Commons Gent

Notes from the meeting on 2018/01/11.

Neighbourhood Networks

There are 25 neighbourhoods in Gent. The policy participation office has ~20 people. Some work within the neighbourhoods, and others work on city-wide participation. Each neighbourhood has a liaison/co-ordinator between the people of the neighbourhood and city hall. Every liaison/co-ordinator currently has a Facebook page.

When a new neighbourhood project starts, all the liaisons and stakeholders are gathered to discuss changes and possibilities.

There is a balance between online and offline participation and communication. It’s important to keep participation and communication multi-channel, including offline. (This is also city policy.) The balance is a key part of providing facilitation and not leaving people without technological access behind.

Participation Platform

There is a participation platform which has project sub-sites which can be managed by citizens. It is developed by Digipolis’ web team. The platform is built on Drupal and uses a post-based system where people can interact with posts via: - like/heart functionality - comments which can include text, image, document attachments, or a link to a YouTube/Vimeo video - flag content for review - watch content, subscribing to changes via email notifications

The project administrator can decide whether login is required for reactions to the posts. The platform is not used externally, but it is public. The platform requests that search engines do not index its projects. From a development perspective, the platform is easily extendable. However, it is not open source (or on Github).

Previously there was also secure voting functionality for voting on project proposals. This voting functionality provided verification (provided through Mijn Gent) based on: - whether a voter is who they say they are - whether the voter is of age (14+) - whether the voter had previously voted on this vote

Every project/sub-site is responsible for promoting their own project.

If a citizen wants to make a sub-site, they ask their neighbourhood co-ordinator, and an admin at the policy participation office helps them set the sub-site up.

Some examples of participation projects/sub-sites include:

  • Citizen budget
  • Voting on a new park name (very simple) The project contains a post for each possible park name. Citizens vote for their chosen name using the like/heart functionality. The platform was not designed for this specific functionality but it works well as the platform is flexible.
  • Mobility cabinet People in the cabinet can vote on/discuss issues they want to address in between the meetings they hold every four months.

The most successful participation project (of 261) on the platform was a voting project. The voting options were online for six months before the voting period. Over the two week voting period, over 15k votes were cast.

The interaction between citizens and the participation platform is not continuous, it tends more towards campaign-based periods of interaction.

Karl-Filip would like to see all proposed city projects in a system where citizens can read about and vote on them.

Aral suggested that information on proposed city projects could be received in the feeds of citizens to encourage/make easy more continuous involvement. It is also possible that neighbourhoods and ad-hoc organisations could be organised via a hashtag.

Jelle would like to be able to select neighbourhoods he wants to follow via his profile in Mijn Gent, so he can be alerted when there are proposed projects, and have an easy means to contact councillors with his own input.

Commons Gent

Wiki page with the commons projects mapped by Michel Bauwens: https://wiki.commons.gent

The Commons Transition Plan (in English): https://stad.gent/ghent-international/city-policy-and-structure/ghent-commons-city/commons-transition-plan-ghent

Last year, Michel Bauwens did research in Gent which involved collecting all the commons projects into one page, and gave twenty-three proposals to improve collaboration between commoners and the city.

One of the weaknesses described in the proposals was that the commons projects are insular, they don’t co-ordinate with each other, and do not have international connections. The commoners are split on whether the collected commons projects should be responsibility of the commoners or responsibility of the city.

Aral suggested keeping the commoners in contact is a perfect straight-forward use case for what we are building. Annelore said the commoners are engaged and determined people, they already have an active Facebook group, so they will likely use a platform if they are invited. Annelore is looking to shortly send out invitations for new commons projects for the year, so this would be good timing.

Author: Aral Balkan Last modified: 05/04/2018 Words: ~800 Reading time: 4 min