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Citizen Engagement

On this page you will find lessons learnt that are distilled from various workshops that the SCIS team attended. The most important points are summarised, giving a quick overview of the challenges / barriers but also solutions with regard to each topic.
Citizen engagement
Lesson identified at: 


Organizational, structural and governance aspects

Relying on existing strategies and infrastructure

Leadership and ownership:

  • Municipal owned companies/Urban renewal offices (100% owned by the city) or urban agencies/core groups existing in different areas and focusing on different topics including social or economic

The political will/ will of decision makers (high level) is part of the guarantee that the process will work – it is easier when it works top down. Good relation between political representatives is also important (Good information flow between elected officials)/ Good coordination between departments

  • Local heroes willing to do it

The EU project is an enabler as without it the decision level wouldn’t have committed.

Existing strategy and vision, especially on the urban development - Common goals, targets and vision

Allies / friendly departments within the municipality / mentors (breaking the silos)/taskforces/Building the right crowd

Transversal cooperation within the local authority

Acceptance and Satisfaction

Buy-in from technical department and to “sell” the solution to the higher level

Inspiration – somewhere else – sometimes it is important to visit examples from other countries/regions/cities

Publications – see that others deal with similar problems

Right to fail as it is a pioneer project/a lab/a demonstration

Assess which measures are generally more accepted than others


Legal aspects

Right to fail as it is a pioneer project/a lab/a demonstration

Right to experiment

Evolution of regulations at local but also national level (ex. renewables, retrofitting)

Evolution of the regulation/governance – pilot project –anticipation


Economic aspects

European funds (as seed money)

National funds (e.g. national funding for refurbishment, used in Vienna)

Attractive area: in some cases the attractiveness of the area makes the area a high demand area , creating a positive market environment.

Financial benefit – for department that implements project

Clear business models and financing schemes


Communication, co-creation and engagement aspects

Image - the positive effect of being awarded by the EU Commission means that you are among the best cities – it is not only a matter of money, but a matter of image!

Raise awareness among the people in the city on the importance of refurbishment. They need to be aware of the benefits, not only economic, but focus on the quality of life (thermal comfort)

Find buy-ins (technical and political)

Good communication – storytelling skills/ Quick-story – to know the right question

The integration of tenants and renters were important, as there is strong legislation on this topic. If the building is renovated the company is allowed to increase the rent with a small amount of money. When the company comes with a top down approach mentioning that they will do refurbishment the tenants will be against it. However, when they are involving the tenants in a participatory way, asking what improvement this would bring, they would discuss and agree easier. More cooperative focus.

Engagement of local stakeholders

People being proud of what they do, start with success factors.

Transparency / information/ communication

“Showing off” successful pilot/demonstration which should be made visible

Fact sheets on quick wins: Sharing a quick-in – showing quick-ins on the top level (gives credibility). Don’t communicate a quick-win as a big victory (it’s dangerous)/Be positive and say good things/Piloting can open new doors, too

Communicate more in the media on the positive aspects

Organise site visits (touch + feel)

Co-creation processes and understanding the needs and opposition to change

Defining the right problem



Sharing best practices between cities – access existing knowledge

How easy the technology is? How available it is?



Organizational, structural and governance aspects

Internal governance with no transparency

Missing internal processes and how do you get from piloting to standard.

Informal governance structure – blocking the decision and implementation

Inexistent integrated strategies

On a process level, this is a pilot project and there is no standard procedure/solution yet – related to procurement for innovation

Experiment status (allowing accepting some conditions)!

Timeframe: “not in the right time” (administrations are slow!)

Silos in the organisation and no strategy - This can cause lack of motivation in the departments – people are not allowed to work outside their department. Lack of confidence within the organization and between different departments

Municipalities are not flexible (not a risk culture)

Complicated processes

Bad examples from the past


Legal aspects

Legal and policy framework for data protection and privacy are missing.

Changing national legal framework and new standards.

National framework impeding local willingness

There is no minimum standard from the national level.

National regulatory framework (e.g. in FR the minimum standard for building retrofit is to paint the façade, so the regulation is too weak).

