Thank you!

Now that we understand your context and needs, this is our advice:

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You are aiming to…

…support discussions and exchange of ideas on a specific issue or topic. It is always good to focus on specific issues that are very close to citizens. This will increase the incentives of people to actually participate.

Especially when trying to reach large group of participants, digital participation tools might be of interest to you. You will find a wide range of recommendations on digital participation platforms below, but also insights into well-proven methods and use cases from similar projects.

…strengthen general cooperation with the local community. In this case, we want to recommend facilitating a stakeholder mapping first to understand which organisations or community members are respected multipliers in your local community.

…collect feedback from your citizens. We recommend making sure citizens know for what exactly you are collecting feedback. Be explicit and transparent about how you intend to use this feedback. We have some good examples and ideas how you citizen feedback can really help to further develop your ideas.

Your process is open to anyone that is interested in the issue. We see a big potential in your approach of reaching out to different types of participants. We recommend combining different participation methods instead of just focusing on one. You will reach different participants through different formats. We also recommend working with multipliers (e.gv. NGOs, associations, community leaders) to mobilise people to participate. And in case you are exploring digital tools: Keep in mind that there might be large differences in terms of digital competencies of different citizens.

You want to target CSOs as representatives of citizens. We recommend facilitating a specific stakeholder mapping for that purpose. Keep in mind that sometimes CSOs also only partly represent the interests of citizens. Be sure to also implement participation formats that directly reach people in communities. You will also find some suitable methods for that purpose.

Recommended methods

Based on our understanding of your context and objectives for your participation process, we are certain that the following methods offer some interesting inspiration:

All of these methods have been assessed by our team, and follow a similar structure. You will information about the specific target group for a certain method, the required process to implement a format, expected results, required resources and options for digital participation (in case of face-to-face formats).

Online Idea Competition allows for collective idea storming by letting an open or invited audience bring in suggestions on an issue and to achieve a decision by voting on them.

The Walt Disney Method applies structured roleplay to assess an issue from three different perspectives (dreamer, realist & critique) to achieve innovative thinking and solutions.

Participatory Budgeting allows citizens to influence the spending of public money by submitting proposals for budget consolidation as well as expenditures.


Planning for real aims to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods using a jointly created 3D model by identifying areas of change, suggesting measures and implementing them.

Online Text Review / Collaborative Legislation enables citizens to comment and co-create legislative texts prior to the approval of new plans, regulations or strategies.

Systemic Consensus / Systemic Consensing is a form of decision making that aims at determining the one proposal with the least objections and resistances within a group (instead of the highest acceptance).

Marketplace / Vernissage / Gallery Walk animates passers-by or invited participants to inform themselves and exchange about public matters or offers in an arranged physical or digital temporary space.

Asset Mapping / Community Mapping visualizes selected socio-spatial aspects (e.g. resources, safe places) of an area by collecting pins on a printed, digital or self-created map, one color per criterium.

A BarCamp / un-conference where attendees self-organize agenda, input and exchange on the spot with the rule that any attendee isn’t a spectator only but participates actively.

Carousel Speed Dating / Impromptu Networking is a conversation method where two people face each other in an inner and outer circle and alternating 1:1 exchange is maximized by rotation of these circles. 

Dotmocracy / Dot Voting facilitates fast decision making and prioritization by collecting and revealing individual votes on a set of options using a limited number of dot stickers, marks or post-it’s.

Card Sorting asks participants to rank or categorize index cards with topics in a way it makes sense for them, revealing how information is interrelated (differently) in a group.

Annotable Digital Map enables the (asynchronous) cartographic collection of citizen’s location-bound needs, knowledge and experiences by commenting in online maps.

Red Couch is a temporary offer to citizens of a neighborhood, young and old alike, to sit on a red couch and talk about anything concerning their residential environment.

Lego® Serious Play® facilitates thinking, communication, ideating, strategizing, or problem-solving by jointly building 3D-models with bricks in structured and moderated settings.

Traffic Light enables a fast overview of the prevailing opinion in large groups where participants illustrate their level of advocacy through a green, yellow, or red card.

Citizens´Assembly is a structured, usually local municipal event that informs the interested public about a measure and invites to publicly discuss it.

Wisdom Council / Citizens’ Council / Bürger:innenrat randomly selected citizens who convene regularly to find improvements and solutions for issues of public matter, ultimately presenting the results to the public.

Online Poll / Online Voting aims to collect decisions from citizens on legislative questions, proposals, and inquiries from institutions through an easily accessible online voting system. 

Pro Action Café offers a moderated space to discuss self-initiated topics and actions in smaller groups and in several rounds, combining the World Café and Open Space approach.

Lightning Decision Jam offers a well-structured approach to take a decision combining silent collection of issues, selection of issues presented, ideating solutions and voting thereof.

Agenda Conference aims at informing the public about current topics and plans, at co-evaluating and co-creating goals and measures thereof, and at forming corresponding working groups.

Dragon Dreaming is a structured project development approach that aims to realize visions and change in the service of earth on the basis of dreams and by building fellowship.

Future Workshops are structured and very communicative group deliberations where participants imagine, experiment and design desired future conditions.

Focus Group is a moderated discussion where few selected participants exchange on a given topic along a given structure to obtain their feedback and opinions.

Ideathons/ Hackathons typically are full weekend events where small teams compete to develop a concrete, practical idea or a protype for a given challenge.

Image-guided exchange of experience is a discussion format which utilizes and presents visuals (e.g. photographs, graphics) as prompts to stimulate sharing of experiences.

Online Brainstorming is a way for crowdsourcing ideas where participants can collectively generate ideas and solutions on specific questions, using a variety of techniques and tools.

Online Surveys gather information and opinions from a (randomly) selected audience by asking a set of multiple choice or open-ended questions.

Interactive Online Event enables citizens to ask and upvote questions during on- or offline discussions through co-moderators who sort and obtain a digital speech list.

The online citizen proposal or e-petition enables citizens to hand in petitions on an issue or topic, in order to raise awareness and induce a decision and change from governmental institutions.

Online debates or E-consulting enables citizens to discuss and prioritize proposed topics by sharing and commenting their opinion and ideas in written form, gathering widely diversified conceptions.

“Makes digital democracy easy – for everyone no matter where.”

Adhocracy+ has a focus on providing digital citizen participation for a broad range of target groups: municipalities, NGOs, governments.

Open Space is a conference format for very large groups where invited participants create their own agenda and manage the working sessions themselves once they arrived.

“Data crowdsourcing and mapping tool that allows people to collect, manage and analyze crowdsourced information”

Ushahidi has a clear focus on data crowdsourcing without the need of an internet connection.

“Anybody can submit a proposal to improve their city, others can support it

Consul has a clear focus on digital citizen participation especially for cities and national governments.

“Free Citizen OS platform for asynchronous meetings & citizen participation”

Citizen OS is a free and secure open source platform for citizen initiatives and collective decision-making. We are a not-for-profit organisation. Our mission is to bring decision-making back to the people and their communities, through nurturing e-democracy and developing innovative technologies for higher quality collaborative decision-making.

Living Library

Living Library/ Human Library is a concept for trustful dialogue and empathy on sensitive topics to dismantle prejudices by lending a conversation with a person instead of a book.



Relevant Case Studies

You want to learn more about how others implemented meaningful public participation processes?