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Emilio Carrillo Benito, Deputy Major of Urbanism Seville City Council

Francisco Javier Pando Sastre,

Head of the Coordination Service of European Programmes and Funds

Planning Department of the Seville City Council Almudena García Romero,

Technician of the Coordination Service of European Programmes and Funds

Planning Department of the Seville City Council Contact address

Gerencia de Urbanismo

Avda. Carlos III s/n, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Sevilla Tel. +34 95 448 02 14, Fax +34 95 448 02 80

e-mail fjps@urbanismo-sevilla.org


Fabio Moriconi, Program manager

European Programs Department Moreno Mariani,

Project manager IT Department Maica Castellani, Financial manager Financial Department Cinzia Lupi,

Content manager Contact address

Centro Multimediale di Terni s.p.a.

Piazzale Bosco 3/A TERNI ITALY

Tel. +39 0744 544111, Fax +39 0744 431126 e-mail: moriconi@centromultimediale.it






Daniel Campleo,

Mayor of Ponte de Lima Ponte de Lima City Council Alexandra Esteves

Coordination Service of European Programmes and Funds Contact address

Município de Ponte de Lima Praça da Répública

4990-062 Ponte de Lima

Tel. +351 258 900 400, Fax +351 258 900 410 e-mail: assessoria@cm-pontedelima.pt


María Cristina Álvarez Quintas,

Technique responsible for administration of projects Allariz Council

Celestino Feijoo Rodríguez,

Director of the Rehabilitation Office Allariz Council

Contact address

Ayuntamiento de Allariz Plaza Mayor, 1.

32660, Allariz

Tel: +34 988 44 22 10, +34 988 44 00 01 Fax +34 988 44 23 62

e-mail: fomentodoemprego@allariz.com


Ignacio Mendizábal Herrero,

Team manager of the Rehabilitation office Rehabilitation Office

Contact address

Oficina de Rehabilitación de Ferrol Rúa María 52-54 4º

15402 Ferrol

Tel:+34 981 944 065, Fax: +34 981 945 244 e-mail: rehabilitacion@ferrol-concello.es




The Agora Virtual Project is a networked task group lead by the Urban Planning Office of Seville. It is formed by the cities of Ferrol (Spain), Allariz (Spain), Ponte de Lima (Portugal), Terni (Italy), and Seville (Spain). Its purpose is to improve the conditions for Citizen Participation and increase its level in the management of public affairs whose activity is in Historic City Centres. This is to be achieved by the use of the New Information and Communication Technologies.

It is composed of an innovative project directed toward the development of the new technologies in the area of citizen participation. Its objective is to recognize Good Practices in area of participative democracy, coordinated by local governments.

The Agora Virtual Project is directed toward the developers of participation processes: local administrators, municipal employees, technical experts and residents. They are all agents who, in some way, are involved in the processes of citizen participation.

The Agora Virtual Project has been developed during 2005 and 2006 with the intention of improving the situation that Historic City Centres are going through in numerous cities. Citizen participation, through the new technologies, intervenes as one more element with a very relevant character. Together with activity in reurbanization, urban rehabilitation and renovation, and projects of economic and social revitalization started by Local Administrations, citizen participation is a factor that can change situations, as well as a key element for social cohesion.

It is necessary, therefore, to establish a participative process so as to involve citizens in urban management, keeping in mind their opinions in the important decisions that affect their urban space and their daily lives.

The Agora Virtual Project proposes to promote this participation through the use of information and communication technologies that are within the reach of all people, including the sectors of the population that are more marginal or have limited access capacity.



Different cities with various problems and capacities have developed distinct formulas for satisfying the same objectives. The participants in this project range from small municipalities of 5,000 inhabitants with communication contexts that are very direct, to cities of more than 700,000 inhabitants, where communication with the acting administration is more complex.

The elevated level of socio-diversity has introduced greater complexity in the application of the participation principle, setting out strong requirements for using techniques and channels of participation that are valid and efficient for different segments of the population with varying capacities of comprehension, distinct communication patterns and diverse interests with respect to public issues.

The work done by the project’s participating cities has also permitted the interchange of experiences produced by the associates. Their results have been debated and compared, thereby facilitating the understanding of the different realities that exist with respect to Citizen Participation in each of the cities.

The project has developed in three phases. In each phase, certain specific actions have been executed:

Phase 1: Evaluation of the experiences and design of the pilot application:

The actions in this phase have been of a documental and discursive type. The associates in the project have realized a study regarding citizen participation in their respective cities, highlighting their particular experiences, problems and capacities. To this phase also corresponds the programming of each city’s pilot programmes, within the framework of the Agora Virtual Project.

