Between 2015 and 2019, Madrid’s city mayor Manuela Carmena created one of the world’s most successful civic participation programs which include participatory budgeting, resident petitions, legislation feedback, and more. These programs can all be accessed and interacted with by Madrid’s citizens via a single website called Decide Madrid. Over 400,000 of Madrid’s 3 million residents have accounts, making it the largest system of its kind in the world – and the most impactful.

By placing all these civic processes into one software platform, Madrid reduces the costs of organizing for government, and streamlines participation for users.

Carmena’s government wanted to share their progress with the world, so they released Decide’s code as open source software through a project called Consul. Any government can use the Consul codebase to promote and manage civic their own civic participation programs.

Over a dozen cities in Spain and nearly 100 governments around the world, including large cities like Buenos Aires and Quito, are using Consul for participatory processes. Software developers in these cities are also contributing code back to the project, enabling Madrid to benefit from the global public’s collective intelligence.

When New York City’s Participatory Budgeting Project wanted to explore using Consul, they contacted Sarapis. We evaluated what modifications we’d need to make so that Consul was appropriate for the New York City participatory budgeting process, and then built out a number of features for the Consul open source project which we then used for our tests in New York City. Those features included:

  • Creating custom phases to accommodate unique participatory budgeting process.
  • Adding maps and map layers to page layouts.
  • Creating custom registration pathways
  • And more!

We launched and operated the only Consul system in the US (as of end January 2019) for two New York York City Council Members’ participatory budgeting processes. We’re also the largest contributor of code to the Consul Project outside of Madrid, where Consul originated.

Are you interested in web enabled participatory democracy? Let us know – we love doing these types of projects!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply