The city of Wolfsburg in Germany recently launched a brand new citizen participation platform featuring various ways for citizens to engage and connect with their city and each other. The digital platform is part of Germany’s Smart Cities model project, which Wolfsburg takes part in.
The platform website provides information about relevant topics, an events calendar, a digital marketplace, and lists all the ways citizens can get involved. It also sports an embedded social wall.
And in the spirit of citizen participation, the platform’s name was to be crowdsourced as well. The city initiated a competition on the website, asking Wolfsburg’s citizens to make suggestions for the platform’s name.
I got to ask Edgar Diener, Managing Partner at DD KONZEPT, the agency behind the platform for Wolfsburg, a few questions about the platform, citizen participation and the social wall.
Managing Partner, DD KONZEPT
Can you tell us a bit about the Wolfsburger Bürgerplattform and why citizen participation matters so much to Wolfsburg?
The new citizen participation platform is a new project by Smart City Wolfsburg. We know that a high amount of citizen participation can vastly improve the social interactions and quality of life in a big city. By creating digital access points to information, interaction and participation, we can dismantle barriers such as opening hours.
Wolfsburg’s citizens can access information from their district as needed and regardless of when and where. They can participate in polls, get information about volunteering opportunities in Wolfsburg, and submit their own ideas for improving the quality of life in their city.
Furthermore, we’ve included existing services in the platform, such as an event calendar and the option to report faults.
We can reach the majority of citizens via the city’s various social media channels. It’s fast and uncomplicated. We also promoted the competition looking for a new name for the platform via those channels.
Social media allows us to promote individual surveys and polls to very specific target groups to generate more reach and users, especially in the project’s initial phase.
Our agency, DD KONZEPT, introduced the City of Wolfsburg to Walls.io social walls a few years ago. At the moment, we’re mostly using the wall to bundle the city’s various channels in one place on the platform’s landing page.
Walls.io offers us many options, both regarding the technical setup as well as the design. By putting social media content from various channels on the website, we can also reach those users who don’t use any of the social media networks we’re on. Additionally, we advertise all the digital channels the city uses to website visitors.
We’ve got plenty of plans for future applications of the social wall.
We’ve already been using it for different projects, for example, on a large screen during a city festival. We’ve also set it up at city hall during municipal elections to keep an eye on the latest updates on various channels at once as the votes were counted. We displayed both the city’s social media posts and citizens’ reactions on a large digital wall at the city hall.
Similar applications could be possible for the citizen participation platform as well.
Participation from the get-go
I love that the citizen participation platform’s first big mission was to ask citizens to actually participate in finding a name for it. Talk about walking the walk! Something like that absolutely helps set the stage and demonstrate what citizen participation can look like. It makes something as abstract as “citizen participation” tangible and makes it easier for people to see their part in the process.
37 name suggestions were ultimately made and, since my initial interview with Edgar, the competition has ended, and a jury has voted on the names. The platform’s URL has also been changed to reflect the new name. Wolfsburg’s new citizen participation platform is now called MeinWolfsburg (which translates to MyWolfsburg in English) and can be found at mein.wolfsburg.de.
The social wall continues to be a part of the website, embedded on the main landing page. It currently displays posts from Wolfsburg’s Facebook page that provide information to citizens.
Providing citizens with a digital opportunity to participate makes a lot of sense for an official smart city. The platform functions as a base for both formal — meaning legally required — and informal participation. And the social wall adds, well, a social element to it all.