EMPATIA: A Multichannel Platform for Participatory Budgeting

EMPATIA: A Multichannel Platform for Participatory Budgeting

Bruno Sousa (University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal), Vitor Fonseca (OneSource, Coimbra, Portugal), Luis Cordeiro (OneSource, Coimbra, Portugal), Bianca Flamigni (University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy), Luca Foschini (University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy), Paulo Simoes (CISUC-DEI, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal), Uthayasankar Sivarajah (University of Bradford, Bradford, UK), and Vishanth Weerakkody (University of Bradford, Bradford, UK)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/IJEGR.2019040104
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Participatory budgeting (PB) is currently one of the most widely adopted democratic innovations. ICT platforms are key enablers of PB processes, by supporting citizen engagement. They support the establishment of diverse participation channels to build candidate proposals, for the voting process, and for monitoring proposals' implementation. PB platforms differ from electronic voting systems, reflecting the intrinsic nature of PB processes. While vote secrecy and trustworthiness of voting results is still a major requirement, other factors weight in, such as the focus on the whole process and the need for engaging several citizens by providing multiple participation channels. PB processes take place at multiple scales (municipal, national) requiring flexible deployment and dimensioning approaches. EMPATIA is an ICT platform for PB, based on multiple dimensioning and deployment options that reflect the scenarios where PB tools are expected to operate. The evaluation results provide relevant inputs to the design and implementation of similar participatory and/or voting platforms.
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Participatory budgeting (PB) is one of the most adopted democratic innovations for further improving democratic participation, living conditions and wellbeing of involved communities (Paolo, 2016). The PB process, involving public entities such as municipalities, supporting organizations and citizens, includes three distinct phases: the brainstorming phase that envisions the discussion of ideas and the identification of potential candidate projects; the project selection phase, which leads to the selection of projects that will have budget for being implemented; and the final phase that includes the monitoring of the project execution – commonly designated as the second cycle of participatory processes.

ICT platforms are key enablers of this democratic innovation process, by supporting social activism and citizen engagement in the participatory process (Animseh, 2015). The tools and applications included in these platforms establish channels that allow citizens to build and discuss candidate proposals, to vote in the candidate projects they believe best suit the needs of their neighborhood and/or their municipality, and to monitor the implementation of winning projects. In this context, multiple tools already exist for enabling the participatory democracy. For instance, Your Priorities (Your Priorities, 2019) aims to foster the participation of citizens, OpenDCN (OpenDCN, 2019) is designed to support participatory budget, and OpenBudgets (OpenBudgets, 2018) enables the tracking and analysis of financial information. The usage of such tools has been proved to promote the engagement of citizens in these democratic processes, since they provide the opportunity for citizens to express their opinion and to better shape the living conditions of their neighborhoods (Margaret, 2016). However, these platforms often fail to promote social inclusion since they are designed for specific groups of people (e.g. younger people or people with higher levels of education, more used to technology). The EMPATIA H2020 project (EMPATIA, 2018) promotes multiple channel participation by defining and implementing new tools, interfaces and best practices for citizen engagement – putting special emphasis on the simplicity and ability of being used by a wide range of actors with different cultural backgrounds and/or degrees of ICT literacy.

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