of the team regarding the processing and protection of user data. The prominent placement of these links illustrated the city’s strong intent to highlight its participation in this EU-funded project and put these commitments to legal and ethical standards front and center in the homepage design.

Participation was reinforced by a larger-text button, “Participate”, with an arrow, located at the lower right of the page. Clicking on this button took the user to a summary page listing the different ways they could participate in “Surprise Říčany” both at in-person events and via their contributions online.

Beneath the main section of the homepage with the central image and text was placed a “latest news” feature with updates from the city on the unfolding of the PB process. The “latest news” feature was divided into a left section, with small micro-articles on each event (e.g. the public launch event, the neighborhood assemblies, and the technical review), and a right section, with a summary timeline of key events. [10]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Phase 1 (September - October 2016): Informational campaign and “calls to action”;

Phase 2 (November 2016): Idea-gathering (online & in-person);

Phase 3 (December 2016 - April 2017): Evaluation and technical review by town administrators;

Phase 4 (May 2017): Voting process (online & in-person);

Phase 5 (June 2017 - March 2018): process evaluation & debrief and implementation cycle for winning proposals. 

The timeline established for the PB process in Říčany was the following: 

September - October 2016: This period saw the launch of the public informational campaign, which included the following elements: promoting citywide PB through other participation channels (“I run Říčany”, PB in secondary schools), face-to-face campaigning, articles in Říčany Courier, development and testing of PB microsite, diffusion of information on social networks, at schools, through associations and sport clubs, at public events, and pre-registration of voters on D21’s voting platform. 

November 2016: This period saw the gathering of project proposals online, via the platform, and at four neighborhood assemblies held the 15th, 22nd, 28th, and 29th November. Additionally, with guidance from city officials via personal telephone calls to proposers, initial project ideas on EMPATIA platform were augmented with links, photographs, and additional details. 

December 2016 - April 2017: This period saw the evaluation and technical analysis by town administration officials. These officials also issued PB updates by email and social media featuring individual project proposals (with equal time given to each), questions & answers online between citizens and town administrators, regular direct communication between PB coordinator and the individuals and teams behind each project proposal. In this period, town officials oversaw preparation of the final PB ballot, and continued pre-registration of voters on D21’s voting platform. 

May 2017: This period marked the citywide vote on PB proposals using D21 voting algorithm (+/- votes) and D21 voting app (online via cell phones or computers and using kiosk mode, tablets for public available in information centre, train station and other frequented places in the city). Public announcement of the results were disseminated by email to all inscribed members of the town email list immediately following the close of voting. 

June - July 2017: Internal debrief was conducted with city PB team. The PB team oversaw feedback gathering from residents on PB process, via question-and-answer periods appended to existing city events. The summer also marked the beginning of the implementation cycle for winning projects. 

August - September 2017: In this period, the city’s PB team oversaw rules adjustment and design for the second cycle of PB. 

October - November 2017: In this period, ideation process for second cycle of PB was completed. 

December 2017 - April 2018: The technical review process for the second cycle. Completion of project implementation from the first cycle.

May 2018: The voting process completed in the second cycle. [11]

Monitoring Cycle

The capstone moment of the planning process was a design workshop conducted with the participation of EMPATIA partners on 13 September, 2016. Though key decisions such as the budget envelope, projected calendar, and internal roles and responsibilities had already been informally validated prior to the workshop, the participation of partners from countries with deep experience in PB allowed Říčany stakeholders to discuss trade-offs and practical concerns surrounding a few final points. The subjects of discussion given greatest attention at the design workshop were the internal workflow among city staff, and key strategies in the outreach campaign -- each critical in a city launching PB for the first time. Following the design workshop, a written internal plan was completed by city administrators, integrating the feedback from partners and finalizing roles, responsibilities, and schedule. [12]

Partially because of the time consumed during summer 2016 pursuing the API issue, the platform testing process was compressed into a frustratingly small period of time, from the final week of September through the public launch of the idea-gathering platform on October 24th, with the central idea-gathering features not made operational until the date of the first neighborhood assembly on November 15th. The compressed schedule produced significant anxiety and frustration on all sides, and was by general agreement the least well-managed element of a PB process that achieved good success overall. A common workplan for development and testing was agreed between OneSource, D21, and Říčany city staff during the General Assembly in Prague on September 10-12, with the goal of making all informational and idea-gathering functionalities public in concert with the official launch of PB on October 24th. 

