Understanding citizens’ participation in Democratic Innovations

The social simulation tool aims to enhance comprehension of citizens’ inclination to participate in Democratic Innovations (DIs) and analyse the factors influencing participation. Employing a series of Agent-Based Models (ABMs), tailored to various territories, the tool utilizes population and survey data generated by another tool (Social Mapping Microsimulations). These ABMs simulate potential citizen willingness to engage in DIs based on empirical data.

The primary objective of this tool is to encourage citizens’ involvement in Democratic Innovations related to climate change issues. Additionally, the tool focuses on simulating the impact of specific policy scenarios on participation behaviour. For example, the models simulate the potential influence of policy interventions, drawing on evidence-based and best practices such as citizens’ assemblies, community meetings, and participatory budgeting, to understand their effects on participation behaviour.

What are its key features?

Built on the HUMAT integrated framework (which is based on both evidence-based practices, scientific empirical data and scientific social theories) the social simulation tool allows users to consider demographics (gender, age, education and occupation), climate change attitudes, geographical location, and social networks. This enables a comprehensive analysis of individual motives, resulting in simulated estimates of willingness to participate in Democratic Innovations.

What can it be used for?

The social simulation tool serves various purposes, including:

  1. understanding citizens’ participation behavior and attitudes based on local population characteristics and local climate change attitudes
  2. exploring participation dynamics in specific territories
  3. simulating policy scenarios to encourage citizen involvement based on the potential influence of organizing public debates, community meetings and information campaigns on specific Democratic Innovation.

Who can benefit from it?

The key benefit of this tool is its capacity to generate detailed, both complex and intuitive information, facilitating the analysis of social attitudes across different geographical levels (national, regional, municipal, and neighborhood levels). The model presents various starting points for further exploration and research into the relationship between individual attributes such as age group, education level, or income, along with attitudes and motives.

Furthermore, the tool can provide insights into the role of social networks and the influence of various policies on individual willingness to participate. Finally, the toll can stimulate important discussions about the locality to enhance or develop policies relevant to that specific area.

How has it been used by PHOENIX?

PHOENIX is utilizing the social simulation tool to engage in discussions with local partners and pilots, fostering dialogue about the complexity of local factors that influence individuals’ attitudes, behaviors, and approaches to climate change.

Specifically, the development team has conducted workshops with local partners and pilots to discuss simulations of citizens’ willingness to participate in Democratic Innovations (DIs) and how the results can be valuable for policy development discussions.

For instance, Agent-Based Model (ABM) simulations developed for the Bologna territory have assisted in informing the local pilot about participation behavior across neighbourhoods. Green-colored zones indicate regions where citizens are generally more willing to participate in the DI, while red zones signify areas where fewer citizens are willing to participate. These simulation outcomes have proven useful in sparking discussions and generating ideas for further exploration on how to design policies tailored to the DI in Bologna.

Contact our partner to learn more!

For more information about this tool please contact
The University of Groningen.

Prof. Dimitris Ballas d.ballas@rug.nl
Dr. Loes Bouman l.bouman@rug.nl