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Citizen engagement is defined as the two-way interaction or communication between citizens and the government. This process is continuing to play an instrumental role in the way human settlements are being governed. Decision-making processes are enhanced by engaging those most affected and intimately connected with societal challenges. As much as traditional means such as public forums, town hall meetings, etc. still have relevance, more innovative and convenient forms of citizen engagement are advancing the ways in which citizens can partake in governance procedures.

Despite the variations in the form in which citizen engagement may take place, it should ideally be characterized by a clear purpose and goal, clear structure and process, documented influence on decision-making processes, and present opportunities for inclusive and continuous representation. The major components of citizen engagement are illustrated in the figure below.

Main Design Components of Citizen Engagement (Daher E., 2021)


The relevance of empowering citizens is to support democratisation in decision-making processes, enhance the delivery of goods and services and enhance developmental goals. Consequently, it is expected with supported channels for citizen engagement, that the governance of society is optimised by facilitating more progressive, transparent and cohesive ways of functioning.

Main Benefits
  • Improving social integration

  • Promoting sustainable behavior

  • Facilitating citizen engagement

Potential Benefits
  • Improving life quality

  • Reducing investment costs

  • Promoting active living

  • Enabling new business opportunities

  • Reducing operation costs


Functions help you to understand what the products can do for you and which ones will help you achieve your goals.
Each solution has at least one mandatory function, which is needed to achieve the basic purpose of the solution, and several additional functions, which are features that can be added to provide additional benefits.

Mandatory Functions
    Mobilise stakeholders and ensure inclusivity

    Motivating and mobilising as many stakeholders as possible to ensure inclusivity in the way in which society is governed

    Support transparency

    Supporting transparency and accountability from governing parties

    Meet citizen needs

    Meeting the needs of citizens in a timely and efficient manner

    Foster a sense of community

    Bringing about a sense of belonging and shared responsibility

Potential Functions
    Support capacity building

    Supporting capacity building opportunities of participants

    Optimise resource use

    Optimising the use of resources by distributing resources directly to the location of identified challenges


There are different formats and approaches which citizen engagement can take. They include:


With this approach, conventional activities such as town hall meetings, public forums, and cultural events are facilitated with online e-participating platforms, online questionnaires, dedicated project webpages, and social media. As traditional forms of participation are not always sufficient to address a broad range of the population and motivate them to participate, creative and convenient ways to encourage participation are being fostered by multi-channel approaches.

Use Cases


Citizen Engagement Platform for Sandona

Citymatica is a communication platform that helps Sandona to create trusted and effective communication environment between the city and citizens. It is always available and very easy to operate. Citymatica enables personalized communication with individual citizen, that is relevant by content.



Promote the Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging in Multi-Family Housing

The aim of the measure is to inspire and help interested citizens as well as owners of parking facilities with facts and practical advice on how to install EV charging facilities in multi-family houses.



Interactive Road Planning with AR

The city of Aachen wants to adjust a road in the city centre and has multiple feasible scenarios. As Aachen wants to let its citizens participate in the urban planning process, the Road Planning Tool from cityscaper is used to display the different scenarios in 3D live on-site.


With this approach, an online participation platform or dashboard is used by the municipality to gather information on participations and topics relevant to the societal demographics. The measurement of the number, gender, and age of participants, as well as insights on type of topics and locations of participants, are used to get an overview of the demographics of engaged participants, topics of relevance and geographic distribution of challenges.

Use Cases




Citizen Platform for Urban Air Quality

Breeze Technologies is creating a citizen-driven air quality sensing network in the district Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany.


Behaviour Change through Mobile Probing with Citizens

Mobile probing enables studying citizens (mobility) behaviours in an interactive manner through their own eyes in real-time. This understanding builds a base for designing for successful behavioural change.


The Dublin Beat Understanding Citizen Sentiment

Dublin City Council, through the Smart Dublin initiative, is collaborating with Citibeats, to better understand how citizens experience the city region. Through social media analysis, local authorities can gain important insights into how citizens feel about key civic issues.


With this approach, applications, developed by either the government or non-governmental sectors, are used to address a particular issue such as mobility, health services or other service areas of relevance. Residents can directly access information of interest and provide feedback on the quality of service.

Use Cases





Citizen Science for Traffic and Air Pollution Monitoring

An EU funded 'citizen science' project that empowers citizens to take a leading role in measuring road traffic and air pollution in their neighbourhoods.




Citizen Platform for Urban Air Quality

Breeze Technologies is creating a citizen-driven air quality sensing network in the district Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany.


With this approach, citizens can access, use, and share freely accessible data sets provided by the municipality, allowing for the creation of applications or research opportunities that are used to improve choices available to or taken by citizens. This approach also allows for crowdsourcing or co-designing efforts and tracking the realisation of governmental actions or promises.

