Top 5 tips to end the agony of idea collection


I’ve talked already about idea collection, but how can we make it better?

Well, there are no secret potions, but I think there sure are a few good practices.

Remember however that urban and rural communities usually have different ways of interacting, problems and opportunities. Budget set aside for organizing participatory budgeting processes may also differ, as well as local media support – or even its existence.

But then again, participatory budgeting processes have one thing in their advantage: they are fast. If something doesn’t work in one year, you can always change it the following year.

Here are my 5 tips:

  1. Give examples

Citizens most of the times have an idea or are aware of a problem they want solved, but they don’t know how to solve/implement or how much it will cost. Sometimes they even don’t realize the problem’s full length.

That’s where you come in!

Many processes worldwide build “idea” models to inspire citizens.

Why not build a park or an urban sports facility? Why not build a social project to help those in need? Among others, Paris (France… was it really needed to say it?) and Cascais (Portugal) do this with success.

Having not just idea titles, but typical costs, implementation duration and project implications help citizens build more informed ideas.

  1. Promote workshops for idea building

Although many participatory budgeting processes just collect ideas through online or offline forms, helping citizens build well-grounded ideas is a major step forward towards raising process quality.

There are several methodologies from brainstorm to round table discussion, card sorting to post-it games. All will help you train citizens, improve their skills and foster creativity.

I’ll get deeper into this point in another post.

  1. Encourage in-person proposal submission and ownership throughout the process

Have you ever heard “a picture is better than a thousand words”?

Well, if you force people to present their proposals in-person and not just though an ICT interface (web, mobile), you’ll win a face. Someone other citizen can relate.

Media also prefers “real life stories” based on “real persons” and not just written ideas that don’t have a face they can talk to. That will make very cold news, and everyone likes them warm…

You can also take advantage of mirror effect, as other citizens can also feel impelled to participate because others did as well. Very few people like to be the first, but most will contribute after someone has spoken before.

Everyone has a need for significance and giving citizens their 15’ of fame will win them for your project.

Your communication as well as you support website should show ownership in order to maximize impact.

Media prefers “real life stories” based on “real persons” so keep idea ownership.

  1. Only allow 1 proposal per person and ensure mobilization during voting

In every town there is always those with zero ideas, and those with thousands…

But, have you noticed that those with thousands tend to disperse focus and not get things through execution?

If you want support to disseminate proposals for the voting phase you need citizens to be focused. Restricting the number of proposals one can submit is a simple way of doing it.

Of course 1 is a good number if you have a small PB (under 50.000 citizens), and with bigger PB you can get another magic number. Try it and let me know how it worked!

  1. Involve established communities (sports, social, etc)

If you’re a farmer and harvest is near, which will be better: to have many small fields all scattered around or a few big fields?

If you choose the first… do send me an email explaining why!

But logic says a few big fields will allow you to focus your work and allow higher productivity.

If instead of going after the individual citizen you try to involve local communities, you’re making sure big groups will be almost automatically engaged as they will promote the process for you.

If this is 100% sure should you neglect individual citizens? Of course not. Many communities can have many associates but no real mobilization. And some individuals can have very high personal dynamics and large network.

Some regulations don’t allow for community groups to submit proposals. In these cases you should help them find proposals which some associate can submit, and they can promote and support.

Do you have any other tips? Mail me at

Writen by César Silva @ ChangeTomorrow

You can reach me at

This blog is a place of experience and thoughts sharing around democracy, participatory initiatives and citizen engagement.

This blog reflects the thoughts of ChangeTomorrow team, its guest bloggers or interviewers.

ChangeTomorrow is a provider of Participatory Budgeting solution called Participare and a spinoff of portuguese market leader WireMaze.

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 tips to end the agony of idea collection

    1. Thanks for the comment.
      I agree with you. Well designed plans can help. But is a can and not a will.
      By opposition in big fields you usually use machinery to help productivity. In small, non-inter-connected fields it’s not possible or at least very complicated.
      I am not arguing about quality. Fresh fruit is always better if hand picked 🙂
      Do you have some experiences you can share? Glad to hear and learn.


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