HOW TO IMPLEMENT
INCLUSIVE PARTICIPATION

Inclusiveness means that you do not exclude any group in society. For you to succeed in implementing successful, inclusive and digital participation, we have established a set of criteria to follow throughout the whole process.

Digital participation is inclusive when you reach every group in society, and when they can fully participate. In such a context, inclusivity is not only about the accessibility of the software used, but also about having an internet connection at your disposal, a device on which the software can function and about being digitally literate. Making your participation process inclusive is therefore not a matter of a one-off measure.

1. Develop user focused approaches and communication

Ensure that the design of digital participation formats is geared to the actual user realities in your country and is therefore inclusive. In concrete terms, this means that the technical functions of the digital solutions selected in each case acknowledge the available digital literacy and specific utilization preferences of the population.

To guarantee this, it is recommended to develop an iterative process for designing the digital participation mechanism, based on the digital principle ‘design with the user’. By involving the target group(s) in designing the selected mechanism, you can increase acceptance, break down potential mistrust and, over the long term, ensure greater utilization. Furthermore, a great participation concept is useless if nobody knows about the project. Even if the Internet is freely accessible, people don't come by themselves.

Start the PR machine: Social media, flyers, press releases, videos, lectures at relevant events, etc. Choose the channels and the way to address the target group. And when you have mobilized the people, go ahead and keep them engaged. A well-done newsletter or a "hello again" mail can keep the online discussion going.

 

2. Set clear goals and be specific about the scope of design

It is essential for the participants to know the chances and limits of their influence. What should be decided in the end and by whom? What role do the participants play in the decision-making process? Transparency is more important than decision-making authority. Our democratic and organizational structures often dictate who is responsible for the decision. These powers may be questioned, but they must be clearly formulated in the process. It is essential for the participants to know the chances and limits of their influence. What should be decided in the end and by whom? What role do the participants play in the decision-making process? Transparency is more important than decision-making authority. Our democratic and organizational structures often dictate who is responsible for the decision. These powers may be questioned, but they must be clearly formulated in the process.

3. Communicate early and transparent, also on the use of the results

The more the participants identify with the project, the more and higher quality contributions can be expected. Therefore, it is important to involve the participants in the project early on and to take them along until the end. A good combination of online participation and offline events is ideal. Good participation runs from A for "start" to Z for "goal achieved".

4.    Combine digital with analogue (‘Blended Participation’)

For most people who are not online there is no single barrier which is preventing them from getting connected – issues of cost, confidence, motivation and skills are all highly relevant. An approach to helping people get online must address all of these issues otherwise it is unlikely to succeed. Furthermore, your strategy should include offline methods as well. Such a strategy defines the actual purpose of the participation process (e.g. level of participation: information, consultation, cooperation), defines process steps, analyses the target group(s), provides hints on suitable channels to get the target group(s) involved and, consequently, presents suitable participation formats. Here, digital participation formats should be viewed as part of the methodological (and technical) tool kit, which a participation strategy can use alongside ‘traditional’ formats (e.g. town hall meeting). In most cases, a participation strategy weaves together very different formats – depending on the process step and target group(s). The overarching effectiveness of a participation strategy therefore lies in the targeted interweaving of the formats – known as blended participation. This ensures inclusive implementation. In keeping with the digital principle of ‘understanding your local ecosystem’, for every participation process we advise to start with a context-specific consideration which includes factors such as the utilisation rates of various digital applications as well as the risk of further excluding certain population groups. Based on this, it is possible to define and formulate the objectives of using various different participation formats (digital and analogue). The participation strategy also maps how the results of individual formats are integrated into further process steps in each case.

5. Minimise the use of personal data to ensure data protection

Ensure, that the developed digital participation formats allow straightforward participation that gives your target group the opportunity to make an individual decision on the personal data that is transmitted via the respective digital solution. We offer advice to you on how this must be designed in specific application cases and contexts and can work together to develop a process that ensures the informed consent of the population to data transfer. This includes disclosure of the type and purpose of the project and the collected data, the expected benefits, reasonably foreseeable risks, possibilities for non-participation, procedures for ensuring confidentiality and anonymity, and the users’ rights in connection with the use of their data.

6. Strengthen capacities of all relevant/responsible staff within your organization

Ensure that the relevant staff members of your organisation who are implementing the digital participation mechanisms have the necessary capacities to do so. It is important to ensure that all actors have the necessary technical and communicative capability to respond in a suitable manner and to include the results in the political process. Experience and practice of implementation too often shows that the lack of responsiveness, for example due to long processing times or insufficient reporting on the interim statuses of the participation process, leads to frustration and mistrust among the population. We offer advice to your organization on how to ensure responsiveness in institutional, technical and communicative terms.

7. Depending on the nature of the participation process, consider involving moderators to support users on the way

We know from scientific studies that online discussions are of higher quality if they are moderated. If you can expect a reaction, you can contribute in a different way. A neutral moderator should observe the discussion and intervene if netiquette is violated. Good moderation also helps with questions and catches discussions that stray from the topic. To this end, we offer advice to your organization on designing and implementing context-dependent communicative rules for interaction. We specify standards (‘netiquette’) that are presented transparently to all users in simple language. The moderators are being made identifiable as such and ensure that inappropriate behaviour or communication between participants is prevented.