Phase 2: Development of the pilot applications:

Each city has developed one pilot experience within the framework of this initiative, consisting in the execution of a new mechanism of citizen participation based on the employment of the New Information and Communication Technologies. In the majority of cases, contracts for this part of the work were made with technical specialists in the area.



Phase 3: Assessment and Conclusions:

In this final phase, the principle conclusions were drawn from the development of the pilot application. Independent experts did some assessments of the same work. The third and final phase of the project has also included the elaboration of some Governance Recommendations and the Final Conclusions of the Project Execution presented by the Project Leader.

During the successive phases of the developing work, periodic meetings have taken place with the associates, which have permitted the tracking of actions and the establishment of shared thought processes. These encounters have been celebrated with all the associates of the Project and have taken place in the following cities and on the dates indicated:

October 26, 2005, in Seville (Spain)

March 24, 2006, in Ponte de Lima (Portugal) June 20, 2006, in Terni (Italy)

October 19-20th, 2006, in Ferrol and Allariz (Spain) December 1, 2006, in Seville (Spain)

This manual collects the pilot-experiences developed by all the associate cities within the framework of this project, the different studies elaborated in each city regarding Citizen Participation and the governance recommendations and principal conclusions derived from the execution of this project.





In order to launch new experiences that promote and increase the levels of participation in public issues among the populations that make up Historic City Centres, the project started with the express understanding of the current situation of citizen participation in these urban areas.

Thus, each of the participating cities in the Agora Virtual Project undertook an exhaustive analysis of the condition of citizen participation in the areas of application where the experience was to be developed.

The studies realized manifested the existence of numerous parallels between the distinct Historic City Centres studied, despite the fact that they pertain to different cities as well as different countries.

In this sense, all the Historic City Centres that have been the object of the study can be characterized by their significant monumental and patrimonial wealth, as well as for having a variety of rehabilitation projects in development, whose scenario are specific urban spaces.

With respect to the population that resides in these areas of the city, one aspect that stands out is the progressive aging that is occurring; the percentage of people who are older than 65 is much greater than younger residents, although this tendency is turning around in cities like Seville, where a slow increase in the population younger than 45 can be appreciated in many areas of the Old Quarter.

Another one of the circumstances common to all the cities in the study is the broad existing associative capacity, which translates into numerous associations and citizen movements.

The experience sharing process of the different projects makes manifest, over all, the current tendency of all the local administrations to put into practice new initiatives for the promotion of citizen participation in public issues. This, thereby, establishes the interest among the public administrations to promote citizen participation in the city’s decision making processes, making clear the effort by the administrations to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Despite the common characteristics detected, there also exist notable differences in citizen participation functions among the different cities studied. Thus, very distinct levels of citizen participation were found in cities that pertain to the different countries in the European Union.

In this respect, the indexes of participation in current societies are intimately related to the promotion of citizen participation throughout history.



Thus, a lack of dynamism in the Portuguese city of Ponte de Lima can be seen in reference to the participation of citizens in the management of public affairs. This circumstance is due to the inexistence of a participative tradition in the country. However, the little citizen participation that is detected is quite organized and channelled through diverse organisms that supervise activities, like the municipal assemblies or the neighbourhood assemblies called Juntas de Freguesia.

Apart from these types of citizen participation, the people of Ponte de Lima have available the so-called Local Technical Offices where they can express their opinions on issues of urbanism and territorial planning. These organisms were created to understand the principal necessities and demands of the citizens. However, this participative process has not achieved the expected results, on the occasions that it has been used.

The study realized by the city of Ferrol makes manifest the existence of a deeply rooted participative tradition that has, as its principal consequence, a strong participatory conscience in the society. This circumstance is directly related to the reconstruction processes that the city experienced at different historical moments, during which the inhabitants have had important protagonism.

In contrast, a lack of innovation in the media and methods of participation have been detected in service to the population on the part of the Local Administration.

The city of Seville is currently developing an intense policy of citizen participation, channelled through a Council specifically created to carry out the Citizen Participation activities. These include, among other activities, the development of initiatives like the Participative Budgets project or the network of Telecentres integrated in the European Union Citiz@move projects on participation, of which Seville is project leader. This investment in citizen participation realized by the Local Administration demands new formulas and channels that facilitate the incorporation of the citizen in the main decision-making processes in the city. It must also consider the wide citizen response received to all invitations to participate realized by the Local Government.

In a specific way, in the location of the project recently declared an “Area of Planned Rehabilitation,” the study performed revealed the existence of an abundant and growing associative movement. A markedly demanding character and significant interest in all of the public projects that the different administrations develop in this area can describe the movement.

