Society

The Brussels Citizens’ Cabinet

How do you experience Brussels?

Strategic challenge

Sven Gatz, Flemish Minister for Culture, Media, Youth, and Brussels, and Rachid Madrane, Minister for Youth Aid, Courts, Sports, and the Promotion of Brussels of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, wanted to get citizens involved in their policies impacting Brussels, which is why they launched the “burgerkabinet Brussel/cabinet citoyen Bruxelles” (the Brussels Citizens’ Cabinet). After all, Brussels is only gaining in importance. That is why both ministers wanted to find out what the people of Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels thought of Brussels and find out how mutual understanding and respect can be improved.

Approach

Möbius teamed up with two other innovative companies, Citizenlab and Synthetron, for this project. Together with them, we assisted the Dutch and French parts in parallel.

Particular attention was paid to communication at the start-up of the project, in addition to the typical elements of refining the plan of approach, the project structure, reporting, etc. After all, the power of a citizens’ cabinet is proportionate to the quality and effectiveness of a good communication campaign and the recruitment of sufficient participants.

The Citizenlab platform was used in a first phase to launch the generation of ideas. Citizens could share their visions on the online platform concerning specific themes and reply to other people’s opinions.

Several major themes were defined using an analysis of the answers and ideas on the online platform. These were translated into actual research questions, and during a second, in-depth phase, more information was gained using the Synthetron technology, which allowed citizens to participate simultaneously in a planned, online debate from their own computers, so that they could engage in intense dialogue.

The output from these two phases provided rich, usable input for the face-to-face sessions of the citizens’ cabinet. These were organised in parallel for the Dutch and French parts. Throughout a day filled with interactive debates and brainstorming sessions, with nearly 100 participants, these citizens’ cabinets resulted in concrete policy recommendations formulated by the citizens themselves.

Result

Several thousand people visited the citizens’ cabinet online platform and several hundred people were present at the face-to-face sessions. At the end of the face-to-face sessions, both ministers received a list from the citizens with the three most popular recommendations for the various themes relating to Brussels. An exhaustive final report was drawn up, which also served as the input for an analysis done by CEVIPOL (Centre d’étude de la vie Politique/Centre for the Study of Politics – ULB) and BRIO (Brussels Informatie-, Documentatie- en Onderzoekscentrum/Brussels Information, Documentation, and Research Centre). 

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Alexander De Jaeger