Residents of Rijswijk provide the municipality with an interactive map

In the South Dutch municipality of Rijswijk (±57,000 inhabitants) there is a special historical place: Hof van Sion. Archaeologists found here the remains of a monastery from the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, Hof van Sion is part of the sustainable RijswijkBuiten district. The municipality wanted to set up a new neighborhood meeting place here and asked the residents about their wishes. They shared it online on an interactive map.

But: different residents have different needs. Sometimes they are quite contradictory. How do you build a neighborhood meeting place where all residents feel at home? Rijswijk used CitizenLab’s participation platform for this.

Decide together with CitizenLab’s interactive map

The first sketch design for Hof van Sion was already made in 2017. Because many new residents have moved in in the meantime, Rijswijk municipality thought it was time for an update in 2021: residents could submit new ideas via the interactive map of the CitizenLab .. This makes the process nicely visual: The residents could indicate online with a pin exactly which place on the pitch they have an idea.

This created a lot of discussion with all the different interests. For example, some residents favored an ice rink in the rink. Others did not find the green, historic site suitable for that purpose. One wanted a litter box for dog scares, the other wanted a ban on dogs. In total, residents received 75 ideas. Obviously a bit too much for a neighborhood venue.

The municipality therefore decided to go in depth with a physical working group. This group consists of local residents and social partners from the neighbourhood. Together they dealt with different themes, such as sports and games and green and sustainability. All sorts of important topics for society were discussed. Landscape architects set about this.

The interactive map on which residents retain ideas

Two sketch designs emerged from the creative meeting with the working group. The designs are made based on the residents’ reactions and wishes, with budget and technical possibilities in mind.

Residents choose their favorite design

The two final designs were ‘Court of Memories’ and ‘Court of Meeting’. The residents could give reactions to each of the elements of the designs.

The plan for a jeu de boules court in ‘Mindernes Court’, for example, caused quite a bit of excitement. Some residents absolutely loved the track, others didn’t think it was necessary; the old track was already a little used. The municipality saw the varying reactions and therefore decided to remove the track from the design for the time being. Discussion and participation thus led to concrete results. In the next round, the residents voted on their favorite topic, and later on further opportunities to further improve the design. ‘Court of memories’ eventually won big with 73 votes against the 15 votes for the other design.

The winning design ‘Court of memories’

Weighing options: towards a final design

Residents still had to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. In the planning phase, the municipality received different responses to three topics. For example, some wanted more play areas, green areas or historical elements, while others wanted less. Therefore, the municipality held an extra round of voting on further options for the design. This eventually led to the preparation of the final design.

Now the council gets down to business. In doing so, she naturally takes all wishes and needs into account, and tries to add all the chosen options in the best place in the design as well as possible.

Conclusion: Put participation on the map in Rijswijk

The participation project for the new design of Hof van Sion is a success for the municipality of Rijswijk. Not only that the number of responses is high, the responses and discussions on the project page also clarify which needs and concerns are at stake in the neighbourhood.

Furthermore, the design of the neighborhood meeting place has shown how to involve residents in a project from start to finish and how to continuously ask for their input. In this way, they maintain the feeling that they participate meaningfully in all phases of the project.

Two more advantages are the combination of online and offline and the fact that the maps are visually clear. This makes it an attractive project for many different people to participate in.

By Jorit Hajema

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