The key EMPATIA functionalities requested by the city for the submission of project ideas were the following:

● Text fields for project title, issue category, location, budget, and detailed description; 

● Email address requirement for all submissions; automatic compilation of all emails for city administrators to communicate in bulk with participants;

● On each project page, display of proposal location on a map of the city;

● Requirement of approval by the city before the proposal is shown online to the public;

● Notification to the submitter when the proposal is approved;

● Easy downloading and printing of all proposal information (for city administrators only) ;

● Possibility for the proposer to edit submitted proposals. 

Communication of technical issues between OneSource and D21 was handled through a common workspace on the online project-management tool Trello. The goal was for D21 to show mock-ups of all features by the end of September for approval by city staff, after which testing of platform features would occur on a rolling basis as soon as they were ready to test. A weakness in the testing process was that it was conducted without a fixed communications plan between the city, D21, and OneSource; rather, email chains proliferated among all three parties in a haphazard manner throughout October, leading to further confusion as to which technical issues were being addressed and which had slipped through the cracks. 

On several occasions, the city expressed frustration that bugs and technical issues it had flagged seemed not to have been acknowledged or remedied by OneSource, though D21 accepts responsibility as well for poor organization of requests and information passing back and forth. For example, the translation of all strings of the platform into Czech was a headache-inducing process, as OneSource often failed to include the diacritic marks (the “Ř” and “č” in Říčany, for example) that Czech platform users would expect as part of a locally driven process. In the end, the deadline of October 24th was not achieved: only a landing page with basic information was ready to show the public on this date. The idea-gathering functions listed above were made public on November 15th, the date of the first neighborhood assembly, and after this only minor cosmetic changes (e.g. to the font size of certain text) were added. [13]

Deliberation Cycle

The current municipal leadership of Říčany, being both independent and relatively new to institutional politics, has demonstrated the will necessary to experiment with multiple channels to involve citizens more deeply in decision-making at the city level. The most important inputs from these exchanges with citizens and administrators, including feedback gathered during the first months of the “I Manage Říčany” campaign, included the following: 

1. Begin with budgeting basics. Given the high number of residents whose lives are oriented toward Prague, do not assume that citizens are aware of the range of services provided by Říčany, the public resources invested in each, or the respective allocation of resources between local and national entities. 

2. Use diverse information channels. At each phase of the “I Manage Říčany” campaign, a range of online and in-person channels have been used simultaneously to disseminate information and calls to action. Lessons on the timing and content of these messages should be applied to the PB process. 

3. Make idea-gathering simple and transparent. The platform should be the “virtual home” of all project ideas, including ideas generated in person at assemblies. Citizens should be able to easily make proposals and add to them, no matter their level of technological sophistication. 

4. Make voting as quick and accessible as possible. Given the relatively low risk of hacking or fraud, require minimum number of verification steps to determine eligibility of participating voters. During the voting itself, create the maximum number of digitally assisted “mobile voting sites,” taking laptops and tablets to public gathering places to make it as easy as possible to vote. 

These “core goals” of Říčany PB were decided in advance of user-testing of the platform, as a lens through which to evaluate the different functionalities of the platform as they were made available.

Moreover, given that this PB process was the first of its kind in Říčany, a number of challenges were anticipated and openly discussed with all stakeholders in the preparation phase for PB in summer and early fall 2016: 

Administrative capacity. The PB coordinator hired in October 2016 by the town was a new team member with duties that extend beyond PB. Though benefiting from 18 months of public engagement via the “I Manage Říčany” campaign, neither the political nor administrative leadership of the town has experienced the steps of a PB process firsthand. 

Low public awareness of PB. Participatory budgeting is still a very new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, with the first-ever PB process being conducted by the 10th district of Prague earlier in 2016 (with D21 as lead technical partners). Citizens of Říčany are expected to have a low level of prior awareness of PB, how such a process bears upon their quality of life, and the various ways they can participate in it. 

Low public awareness of town budget and services. As discussed above, a significant part of Říčany’s population work in Prague and have oriented their lives toward issues in the capital city. As such, not all citizens of Říčany were expected to be aware of the city budget and how the budget impacts their quality of life. Motivation to participate in PB was likely to be a special challenge for this population.

