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A collaborative platform at the service of cities for strengthening local democracy

The free software Consul has been extended to cities around the world, reaffirming the pertinence of digital platforms as promising mechanisms to renew citizen participation

Source photo: Decide Madrid

 Within the framework of its work in support of initiatives of participatory democracy promoted by local member governments, and in collaboration with the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy (IODP), the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights has taken part in several workshops and meetings on digital technologies and their concrete applicability as mechanisms at the service of local democracy and the common good. As a consequence, the Committee has decided to promote these initiatives to other cities or interested local stakeholders.

Interview with Miguel Arana about the initiatives carried out by the City Council of Madrid on participatory democracy and Human Rights

It is in this framework that the Committee wishes to share the experience of the Consul Platform among its members. As a result of the work and exchange between a network of active cities and experts, Consul is today an open platform developed by more than 70 local entities from around the world. As a concrete tool for digital participation, Consul enables a wide range of participatory processes through internet:

  • Debates”, where anyone can "open discussion threads on any topic, creating independent spaces where people can discuss an issue";
  • Proposals”, so that "anyone can create a citizen proposal and people can support it. The proposals that reach some support threshold go to a voting";
  • Participatory Budgeting”, allowing citizens to "propose and decide directly how to spend part of the municipal budget";
  • A secure “voting system”, both for citizen proposals and for issues proposed by the institution;
  • Collaborative legislation”, allowing sharing "legislative texts, strategic plans and other initiatives with citizens to receive comments and create spaces for prior debate on them".

Consul is defined by its promoters as "free software for participation between cities (...) a tool for citizen participation for an open, transparent and democratic government". In accordance to its principle of selfless cooperation, Consul has been developed as a free, open tool; anyone can start to use it with a guaranteed support of a group of technicians.

Consul project

Face to growing initiatives by the private sector to appropriate citizen initiatives and resell them as commercial products, Consul shows a strong commitment and recalls the need to develop free software collaborative platforms. By enabling a non-profit mechanism to promote citizen participation, Consul puts at the heart of the debate on Smart Cities and the use of digital technologies the democratic and data confidentiality principles, offering a concrete alternative to citizens and local governments.

“Democratic Cities” meet in Madrid: How to put technology at the service of the common good and citizen participation?

In the event that your city or organization wishes to install Consul or have more information about it, you can contact the Extension Service of the Madrid City Council responsible for the extension of the project through this email: extension.institucional@madrid.es.