With respect to the methods and levels of citizen participation that exist in the municipality of Allariz, these have experienced a progressive growth beginning in the decade of the 90’s, highlighting the high participation registered during the approval of the General Urban Master Plan.



What emerges from the study is the fact that citizen participation is currently one of the priorities of the Local Administration. The main instrument of social participation that exists in the city is the “Regulations for Citizen Participation,” that elevates regular practices to the rank of norms and regulations. At the same time, it contemplates new possibilities for the exercise of neighbourhood participation. Apart from this regulatory tool, the Allariz City Government has also arbitrated a series of formulas for channelling citizen participation in the municipal organisms, like the Citizen Participation Council.

For many years, the Allariz City Hall has been working specifically to incorporate new technologies into their relationship with the citizens, like the project currently in development on digital literacy.

The report done by the city of Terni makes manifest how the new information and communication technologies have notably influenced the modernization of the systems of citizen participation put into effect by the Public Administration. Thus, the Regional Government of Umbria is working intensely on the development of new policies based on the use of the new technologies that favour the government – citizen relationship.

One example of this effort, which the regional government is carrying out to intensify citizen participation, is the execution of the project ParteciPAttivo. It consists of creating an “on line” platform in which all types of information on the regional institutions are available, and where citizens may also freely express their opinion on issues of public management related to these institutions.





The Ágora Virtual project in Seville was consolidated in a study on the new possibilities for citizen participation that are opened up by the new communications model offered by Internet television.

Internet television offers a new communication system that introduces concepts such as “on demand”, “p2p” and “streaming”, and where there is room for more than just television programs – other formats include forums, chats, the option to post and broadcast videos from various input devices, etc.... And always considering and opening up new possibilities for citizen participation in relation to the use of these new communications tools.

The result of this reflection is used to improve citizen participation levels in the San Luis, San Julián and Alameda areas of Seville, which have been declared a joint rehabilitation area. These neighbourhoods are an active area with a strong element of citizen activism, so this model aims to create an effective tool that participates in city dynamics and is accessible to citizens in general.

Before launching Ágora Virtual TV, we’ve studied several models of participation, television and the implementation of new audiovisual technology on the Internet.





The first model analysed is called “Tenant Spin”, and it’s a project created by senior citizens that has allowed a group of people, who initially saw technology as something alien to them, to learn about new media and actively participate in the media of their own social context.

Another practical example is “Youtube-type” tools, which allow users to send video in any format and make it public instantly. A third model is Current.tv. This model uses an open web page that allows users to upload content such as videos, ads, reports and mobile camera footage that can then, through a community voting system, become part of the station’s Internet, Cable and Satellite programming.

It’s clear that in order to develop Ágora Virtual TV (www.agoravirtual.

tv), we have to do more than just apply some of the elements used in these three models. We also want to incorporate some of the practical and theoretical currents that touch on issues of citizen participation through new media.

In these terms, it is important to mention the example of “telecentros”, which allow people to achieve digital literacy, on the practical level and also from a critical perspective in relation to the technology itself. Another fundamental aspect is the Open Source Software logic that is central to this project because it is a tool conceived for citizens, without any commercial purpose and responding to the requirements of offering a public service. Although it is extensive and complex, using Open Source software ensures the total non-dependence on companies that are mainly interested in consumers, not citizens. Another key factor for us is to be aware of other media that are already present in the project’s “rehabilitation area” through the Internet.

All of these ideas lead us to define Ágora Virtual (www.agoravirtual.tv) as follows:

Ágora Virtual TV is an Internet TV model that uses video, audio, text and still images to promote citizen participation through the use of new information and communication technologies. It is a web site open to citizens, which encourages debate and collaborative analysis of current social issues, while bringing the views of citizens of the “rehabilitation area” of San Luis, San Julián and la Almeda, to socially focussed media.




Ágora Virtual TV will work with an “dynamising” core group that, like the group that drives the Presupuestos Participativos project, is made up of citizens and specialist audiovisual media and internet technicians. The content will be instigated by the core group (which will operate as an open editorial team, as diverse possible). Citizens will be able to contribute their own videos through the REC section, which accepts videos from any video camera, mobile phone multimedia messages and your own webcam. The development team has prepared quick and simple manuals that make it easy to participate and access New Information and Communication Technologies.

The content of www.agoravirutal.tv will be structured in three main sections:

Firstly, the main section will be a container for the most recently posted videos. This is a general section that includes brief reports, material sent from mobile phones, interviews and debates. There are several ways to access this content, including search engines and other types of localisation, content type, by subject, etc. This content usually consists of videos shorter than 5 minutes, which allow comments and generate debate, as well as photographs and short texts.

