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Consul is an open-source digital tool for citizen participation

Consul is an open-source tool that empowers and enables all types  of participatory processes undertaken by institutions around the world, including citizens' proposals, debates,  participatory budgeting, collaborative legislation, interviews, surveys and voting.

Since Consul was created by the Municipality of Madrid, more than 80 national and international institutions have signed up to use the platform as a participation tool. Consul allows governments to set up any type of participation process quickly and efficiently and enables citizen participation in the most important and day-to-day decisions of institutions. As an open-source modular tool, it can be implemented with minimal extra resources and allowed tailored, adaptive solutions for institutions.

The advantage of Consul as an easy-to-scale tool is that public offices can learn from the experience of all the other institutions that use Consul and it is easy to adapt, improve and propose new developments that could benefit all the Consul Community members. As a community-developed tool, Consul gathers feedback from users and developers on a forum where people can discuss technical aspects, language issues and other materials. Authors of the tool elaborated a manual on Consul implementation covering case studies, info on technical aspects as well as expertise on the social and administrative context of citizen participation.

The first use of the software was by the city of Madrid itself under the name “Decide Madrid”. Through Decide Madrid, citizens can make proposals, vote in citizen consultations, propose participatory budget projects, decide on municipal regulations and open debates to exchange opinions with others. There is also a guide explaining how to use it. The website also uses infographics to explain issues and decisions to citizens (see, for example, an infographic on participatory budgeting).

In the 2017 participatory budgeting process, 67,133 citizens took part (a significant increase from 2016, where 45,534 citizens took part), and 3,215 investments were proposed. It's worth mentioning that the tool brought perfect gender balance (50.28% of participants were women, another increase on 2016) and also attracted older participants (4.86% were over 70 years old).

The success of the tool is possible thanks to constant support from the municipality itself. Maintaining such mechanism without sustainable access to financial and human resources would not be possible.

Case study date: May 2018.



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