With these challenges in mind – and especially given low public awareness of PB in the Czech Republic in 2016 – municipal leaders decided to treat its first PB process as a kind of “beta test,” launching with relative quickness at a smaller scale, achieving concrete results, then learning lessons that would allow the city to scale up both its use of EMPATIA and the number of participants for future cycles of PB. City leaders explained that given traditionally low levels of local citizen participation in Říčany and in the country as a whole, that it was wiser to design a process that delivered a higher-quality experience to a potentially smaller number of citizens, by giving each project proposal a proportionately greater amount of time and attention in the process. 

To achieve the goals of educating more citizens “in action” about town services and projects - and actively soliciting their ideas through the PB framework - Mayor Kořen and his team decided that their process design should integrate online informational and idea-gathering tools with in-person deliberation via neighborhood assemblies. Rather than pushing participation from in-person to online channels, the strong emphasis chosen by city stakeholders was on high-quality, in-person participation, amplified and complemented by the EMPATIA and D21 platforms

Mayor Kořen and his administrative team also identified the following operational goals for the pilot, for internal development: 

● First, they recognized a need to build the capacity of town administrators to realize the promise of new participatory channels so that they can operationalize them in the future without direct external support.

● Secondly, their goal was to use the participatory budgeting process to educate a greater share of city administrators and key civil society stakeholders about the budgeting process, sensitizing them to common needs and the challenges facing the delivery of public services.

● Third and finally, the Mayor’s team wished to benefit from the expertise of EMPATIA consortium partners in planning and executing high-quality participatory processes, including expertise gained from countries with many years of experience in PB (notably Portugal, Italy and Germany). [14]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

As regards a final evaluation from the standpoint of the pilot partner, the process should be evaluated both in relation to the goals originally set by the pilot partner in collaboration with the city partner, but also in relation to unexpected learnings that emerged from the course of this first PB process in the city of Říčany, in which many unprecedented activities brought city stakeholders and citizens to test new roles - even, in the case of the neighborhood assemblies, reversing the traditional role of the city as “explainer” of its projects and the gathered citizens as “questioners” and “validators” of those projects. [15]

Besides the goals formulated and proposed by the city stakeholders, the process also should be evaluated by comparison to the objectives outlined by the EMPATIA consortium for this particular pilot. The three main goals to be tested in the Říčany pilot were identified as the following: 

● Multichannel innovation (connecting different channels of participation);

● Inclusion (lowering the barriers to participation);

● Efficiency (optimising time spent by citizens and municipal staff).

Based on the stakeholder evaluation discussion of June 2017, however, each of these goals was largely achieved, though to different degrees. With regard to multichannel innovation, the integration of PB into the “I Manage Říčany” campaign was considered a strong success. 

With regard to the goal of inclusion, the mayor’s team was encouraged by the strong turnout in the voting process relative to previous participatory exercises in “I Manage Říčany”. They were additionally encouraged by the demographic representativity, with a good proportion of voters from each age group and an almost 50/50 gender split. The only age group under-represented in the process was voters over 65. As such, the mayor has expressed a desire for more creative and proactive outreach to elderly voters in coming PB cycles - including the possibility of “mobile voting sites” at retirement homes and increased door-to-door canvassing in communities with higher proportions of retirees. 

With regard to the goal of efficiency, city stakeholders reported being quite pleased at the time saved via the integration of technical tools at various phases in the PB process. Though the team testing and implementation process in September and October 2016 were not as smooth as had been hoped, the mayor’s team reported a smooth unfolding of the process overall, with all key deadlines met for idea gathering, technical review, voting, and the reporting of winners. This being the first PB process in Říčany, these observations did not have previous years’ results to refer to, but the overall orientation of city stakeholders remains positive and lessons learned this year will be applied to make PB more efficient and inclusive in coming years. [16]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

First, the municipal leadership recognized a need to build the capacity of town administrators to realize the promise of new participatory channels so that they can operationalize them in the future without direct external support. It is fair to say that this goal was largely met. A new PB coordinator was hired and trained, and the mayor’s core team participated directly in all PB planning and implementation activities. 