Two of the sections that the development group created with particular enthusiasm are the video surveys and the “webcam/ video matón” . The video survey section consists of videos made by the core team in which citizens are asked their opinions in relation to surveys on different issues, allowing them to vote and contribute their solutions and criticisms. This model has been implemented with a survey on the level of satisfaction with the public works at Plaza del Pumarejo.

In the webcam section, the core team encourages the creation of personal content. These are short citizen interventions, made with the inbuilt camera and microphone on the user’s own computer. This work is related with the “cibernoedos” project, and it is like an open public video-booth for free expression. All videos in the main container and in these two sections can be forwarded by email and posted on other webs, thus encouraging the development of a community around Ágora Virtual TV.

Other content that has been developed includes an open photo gallery through the free service flickr, with annotated photos related to the project zone. Also in this line, we have implemented a cultural and social listings guide for the area, so that citizens can access a public notice board with information about the activities, announcements and projects in their neighbourhood.

At the technical level, www.agoravirtual.tv is based on audiovisual web standards, and was developed with accessibility for non-expert users in mind at all times. It runs on a Ubuntu / Linux server, with PHP programming using a MySql database.





The activity proposal by the Allariz Council within the Agora Virtual Project is based specifically on two very definite activities:

- The creation of a municipal Web Page (www.allariz.com)

- The broadcast of a radio program on the municipal radio station

The fundamental goal of the municipal web page is to keep users well informed and to make them participate in the use and knowledge of the new communication technologies. In this way the intention is to make the economic areas that are involved in the rehabilitation of the Historic City centre more dynamic and to increase the quality of information that the local citizen might desire, by offering abundant information on the rehabilitation activities.

The intention is for the web page is to be dynamic and interactive, with concise and exact information, but most importantly, up-to-date.

Some of the interactive services that it offers are:

- Planning information on each residential building including current floor plans, elevations, areas, volume, and procedural proposals.

- Interventions in private buildings - Interventions in public buildings

- Recent urbanization and reurbanization projects - Future projects

- Subsidies - News

- A virtual secretary’s office - Events

- Graphic documentation on Historic City Centres

- Construction details and technical solutions that are most common or recommended

- Information on Historic City Centres

- Specialized companies in rehabilitation, artisans - Information on materials




Social participation is also promoted by way of a radio program on “Radio Allariz,” a station with a municipal character. This program is planned with two strategies: to have the people participate in the activities to enhance community dynamics, and also to facilitate interaction with the municipal organization.

Both media, the Web and the local radio, are interconnected by the inclusion of the radio on the Internet. In this way complete programmes that are “hung” on the Web can be downloaded directly (streaming) from the web or listened to in real time (on line).

The incorporation of the local radio in the Agora Virtual Project responds to the necessity of developing a strategy of citizen participation in the use of the new technologies by getting those groups without Internet access closer to the municipal organization. In this way, the municipal radio has constituted from its birth in 1992 a useful means of contact with the people, as well as being a means of citizen participation.

In a municipality, like many in Galicia, where population dispersion isolates more than the orography, a means of communication is necessary to mediate between the citizenry and the institution, thus favouring a bi-directional relationship.

The intention that has been put into effect is a radio programme where the citizens as well as the local government can interact, in order to help citizens get closer to the institutions. The result is the programme “AO MEDIODÍA” (“At Midday”), a morning programme that is produced daily, from Monday to Friday in which the invited guests are residents of Allariz that talk about local issues, events and themes.





The Ferrol City Government has taken advantage of its participation in the Agora Virtual Project to develop a tool that permits the various rehabilitation offices or rehabilitation entities to contact one another in order to interchange experiences. The intention is to understand what different organizations are doing and with what criteria rehabilitation decisions are made. To accomplish this, a Web on the Internet is planned as a platform, with open access.

This Web is structured on four levels. A diagram of the structure would be as follows:




Historic and social evolution of the city: For this point we seek to know the conditioning factors that historically influenced the creation of the city and thereby how it was built. The question is to study what questions have to be made to understand how a specific city is formed and thus understand how it should be rehabilitated. To achieve this, we have the support of Dr. José María Cardesín from the School of Sociology and his department of Urban History at the University of A Coruña.

The relationship at the neighbourhood level in the area of rehabilitation: To bring the issue of rehabilitation closer, we need to understand how land parcels are structured, the individual characteristics that identify it, historic regulations…Once again we have the support of Dr. José María Cardesín’s team to develop this issue.

Common experiences in building rehabilitation and reurbanization of public spaces: This point is more closely related to the daily activities of a rehabilitation office since it basically displays examples of work that is already being done in the city. The idea is that it will generate discussion by way of exhibiting cases with conditions that are similar among the different cities. The Office of Rehabilitation is developing this issue.

