Skip to content
An official website of the OECD. Find out more
Created by the Public Governance Directorate

This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

How to validate authenticity

Validation that this is an official OECD website can be found on the Innovative Government page of the corporate OECD website.

Dialogue between the city & its people: guide to civic participation in public space projects

Application of the guide_case1_author Saulius Ziura

By involving the public in the design of public spaces (parks, plazas, streets etc.) municipalities can create spaces that better suit society's interests. According to the data, 58 out of 60 municipalities in Lithuania recognize the benefits of public participation, but 50 % of them say they don't have the knowledge for it. The guide "Dialogue between the city & its people" is a step-by-step textbook for municipalities that helps execute the participation process from start to finish.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

By involving the public in the formation of public spaces, municipalities can boost local social capital and create public spaces that better suit common society's interests. Yet at the moment public space projects in Lithuania are often a source of conflict. In 2019 there were protests in all 5 major Lithuanian cities against public space projects. Local communities protested against renovation projects for parks, boulevards, streets and plazas.

One of the main reasons for such repeating conflicts over public space projects is that, according to the law, municipalities have to host only one public hearing during which the society is able to give their feedback on the project. This public hearing is a formal procedure and on its own is often insufficient to lead different parties to an agreement. In contrast, quality public participation should be organised not as one event, but as a process that combines a number of formal and informal chances for stakeholders to meet each other and discuss the project.

According to the digital survey results, almost all municipalities in Lithuania recognise the benefits of public participation (58 out of 60), but 50% of them say that they do not have the necessary knowledge to organise quality public participation processes (Create Lithuania, 2021). To address this problem, program Create Lithuania participants Giedre Puzinauskiene, Beatrice Umbrasaite and Brigita Mikolajunaite together with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania has decided to create a practical guide that would help municipality specialists plan, implement and use the results of public participation.

"The Dialogue between the city and its people: a practical guide for municipalities on public participation" is the first Lithuanian textbook for municipality specialists that provides a methodology on how to involve the public in public space projects. The goal of the guide is to enable municipality specialists to plan & implement public participation as well as support them in the process of it. The guide is based on several other similar publications and policy recommendations in the field:

  • Methodology by United Nations Habitat program "Public Space Site–Specific Assessment: Guidelines to Achieve Quality Public Spaces at Neighbourhood Level", 2020
  • European Landscape Convention "Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)8 of the Committee of Ministers to member States with a view to the implementation of the European Landscape Convention of the Council of Europe – Landscape and democracy: public participation";
  • Maastricht Recommendations on Promoting Effective Public Participation in Decision-making in Environmental Matters prepared under the Aarhus Convention by The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 2015.
  • The Prague Institute of Planning and Development "Participation Handbook", 2018.
  • Information on crowdsourcing platform ""

In addition, before creating the guide, authors conducted best practice analysis in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Slovenia and Estonia. The analysis was done by talking to the municipality and government representatives as well as private sector practitioners that organise or have other experience in different parts of the public participation process.

The guide's novelty is based on several factors:

  • It is the first guide in the Lithuanian language and in general in the country on the topic of public participation in the formation of public spaces.
  • The guide is based on similar foreign publications yet is also applied to the national context like laws, regulations and municipality practises.
  • Before publishing the guide's final version in August 2022, the guide was tested together with interested municipalities and its methodology was applied in practice.

The primary beneficiaries of the guide are architecture and communication department specialists in municipalities, who are responsible for public space projects and their publicity. The guide enables these specialists to create public spaces that are based on community needs. The secondary beneficiaries are local communities and other groups affected by public space projects.

The guide was published in August 2022 and put online with free access. Municipalities and everyone else interested are free to apply the guide in their projects. While creating the guide, the authors have also consulted The Ministry of Environment on how it could continue to develop participatory culture and policy after the guide is published. Among the discussed means were:

  • Regular good public participation practice exchange between municipalities
  • Public participation as part of evaluation criteria in public space category for National Architecture Awards
  • Linking the guide to the National Sustainable City Guidelines to-be-published by the Ministry of Environment.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The guide "Dialogue between the city & its people" is innovative because:

  • It has a practical step-by-step method which allows a specialist without a former background or experience in public participation to implement such a process. By completing 8 practical exercises that are accompanied by theoretical information, the reader is able to create a public participation plan and implement it.
  • The guide addresses all the legal procedures set up by the national law that regulate the formation of public places. By doing so it shows how to design a quality public participation process that would complement formal procedures.
  • During its creation, the methodology presented in the guide was tested in 5 public space projects by creating public participation plans and implementing 4 of them. The guide features these case studies and provides real-life examples of how the guide could look in practice.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The guide was published on August 2022. Since then authors have continued their work in the public sector, where they continue to implement the guide and help the municipality of Vilnius to organise various public participation processes in public space projects. The authors have also been invited by the Ministry of Environment to present the innovation to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee on October 10th, 2022 as a good practice of applying the Maastricht recommendations in the local context.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

First, 27 different group representatives (architects, urbanists, park experts, municipality representatives, active citizens, community leaders, lawyers etc.) were interviewed about their experience in public participation processes. Second, the pilot version of the guide was discussed with three different groups:

  • Community leaders;
  • Architects and urbanists;
  • Municipality representatives, as before publishing the guide was also presented in live sessions for 3 municipalities.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Municipality specialists that have used the guide report that it answered their questions on how to identify stakeholders that should participate as well as answer other questions about participation. It has allowed them to plan and implement meaningful discussions with different stakeholders.

Citizens that have participated in the events designed by the guide reported that the events were well structured and allowed for different groups to engage in a significant dialogue.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The main results of the guide are actualised public participation events that were planned and organised following the methodology set out in the guide. Interviews with participants of these events have shown that all of the groups evaluate such meetings positively and would like to participate again.

It is expected that the guide will be adopted and used in practice by 3 municipalities in Lithuania by the end of 2022. Also, the guide is expected to add to the cultural shift and support the Ministry of Environment in its plans to continue growing participatory culture in public space projects. Namely, the Ministry was advised to add public participation as a quality criterion when evaluating public space projects in the National Architecture Awards as well as create a pannel for sharing good public participation practise sharing in municipalities during the annual Lithuanian Urban Forum.

Challenges and Failures

The practice of wider civic engagement in municipality projects belongs to a wider cultural shift known as New Public Service. In this culture, the main role of civil servants is to help citizens formulate their needs and to serve shared interests, rather than to control and direct. It differs from the classic bureaucracy in which citizens are seen as rather passive recipients of top-down government services. In Lithuania most municipalities are still working and are designed to work according to the more classic bureaucracy model. Thus, in the beginning, it was difficult to find municipalities that would agree to apply and test the pilot version of the guide. This problem was tackled in two steps. First, we publicized the guide widely, which reached several different municipal workers who got interested in the opportunity to use it in their projects. After we applied the guide in several projects locally, it was easier to prove its utility to other municipalities as well.

Conditions for Success

For the guide to be implemented successfully in each municipality its political and department top officials should take up the leading roles in supporting the culture and values promoted by the guide. Then, involved departments should be continuously trained using the guide materials and keep deepening their knowledge using other similar sources too. Third, municipalities should have a platform to regularly share good public participation practices and share their experiences with each other. Finally, the public sector staff that will implement the guide should start from the very simplest of tasks and processes and gradually take up planning and managing more complex participation designs. Finally, it's important to keep experimenting and accepts that failures are inevitable part of the learning process.


This solution could be replicated in other fields different from architecture and urbanism. The guide sets a methodology for deliberative process that could be used in any other field which needs to design solutions through public participation. Factors that would condition replication could include:

  • A need to identify and engage different stakeholders in deliberation
  • A need to facilitate structured discussion on a complex topic
  • Culture that values democratic approach and is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process

Lessons Learned

Before deciding to create a practical guide on public participation our team has invested in thorough analysis: conducted 27 in-depth interviews, did 4 case studies, analyzed 8 relevant to the topic law regulations and 10 strategic documents. Also conducted two surveys targeted at municipalities. The first survey was answered by representatives of all Lithuanian municipalities (60) and the second - by the two thirds (41). Analysis allowed us to find the root problem of low public engagement in public space projects, which was that municipality specialists recognize the value of public engagement, but 50 % them say that they don't have the knowledge for it. In the surveys we have also asked municipalities staff what would help to build the needed knowledge and 83 % said that they need training, 60 % asked for a guide and 50 % said that they would like to learn from the good case examples. Such data-driven reasoning behind our project outputs allowed to create targeted solutions.

Supporting Videos


  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

3 January 2023

Join our community:

It only takes a few minutes to complete the form and share your project.