4. Useful resources

Open meetings and town hall meetings are participatory tools that can be traced all the way back to 17th-century New England meetings or colonial traditions in Latin America (cabildos). Now these processes are used worldwide, most often at local or legislative level, to foster information about public action, encourage citizen participation and to build a relationship based on accountability and trust.

Contrary to a public consultation, an open meeting or town hall meeting does not seek to gather inputs on a particular issue. These processes are rather a means for public authorities to start a discussion with the public, whether to understand their needs, present upcoming decisions or share advances of implemented actions. They also help maintain a direct channel for communication and be accountable to the public on certain actions or mandates. As open meetings and town hall meetings are not designed to be representative, they can be organized fairly easily in four steps.

A more detailed description can be consulted in Chapter 2.

  • Involve’s Guide to 21st Century Town Meeting provides practical information to support public authorities in organizing public meetings using digital and in-person mechanisms.

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Guide to Public Participation provides guidance to organise successful public participation, with specific elements on open meetings.

  • CIVICUS published factsheets on Public Forums and Town Hall Meetings, providing guidance and important information for public authorities interested in organizing public and open meetings.

A consultation is a two-way relationship in which citizens provide feedback to a public institution (such as comments, perceptions, information, advice, experiences, and ideas). Usually, governments define the issues for consultation, set the questions, and manage the process, while citizens and/or stakeholders are invited to contribute their views and opinions.

A more detailed description can be consulted in Chapter 2.

There are several types of open innovation methods available for public authorities.

Crowdsourcing usually involves a digital platform where participants can publish ideas or contributions to answer the organizing authority’s request or question. In-person alternatives can be put in place, such as workshops or boxes to gather ideas.

Hackathons are usually in-person events organized throughout a weekend, in a shared space where all participants can work and share ideas. Hackathons are sprint-oriented events, so the goal is to allow for a collaborative work environment with technical facilities and usually involve a setting the scene moment and a pitch session where participants present their ideas and solutions. Participants work in teams to solve one or several problems and mentors with strong expertise on the policy problem or the type of solution expected can be assign to each team. In some occasions, public authorities might consider rewarding the winner(s) with a prize or the recognition that comes with the implementation of their idea as a policy solution. For a hackathon to be productive, public authorities should put data and information about the problem to solve at disposal of participants.

Public challenges are usually based on a digital platform where public authorities publish a public problem to solve and call for citizens or stakeholders to propose a solution. In some cases, public authorities can organise in-person sessions to answer questions or provide coaching and support to improve the participants solutions.

Citizen science is an involvement of citizens in scientific research. By doing so researchers, citizens, and sometimes policy makers come together to tackle scientific and policy problems. Through citizen science, citizens can participate in many stages of the scientific process, from the design of the research question, to data collection and volunteer mapping, data interpretation and analysis, and to publication and dissemination of results (eu-citizen.science, 2022[1]). Citizen science allows researchers to tap into scientific curiosity and resources of citizens to achieve scientific results, all the while creating opportunities for citizens to learn about a specific issue or research question and discover scientific processes.

  • SCivil Guides and manuals includes a guide to getting started with citizen science, explaining all the most basic details and also a manual on communication around a citizen science project.

  • GEWISS Citizen science for all presents a guide for citizen science, both its practical and theoretical aspects in fields ranging from education to arts and humanities.

  • Digital Tools is a compilation of useful resources, including software, academic literature, links to conferences, among many other practical tools.

Public institutions can largely benefit from creating feedback channels for citizens to provide inputs, comments and complaints to improve the decisions, actions, and services. When involving citizens and stakeholders in the oversight and evaluation of decisions and actions, public authorities can create virtuous circles and healthier relationships that can contribute to the overall trust in government.

Civic monitoring can be implemented using a diverse set of methods, such as:

  • Public opinion surveys

  • Citizen Report Cards

  • Social Audits

  • Citizen complaints mechanisms

  • Community-based monitoring and evaluation

  • Public expenditure tracking

  • Online tools

  • Representative deliberative processes

The steps to implement can change significantly depending on the chosen tool. The table below suggest some general steps to implement a civic monitoring process:

There is not a one-fits-all solution for participatory budgets, as each public institution can accommodate the process to fit its desired purpose, timeline or legal requirements. However, there are certain stages that all participatory budgets should include:

Representative deliberative processes, such as Citizens' Assemblies, Juries, and Panels, are some of the most innovative citizen participation methods that public authorities from all levels of government increasingly initiate to tackle complex policy problems ranging from climate change to infrastructure investment decisions. The design of these processes varies depending on several factors: the policy issue to be tackled, the level of governance, the number of randomly selected citizens etc. Below is a simplified pathway to designing such a process. Please see the resources below for detailed guidance on every step.

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