Confusing legal standards and regulation (GDPR) – different levels

  • Big energy companies are not willing to share the data with the public authorities, even though in some cases they are city owned (e.g. adding additional sensors by the municipality to obtain the same data).
  • No clear legal framework to allow operators/municipal owned companies to share data.

In the refurbishment process (private housing), the decision-making is complicated as one needs a high percentage (75% and even 100%) of homeowners to agree.

Difficulty to replicate pilots - legal constraints.


Economic aspects

Low energy price.

Risk taking (transition from pilot/lighthouse to daily life/usual projects), making it economically viable.

No interesting financing schemes from banks.

Investment banks need certification allowing ???them to invest and energy saving projects do not allow them to invest, do not comply with the standard.

Business models are not useful. Better is to address a cost/benefit analysis.???

Procurement procedures: difficult to procure innovation (lack of standards); procurement is made to purchase solutions (goods/services), not to solve problems.


Communication, co-creation and engagement aspects

Lack of trust between the municipality and the municipal owned companies.

Mistrust between different departments within the same municipality

Lack of ownership by the citizens, passive citizens - high expectations of citizens towards city

Lack of concrete results to share and show

Lack of definition of smart city



No baseline data for mobility issues nor for energy consumptions and patterns;

Communication is difficult on energy efficiency issues: How to make the invisible visible?


Technical standards – changing too fast compared to slow administrative processes.

Lack of urgency, motivation, citizen push as current situation is already quite comfortable (e.g. Munich) as the city is demographically growing and attracting investors.

Lack of motivated people /people are not flexible/no resources/no time/not interested

Long time frame

Structural change needed.

Resistance to change Change is perceived as a big barrier

Fear to fail



Organisational, structural and governance aspects

Set up a dedicated company or task force/core group

Set up a small company to develop a specific territory and tackle different aspects on one territory. This company is highly skilled and decisions can be taken in short time. However, the problem is to replicate this outside of the pilot area. These companies can be much more agile and make the decision making process much easy than the municipal organizations, although some time can appear rivalry issues among institutions.

The benefits of such small and flexible organization are: many decisions can be taken for the project running for a limited period of time (short-term) and geographical area. Nonetheless, it can create mistrust in the municipality or metropole, once other people are doing tasks which they would be able to perform.

Core group : In some specific cities multidisciplinary group without steering capacity have been settled, composed by different departments of the municipality and other organizations. Benefits: composed by people who wish to work, transparent and address different topics. Negative: Lack of steering power. A transparent and multi-domain core group, open to other external actors and with steering power/capacity in the group, could be a next step.

Setting up a replication platform locally, involving the key stakeholders who are potential replicators – create exchange of experience among the different persons having similar roles in different districts, also involving public and private actors; but also have decision making power and have access to the political level.

Having the existing company from the pilot area operating in other districts in the same city: The new company having the know-how and the experience from the pilot district could operate also on the development and refurbishment of other areas in the city (already done in some cities).

Replicators should be involved in the implementation phase

In the SCC projects, monitoring and replication are part from the beginning

Open calls for innovation and new ideas:

  • Citizen oriented (crowdfunding platform for instance)
  • City employees oriented

Economic development department (Lyon): For very big and complex organizations, fostering transversal departments, which does not depend on a specific project, for discussing crosscutting topics can trigger trust between different departments. Each vertical department has an innovation person, which meet every 2 months. Discuss cross-sectoral topics (solid waste, mobility, etc)

Set up LABs – to try things beyond regulation.


Legal aspects

Related to the data platforms – one solution is the data gatekeeper (“sort of “data concierge”) managing the access to data and set standards and processes, a basic standardised procedure. This is also a solution to the lack of national legal framework (Munich and replicated to Vienna). Other idea is the development of a foundation or advisory board: a multi-level participation platform, which assesses the access to data. Reflects the power of civil society to deal with information.

The lawmakers are not so fast and have different languages than technicians and politicians, sometimes legal frameworks are inexistent and law makers need to be involved in the project from the beginning, even in the piloting phase, they should be called to the discussion and regular meetings (like in Milano).

