Council to the street is an innovative strategy to strengthen democracy through citizen participation. It is a strategy that brings the city's institutions out to listen and respond to citizens in public spaces. Citizens identify their priority needs and requirements and in a public session the Council and the Mayor's Office respond to them. The citizens should be the overseers of the commitments reached in the space. During the process the citizenry is strengthened and accompanied.
Communication between government and citizens is a permanent and increasingly demanded necessity. Especially bottom-up communication. Citizens do not feel heard and do not find mechanisms for collective dialogue. In a context such as Buenaventura's, where poverty, violence and corruption rates are among the highest in Colombia, promoting open government strategies is urgent. Deliberatura - Council to the street brings together citizens with the actors involved in the execution and control of the city's budget, so that they can respond to the needs that citizens identify as priorities and which have not been met.
Prior to the public session, a joint work session is held with community leaders to identify and prioritize their needs. This information is shared with the City Council and the Mayor's Office. A public space is selected in the sector of the city where the community leaders involved live. In the public session, the leaders receive an institutional response and generate commitments that benefit the citizens.
Citizens receive a methodological accompaniment that seeks to strengthen their competencies in Open Government, methodologies and the right to citizen participation and political incidence. Methodologies of dialogue tables, co-creation, KAIROS methodology and others are used. The methodology is adapted based on the needs and particularities of the community and the lessons learned in the implementation.
The objectives of the innovation are:
- Strengthen capacities of public entities to favor collective citizen participation.
- Generate training spaces for citizens to make better use of the spaces for participation and greater knowledge of the public sector.
- To favor the fulfillment of citizens' needs and generate spaces for citizens to follow up on their commitments.
- Demonstrate improvements in citizen participation processes that use deliberation, as opposed to aggregative processes.
Street Council has been held seven times in different sectors of Buenaventura (urban and rural). It was held four times in 2021 and three times in 2022. The City Council is expected to adopt this practice and institutionalize it through a municipal agreement.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Compared to other types of strategies for dialogue between government and institutions, the Street Council is innovative because:
- It allows citizens to be trained and be part of the process and not only participate.
- It has adaptive methodology, the project owners build with citizens and institutions the work route to ensure effective participation and legitimacy in the process.
- The requests and commitments made in the space for participation are compiled in a systematization document for citizen monitoring.
- It promotes deliberative participation methodologies on aggregative participation.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The project has been under implementation since 2021. The innovation strategy arose from a previous work in 2020, a mapping of leaderships and the collective construction of priority issues to be worked on. The Street Council is under permanent evaluation by the implementation team, the methodological team, allies, the city council and citizens. This allowed improving the methodology from one iteration to another in order to achieve greater participation and advocacy. The project is under implementation and permanent evaluation to improve the methodology to achieve greater participation and impact. In this way the implementation and evaluation are in dialogue, permanent processes within the street council, which facilitates improvements and sustainability of the innovation. We are also designing a sustainability model that will allow this exercise to be replicated despite the changing electoral cycles.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Activa Buenaventura is an alliance that has been operating for more than 4 years. Different civil society organizations, we joined together in order to strengthen the capacities of the government, the municipal council, multi-stakeholder leaders and open data for all. From the corona foundation, we have sought allies such as extituto, carvajal, usaid and other organizations that are fundamental to achieve technical support in the deployment of the strategies co-created by all the organizations.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The users and beneficiaries of the innovation process are citizens and the municipal government (District Council and Mayor's Office). The Street Council is designed to facilitate deliberation between these actors for the benefit of the democratic process. The stakeholders are the civil society organizations that promote this type of exercises, we facilitate the design of the methodology, accompany the implementation, support logistically, generate high quality systematization and evaluation.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The main achievement of the Street Councils is the creation of spaces that allow citizens to make known the most important problems of each sector, before the District Council as a body of political control and before the different departments of the District Administration.
Also to make the different departments and offices of the Mayor's Office acquire specific commitments to provide solutions to citizen problems.
Additionally, the project has gained legitimacy on the part of the community and local institutions, due to the fact that the spaces have a methodology that provides results and guarantees for all stakeholders.
The implementing team is a team with extensive leadership in the territory, which has allowed us to reach places with high security risks and that if it were not for these initiatives, would not have an effective institutional response.
Challenges and Failures
Despite being an innovative initiative in Colombia, it faces several challenges that we would like to describe:
- The first consists of the sustainability of the project in the medium and long term. Due to the insecurity of the territory, the dynamics of local corruption and the absence of consolidated leadership, it is essential to achieve a strategy from civil society, which allows to sustain the project in monetary and operational terms in the coming years.
- The second is to consolidate the methodology of the exercise in order to achieve an effective institutional response to citizen problems. This point is key for the mechanism to generate trust and be sustained over time.
Conditions for Success
- Political will of councilors and mayoral offices.
- Legitimacy of civil society organizations that facilitate the process for the trust of citizens and institutions for their effective participation.
- Training and co-construction processes with citizens for their participation in the process.
- User-centered open-source design and development
- Effective and continued online/offline strategies to engage citizens
- Specific technical, human, and financial resources to sustain, update and implement the different strategies of the project
Until now, the innovation is in its first implementation phase until 2023. After this project cycle, Deliberatura as a public innovation proved practice will be replicated in other contexts in Colombia, and in the local public administration. Is Activa Buenaventura’s desire to replicate the initiative in key policy areas that need an innovative co-creation mechanism to improve the effectiveness and legitimacy of decision-making process.
During the evaluation processes, the main lessons learned are:
- It is necessary to prioritize and categorize citizens' issues to avoid dispersion in the participation space.
- It is preferable to create spaces for participation focused on a theme or population to avoid generality in the institutional response to citizens' needs.
- Prior work for the appropriation of the methodology by citizens and institutions is fundamental for both actors to fulfill their role in the street session.
- The fact that all actors have the same information prior to the event on the questions and priorities of citizens facilitates deliberation.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
3 January 2023