In recent years, much of the communication between the public sector and citizens has been digitized. This has often taken the form of marketing initiatives targeting specific audiences. Digital Neighbourhood turns this communication model around. Based on current issues that are defined by the citizens, the project will promote an alternative dialogue and engagement using digital tools.
The aim of these tools is that they must:
• be easily accessible and easy to use.
• ensure that the involvement process is anchored locally.
• enable the involvement of the unusual suspects - citizens who would normally not participate in more traditional methods of involvement.
We have therefore developed four physical and interactive phonebooths, where people can give their opinion, right where they live. When citizens pick up these phones, a voice in the tube asks them a question, which also appears on a screen on the phonebooth. Citizens then record their responses which are digitally stored and transcribed by an employee. Anyone who can and dare to use their voice can help influence development projects in their neighborhood. Citizens' answers can make councils, decision-makers, and others better aware of the ideas and opinions that exist in a district before changes are implemented. In doing so, the citizens' voice, quite literally, helps to elucidate issues and influence decision-making processes.
Over 2000 ideas and suggestions have been recorded in the phonebooths since 2014. The ideas are categorized, graphically visualized, and presented for workshops, on social media and more. In various cases, the phonebooths have been used for the establishment of councils, for competitions between districts and as idea gathering and polling stations in a participant budget. In Trøjborg, for example, the council received 233 ideas from local citizens who had a wealth of different wishes for the future of Trøjborg. Suggestions such as communal dining, green areas, child-friendly areas, several trash cans, and an overall plan for the local area were collected. Subsequently, they were further developed at a workshop and Facebook discussions before being passed on to the newly formed council.
Digital Neighbourhood is a collaboration between the Citizens' Service in Aarhus Municipality and the Alexandra Institute.