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Enabling Multichannel PArticipation Through ICT Adaptations

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EMPATIA (Enabling Multichannel PArticipation Through ICT Adaptations)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Participatory budgeting (PB) represents one of the most successful Democratic Innovations (DI) of the last quarter-century.
In PB, local governments engage citizens in the decision-making process regarding the discussion, approval and execution of the public budget. At a time when voter turnout in Europe is lagging, and public institutions struggle to maintain trust and legitimacy within a framework of growing budgetary cuts, PB has proved to be a powerful tool for citizens to join in the essential tasks of governing, not only as voters but also as decision-makers themselves.
The EMPATIA project seeks to radically enhance the inclusiveness and impact of PB processes, increasing the participation of citizens by developing and making publicly available an advanced ICT platform for participatory budgeting, which could be adaptable to different social and institutional contexts.
PBs – currently 1400 in Europe and over 3500 worldwide – have conventionally been rooted in a series of in-person participatory activities, including large citizen assemblies, workshops to propose projects and deliberate, technical review alongside municipal staff, and paper-ballot voting to choose winning projects. Slowly, after 2006, organizers and participants of PB processes started to benefit from a range of ICT solutions, offered both by private and public actors, and by increased access to online media and social networks. In many cases, different processes of participation in the same city tended to grow as separate channels, whose results often overlap but rarely converge into a cross-cutting common environment. What has been missing, so far, is a comprehensive platform for PB that integrates this wide range of ICT interventions to support the full life cycle of budgeting processes of all sizes and in a wide variety of cultural and political contexts.
EMPATIA seeks to develop, validate, refine and widely disseminate such a platform as an open-source public good.
1. Development and consolidation of the methodological framework to study multi-channel DI and PB in particular, starting from the analysis of the state of the art of the scientific research on DI and on the transformations introduced by the widespread adoption of platforms and other ICTs in their delivery.
2. Development of ethical guidelines. The consortium discussed and defined a set of “principles” that will steer the social ethical and legal analysis, starting from the objectives already defined in the DoA. These principles have been translated into a set of guidelines and policies to be adopted during the creation of the platform, the implementation of pilots, in research activity as well as in the dissemination and exploitation of results.
3. Collection and refinement of requirements for the EMPATIA Platform prototype. The project integrated multiple methods to gather requirements in order to maximize its flexibility.
4. Development, preliminary test and release of the platform prototype. The technical development was one of the main activity during the first year, with the objective to reach an advanced level of readiness and usability already in the first prototype of the EMPATIA Platform. The latter has been completed and released at the end of 2016. The platform is conceived as a modular architecture of 17 independent components, each one covering a different set of features for the design and management of PB processes and a broad range of other digital democratic innovations.
5. Activation of Pilots. Even if the pilots will start in the second year of the project, during the first year the consortium prepared their launch in the city of Lisbon (Portugal), Ričany (Czech Republic), and Wuppertal (Germany). After the formalization of MoUs, all 3 pilots underwent a pilot planning process in which a participation model was developed and requirements for the EMPATIA Platform collected and consolidated.
6. Evaluation Plans. The Consortium defined the evaluation plan identifying the key performance indicators to be used for assessing the impact and results of EMPATIA in scientific, technological and societal domains. The evaluation framework is aligned with the methodological one and is designed to validate its research hypothesis.
7. Dissemination activities targeting a wide number of different Primary Stakeholders at EU scale, in order to create enabling conditions for the replication of further PB cases that could adopt and integrate the methodology.
8. EMPAVILLE. Parallel to the primary process of requirement gathering and analysis the EMPATIA consortium also developed a roleplaying game that could be used to gather feedback on early modules and features of the EMPATIA Platform. EMPAVILLE, was initially conceived as a by-product for validation tests during the construction of EMPATIA Platform, became an independent deliverable.
EMPATIA has the potential to be far reaching, through propagating a culture of transparency and participation of individuals, social groups, communities and even at a national/transnational level. Such impact has societal as well as technical effects.
The underlying expectations of EMPATIA are creating and advocating processes of democratic deliberation and decision-making; contributing to intensify participatory democracy practices in which citizens decide how to allocate part of a municipal budget or other budgets of public interest.
The broader societal impacts are expected to be the elevation of societal awareness about complexity of public management. Under this perspective, the ultimate expected impact of EMPATIA is contributing to “fiscal civism” through making citizens transparently involved in the spend-and-benefit process. On the side of the public administrations, which open spaces for sharing with citizens’ decisions on public projects and policies, the ultimate goal is managing their spaces of social dialogue with more efficiency and effectiveness.
Considered together, the goals pursued could contribute to incrementally restore mutual trust between inhabitants and their representative institutions.

EMPATIA will have a direct socio-economic impact at the local scale of the three Pilots in Lisbon (PT), Wuppertal (DE) and Říčany (CZ), as a direct consequence of PB implementation using the EMPATIA tools and methods.
Subsequent dissemination and adoption of the EMPATIA platform, components and paradigms will extend this impact to other communities – in some cases improving PB processes already taking place regularly, and in other cases supporting the introduction of PB processes for the first time.
In order to amplify its impact and enable the conditions for future replication, EMPATIA engages actively a wide number of key Stakeholders as institutional networks, specialized research networks, scholars, practitioners, policy makers, NGOs, civic hackers.
Empaville Kiosk
EMPATIA Relation to the work programme
Partners and Pilots Project
Empatia site
Empaville game
Vote machine