Secondly, their goal was to use the participatory budgeting process to educate citizens about the budgeting process, especially those who have not participated politically in the town, sensitizing them to common needs and the challenges facing the delivery of public services. This goal was largely met as well. Citizens at the neighborhood assemblies reported to the mayor their positive impression of the openness of city staff to educate the public on municipal budgeting processes, and greater knowledge of these processes helped the PB participants make significant corrections and refinements to their ideas, as shown in the evolution of project proposals from the initial form in November 2016 to the final form on the ballot in May 2017. The city has expressed a desire to develop more rigorous benchmarks on the level of public awareness in city processes.

Thirdly, they wished to use this first PB process to motivate a greater number of citizens to participate in town affairs, raising the quality of budgeting decisions and creating a stronger sense of civic cohesion. As demonstrated above, PB brought a higher number of Říčany’s citizens to participate in a public decision than any in the town’s history, with over one thousand casting their votes for citizen-generated project ideas. The mayor’s team considers this a remarkable success. 

Fourth and finally, they wished to benefit from the expertise of EMPATIA consortium partners in planning and executing high-quality participatory processes, including expertise gained from countries with many years of experience in PB (notably Portugal, Italy, and Germany). This goal was partially met, in the eyes of city stakeholders. The visit of the EMPATIA consortium to Říčany in September 2016 was a tremendous opportunity for the city team to learn directly from international experts in PB, pose questions, raise their doubts, and learn from best practices. These exchanges were later reported by the mayor to have been incredibly valuable to his team. Further opportunities for such exchanges should be actively explored, including the possibility of international conferences and workshops in which team partners can participate. 

A final, positive lesson was the critical importance of the mayor serving as “PB cheerleader-in-chief”. Mayor Koren’s deep personal involvement in the PB process created energy and momentum that was critical to the public appreciation of PB and the widespread participation in the process. [17]

Říčany was the simplest pilot of the project, it was meant to explore a small city low budget use case scenario. EMPATIA was used in a very light way, supporting the pre-existing D21 public consultation technology. The city government was interested in exploring a face to face approach at ideation. Ideas were collected in four events held in cafes and bars and then uploaded manually in a website supported by the organizers consortium. Then these ideas were moved to the pre-existing D21 platform that routinely survey a citizens’ panel. D21 has a full anonymity approach to its community that could not be altered by the consortium, therefore the impact evaluation that the team can conduct on the case of Říčany is extremely limited. In particular, the organizers do not exactly know who the participants in the process are and the information they provide is not certified. In all other pilots the city implemented a system of certification of the information provided by the citizens that required uploading an ID that would match demographics. [18]

The case of Říčany does not offer specific lessons on inclusion, because the data that was collected does not offer the richness of the other dataset. However, this impact evaluation failure offers an important lesson with respect the difficulty of transferring technology and participatory processes across cultures and the difficulty of creating a transparent impact evaluation framework. [19]

See Also

Participatory Budgeting in Wuppertal, Germany

Participatory Budgeting in Milan - Cycle 2017/2018

Participation Budgeting in Lisbon - Cycle 2017/2018

References

[1] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 118.

[2] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 139-140.

[3] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 119.

[4] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 94-95.

[5] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 118-120.

[6] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 28.

[7] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf, pp. 141.

[8] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf, p. 148.

[9] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf, p. 140-141.

[10] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 141-142.

[11] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 125-126.

[12] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 121.

[13] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 123.

[14] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p. 123-125.

[15] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 158.

[16] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 159.

[17] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D3.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, p 158.

[18] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Pilots implementation - final. Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EMPATIA_Deliverable_3.2_13FINAL.pdf, pp. 112.

[19] EMPATIA project (2018). Deliverable: D4.2 Evaluation and Pilots Impact Assessment (final). Retrieved from https://empatia-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/D4.2-Evaluation-and-Pilots-Impact-Assessment-final.pdf, pp. 119.

External Links

https://empatia-project.eu/ricany/

www.prekvapteŘíčany.cz 

www.ridimŘíčany.cz 

www.d21.me 

https://en.d21.me/reference/ricany

https://en.d21.me/solution-for-cities

Notes

Lead image: Gathering citizen input on PB design during event in Říčany town square, February 2016 https://en.d21.me/