The EMPATIA research mission is to contribute to academic debates and to create practical lessons for practitioners interested in optimizing participatory systems.

The research developed by the EMPATIA project has collected behavioural data and demographic data of more than 27000 participants, out of more than 33000 visitors in our four primary pilots. Visitors could explore the participatory process by simply providing their email, but in order to become active participants they had to answer a few demographic questions and provide additional information that varied in each pilot. On top of this the project has managed to deploy a dual survey design, before and after the four main city pilots (Milan, Wuppertal, Říčany, and Lisbon) collecting more than 15000 questionnaires.

Mapping the variety of participatory systems was the starting point of EMPATIA research, for such reason the consortium conducted a global census of participatory technology in collaboration with the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IODP) and Participedia.

EMPATIA collected demographic data on participants in each of the four primary pilot via its login system. Users in all four pilots could explore the platform but not propose ideas or vote before completing their registration via a survey, that certified their identity and included demographics questions. The table below describes two types of citizens, those who had completed the advanced registration and participated in the process, and those who did not and simply explored the website.

  Wuppertal PB Milan PB Lisbon CID Říčany PB
Complete 3286 98.86% 22868 83% 572 30.84% 565 55.28%
Incomplete 38 1.14% 4738 17% 1283 69.16% 457 44.72%
Total 3324 100.00% 27606 100.00% 1855 100.00% 1022 100.00%

To investigate efficacy, trust, and political discontent, we have conducted surveys with participants at two points in the process: during the voting phase, and between two to three months after the results of the process were announced. The key element of this design is that we have asked the same battery of questions twice to the participants, so that we can track the impact of participation on the change in answers.

Gamification is intended as the use of game design elements in non-game context, and is a “buzzword” used nowadays to describe a major trend in the design of human-computer interactions. Also collaborative platforms for citizen engagement have been following this trend, designing gamified interfaces and including game-like elements and mechanics. While gamification is aimed at attract and retain large numbers of participants people, in EMPATIA we researched the impact of gamification in the epistemic mechanisms underlying participatory processes as the Participatory Budgeting.

The active engagement of human participants in participatory processes delivered using digital technologies entails a significant number of ethical risks related to the way in which personal data and content generated by users are collected and managed. During the EMPATIA project we analised the ethical risks of hybrid participation and provided policies, guidelines and templates to manage the issues detected.