Consul Project

Test Test

CONSUL is an online platform for public participation in decision-making, launched initially by the Madrid city council and subsequently adopted  by several governments all over the world. The platform benefits from its open source code, making it free for any government, or CSO, to make use of it and propose improvements. CONSUL is designed for citizens to voice their concerns and participate through the development of proposals, votes for new laws, debates, crowd laws, participatory budgets and consultations.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

In 2011, the 15-M Spanish indignados movement brought thousands of citizens out to the streets demanding a better democracy. The cries for “we want a real democracy” followed several pervasive issues in the country – notably, the financial crisis, housing crisis, high unemployment rates, lack of job prospects for young people, corruption, and a sense of lack of political legitimacy of democratic institutions. This movement sought to improve democratic processes and institutions, especially by increasing transparency, accountability and participation. As a result, the city of Madrid was set to find a new way to engage with citizens and promote an active participation in matters of public life.

Following the decline of trust in public institutions propelled by a series of corruption scandals in Spain, the Madrid City Council developed the CONSUL software and launched it in Madrid under the name Decide Madrid in 2015. Decide Madrid is the official open governance platform serving as a one-stop shop for all official open governance processes in the municipality, including issues of transparency, open data and participation. The platform has many distinct areas for participation – namely, through its features providing spaces for debates, citizen proposals and participatory budgeting. As argued by Sam De Jhon from the Gov Lab UK: “The goal is to empower citizens, promote transparency and foster open government practices”.

The platform follows a very user-friendly approach, notably through its citizen proposals module by submitting, supporting and voting initiatives. Decide Madrid allows citizens to propose new local laws through a simple questionnaire. Subsequently, other local residents (aged 16+) are able to support their favourite proposals and prioritize the most interesting and relevant proposals. Proposals that receive support from at least 1% of the population are sent to the final voting phase. Finally, registered users can contribute to the debate on the select initiatives, vote for or against motions and provide additional comments.

Even though proposals receive a majority support in the voting phase, these initiatives still have to go through a process of revision by the Madrid City Council. A 30-day study of any such proposal is made, with a thorough evaluation of the legal, competence and economic feasibility of the initiative to determine if it will be approved. If the report rules in favour of the proposal, an action plan is written and published. In case of a negative review, the Council is responsible for drafting an alternative proposal to address the issue, or publish the reasons preventing its full implementation.

Other channels of participation in the platform include:
- Consultations: The government may submit important issues to consultations, as it has been the case in Madrid for the redevelopment of the main square of the city, building a pedestrian friendly space on the main road or the redevelopment of 10 different squares of the city.
- Crowd-law: All the main regulations are published in the platform. Citizens can select sentences or paragraphs and make comments, as well as to support other comments.
- Participatory budgeting: Each year citizens of Madrid decide how to spend 100 million euros of the municipal budget. Citizens propose, select and vote the most interesting projects.
- Debates: There is an open space for citizen debates, where citizens create and prioritize the most interesting issues, defining their own city agenda. This is used as a space for citizen engagement and community building, as well as for citizen interviews with politicians.

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Year: 2015
Organisation Type: Government
Level of government: Local government

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