Participation project name: DecidimVLC

How Valencia got ready for citizen participation

The municipality of Valencia, or el Ajuntament de València in Catalan, is one of the early adopters in the global CONSUL network exhibiting a seven year track record of succesful citizen participation.

The intense government-citizen collaboration can be traced back to the transformative year 2015, when anti-austerity protests, known as the 15M or Indignados movement, swept through many of Spain’s cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, Malaga and A Coruña, forging new collaborations and eventually political parties and coalitions, both locally and nationally.

Where in Madrid, the citizen platform Ahora Madrid was elected in the 2015 city council elections, in Valencia the emerging Coalició Compromís, a coalition of Valencianist and ecosocialist parties and citizen groups, became the second largest party of the city. Joan Ribó of Compromís was elected mayor with the support of the social democrats (PSOE) and the also newly emerging party Valéncia en Comu.

“The number of people participating each year is growing. It’s an evolution of local citizen participation.” says Joan Olmos Monzonís of the Servici de Participació Ciutadana i Gover Obert del Ajuntament de Valéncia.

Evolution of participatory budgeting

Once in office, the coalition implemented plans to open city government up to the people of Valencia and organize meaningful citizen participation through the Internet using CONSUL as the tool to make it happen. Like Madrid, they opted to use the participatory budget module and create a digital participation portal called DecidimVLC.

In 2016, its first year of citizen participation, the València City Council earmarked 7 million euros from the municipal budget for citizens to decide how to spend it and what project to spend it on. Following a citizen vote, 110 investment proposals were selected by the public to begin implementation in 2016.

Over the years, participation in Valencia city has been growing each year. In the 2016-2017 process cycle 15.337 people participated, the next year 17.553, all the way up to 27.819 participants in the latest cycle of 2022-2023.

The budget has been stable over the years, 8 million euros being the mode, but with a large sudden increase last year: in 2022 the participatory budget doubled from 8 million euros to 16 million. Another striking shift has been a shift from a partial city-wide budget to exclusively budgeting on district level.

Valencian Best Practices

One of Valencia’s best practices, along with Madrid and Barcelona, is that citizen participation is taken seriously by the highest levels of government, even when subject to changing political climates. An alderman or concejala who can focus solely on citizen participation is quite unique. The current alderman of Citizen Participation in Valencia in 2023 is Elisa Valía who has a team of maximum five people who coordinate DecidimVLC.

This stable support also makes a difference when it comes to promoting the process to citizens and making them aware of their political decision-making rights. A participation campaign, according to Valía’s team member Joan Olmos Monzonís, is “very extensive, consisting of posters, canvasses on buses and bus stops, online video campaigns and press releases including a lot of coverage in local news papers.”

Another best practice of the Valencian project is documentation. A lot of information about current and previous participatory budget cycles is published on the online portal, including statistics about participation among different districts and age segments, details about previously selected projects (location, budget, votes, responsible government department) previous projects as well as the progress of projects in the execution phase, the latter being an aspect often overlooked.

Demographics and inclusion

Even with relatively high number of Valencians participating in DecidimVLC, taken as a percentage of the entire municipality population it’s still low: 3.5 percent. But when we look at this number from micro-level, let's say a neighbourhood or even a street, the picture becomes more mixed. Imagine if all the 65 inhabitants of a certain Valencian street voted in favour of ten extra trees in that street, you would have a high participation score.

More room to improve demographically could reside in the inclusion of young people. The age groups 16-20 and 20-24 are least represented in the 2022-2023 cycle, whereas the age groups 40-44 and 44-48 are represented most. However, if put into the perspective of a generally middle-aged Valencian population, more than a thousand youngsters represented would not seem so bad anymore.

Together they implemented plans to open city government up to the people of Valencia and organize meaningful citizen participation through the Internet using CONSUL DEMOCRACY as the tool to make it happen.

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