Details and Display of Construction Problems: In this more escalated viewpoint, we take a closer look, at level of details. Here we want to interchange the specific ideas of the construction process. First we define the areas, construction details and building pathologies.

The intention also is that the construction cost bases associated with each city can be consulted in this location.

Professor Manuel González Penedo and his team in Computer Department of the Computer Science School at the University of A Coruña are doing the development of this Web at the programming level. It requires a flexible structure that is easy to use so that the rehabilitation offices can update and introduce information rapidly and that way develop the Agora contents.

The area of development of the initial project will be Galicia and Northern Portugal. The project is being done in the Galician language.

LEVELS 1 AND : The Workshop of Urban Studies in the University of A Coruña has been doing an investigation over the last few years on the history of the city of Ferrol. The purpose is to understand the processes that built or rebuilt the city over various historic periods, and understand the protagonism played by the inhabitants, as well as outside circumstances that influenced the process. We understand that, ultimately, these are the same processes that continue to influence the current rehabilitation of the historic city centre.

This is structured on two levels, the level of the city and the level of the neighbourhood, and each is divided into three areas: architecture, history, and society.

These levels must serve as keys for the understanding of the city by the citizens.









LOCATION: site plan and commentary on determinant factors.

PREVIOUS CONDITION: plans and photographs of the work prior to the intervention. It will allow textual analysis.




PROCESS OF THE WORK: a photographic walk-through of the evolution of the work.

FINALIZATION OF THE WORK: project plans and photographs of the completed work. Texts will be available to explain the rehabilitation.




TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS: Data on the project regarding the structure and occupation characteristics. This information will allow the comparison of parameters between different interventions taking place in various locations.


DESCRIPTION: The detail is defined by name, location, and date. The file allows the introduction of a drawings and descriptions of the detail.

In the case of building pathologies, the file functions in a similar way.




THE WORK PROCESS: This page describes the process used to execute the construction detail. Photos accompany the description.

GRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION: This page displays the photographic documentation and drawings of the detail elements.

TECHNICAL RECORD: Once again, the purpose is to provide the possibility for making comparisons in areas that define the detail. We can compare possible solutions made by different rehabilitation offices for a single problem. This area is currently in the process of development.


Within this research project, the citizen occupies a preferential place. His or her importance lies in the possibility of asking and opinionating on what has occurred in each step of the process. This involvement can occur by way of a message sent using the button “OPINA” [GIVE YOUR OPINION] that automatically connects the person with the Rehabilitation Office in his or her city to be able to obtain either a personal reply or a reply published in the same Agora.

This Citizen Participation tool has been designed so that citizens can have a more qualified understanding of issues that directly affect them.





The projects is about experimenting the delivery public services over DTV. The project cover a broad range of potential services – from employment to social services and from tourism to healthcare – and engage the regional, provincial and municipal levels of government and local TV broadcasting companies.

Partners are Terni Town Council as Content Provider and local tv broadcasters.

Among other things, the project aims at increasing the uptake of electronic public services, particularly by those citizens who do not have Internet access. DTV shows real promise as a way to deliver e-services to a broad portion of the population.

Thus, local authorities will need to partner with service providers that can provide the compelling content and services necessary to drive uptake, he added.

Fig. 1 DTV architecture

General Features



The project mainly aims to make easier the communication between citizens, enterprises and Terni public administration structures and public services through interactive applications development, based upon MHP standards and joinable thanks to a terrestrial digital decoder directly on home-tv screen.

In this way, the main idea was in shifting existing services provided via internet or inventing new ones, adapting and making easier procedures and contents in order to provide a more user-friendly service.

At the beginning, the project was conceived starting from 4 services of public utility 24h news Service

provides possibility to watch, 24 hours a day in real-time, the latest local news.

Pharmacy service

Provides possibility to know 24 hours a day in real-time, open/closed pharmacies in town, and look exact location through an interactive map.

Citizen polls service

Provides possibility to participate at public administration polls and enquiries and about public administration decisions, launching results on tv screen.

Medical booking

Provides possibility to log in the system for medical booking

Technical features

The project has been realized with ITV Suite Professional software, released by Icareus LTD, one of the leading companies in the area of interactive television. Icareus’ vision is to offer its customers interactive TV software tools that enable them to concentrate on content instead of technology. In order to be as good as possible in what we do we concentrate on the application layer and partner with world leading companies to offer complete turn key solutions in interactive TV.



