The sense of dissatisfaction with our society is growing, and citizens have the feeling that politicians do not represent their interests as they should. There are increasing differences between citizens, and they are becoming more vocal. This is seen in aspects such as a decline in the loyalty to political parties, and the rise of new parties that are more in touch with what citizens want. In order to stay in touch with what is important to citizens, and to restore their faith in politics, politicians must conduct a permanent dialog with them. Motivaction has developed an efficient tool for this purpose: the Council/Citizen Panel.
In November 2006, the municipality of Almere became the first municipality in the Netherlands to initiate – in collaboration with Motivaction – an online citizens panel, and this has proven to be a huge success. An advisory panel, which may also be set up at a provincial level, allows city council members and citizens to communicate with one another on a regular basis about current local topics. This panel facilitates the ‘extraction’ of knowledge from city residents so that it may be introduced into the debate. For citizens, this offers them the opportunity to join in the discussion on local themes and ensure that new issues are placed on the agenda.
Questions to be put before the council/citizen panel may be contributed by city council members, and via the local registry. These questions are presented to the panel, analyzed and put before the Council again. The answers are available within several days. The ideas and opinions of citizens are taken into consideration in the debates and decision-making process. Motivaction provides the panel with the infrastructure, and advises the registry regarding panel management and conducting research. Panels may also be enriched with Mentality milieus or citizenship styles as an extra option. This generates profound insight into how different types of citizens perceive certain topics. The council/citizen panel thus not only gives the citizen a vote, but also a face in local politics.
Advisory panels provide citizens with the opportunity to become involved in politics, and join in discussions with politicians. Council members maintain better contact with citizens as a result. The advisory panel reinforces the bond between citizens and elected officials, thus strengthening the democratic quality of local politics.