The citizen participation programs nexus facilitates can happen both via Zoom and in-person and last up to several weeks. The main challenge it faced was to have a central point of contact for all citizens before, after, and during the events, where documentation, results, and most importantly dialogue is made possible. All of this must be available on an easy and intuitive platform because there are still many individuals who are not particularly tech-savvy and they shouldn’t be disadvantaged in the whole process because of that.
It is vital that there is a central point for citizens to get the required information about the process and topics, to support deeper collaboration and allow them to make informed decisions. With Howspace, nexus can now offer participants an easy-to-use platform for the whole participation process.
The nexus Institut is active in the field of participation and cooperation management. The institute designs and facilitates collaborative processes, from complex citizen participation projects to multistakeholder governance. It co-creates these decision-making processes together with stakeholders by focusing on transparent communication and active cooperation in order to achieve long-lasting agreements.
One of the main tasks of the nexus Institute is to facilitate and enable the participation of stakeholders in many different processes, often political ones. According to Felix Schürhoff, a research assistant at nexus, the institute first receives a mandate to involve citizens in political processes. "We then invite them, develop the methods for the program, and then plan the event," says Felix.
Citizens get together for citizen participation programs both in-person and via Zoom. These programs typically take place over several weeks. A central platform is crucial in supporting communication and information sharing before, after, and during the program. "It is important to us that we have a platform where citizens can register and thus have a central point with all the required information," says Felix. This is where Howspace came in and is now used by nexus for most of their events, especially the ones that involve 50-200 participants.
"The challenge we solve with Howspace is supporting communication and participation before and after events."
Howspace provides a simple and easy-to-use platform that meets all of nexus requirements. "The challenge we solve with Howspace is supporting communication and participation before and after events," says Felix. Howspace is used to facilitate participation among participants but also to gain important insights around the preparation and follow-up of the events. "Participants are able to exchange ideas among themselves but to also ask us questions – so it's also a feedback tool for us so that we can always improve our processes," Felix explains.
"Participants are able to exchange ideas among themselves but to also ask us questions – so it's also a feedback tool for us so that we can always improve our processes."
Previously, important documents and information were often sent via email, which was cumbersome and manual for nexus employees. Additionally, this type of communication made open discussion difficult. "There was no real place for communication before and after the events, except for messages by email. This, of course, also eliminated the exchange between events," Felix highlights. With Howspace, nexus can also make the results of the discussions available for everyone to stay up-to-date with the process and provide feedback.
Howspace's like function is also being put to good use: "Before, things that had been worked on were scored in order to prioritize them. That was always relatively time consuming and now we do it via the like function in Howspace," Felix explains. "This shows that we've already outsourced other functions to Howspace, and we're partially adapting our processes to Howspace's functionality."
"Howspace has definitely played a big part in helping us achieve our goals. Especially because it is easy to use."
Felix's coworkers also use Howspace, and there have never been any major problems sharing knowledge of Howspace. "Howspace has definitely been a big part of helping us achieve our goals. Especially because it is easy to use," Felix highlights. Once set up, nexus events can be created very quickly on Howspace. "Some of our customers' processes are similar. So it's very easy to prepare everything for new events by just copying and pasting the basic framework."
"Howspace, as a central platform, also helps us a lot in creating a structure and ensuring collaboration among the participants."
An important condition for nexus' nationwide participation programs is that it represents society as a whole. This also means that not everyone is going to be particularly tech-savvy, and it can be time-consuming to train participants. Every new tool that is used has to be taught and explained to the participants, which is why it is advantageous that Howspace as a platform is intuitive for participants and facilitators alike. "Howspace also helps us a lot in creating a structure and ensuring collaboration among the participants," says Felix. He concludes, "Digital or not, some kind of focal point between processes and events is useful and indispensable."