Citizen participation comes in all shapes and sizes. It simply means: inviting citizens to help shape society. With Hoplr, the city of Halle offers its citizens both a communication line for dialogue and a platform for initiatives, climbing all steps of the participation ladder. In this case study, we’ll demonstrate how the City of Halle takes various initiatives to engage its citizens.
In this article:
- Hoplr in Halle City
- Case: verified mobility survey
- Case: City Panel
- Social participation initiatives of the City of Halle on Hoplr
Hoplr in the City of Halle
Three citizens of Halle took initiative and launched Hoplr neighbourhood Buizingen in the spring of 2019. Two brothers and a friend delivered an invitation letter to every single one of the neighbourhood’s 3,500 households. Today, one in three households in Buizingen is registered to Hoplr.
The city of Halle immediately picked up on this signal from the neighbourhood and recognised Hoplr’s value for the entire city. By 2020, all neighbourhoods of Halle were connected to the online neighbourhood network. 21.5% of the households are now registered.
Via Hoplr, the local government can easily engage in dialogue with a considerable part of the population. By informing citizens transparently, it lays the foundation for numerous participation and citizen engagement initiatives.
It’s nice to see people actively using Hoplr to ask each other questions or share ideas. We often receive constructive and enthusiastic responses to our own announcements.Dries Boelens, Expert communication, participation and conversation for Stad Halle
City of Halle involves citizens with Hoplr
CASE: verified survey based on national registration number
This past year, the city of Halle received multiple reports about the traffic situation in a number of streets in Lembeek. There were five possible solutions and the board wanted to hear what local residents thought.
Below, you’ll read a summary of the survey’s purpose. The City of Halle wanted to use Hoplr to:
- publish an extensive questionnaire that is user-friendly for both the surveyor and respondent;
- reach as many respondents as possible; and
- verify that respondents actually live in one of the streets.
Side note: Hoplr recently recruited a PhD in Communication Sciences. As Citizen Participation Expert and Data Analyst, dr. Jonas De Meulenaere helps draw up and process surveys. Municipalities with a Premium License to our Service Dashboard can call on his expertise for free. However, since this survey took place last summer, an external party helped Stad Halle with the content of this particular survey.
The trajectory together with Hoplr
In addition to online community building, Hoplr offers numerous functionalities to survey citizens. The verified or closed survey is one of them. Citizens must first verify their identity and can then complete a questionnaire. This is how the City of Halle used Hoplr to survey the residents of the affected streets.
- Design: The City of Halle could easily input and launch the questionnaire via the participation section of the Service Dashboard. It offers different question forms such as matrices, rating scales and ranking questions.
- Publication: The City of Halle distributed a letter in the relevant streets, containing the public link to the questionnaire. With just a click of a button, the city shared the questionnaire with Hoplr neighbourhood Lembeek Oost as well. Finally, we provided a PDF, making a paper version available upon request.
- Verification: Respondents were asked to enter their national registration number for verification purposes. This gave respondents access to the survey. The survey itself was, of course, completely anonymous.
- Visibility: The questionnaire was highlighted within the Hoplr neighbourhood for its entire duration. Upon publication, all neighbours from Lembeek Oost received an e-mail or push notification (unless they had these turned off). The Service Dashboard allowed the city to post reminders in the neighbourhood.
- Support: As always, respondents could turn to the Hoplr team for technical issues (e.g. an issue caused by an outdated browser).
- Processing: Our participation module offers a continuous visual presentation of the results. Once the survey was closed, the local government could export the data for smooth processing.
We soon noticed that the URL in the letter was initially incorrect. After a few concerned phone calls and emails, we sent out a general call and a new letter, quickly resolving this error.Dries Boelens, Expert communication, participation and conversation for Stad Halle
200 out of 750 families participated. This equates to a participation rate of about 27%. This is a fantastic result for a very long questionnaire. Furthermore, 110 of the 200 respondents signed up to enter into dialogue with the board, during an offline moment. That’s a whopping 15% of households in the affected streets.
CASE: City Panel
When it comes to policy-making, the city of Halle consistently turns to its citizens for inspiration. The city believes it is vital for the entire population to be represented. Certainly with subjects that affect everyone on a daily basis, such as the corona measures.
That is why the board wanted to set up a City Panel. For this project, the City of Halle relies on Hoplr to:
- create a panel that correctly reflects the population, consisting of 500 randomly selected citizens;
- survey the city panel three times a year; and
- draw up and process a questionnaire each time.
The trajectory together with Hoplr
Hoplr’s citizen engagement expert Jonas was the perfect person for this assignment. Based on his years of experience as a senior researcher at Ghent University, Jonas developed a procedure to obtain a representative sample. This resulted in a list of 500 citizens who now form the city panel.
At the beginning of December, we invited the city panel for the first survey, which enquires about the corona measures. For this project too, we make use of Hoplr’s verified survey. This time, respondents use a unique code that they receive by post.
The members of the city panel receive 3 letters. One invitation, one reminder and one last reminder with an enclosed paper questionnaire. Each of the letters contains the unique code. The preparation, printing with unique codes and distribution of the letters is done by Hoplr (in consultation with the city of Halle).
Hoplr’s citizen participation and communication experts designed both the letters and the questionnaire.
The first survey deals with four themes: city communication, leisure, mental strength and economic impact; all in the context of the corona crisis.
The survey will run until mid-January.
The City of Halle engages in social citizen participation
This past year, the City of Halle has been a true source of inspiration when it comes to citizen participation. The city demonstrates how local communities provide the perfect context for both large-scale projects and low-key initiatives. Because citizen participation takes many forms: surveying citizens, stimulating neighbourly help or providing a platform for initiatives.
Below, we share some of Halle’s messages about social citizen participation and citizen engagement. Social participation encourages citizens to contribute to the community (as opposed to, for example, policy).
Making masks together
During the peak of the corona crisis, the City of Halle called upon local organisations and neighbourhood committees to make masks.
Last summer, citizens were invited to transform their street into a play street.
The City of Halle encouraged citizens to keep an eye out for the elderly and sick during a heat wave.
Green Neighbourhoods Project
Citizens of Halle can become neighbourhood or climate ambassador. Ambassadors regularly meet with the board to either make their neighborhood greener or develop a climate plan for the city.
We are now working with Hoplr to explore whether we can bring these 20 volunteers together.Dries Boelens, Expert communication, participation and conversation at Stad Halle
The local government involves citizens to map out mobility flows.
The City of Halle repeated and adapted the questionnaire about local mobility (as mentioned in the case) for staff and parents of children in a local preschool. This one was not published within the Hoplr neighborhoods.
However, the city made good use of Hoplr’s survey tool. The public link was shared in an email, where 10 of the 40 contacted people completed the survey. This was an anonymous or public survey (anyone with the link gets access to the questionnaire).
Conversely, citizens can share messages with the local government via Hoplr. This way, the City of Halle has received 23 ideas, reports and care questions from the neighbourhood. One user proposed a line on a path near a school, to indicate cyclists’ and pedestrians’ sides. The City of Halle received the idea and neighbours’ votes and opinions, and informed the initiator about next steps.
The City of Halle has made a habit of citizen participation. By engaging citizens in both accessible and large-scale ways, they have successfully increased the quality of their policymaking, services and ultimately every aspect of the community (social inclusion, environment, safety,…).
We are proud that on the one hand, the city can make fruitful use of our functionalities. And that on the other, the city is bringing invaluable content to Hoplr’s local communities in Halle. Good job!