Set up labs to try things beyond regulation

In FR the state allows to go beyond the national regulatory framework to experiment (e.g. cascade funding – an EU legal obstacle).

Updating the prototype and once this is done and it works, the replication should take place in all neighbourhoods.

Apply norms from other EU countries: When in a country there is no standard, it is possible to apply norms from other EU countries (a specific topic is to connect the PV systems to the grid, which is a German norm/standard and is used in FR as there is no similar standard in FR). This helped to develop PV systems in FR in general (not only in Lyon). Lobby for stronger standards based on the experiment level.


Economic aspects

Use of crowdfunding – especially as a marketing instrument and to commit citizens (eg renewable energy systems’ parks)

Setting up a municipal crowdfunding platform

Voucher system

Reduced property tax for people who carry out refurbishment works

Tax credit for refurbishment, instead of only tax reduction: In Italy people can even resell their tax benefit (to a company for instance)

Bring other indicators to the equation: monitoring of results focused on the use of different indicators in order not to show only the financial benefits (on which decision-making is mainly based), but also show costs that could be avoided in the future and social, health benefits; e.g. being ready to invest in solutions that do not necessarily save money, but they could avoid costs in the future - not visible, but indirect financial benefits (e.g. in the field of sustainable mobility and public transport, people save money as they do not use their individual cars). These are indirect support/funding that on the longer term reduce the costs and the environmental impact.

Develop solutions and indicators to make investments visible in a different way as currently the criteria is only profit, return on investment. Take into consideration social and environmental benefits as well as avoided future costs instead of only profit.

Cash advance by financial institution – a tool that is popular in Lyon as a financial institution gives money for the first year of the project and will allow the organisations to start the work without waiting for subsidies.

A national fund in Germany (KfW) giving funding according to the standards. It covers up to 15% of the overall budget. The beneficiary has to assure 20% as guarantee.

Change current business models in the sense that they should not be only based on profit but also on avoiding future costs and on other indicators: social, health etc.

Allow cascade funding to reach a certain impact


Communication, co-creation and engagement aspects

Local renewal offices as communication hubs in the districts In Munich, these are working for a 5 years’ concession and any kind of company can apply. They are doing a lot of communication and information works acting as a participation and consulting office.

Quality of communication

  • Listening/bottom up
  • Continuity
  • Involvement
  • Avoid dealing only with “list of complaints”

Going beyond communication, towards participatory processes by listening to the people, discussing and getting to the source of the problems, which is the solution also for the acceptance of the different projects. More bottom-up communication and co-creation with local authorities listening more to people’s needs. They should not only listen to peoples complaints, but be proactive on the solutions proposed and co-create with them, truly understanding their needs

Change of the mindsets is necessary via the ownership from the beginning by involving everyone concerned.

Continuity of communication: Communicate periodically the state of the project so that the results can be adapted regularly to the needs and realities in the field, rather than just deliver a final product that is not corresponding to the current needs (Managing expectations).

More resources invested in communication/participation to accompany on the long term and increase the quality and move towards more participatory processes since the very beginning of the project.

Make the decision making process more transparent (this solution might not necessarily be in line with political will)

Identify reliable stakeholders that would be more trusted by citizens and would act as ambassadors (e.g. pioneers becoming ambassadors/pilot families trained and training other families). Identify trusted contact partners and involve them in the process / build trust

Positive testimonies and feedback from pilots: e.g. Invite residents from refurbished buildings to the other owner meetings in buildings that are to be refurbished to make testimonies of their experience and positive feedback

Create an informal environment and create conviviality

Setting up working groups with citizens



Develop other types of indicators/variables (not only related to energy savings, which in some cases are related with long payback periods)

e.g. in the field of building retrofit, other indicators should be introduced than energy savings, showing very long term payback periods (25 years). So the economic aspect of investment is not attractive in this case. Other variables such as health issues, comfort, and quality of life should be introduced.

Making the invisible visible

  • Financial aspects
  • Comfort/lifestyle
  • Testimony/feedback