SUNBEAM Area: Fairness and transparency

SUNBEAM 4: Aim for fairness and not necessarily for majorities

Do not try to make everyone happy but make sure that no one suffers, above all those whose voice is normally feeble and not heard. Implement the principle of “systemic consensus”, departing from decision making based on majority voting and aiming for decisions to which no actors have significant objections.

Caring only for majorities can create severe problems for a few – possibly vulnerable – others, which is not acceptable on the basis of ethical considerations. For example: If parking on sidewalks is permitted, the majority of residents may enjoy the convenience of a parking spot in proximity of their house. However, if this means that one wheelchair user cannot use the sidewalk anymore, the situation is unacceptable.

Defining what is fair is a tricky question. The co-creation process can help to answer – above all if it succeeds to achieve a true representation of the neighbourhood – but the problem exceeds co-creation, and it requires the co-creation team to interact with democratically elected decision-makers. The co-creation process should nurture the availability of all the participants to respect the results of the process itself. Small group discussions on the field foster mutual understanding and mitigate conflicts.

SUNBEAM 7: Manage expectations to avoid disillusionment

Driven by their desire to find solutions and alleviations to problems, people’s expectations often exceed reality. This is particularly valid in a neighbourhood context where co-creation is used to harness and put together the ideas and creativity of many people, often coming from very diverse, hard-to-reach and other under-represented groups of the population.

Which possibilities and limits do the process and its outcomes have? How do citizen statements evolve into implemented projects? Who has the final word on what will be done? Which is the available budget for the measures proposed by the citizens?

Memorandums of Understanding, Dossiers, Participation Promises, the explicit articulation of a “corridor” of options (clearly stating what is NOT possible) can be used as effective means to answer such questions, managing expectations and so avoiding disillusionment and unrealistic demands by stakeholders. Transparency is important for the traceability of the process and decisions and avoids disappointment

SUNBEAM 11: Provide participants with knowledge and inspiration

To be able to create something together, all actors must first be provided with an at least basic level of information to frame problems and solutions. Particularly complex topics such as “sustainable mobility” require access to a common knowledge base regarding definitions, different options, aspects, interactions, challenges, and impacts: How does everyone’s choice of transport affect the environment, the economy and the common public space? What legal restrictions are in place? What could an alternative future look like? Education campaigns, information boards during events can help here. Visiting best practice examples or their presentation by external experts has also proven to be very helpful. Documentation in lay terms and easy to access must be made available.

SUNBEAM 16: Secure funding to deliver what you promise

Delivering is crucial in a co-creation process. Improving the neighbourhood is what motivates people to devote time and energy to co-creation. If the change does not happen, people lose interest and confidence in the municipality. Putting measures in place requires funding – although some soft measures or small-scale interventions can be realised with small budgets.

Secure budget for implementation from the beginning, that is important to define a realistic participation promise. Try to align the content of the co-creation process to the existing plans of the different city departments, so that it may be easier to obtain funding from existing programmes. Show that the pilot character of your initiative is likely to lead to lessons that can be rolled out to other neighbourhoods; that can help in securing seed funding. Leverage the popular support for your measures to attract funding also beyond the municipality. 

SUNBEAM 17: Open up possibilities for co-implementation

Co-implementation is when things happen and that normally makes people excited. Involving local actors in implementation increases their ownership and adoption of measures, reduces the risk of vandalism, improves the social cohesion, generates feelings of joint achievement. Get creative and inspire local partners about what co-implementation could mean. Share good practice examples.

Check in regularly with residents to remind them that they can co-implement, and how they can possibly do it.  Do not wait for big co-implementation opportunities to emerge. Value small hands-on involvement: watering of tree, trash removal, small paint jobs. Identify and tackle practical barriers (e.g., insurance, liability, administrative processes, silo structures, lack of communication routines)..