Online civic participation

Urban development of Kanaleneiland and Transwijk

The challenge of online participation

The arrival of Corona has shifted the focus in many participation processes to online sessions, with all participants at a distance. But how do you do that in a good way? A video conference is possible, but with a group of between 20 to 40 people it is hard to listen and wait your turn to say something. Particularly in such larger groups, where people do not yet know each other, you as facilitator have to do without much of the interaction that is commonly available in a physical discussion. Looking at a map with your participants, pointing out and discussing things, creating an overview of relevant topics on a whiteboard, or using pictures from magazines to brainstorm about the type of playground or greenery your participants would like to see: these are all powerful co-creation methodologies that help participants articulate their point of view. For the problem how to achieve a similar level of interaction in online sessions, QANDR offers a solution that truly keeps participants actively engaged. In this article we will show you how, based on a actual practical example.

The municipality of Utrecht was faced with exactly this challenge in the development of its environmental vision for the Kanaleneiland and Transwijk (NL website). In the search for a suitable solution, Lars Schotel, senior advisor in various Utrecht participation projects, took part in a QANDR webinar. He saw how QANDR can help participants in a fun, accessible way to simultaneously provide input (parallel to each other) during an online group meeting. The workshops they were planning were to cover various topics, and the diversity of (easily operated by telephone) interaction forms (modules) that QANDR offers might well fit in nicely.

We were looking for a tool that smartly supports a good digital conversation. That easily takes stock of opinions, but also gives room to a more in-depth discussion. The intuitive and visual aspects of QANDR stood out. It does collect responses to questions but most of all provides the space for discussing them. Including the option to use images as responses. QANDR also seemed like something everyone gets (which turned out to be correct).

Lars Schotel, senior advisor to the municipality of Utrecht