Home / About the project

About the project

Project duration

01 Jan 2019 - 31 Dec 2021

Associated organisations


Countries involved

Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia



Total funding

1.96 Mio. EUR

Total project budget

2.42 Mio. EUR

Lead partner

University of Rostock, Chair for Accounting, Management Control and Auditing: Prof. Dr. Peter C. Lorson

Project summary: Challenges, objectives, key activities

Challenges to citizen participation in the BSR

A majority of the BSR areas is characterized by largely fragmented living areas of their inhabitants. This leads to challenges for public authorities and councils when it comes to involving all citizens into joint projects and to discuss relevant issues with all citizen groups. Instruments are needed that enable and encourage the entire citizenry to take part in decisions of their municipality such as decisions regarding expenditures and revenues in the local budget.

EmPaci fosters participatory budgeting

Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic decision-making, in which ordinary people take part in preparation and adoption of a municipal or public budget. In the BSR, only few municipalities apply participatory budgeting to date. A typical type of citizen in such a process is male, politically active, well-educated, 35-65 years old. The objective of EmPaci is to get more municipalities involved and mobilise different types of citizens via building municipal capacities, transnational clusters and cooperation among municipalities and their citizens. The project aims to foster civic acceptance and to build social ties within municipalities, spread the idea of participatory budgeting and the project’s piloted good practices within the BSR.

EmPaci produces ready to use material and establishes networks

The main output is building capacities and knowledge as well as strengthening relations between municipalities and citizens by providing ready to use guidelines, training programs and tools to implement participatory budgeting. This creates the foundation of more BSR municipalities to realize participatory budgets and to foster citizen participation against the background of large spatial fragmentation of the BSR citizenry.

EmPaci adds innovative components to the general participatory budgeting concept

By identifying citizens’ demands and participatory budgeting concepts for different types of municipalities, this project seeks for close involvement of both municipalities and citizens from project start on. An initial participatory budget is to be tested and evaluated taking into consideration perspectives of citizens and municipalities (i.e. administrations and councils). After an optimization, an advanced participatory budget is implemented to show enhancements and foster municipalities’ capabilities to set up the participatory budget. Thereby, the project is complemented by an “orgware” and training program that finally focuses on building municipal trainers who disseminate the participatory budgeting idea among BSR municipalities. The entire project is backed up by experts with from universities and an Advisory Board, which reduce their project contribution over time during which municipal capacities are created.

Actions taken by the EmPaci project consortium

The following activities will be undertaken to reach the envisaged goal:

  • Ensuring relevance for citizens: citizens' needs analysis and developing specific communication on participatory budgeting for different citizen groups (e.g. youth, the elderly, families)
  • Fit of participatory budgeting for different municipalities: Development of general PB concepts and adjustment to specific circumstances through a series of two pilot participatory budgets in each partner municipality
  • Setting up capacities and disseminating the participatory budgeting idea: all participatory budgeting information, communication methods and materials will be collected and documented in an orgware system for use of participatory budgets later on and also for other municipalities
  • Training practitioners: setting up a training program for municipalities
  • Making participatory budgeting work: An IT reference architecture will be developed and tested.

Project outputs

The project EmPaci is divided into four work packages (WPs), of which WP 2-4 concern the project related outputs. By selecting a WP, you can enter its results after completion. Each WP consists of several groups of activities (GoAs):

Workpackage 1 - Strategic Project Management

This WP covers administration and project meetings

Workpackage 2: Participatory Budgeting Development

Workpackage 2: Participatory Budgeting Development

This WP represents the core of the project and runs throughout the entire project duration. Out of an analysis of existing experiences and a determination of the preconditions in the pilot municipalities, it focusses on the preparation, implementation and enhancement of PB in the pilot municipalities. A strong focus is laid upon the work with the municipalities and involvement of citizens here. Therefore, with increasing project term, more responsibilities are given to the local authorities in order to build their capacities step by step and qualify them for an autonomous further operation of the established methods, tools and principles.

This WP builds upon comparative, transnational analyses of PB in the partner countries in order to achieve an insight into the experiences and lessons learnt. Next, citizen demand polls and workshops in the partner municipalities will be realized. These steps help to create PBs that are of wider interest to the citizenry and will attract participation that so far do not attend PBs. Thereby, in this WP, the partners develop, test and optimize PB concepts that are of best fit for the partner municipalities building on the different settings of municipalities. Thus, this WP is able to recommend PB type groups, i.e. PBs for different economic, regional but also legal conditions, for the Baltic Sea Region municipalities. Through a series of evaluation and enhancement (two PB pilots (project years 1 and 2)), the "PB type groups" and a guidebook "PB Blueprint" is to be developed that is used for multiplying the PB concept into the Baltic Sea Region. Citizen needs analyses, a PB evaluation scheme for general use and a guidebook for practitioners are created for use across the BSR as well. WP2 aims to build up a knowledge base for municipalities to inform how to set up PB for their conditions and how they best involve a broad citizen base.

Overview about groups of activities (GoAs) in WP 2:

              GoA 2.1 Analysis of existing approaches

As this GoA is the starting point of all project content work, it will, in the first step, establish the international cooperation of partner organisations and a related working stucture within the relevant organisations. As soon as this was done, the GoA will prepare the ground for the active local project work by taking the following 3 steps (2 and 3 simultaneously):

Step 1: Analysis of the status quo in the partner countries:

In a first step, a status quo analysis of PB in the partner countries will be undertaken. In Russia, the analysis will be undertaken for each of the 11 regions of St Petersburg. This serves to review the state-of-the-art and to identify current deficiencies both from the perspective of municipalities (administrations and councils) and citizens. At the same time, the aggregated budget structure is documented in the differentiation of voluntary and mandatory tasks.

Step 2: Comparative analysis to identify joint principles towards an identification of different types of municipalities Jointly, the international partner consortium will merge the results of all national status quo analyses into a comparative analysis that aims at identifing different types of PBs (categorization towards an optimum suitability and adaptability). By holding workshops in each partner municipality, the involved parties (administration, council and citizens (e.g. representatives such as NGOs)) discuss the different types in order to build local knowledge on PB in general and the PB types currently used as well as on budget structures and margins in general.

Step 3: Analysis of existing approaches towards exploitation of already collected experiences for the project In order to also respect PB developments outside the BSR, an advisory board is formed that supports and accompanies the project municipalities. The aim is to integrate experienced experts for ongoing consultation of the process and to motivate the partner municipalities with successful projects.

              GoA 2.2 Specification of the preconditions for the PB

This GoA will use the first results of GoA 2.1. to start the communication with the local players and citizens in the pilot municipalities towards raising their awareness of the process to be started, improving the understanding of their experiences, expectations and needs and preparing the ground for the future PB establishment. To achieve this, a process comprising of two steps will be started:

Step 1: Specification of the preconditions for the PB via an opinion poll among the citizens in the partner municipalities. In RU, the citizen polls will be conducted and evaluated in one municipality in each of the 11 Russian BSR regions. The overall aim of this project is to integrate as many diverse citizen groups as possible into the PB. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prepare and implement an opinion poll among the citizens before PB implementation, to identify needs of different citizens’ groups. The survey will be developed according to different socioeconomic characteristics (gender, age, education and employment status) and informing on the aggregate local budget structure and its characteristics. Each partner municipality will provide a review of the composition of its citizenry and a plan on which groups to include (e.g. pupils/students, unemployed persons, pensioners, freelancers, academics). For each of these groups a specific survey on PB demands is developed that is distributed according to each groups best known type of media. The survey is developed by the municipalities together with NGOs in a workshop, guided by academic partners. The implementation is realized by the partner municipalities, involving institutions that are a common meeting place for the different citizen groups (e.g. schools, universities, retirement homes, job centres, women’s meetings, Agenda-21 offices). The support by local NGOs will be intense here.

Step 2: Evaluation of the poll results and categorization of the involved municipalities based on the outcome The citizen poll is evaluated building on the different citizen group on a local but also transnational level. Thereby, the involved municipalities can be categorized depending on their citizen groups and needs. This activity supports to build transnational relations and to ensure that the PB types implemented are of relevance for the citizen groups. The outcome of the poll is presented and discussed at local workshops in each partner municipality and communicated to the public (WP3).

Out of this process, the findings from every location will be presented and discussed in the partner teams, aiming to:

- Identify similarities between the local results

- Collect recommendations from the expert partners (universities) for the specific local processing of the survey results

In these activities, PP3 and PP6 will be particularly involved in order to provide input for developing the citizen survey and support for implementing the survey, as the organisations have strong links with the citizenry.

              GoA 2.3 Development, testing and optimization of PB concepts

After the analysis and assessment work done in GoA 2.1 and 2.2., the concept elaboration period is started now, comprising of the following five steps:

Step 1: Development of general PB concepts. Out of the previous activities, i.e. the status quo and comparative analysis as well as the citizen poll, general PB concepts can be developed, i.e. general PB types are matched with actual citizens’ requirements and a public discussion on demands of different citizen groups is started (WP3). This step enables us to generate local adaptations of the PB concept for each partner municipality in order to strongly reflect the citizens’ and municipalities’ necessities and starting position.

Step 2: Development and testing of the PB approach in the pilot municipalities In workshops in each partner municipality, the involved parties (administration, council and citizens (e.g. representatives such as NGOs) refine the local adaptation of the PB concept. Thereby, the first PB approach is developed for the pilot municipalities, early enough for the preparation of the municipal budgets in 2021/2 (depending on whether annual or double budgets). The web-interface for this PB test is fed from WP4. All over this process, citizen information events and other media will be used to achieve a high participation rate among diverse citizen groups. The NGOs involved in this project play a key role in this activity by disseminating the PB test.

Step 3: Assessment of the testing period. The PB test is evaluated from 3 perspectives: administration, local council and citizens. For the administration it is of relevance, which capacity lacks were observable when running the PB and how these can be reduced. As regards the local councilors, we need to assess how they handle the citizens’ input and feedback and whether they experience a loss of competences. This will guide the PB optimization towards stronger inclusion of citizens’ proposals into councilors’ decision making. Also, feedback is retrieved from citizens in terms of PB usability and satisfaction with the outcomes. These evaluation steps also include public hearings and workshops (building on support from WP 3).

Step 4: Optimization of PB approaches and test in the pilot municipalities (second run in Q1/21 to inform budget in 2022) Building on the assessment of the initial PB, the PB approach is enhanced in order to create an optimized PB. The optimized PB approaches are implemented in Q1/2021 to inform the preparation of the municipal budgets in 2022/3 (depending on whether annual or double budgets). This time, municipalities will carry larger responsibilities regarding the implementation and installation of the web-interface for PB. This serves for building capacities for sustainable use of PB.

Step 5: Preparation of sustainable implementation. Relying on an assessment of the optimized PB, a final evaluation is conducted with the aim to provide guidance for future PBs and their implementation on a long-term basis.

Workpackage 3: Training, Communication and Cooperation

Workpackage 3: Training, Communication and Cooperation

WP 3 tackles the challenge that municipalities (administration and councillors) as well as citizens have a mixed or insufficient knowledge about PB. It aims at creating a common understanding of PB among municipalities and citizens and developing capabilities in the municipalities to disseminate the idea of PB importance. This will be tested first locally at municipal level (or similar structures), but later also nationally and all over the BSR. Communication will be specified according to target groups with main stress over the unemployed, youth and elderly – the less active citizens. For municipality representatives specific training programs will be established to support their capacities and knowledge for successful PB process implementation. The principle here is to appoint responsible person per involved municipality, which will be the main local contact person for all PB activities and ensure the PB operation after the end of the project. Furthermore an own, PB-specific orgware (collection of manuals and documents from the pilot municipalities to set up PB) shall be conceptualized, developed and tested.

Overview about groups of activities (GoAs) in WP 3:

3.1 Preparation and implementation of a public target-group specific PB communication

The activities in this WP and in GoA 3.1. will start with a specification of the target groups to be addressed per municipalities based on groups predefined in already implemented research work and out of the analysis work and opinion polls of WP1. The specification will also consider those target groups that are currently missing in most PBs implemented worldwide (youth, senior citizens, unemployed persons, women). For each of the target groups identified as locally relevant, a specific communication strategy will be developed a) in cross-corder cooperation per target group in general and b) specifically for the pilot municipality, with the support of the project's expert partners from all partner countries. Afterwards, the implementation of target group specific communication strategies towards an optimum involvement and acceptance of the PB approach and maximum public contribution to it will be started. These will definitely include polls, public and institution-specific information offers and trainings (local representatives with ongoing project team support). From the first milestone on, the strategy development and implementation will be continued for the entire project lifetime, being divided into 4 stages: a) drafting; b) development; c) piloting; d) feedback. During the project proper communication and dissemination strategies will be tested.
One focus of the communication strategy will be the development of a training program for representatives in the municipalities. Following the train-the-trainer approach, this training program aims at preparing contact persons in the municipalities for their local education/dissemination work, covering the following aspects (using the findings of WP2 and the expertise of the advisory board):

  • Possible proceedings
  • Parties to be involved and how to address them
  • Public communication and involvement processes – how to arrange them
  • Application obstacles and problems

The trainer that is trained in this offer serves as a PB promoter and bridges between the administration/councillors and citizens. The person to be involved here in the first step will be carefully selected as it needs to have the related communicative and mediating skills. To support these trainers, materials such as simulations and games are developed to make the topic attractive to the parties during any events.
As soon as the training program has been developed, the pilot implementation of the training program with the partner municipalities (i.e. the representatives there) will be started as an action learning program with ongoing partner and advisory board support. Based on the feedback from this pilot implementation/test-run, an optimization will be made before the training will be made available for BSR wide use. The international partner consortium with its combination of specific national perspectives and different protagonist perspectives will act as coaching team for third municipalities here.

3.2 International network of the pilot partners and third interested municipalities and orgware

To enable a lasting operation of the PB structures, tools and methods developed in the project, these have to be embedded into a lastingly operated international expert team with a joint working platform and a joint understanding that allows them to lastingly disseminate the project results and to remain active as international PB coaching team not only for the pilot municipalities, but also for third parties. Out of this understanding, GoA 3.2. will establish an international network of the pilot partners first (involving the main contact persons established in the pilot municipalities) and expand it to third interested municipalities (mainly via those partners who do not contribute with an “own municipality”, i.e. act as support and/or dissemination partners in the project). Thereby, also local councillors of the partner municipalities are to be included to also provide a political view on PB. Thus, the role of the network is to seek for dissemination of the PB concepts to external municipalities, exchange about ways how to approach others and how to introduce the training program to other municipalities. The work on this will start with developing and implementing principles of regular experience exchanges between the PB municipalities on an online platform (e.g. as a separate part of the project homepage). An elected chair will seek for management based on a memorandum. Thereby, targets for external relations will be agreed upon for dissemination of the PB concepts. The expert network continues on a transnational basis with regularly arranging international working meetings (online and personal) from month 10 to 18 and preparing the network for sustainable operation after the end of the project from project month 19 on by developing a rolling scheme of chairing the network and a set of online meetings. The network will also seek for future joint projects or funding possibilities.
The parallel development of an own orgware system will enable joint working processes related to the topic PB based on the understanding that it isnecessary to collect, to document and to develop all existing PB-documentation, information and communication methods and materials. Therefore, the whole implementation phase will be covered and supported by orgware activities and materials. In general orgware, can be described as the processes that trains people to use new systems and, in addition, analyses and takes care of the implications in municipalities beyond the problems of installation. It is the link between software and hardware that is necessary to make users accommodate with new systems or methods to be used. It contains training and implementation materials for immediate use and transnational spread of the project outputs. Accordingly, the establishment of a first version will be followed by adaptation to needs out of the practical working experience, so that an optimum infrastructure is available in the last project stage.

Workpackage 4: Development of Technical Participatory Budgeting Tools

Workpackage 4: Development of Technical Participatory Budgeting Tools

This WP aims to synthesize requirements, lessons learnt, best practices and success factors from practice regarding the IT support of PB initiatives and to provide useful artefacts for practice.
Existing IT-solutions such as web-based platforms for citizen participation in PB processes (for short: PB tools) are assessed by an IT expert team. Since one joint tool for citizen participation is not realistic, IT solution structures are designed and formally described as PB tool patterns. In the PB context, each pattern represents a solution for a general PB tool design issue consisting of a motivation, problem description and context, solution, example implementation(s) and related patterns. By matching the description and problem context of a pattern to an application context in practice, a pattern can be selected and hence the solution knowledge encapsulated in the pattern can be leveraged.
A method for the selection and application of patterns as well as a reference architecture for a PB tool is developed. With this, recommendations and guidance can be provided for designing and developing PB tool support in WP2. Whereas the method focuses on procedural aspects of pattern application, the reference architecture consists of coarse-grained building blocks serving as an umbrella for the patterns.
All artefacts developed in WP4 are developed by taking the results of WP2 into account. For places with no running PB tools so far, the patterns along with the method and architecture are a valuable starting point and frame of reference for developing new software solutions. For locations experienced with PB, they are leveraged to optimize existing tools. All the developed artefacts are not tailored to one specific tool or technology and respect different local preconditions. To ensure validity and utility, practitioner feedback is collected continuously and used to revise the artefacts to provide a long-lasting, transferable value.

Overview about groups of activities (GoAs) in WP 4:

4.1 Identification of requirements, lessons learnt, best practices and success factors

The GoA prepares the ground for the tool development in GoA 4.2. by taking the following 3 steps:

Step 1: Determination of PB tool requirements and compilation into a feature matrix.
In order to bootstrap the selection of PB tooling infrastructure – especially for municipalities that are novices in the topic of PB –, relevant tools are compiled to matrix which enables to compare them. In a first step, relevant criteria are elicited from municipalities (e.g. via interviews). After this, a feature matrix of relevant IT tools is created that enables to compare tools according to the criteria elicited before. To do this, the matrix is implemented in an interactive document enabling various filtering capabilities.

Step 2: Usability study of existing web pages for PB.
Since it is of vital importance – especially in large spatial fragmented living areas of citizens – to attract citizens and to engage them, usability of websites for all stakeholder groups is a key requirement for successful PB initiatives. Therefore, a study of existing PB webpages is conducted. The pages are selected preferably from the municipalities participating in the project (if applicable). Also websites from other municipalities will be considered (e.g. to include leading PB webpages).

Step 3: Usability guidelines and best practices for PB web pages.
Based on the webpage analysis, guidelines are developed that are specific for PB web pages. The guidelines have to be formulated considering the different situations in all participating municipalities. Therefore they will comprise a general part and specific parts tailored to the situation in different countries/municipalities. Guidelines moreover not only comprise layout, but also navigation and other features such as social media integration.

4.2 Participatory budgeting tools as the basis for technical implementation of participatory budgeting structures in municipalities

Before a PB tool can be selected and integrated into the IT landscape of the respective municipality, a clear picture of the IT architecture is crucial since this will greatly influence the choice of tools. In order to speed up the modelling of an IT architecture, a reference architecture is developed and provided to the municipalities. The purpose of the reference architecture is to serve as a blueprint for the specific architecture of each municipality. This blueprint is intended to ease the design and implementation of IT-support for the municipalities in their implementation or imoprovement projects in WP2. Reference models and architectures are an established instrument for knowledge transfer well known in Information Systems Research and practice. The reference architecture contains typical elements of PB tools and their interfaces to existing, common IT infrastructures. In addition to the architecture, a method is devised that supports the municipalities to systematically select all relevant tools to support PB initiatives. The purpose for the method is to provide guidance for the municipalities in implementation or improvement projects of PB Tools in WP2. Hence, this method will be created in reference to the IT architecture and the PB tool feature matrix. It will be complemented by practically useful artefacts for municipalities such as a decision tree to select IT tools. Finally, both, the architecture and the method will be validated using feedback from municipalities, e.g. via joint workshops.

After this has been achieved, the PB tool implementation and configuration process will follow. Here, experiences gained in regard to the implementation and configuration of tools are captured in close cooperation with the municipalities and NGOs. The purpose of this is to facilitate exchange of knowledge. In order to reach this goal, a series of virtual meetings will be organized in which representatives of municipalities report in their best practices regarding IT. This also supports the exchange of knowledge between the involved municipalities directly.

Throughout the project, problem-solving knowledge related to IT support will be generated (most notably, in WP 2). In order to provide an aggregated and consolidated overview on this knowledge, tool patterns and success factors are described. Whereas patterns represent proven solutions to recurring problems, success factors represent key aspects that municipalities should “get right” in order for an IT-enabled PB initiative to succeed. Tool patterns as well as success factors are elicited in a joint effort, whereby national lead partners play a key role.