Q&A  | 

Citizen participation and transparency with Silvia Saavedra, Madrid City Council

"Countless projects have been carried out having beenafter being voted for by the citizens through Decide Madrid."

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Silvia Saavedra Ibarrondo (Cs) is the Madrid town councilor in charge of Citizen Participation Transparency.

As such, she’s responsible for Decide Madrid, the citizen participation platform of the City Council and one of the first initiatives of its kind in Spain. Almost 500.000 people have registered within Decide Madrid, which has fostered projects such as “the new Plaza de España, 100% sustainable Madrid, as well as strategic plans and new policies” in a 100% transparent and participatory way.

How has technology transformed citizen participation in politics?

It has allowed for a more direct participation in all the processes organized by the City Council, overcoming the barriers imposed by face-to-face participation. Also, it has facilitated the participation of thousands of citizens who, due to various circumstances, cannot or do not want to do it in person.

What was the impact of Decide Madrid among citizens?

Given that almost 500,000 people have registered, it can be said that the impact has been far reaching.

Decide Madrid has democratized the participation of citizens in city affairs and has extended its model to other cities around the world. It has made it possible for anyone residing in Madrid to give their opinion on matters of the city, directly and without any intermediaryte, provided they have internet connection. And it has ensured that council information is open to everybody.

Hundreds of decisions with budgetary impact have been made through Decide Madrid, and ideas have been provided regarding regulations and other important projects. The platform is now a means of direct communication between citizens and the administration, not only in terms of decision-making but also in the evaluation of management.

 

Can you give as any examples of Decide Madrid linked city council interventions?

There are plenty. Countless projects have been carried out after being voted by the citizen through Decide Madrid, such as participatory budgets ( approx. 300 projects have been carried as a result of citizen’s proposals), collaborative legislation or public consultations: the new Plaza de España, Madrid 100% sustainable, as well as strategic plans and new ordinances. 

The pandemic has brought Spain’s digital gap to the surface. Does this limit the use of initiatives like Decide Madrid to digital savvy elites?

As I said before, almost 500,000 people have registered, which shows that this is not just for the digital elite. In addition, it has been complemented with actions aimed at helping digitally disadvantaged groups.

Furthermore, the pandemic has shown us that in extraordinary situations like a lockdown, technology is the only way to continue providing services and connecting the people with the administration.

In fact, Madrid City Council has shown better preparedness than other local or regional governments to develop solidarity and relief ideas, offering better solutions through projects such as: Madrid comes out to the Balcony, We share Barrio, Madrid Solidaria, La Azotea or Conectados.

In a society where services are digitized but not all citizens are digitally trained, will these digital elites end up imposing their agendas?

It is the public administration’s task to ensure that these tools do not leave anyone behind; that’s why Madrid City Council has been working on specific measures of accessibility and inclusion since the project was launched.

In addition to that, the administration must also ensure its neutrality and equity offering global and transversal digital training in educational, cultural and social environments. This is what will allow digital knowledge to spread throughout society.

Do initiatives such as Decide Madrid really grant citizens decision making and supervision capacity, and can Decide Madrid manage direct communication with citizens at this scale?

Yes, initiatives such as Decide Madrid definitely grant real decision-making power at a local level and the capacity to oversee the council’s actions. It is a very powerful channel of direct communication between the citizen and the administration, as it allows individual contributions to be transferred to the government and local administration without any intermediation. Technological solutions for managing large volumes of data can help manage it all.