What is it trying to solve?
Following years of decline in public confidence in local government and in the midst of austerity and corruption scandals in Spain, Madrid City Council designed and launched the Decide Madrid platform in 2015. The online platform is part of a new generation of open source civic technologies which can be used to engage the public in decision-making. Decide Madrid aims to ensure transparency of government proceedings in the city of Madrid and to widen public participation in Council decision-making and spending processes.
the goal [is] empowering citizens, promoting transparency, and fostering open government practices
Sam DeJohn - Gov Lab
What is the process?
The website, powered by open source software Consul, allows Madrid's citizens to engage with the local government in four ways:
- Participatory budgeting - citizens can make spending proposals for projects in the city up to a budget of €100 million
- Proposals - citizens can shape government actions by directly proposing and supporting ideas for new legislation (that fall within the jurisdiction of the city council)
- Consultations - Madrid City Council gives citizens the opportunity to provide opinions about and vote on council proceedings
- Debate - a platform for deliberation which doesn't lead to direct decision making but gives the City access to public opinion
In focus - Participatory budgeting
One of the main modules of the software facilitates local participatory budgeting.
The participatory budgeting element of Decide Madrid allows citizens to propose and vote on projects up to a budget of €100 million. These projects can be either city-wide or for particular districts. The 2018 cycle runs from January to mid-July. After the final proposals have been submitted they are incorporated into the City Council's spending plan.
Residents of Madrid can submit proposals for council spending on the city as a whole or in a particular district. The overall budget of €100 million is divided in to €70 million for district projects and €30 million for city-wide projects. Residents access the process through the website with a verified account, or if they don't have access to the internet at home they can use any of the 26 Oficinas de atención a la ciudadanía (Citizen Service Offices) across the city. To help streamline the process, officials contact people who have submitted similar proposals to see if they would submit a joint one.
Citizens can vote to support the proposals they like, both for city-wide projects and for district-level projects. At the district level, people can chose to vote to support proposals in a district that is not where they live, such as where they work, shop, or where other family members live. However, they can only chose one district to vote in.
The projects are analysed by city council officials. This is to check whether they are legal, viable, and are costed by officials to see whether they fit in the council budget. Those proposals that pass these checks then proceed to the next stage.
4 Final vote
At this stage, registered Madrid residents can vote on the final projects. The projects are presented with their estimated costs and the overall budget. Voters can cast their vote for a single project or for multiple projects but the projects they vote for cannot exceed the overall budget.
5 Final result
After the vote, projects are listed in descending order of votes received, both for city-wide projects and district projects. They are selected starting with those with the most votes until the budget is filled for that district or city-wide allocation. When going down the list, if selecting a project would push the overall budget over the maximum then it is not selected and they move on to the next project in descening order of votes.
The selected projects are included in the Initial Proposal of the General Budget of the City of Madrid.
You can view the full list of participatory budgeting FAQs here
What is the impact?
Citizens of Madrid
The Decide Madrid platform has been most successful in engaging citizens in a project to remodel the city’s Plaza de España where 26,961 citizens were involved in making and voting on proposals. Participatory budgeting attracted 45,522 people to get involved in its first year, and Decide Madrid now has 400,000 registered users in 2018.
The Consul software is free to use. Institutions from more than 90 cities and regions are replicating the model of Decide Madrid, in places such as Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Paris, Turin, Jalisco, Valencia, Oviedo, A Coruña.
Local governments interested in adopting the process can contact Decide Madrid’s workgroup, known as the Institutional Extension Service, to initiate the project. They provide a variety of technical, organisational and legal advice and support start the joint project.