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:

  1. Hoplr in Halle City
  2. Case: verified mobility survey
  3. Case: City Panel
  4. 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.

A couple of neighbours organise Buizingen’s first neighbourhood picnic through Hoplr. Some attendees share their thoughts about the neighbourhood and experiences with Hoplr: ‘We were curious to see new inhabitants of Buizingen. I’ve been living here for 50 years and don’t know anybody who lives here anymore’, ‘Hoplr seems like the perfect way to get to know our neighbours’, ‘Hoplr allows you to take initiative without having to go ring everybody’s doorbell. We’ve started organising a garage sale and there has been great interest.’

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.

The set-up

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.
city of halle posts on hoplr and invites neighbours to fill in the survey about local mobility
The City of Halle invites neighbours to fill in the survey about local mobility

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

Results

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.

The set-up

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.

hoplr message from halle in which they call upon citizens to help make masks
Halle’s organisations receive a fee for each mask that meets quality standards. The city provides fabric. Neighbourhood committees too, can participate.

Play streets

Last summer, citizens were invited to transform their street into a play street.

city of halle posts on hoplr to invite citizens to apply to turn their street into a play street during the summer
‘None of us know what the summer holidays will look like. But, if corona allows it, we would love to turn many of Halle’s streets into play streets again. In these streets, our smallest citizens can play to heart’s content during the summer!’

Hot days

The City of Halle encouraged citizens to keep an eye out for the elderly and sick during a heat wave.

Halle posts a message on Hoplr asking citizens to look out for one another during the heat wave
‘Temperatures will remain this high for some time, so we want to ask you: take care of yourself and each other! Do you have a problem or are you concerned about someone? Contact our wellbeing desk. Keep in touch with older neighbours!’

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
halle posts a message on hoplr looking for ambassadors
‘The City of Halle is looking for neighbourhood ambassadors who want to help think about and develop ideas for making their neighbourhoods greener. Also, we’re looking for climate ambassadors who want to help develop a climate vision for the city.’

Traffic count

The local government involves citizens to map out mobility flows.

Halle posts a message on Hoplr inviting citizens to install a device that lets them count passing traffic
The City is looking for citizens who are willing to install a small device in front of their window. The device counts any passing traffic, helping the city map mobility flows.

Preschool survey

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).

Bottom-up ideas

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.

One neighbour proposes a traffic dividing line on Hoplr. 29 neighbours have voted in favour, 2 have voted against.
‘Dividing line for cyclists and pedestrians? The path near the school in Buizingen is dangerous when school starts and finishes. Parents and children can only reach the school by foot or bike. A dividing line would do wonders […] Who is in favour of a simple line so that pedestrians can keep left and cyclists can keep right, for example?’

Conclusion

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!

Are you curious about all the communication, neighbourhood care and participation options that Hoplr and the Service Dashboard have to offer? Request an info session or read more about the different modules: https://services.hoplr.com. Request an info session
Hoplr won 3 awards in 2020
  • Seal of Excellence of the European Commission
  • WINNER of the World Summit Awards 2020
  • WINNER European Social Services Award 2020
European Commission World Summit Awards European Social Services

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