Decide Madrid is an online platform for public participation in decision-making, launched by the Madrid city council. The platform is designed for citizens to voice their concerns and participate through the development of proposals, votes for new local laws, debates, participatory budgeting and consultations.
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 launched the Decide Madrid platform 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. It makes use of an open source civic technology called CONSUL, which is used to engage the public in decision-making. 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 three main phases to submit, support and vote 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 reason which prevents its full implementation.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Decide Madrid marked a turning point for the city of Madrid serving as the first channel for citizens to directly take part of debate, submit proposals and decide how to better administer the city’s budget. A particular innovative feature of the platform’s model is that public participation occurs before and during the design and development of the initiatives.
The initiative has taken advantage of the latest cutting-edge technologies available to modernize the municipality and engage citizens through an e-participation tool. Decide Madrid is part of a new generation of open source civic technologies. This has allowed for other platforms, such as the case with decidim.barcelona, to contribute to the software development of the platform and add several new features to its core.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Platform online (and implemented)
Collaborations & Partnerships
The creation of Decide Madrid has been the result of a collaborative effort led by the Madrid City Council in close collaboration with the Open Government Partnership.
The CONSUL open source software used by the platform evolved from a protest tool designed after the 15-M movement. As previously mentioned, the software has also seen contributions from other users of the software, such as the Barcelona council working to improve the features of its platform decidim.barcelona.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
All citizens (aged +16) are able to register to Decide Madrid and participate through its diverse features.
• Decide Madrid has promoted greater inclusion of underrepresented segments of the population. It has also promoted the participation of women and youth.
• Civil society organizations, in particular local neighbourhood organizations, are encouraged to participate.
• Government officials were involved in the design, dissemination and are important users of the platform
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
• The platform has achieved a high level of participation, with more than 400,000 people registered.
• Regarding the proposals feature: as of November 2017, almost 20,000 proposals were submitted since the launch of the platform in 2015. The Decide Madrid platform was very successful in leveraging the participation of citizens in a project to remodel the city’s Plaza de España, where 26,961 citizens voted and commented on the proposals.
• Regarding the participatory budgeting feature : From 2016 to 2017 the amount allocated to these projects rose from €60 million to €100 million and the total number of participants rose by almost 50% from 45,531 to 67,132 people. This initiative was able to reach several segments of the population, as 49.12% were women and most participants were those between the ages of 35 – 39.
• Due to its high success, the platform has been exported to over 90 countries.
• Decide Madrid received the public service prize from the United Nations in 2018.
Challenges and Failures
One important challenge has been the resistance to the online platform by several traditional neighbourhood associations, which were used to face-to-face interactions and mediation processes. To address this issue, the Decide Madrid team set up several face-to-face deliberative spaces (i.e. local forums, physical voting booths) which aim to be more inclusive and cater to the different needs of stakeholders involved. The aim with any e-participation tool should be to promote collective deliberation and foster bottom-up exchange of proposals to guarantee a diversity of participants.
Conditions for Success
Set clear objectives, develop a plan, and adopt processes to citizen’s needs: A stakeholder-analysis is relevant to identify different needs from audiences. Involving the user as part of the design and operating with full transparency ensures the initiative’s continuity. Furthermore, engaging with traditionally underrepresented groups such as women and youth are key to encourage participation at all levels.
Ensure buy-in and support (i.e. including leadership): The success of Decide Madrid was backed by a strong political vision. Other conditions include working closely with lawmakers to align with regulation, ensure necessary human and financial resources are in place as well as communication recourses to promote the platform.
Choose the right tools: The right software and user-friendly features of the platform help improve the user’s experience, understanding of the issue and consequently creates spaces for them to engage.
As part of its commitment to OGP, the Madrid team has shared its platform with other governments worldwide. Today more than 90 local authorities are making use of this platform, in places such as Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Paris, Jalisco, La Paz, Nariño, Porto Alegre, Valencia and Oviedo.