Icareus’s mission is to be #1 technical expert on service layer of iTV, be it digital television, mobileTV, or IPTV. Company has specialized in the DVB-MHP and OCAP standards. Icareus’s services include digital TV solutions delivered on a turn-key-basis, subtitling and projection tools and iTV Suite content authoring platform.

ITV Suite Platform Architecture

iTV Suite is an intuitive and versatile visual content development tool which enables rapid development of digital TV content by anyone, eliminating the need to hire an expensive technical team.

With iTV Suite, development is done concentrating on the content, the look&feel, the interface and the structure of the interactive service. The editing phase generates application specific files (with extension .nkr) which describe the structure, layout, content and functions of the iTV application. Dynamic content (text and images) is supported, as well as return channel configuration. An built-in emulator allows easy and quick testing at any time. The workflow is optimized by clearly separating the different roles of producers, graphic designers, copywriters, application developers, and programmers, if present, allowing them to work independently and more efficiently. iTV Suite also allows to start a whole application via return channel.

System design

Applications (.NKR software files, from here on NKR) are divided by service plus one application conceived as menu that allows user to choose among the different services.

Thus in every NKR there are scenes about one single service, and a change of service means a commutation of application




Given the recommendations and conclusions of the Preliminary Study for the project, already presented, we have analysed in detail the actions carried out focusing on physical implementation.

The Preliminary Study point to some solutions and forms of civic participation which we believe could be adopted to the specific case of Ponte de Lima. It also emphasised the following, as major guidelines for implementation:

However, we believe that to motivate participation through the exchange of opinions on current issues and designs for the Historic Centre, it will be necessary to create an interactive platform between the two sides. A Virtual Forum could contribute in this regard.

We also know that by providing means that are attractive to new generations, we can raise interest, and the desire and capacity to participate.

It would be unrealistic, particularly given the characteristics of the local population (Chap. 2) to think that the whole community will be motivated to actively participate in this platform. However we believe, for the reasons given above, that important results might be obtained.

To minimise this deficiency, the municipal council may use other more traditional and popular means of communication and information, such as local radios. In this way opportunities for participation can be extended to a greater number of citizens, preventing what might be called the social exclusion through the Internet.”

We therefore sought to create conditions to devise and set up a virtual forum which, after all the necessary procedures, began to operate in June 2006 at the website www.forum.cm-pontedelima.pt, in addition to the creation of personalised links on all municipal web sites, with the creation of a personalised logo that provides easier identification and improved access to the new platform implemented.

It should be emphasised that the Municipal Executive was particularly interested in the installation and activation of the virtual forum, considering it to be an important resource to support the running of the local authority and an essential instrument to sound out the opinion of local inhabitants, to permit discussion of issues of public interest, and to elicit the opinion of inhabitants through online votes, etc.

The forum, already presented in project follow-up meetings both before and after its implementation, incorporates an internet platform offering easy and simple access and the creation of a radio programme.These two actions are intended to create a link, a bridge that requires



citizens to be active, participative and involved, a task that we will continue to work on, so that the local inhabitants do not feel awkward nor restricted when expressing any type of opinion on the running of the Historic Centre of Ponte de Lima.

As intended from the start, the platform permits:

Unlimited forums can be organised into as many categories as you like Private forums and those only for specified user groups

Powerful search facility

Message formatting with various font styles and sizes as well as allowing quoting, code display, image posting and automatic URL linking

Polls can be simply added to posts

Email notification of replies to your topics Powerful topic subscription capability Original emoticons to portray emotions

Powerful forum, user and group permission management Control forum access to specified user groups

Control all aspects of the posting experience

Allow limited access to viewing, posting, replying and many other options Unlimited members

Personal profile creation



Post counting and administrator-definable ranks for users Email-like private messaging system

Supports local, remote and uploadable avatars Topic editing

Mass delete / move / lock / unlock of posts Topic splitting

Option of auto-pruning of old or unanswered messages on a per-forum basis

Also notable was the presentation of the platform in terms of its management and administration by the IT technicians and councillors, demonstrating its user-friendly interface and easy use.

Returning to the initial document – the Preliminary Study –, we can once again recall its final words:

The second action developed is the creation of a programme on the local radio station – Rádio Ondas do Lima – entitled Ponte de Lima, Terra Rica da Humanidade, intended to support and complement the forum.

Over a total of 12 one-hour programmes, broadcast on Tuesdays and Fridays at prime time from 18.00 to 19.00, people directly related to the various areas of intervention in the Historic Centre are interviewed, with the possibility of civic participation through pre-recorded interviews, telephone contacts during the programme and later discussion on the virtual forum.

