Under the ODPM National Local eDemocracy Project (www.e-dem.info), the ITC is working with the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Bristol City Council to investigate how local authorities can support active participation through e-petitioning. The project is based on the ITC offering a hosted e-petitioning service to both Councils for one year and in that year work with them to research and report on e-engagement using e-petitioning.
The study on e-engagement using the e-petitioning tool has two main aims:
to outline requirements for the design and management of e-petitioning processes that can stimulate active citizen participation in local communities;
to trace the path of e-petitions through the committees of the Councils and assess whether or not, and, if so, how input by the public via e-petitioning impacts on decision-making at different levels.
The ITC study is based on two fundamental premises. The first is the philosophical belief and political will that people in local communities should play a more active part in petitioning local government; and the second is that e-petitioner offers new potential to widen the public's engagement with local government and supports the opportunity for bottom-up ideas to influence the policy agenda.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Local eDemocracy National Project (March 2004 to March 2005) investigated new channels of participation and piloted various approaches to encourage citizen participation and help elected representatives work more effectively. (More about the ODPM's National Project
As part of this project, the International Teledemocracy Centre (ITC)
worked with the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Bristol City Council to investigate how local authorities could support active participation through e-petitioning. The ITC’s e-petitioner system was adapted to the two councils’ processes and to the look and feel of their websites as a pilot tool for a study of e-engagement.
The ITC study was based on two fundamental premises. The first is the philosophical belief and political will that people in local communities should play a more active part in petitioning local government; and the second is that e-petitioner offers new potential to widen the public's engagement with local government and supports the opportunity for bottom-up ideas to influence the policy agenda.
Our evaluation used a combination of interviews, field tests and e-petition results to develop an understanding of how citizens and stakeholders perceive e-petitioning. Analysis of these also provided feedback to local authorities on how to use e-petitioning more effectively.
E-petitioner was used by hundreds of citizens in each Council area, and showed early signs of impacting on decision-making. The main strengths lay in the area of political support, improved transparency of decision-making, and convenience and choice for citizens. There was evidence that e-petitioning reinforces ‘civic mindedness’, appealing to people who believe that community action can influence decision-making but have not previously taken such action themselves. Improvements were sought in the integration of e-petitioning and paper petitioning, and the latter was thought more suitable for highly localised issues.
Both councils chose to use E-petitioner beyond the period of the evaluation, amending it in the light of experience. Bristol maintained a particularly close relationship with ITC, working with ITC on amendments and having the system hosted on the ITC server. Bristol moved to using a new system in January 2008. The Royal Borough of Kingston took full responsibility for their e-petitioner system after the pilot period.
In 2009, we continued our work on ePetitions and our partnership with Bristol in the EuroPetition project.
More about the e-Petitioner for English Local Authorities pilot.
Summary of all our ePetitions work