Use Cases


Open Data Portal

The aim is to make cities more attractive, liveable and resilient through data and digital technology - improving the cities for their citizens and making them more attractive to potential investors.




SCORE: Smart Cities + Open Data Re-Use

The aim of the SCORE project was to create open access to key watercourse and rainfall data across a number of sites in the city. With the increase in high intensity rainfall events Aberdeen needs to create greater resilience and adaption measures.



Open Platform for Multimodal Mobility Information and Services

This Use Case is to develop an integrated Open Data mobility platform, gathering and providing information from all transport modes, whilst prioritising the more sustainable ones.

Value Model

Citizen Engagement Value Model (BABLE, 2021)

City Context

The relevance of open forms of communication between government and society lies in the efficient delivery of services, goods, and information. As urban communities become increasingly reliant on the convenience, comfort and efficiency that come with digitalisation, there is now a greater expectation that more intelligent ways will be used to ensure the needs of the populations are met. The urgency with which to effectively communicate and respond to the citizens in real-time and during a quickly evolving situation has been undoubtedly demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Factors

  1. Budgetary cuts and limited government spending mean that municipalities are always looking for ways to extend on capacity and streamline the way resources are utilised and distributed. The application of multi-channel approaches means that resources previously earmarked for face-to-face interaction or in-the-field monitoring by governmental agencies can be dedicated to other societal demands.
  2. Freedom of expression and convenience: Today’s citizens are becoming increasingly reliant on the utilisation of technologies to access services, goods, and information and the convenience to quickly access and provide feedback when their needs are not met. Technologically supported citizen engagement means that citizens are largely provided with a space to freely express opinions without the fear of being persecuted or the possibility of facing punitive actions.
  3. Inclusive Governance: The resilience of cities is strengthened by empowered citizens who are provided with the opportunities to freely communicate, connect, and collaborate with each other and with governing agencies. Effectively engaging citizens allows context-specific challenges to be quickly communicated and addressed, offers the opportunity to integrate inclusive sources of knowledge, and allows decisions to be easily accepted and implemented.

Government Initiatives

There are several noticeable governmental initiatives being used to support citizen engagement. Examples are provided below.

  1. Gamification: commonly refers to the introduction of gaming elements to serious, mundane, and non-gaming context to induce engagement and motivation (Hassan, 2019). These gaming elements include in-person participatory approaches such as the utilisation of Lego blocks, drawing competitions and virtual/augmented reality to redesign physical spaces. Gamification is also commonplace in E-participation in the form of web-based challenges as well as virtual and augmented reality tools.
  2. E-Services: This refers to the use of ICT and applications to facilitate the delivery of services, as well as provide the opportunity for communication with citizens through an online platform. The acronym XaaS refers to everything as a service or anything as a service and refers to any of an increasing number of services provided online including the governmental provision of services (Novotny et al., 2014). These services cover a wide range of fields including transportation, public utilities, social care services, public safety, and disaster management. Emerging applications are extended to diverse fields such as: smart grid, smart home, security, building automation, remote health and wellness monitoring, location-aware applications, mobile payments, and other machine-to-machine (M2M) applications (Novotny et al., 2014)
  3. City Dashboards: city dashboards use visual analytics e.g., charts, graphs, 3D models and augmented landscapes to display information about the performance, structure, pattern, and trends of cities, which are used to increase public knowledge and opportunities for counter-narratives (Kitchin, 2016). Data from sensors, smart metering systems, cameras, geographically positioned systems and cloud computing are being integrated with dashboards to improve decision outcomes, gather real-time information, and enable modelling of urban flows or community behaviour.
  4. Online engagement platform: As part of the E-services and Dashboards, municipalities feature online social applications to capture a wider audience and open channels to directly engage with elected representatives.  With the ability to contribute to the democratic process from the comfort of home, more members of the community can share their thoughts and ideas, request service, as well as file reports and complaints including elderly and disabled citizens with mobility barriers (Nelimarkka, et al., 2014).
  5. Living Labs: A living lab emphasizes the roles of user involvement, prototyping, testing, and validating in the creation of new technologies, services, products, or systems in real-life settings (Engez, et al., 2021). Therefore, it capitalises on user-centric, open dialogue and iteration processes as well as government-business-academia-people collaboration to achieve innovative outcomes. Living labs are distinguished from other open-innovation ecosystems by allowing users to improve the technologies that are being co-created and tested with other stakeholders in real-life environments (Nyström, et al., 2014)

Stakeholder Mapping

Citizen Engagement Stakeholder Map (BABLE, 2021)

Market Potential

Institutions and the governance of society benefit substantially from empowered citizenry. Pro-active and people-oriented administration and policies, on-demand participation, and co-design processes are growing positive trends observed during the 2020 United Nations E-Government Survey (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2020). These new insights from behavioural science, coupled with the recent advances in digital technologies, are leading governments worldwide to pursue citizen engagement more seriously (Chew, 2019).