As fundamental requirements of this part of the project, in addition to educational components and the encouraging of participation, the radio station was required to comply with the following specifications:



• The themes to be addressed should be closely related to the architectural, historical and cultural heritage of Ponte de Lima, with special focus on the Historic Centre of Ponte de Lima.

• Any research, processing of information or production of contents would be the responsibility of the radio station.

• The radio station would be responsible for consulting external entities, when necessary, in order to guarantee the historical, technical and scientific accuracy of the information to be broadcast.

• For each programme one or more guests should be invited and these should have sufficient experience and knowledge to join in debate or interviews that make an unquestionable contribution to the topic in question.

• Announcements and moderation of the programmes would be by a radio announcer.

• The Programme should encourage citizen participation enabling questions to be sent and raised on the topics in question.

• The radio station should draw up statistical analysis of the results of this participation, sending this information on to the Municipal Council.

• Any radio ads publicising the programme are be the responsibility of the radio station, and should mention the context of the project, as well as the relevant source of funding.

We thus believe that this shall be an important way for the Municipal Council to make an open and transparent appeal for civic participation, for which reason the development of these actions will help to conclude and add additional resources to the implementation of the project.




Governance as a Form of Public Action

From the point of view of governing society, important changes have occurred in recent times. The idea of a government in which the State was the unquestionable centre of political power and had the monopoly on the articulation and pursuit of collective interest has given way to a situation where decisions are the product of interaction and mutual dependency between the political institutions and society.

This phenomenon is known as governance. It is a system of government different from traditional government in the sense that it is not based on the hierarchical relationship between those who govern and those who are governed, but rather it presupposes some kind of influence by economic and social actors in the decisions. It is therefore a new method of articulating decisions based on a “two-way model.” The interests, perceptions, and opportunities of those who govern and of those who are governed are taken equally into consideration.

The main characteristic of governance is the inclusion of citizen participation in public issues, understanding this to be not only their presence in the public management of the business world, of the interests affected or of the most organized groups that are accustomed to mobilizing, but also by citizens directly or indirectly affected by the decisions.

Defining Criteria for Good Practices

The detection, analysis and transfer of Good Practices constitute an important tool for the management of local public management and for moving forward on the implementation policies of participative democracy.

The revaluation of local issues that has occurred over recent years is determined, in large part, by its acceptance as a privileged space in a number of aspects: the definition of new forms of coexistence, of collective and social organization, of compromise with citizens, of democratic reinforcement, of full political participation, and for the realization of the desires of collective welfare.

In this context, to be able to have some indicators that help to determine what it is that we could consider good practices for citizen participation is an indispensable tool for elaborating, implementing, contrasting and evaluating policies.



Good practice is understood to be “any action or experience implanted, promoted by a local administration, based on a project and prior planning, that responds in an innovative and satisfactory way to contextual problems.”

A Good Practice is a practical and implemented experience, with possibility for comparison, analysis, evaluation and not a theoretical reflection or a programme for action.

As a consequence, to obtain the qualification of Good Practice, an action should contain a majority of the following elements:

1. Innovation:

Understood as the introduction or improvement of elements in a system, by way of actions accomplished in the management and in the services that are offered, with the purpose of perfecting its internal functioning and its relationship with its environment, and with a visible impact on the result of such actions.

2. Transferability:

Understood as the capacity of an experience to permit the repetition of its essential elements in a context distinct from that of its creation, with elevated probabilities for success.

3. Feasibility:

The characteristic through which the initiative will have possibilities of success in its implementation, given that it has been designed to take into account the economic, technical, organizational and socio-political contexts in which it will take place.

4. Positive impact:

The effectiveness is to be understood as the achievement of the established objectives. It implies the existence of an impact, of an observable change positively valued in the area where the activity has taken place. Thus, an experience that has not produced an impact or whose desired objectives have not been achieved is an unsuccessful experience.




5. Planning:

Understood as the establishment of a group of steps organized rationally and interrelated, to achieve the desired results in a setting of local government intervention.

6. Solid social leadership:

This refers to the capacity of the instigator of an initiative to develop it according to planned objectives by way of promoting participation, cohesion, and the motivation of the implicated actors. For this, the instigator of the initiative can apply skills and strategies of different types:

promote dialogue, negotiation processes, or educational activities.

7. Defined responsibilities:

This is the establishment of a transparent and understandable method regarding who has competence and functions within the organization and the process. This means publishing the names of the members of the organization who will respond to the citizenry for the different activities that are carried out.

8. Evaluation system:

This is the establishment of a system for the supervision of the measures that are carried out, and the control of the effects produced by such action in relation to the planned objectives, with the purpose of observing the deviations and, eventually, redefining the objectives and measures.

