Digital Social Innovations, when correctly implemented and accompanied by a careful policy of shared oversight and management of expectation, do promote trust in local institutions. However, when incorrectly implemented, and in particular when they raise high expectations in participants but – then – fail in fulfilling them (as well as when implementing a redundant number of channels of engagement), they tend to depress trust in institutions.
Participatory systems carry the risk of promising more than what they can deliver
The multiplication of channels of engagement in a participatory system risks to multiply the promises that the city makes to its citizens, without increasing the guarantees of fulfilling such promises. The EMPATIA pilots in Milan, Říčany and Wuppertal had a strong emphasis on establishing a clear budget that could be devoted to the ideas proposed by the citizens, while the continuous ideation platform in Lisbon did not. Our qualitative work detected not only that citizens in Lisbon were confused by the redundancy of the platform, but also that there were some doubts that project were going to be implemented.
Participatory systems carry the risk of creating competition among channels of engagement
Milan, Wuppertal and Říčany, three out of our four pilots, managed to positively affect trust with very different types of technology, process and approach. However, each of these three participatory systems did not include a redundant and competing participatory process. Each of these three pilots integrated a face-to-face channel of engagement and an online channel of engagement in such a way that the two channels did not compete with one another. Lisbon instead implemented two parallel and difficult to distinguish digital participatory processes, Participatory Budgeting (PB) and a continuous ideation platform (CID). Our qualitative work shows that PB completely overshadowed the new CID platform.