There have been worldwide initiatives that apply different and highly complementary approaches to support stakeholder collaboration as illustrated in the figure below. A few notable examples are the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Services, Singapore’s Government Technology Agency, the United States’ Office of Management and Budget, the Canadian Digital Services and the European Commission’s Design for Europe.

Examples of Digital Participation Platforms Provided around the World (Chew, 2019)

In emerging economies, the digital divide is often cited as a prevalent issue affecting the level of digital participation as a larger percentage of the population has restricted access to ICT. Nonetheless, countries from the global south are part of this digital wave with a particular focus on the use of social media networking tools as a communication portal with governing authorities. Below, are the observed trends on the number and type of portals available to countries by geographical regions.

Number of Countries Offering Selected Features for Online Interaction by Region (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2020)

Globally, in 2021, almost one-third of citizens (32%) ranked more use of digital technologies in the provision of public services as one of the top three priorities for governments to improve the quality of services (Bertrand, 2021). Governments are, therefore, increasing investment in technological infrastructure and tools. The 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey reported that government investment in technology increased by 5% globally at the start of the pandemic due to the urgency for government organizations to transform their citizen-focused strategies, invest in security, and move a significant portion of their workforce to remote working environments (KPMG, 2020). The savings expected with the use of innovative engagement approaches will also drive wider uptake. The savings from the digital government services provided in Estonia, for example, is estimated to save 2,8 million hours of work, or 2% of GDP (Hunink, 2018).

Cost Structure

The cost implications of participatory approaches vary considerably. There are unavoidable costs associated with administrative staff and other supporting resources dedicated to supporting the engagement process. Face-to-face interaction is characterised as a more expensive venture because of the expense associated with organisational, recruitment, and hosting costs, e.g., the costs associated with the use of hosting spaces, office supplies, promotional activities and consumables including transportation. The cost of online communication is expected to be significantly lower, but consideration must be extended to the size, features, essential product plan and other platform development necessities as well the required human resource. The figure below provides an idea of the average costs associated with different modes of engagement.

Costs related to the different modes of engagement  (Cuau, C., 2019); (Citizen Lab, 2016)


Operating Models

Citizen engagement may take various forms:

  • Driven by the government VS. Driven by citizen-led initiatives
  • Proactive VS. Reactive: Proactive is the case in which citizens contribute to intended policy formulation and Infrastructural development whereas reactive is the opportunity to provide feedback on already implemented decisions or projects. Reality however reveals that these two are largely intertwined.
  • One-off activity VS. Recurrent activity
  • Open Participation VS. Closed Participation: Open participation allows all citizens to freely participate whereas closed participation is conducted only with selected or invited members of society e.g., citizen jury


  1. Germany’s Federal Participation Act: this act is to strengthen the participation of all societal actors 
  2. EU4 Rule of Law: Mandates Citizens Engagement for Public Integrity
  3. Directive 2003/35/EC: supports the application of public participation in respect to developing certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice
  4. Directive (EU) 2019/1024: remove barriers that hinder the re-use of open data and public sector information throughout the Union.
  5. European Commission’s SMART 2012/0107: Provision of services for the Publication, Access and Reuse of Open Public Data across the European Union, through existing open data portals

Data and Standards

With the emphasis on open and holistic governance, there are a multitude of data and standards being developed to encourage community engagement. A few are described below:

  1. The National Standards for Community Engagement developed by the Scottish Community Development Centre relate to good-practice principles designed to improve and guide the process of community engagement. There are seven guiding principles: inclusion, support, planning, working together, method, communication, and impact.
  2. The E-Participation Index is an index focused on the availability of online services in the provision of information by governments to citizens.
  3. UNICEF’s Minimum Quality Standards and Indicators for Community Engagement: defines community engagement principles, key actions, goals and benchmarks to provide guidance for community engagement approaches across all sectors and for all countries.
  4. The European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework for Citizens provides an online self-assessment test, which allows people to measure their digital competence and identify knowledge gaps.
  5. Aarhus Convention grants the public the right to access information, justice, and public participation in governmental decision-making processes.
  6. The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment provides for extensive public participation in the development and application of impact assessments for infrastructural projects and policy development.

Use Cases


Live laB TOOLKIT FOR Participatory design in Public Space

The Strijp-S district in Eindhoven was used as a testing ground for a 2 week process to organise public consultation using integration of multiple information technologies. The Live Lab, a virtual and physical platform for sharing knowledge and ideas was used to co-create a green square in Strijp.

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