9. Involvement of the citizenry:

This criterion evaluates the mechanisms to provide for citizen involvement and their effectiveness. It takes into account not only the traditional mechanisms of direct participation in the making of political decisions, but also the new mechanisms of deliberation regarding the alternatives, of participation in the implementation, as well as the interchange of information. The final intention of this involvement is the enrichment and the legitimisation of the initiative by way of citizen opinions.




10. Recognition and assessment by the citizenry:

It is understood that the existence of the recognition and assessment toward an experience guarantees its quality, and the plurality of the agents that express the value of initiative guarantees objectivity.

All these criteria have been considered by the participating cities in the Agora Virtual Project at the time of planning and developing their experiences in the framework of this project. Thus, the election of the practices brought about and their design and implementation have been directly linked to these criteria. Therefore, a large number of the demands collected here to define an example of “Good Practice,” are met by the pilot projects developed by the cities associated with the Agora Virtual Project.

Thus, innovation is one of the basic aspects of the actions developed by the cities of Seville and Terni. The former created a television model using the Internet, and the latter started a system of public services using Digital Terrestrial Television.

The transferability is particularly present in projects like those of Allariz and Ponte de Lima. These two cities have established an intense cooperation between the two, since their experiences share similar criteria; both are based on the application of the technical knowledge of each associate, which generated a synergy between both initiatives.

All the experiences developed have been very well planned. They share great possibilities for success and for generating positive impact in their implementation. They have been designed for the use of the citizenry, thus guaranteeing the involvement of citizens in the projects.

General Conclusions Regarding the Project’s Execution

Apart from the development and the placement into practice of the new project for Citizen Participation with the intersection of the new communication technologies, and the results that have been obtained from it, the execution of the Agora Virtual Project has allowed the associate members to extract a series of conclusions. These conclusions relate to the application of measures for the development of citizen participation in the city and are as follows:

The government’s interest in the incorporation of citizen participation as a form of social organization and government is recent.



There does not currently exist a general culture of public participation, although there are notable efforts made by western democracies to involve citizens in the management of public affairs.

There exists a limited capacity at the municipal level and of society itself for providing concrete solutions to incorporate public opinion in decision-making processes.

There is a continually increasing incorporation of the information and communication technologies into the existing mechanisms for making citizen participation more viable.

However, the use of the new information technologies can enlarge the so-called “digital divide” in some cases. This is why we need to impose their adequate, reasonable, logical and proportionate use.

The Agora Virtual Project has allowed the participating municipal organisms to create appropriate space for debate and participation for themes under discussion, in which the citizens can deliberate on questions of public policy.

An interchange of information and experiences among all the participating cities has been promoted, based on the different processes of citizen participation in Historic City Centres. To share efforts and experiences, through the permanent interchange of initiatives so that those with greater success could be generalized, has helped to advance in the development of all the projects.

The pilot projects suppose the implementation of a degree of interoperability between administrations and administrated, permitting a more fluid and direct relationship between and politicians and citizens.

The Agora Virtual Project has served as a stimulus to increase the capacity for response of the participating administrations.

The participation in this project has permitted an understanding of the different policies of citizen participation developed in different European regions and countries, and has allowed an understanding of the current tendencies.

The cooperation between the different participating administrations in the project has meant an increase in the synergy between them, and has given them concrete and transferable results.

Among the main results of this project also stands out the manifested desire of all the associates to learn from the experiences developed and the success factors incorporated in each of them.

The experience obtained within this networked task group has made manifest the importance of promoting the interchange of knowledge between different European cities and of creating an integrated focus for urban policies.



Governance Recommendations

From the execution of the Agora Virtual Project and the results obtained, the following recommendations emerged:

The Local Administration should apply the initiatives of citizen participation that they launch in a concrete physical space and with some definite themes.

A previous understanding of the application area’s social, economic, cultural and residential reality is essential where the concrete measures for citizen participation are to be applied.

In accordance with the results obtained in the previously realized social study, the most appropriate tools of citizen participation should be chosen in accordance with the action’s intended population.

The new technologies used to develop the new methods of citizen participation must be basically simple, so that the majority of the citizens consulted can manage them easily.

The systems of participation put into effect should be instruments for channelling information in two ways, so that they generate fluid interchange of information between the local government and the citizens.

The organisms in charge with the function of the newly created mechanisms of citizen participation should give the population suitable explanations of the usefulness of their participation.

The experiences that are developed to increase citizen participation should not be exploited by the public administrations to obtain results different from those that are pursued.

The implantation of the new mechanisms for citizen participation should take advantage of the valid participatory structures and organizations that exist.

The traditional methods of participation should be incorporated into the participative systems based on the new technologies.





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