New article “Learning through online participation: A longitudinal analysis of participatory budgeting using Big Data indicators”

We are excited to publish a new article that analysed the democratic quality of online deliberation using Big Data indicators in two rounds of OmaStadi, a participatory budgeting project led by the City of Helsinki, Finland. Our main contribution is to propose online and Big data-based monitoring indicators as a tool for learning and improving democratic innovations that are increasingly iterated along with a policy cycle.

Article title: Learning through online participation: A longitudinal analysis of participatory budgeting using Big Data indicators
Authors: Bokyong Shin, Mikko Rask, Pekka Tuominen
Journal: Information Polity

Local authorities increasingly employ digital platforms to facilitate public engagement in participatory budgeting processes. This creates opportunities for and challenges in synthesizing citizens’ voices online in an iterated cycle, requiring a systematic tool to monitor democratic quality and produce formative feedback. In this paper, we demonstrate how cases of online deliberation can be compared longitudinally by using six Big Data-based, automated indicators of deliberative quality. Longitudinal comparison is a way of setting a reference point that helps practitioners, designers, and researchers of participatory processes to interpret analytics and evaluative findings in a meaningful way. By comparing the two rounds of OmaStadi, we found that the levels of participation remain low but that the continuity and responsiveness of online deliberation developed positively.


New Article by Pekka Tuominen in a Special Issue Edited by John Rennie Short and Mari Vaattovaara

Striving for normality: Agency, citizen participation and intergroup belonging on the urban periphery of Helsinki

Pekka Tuominen

This article examines how the inhabitants of a culturally diverse suburban estate in Finland strive for meaningful encounters in their lives. The focus is on Kontula, a residential working-class district on the eastern periphery of Helsinki, which has become a powerful symbol of the ills of contemporary urbanity—poverty and social problems, as well as rootlessness and the failed integration of the immigrant populations—in the vernacular geography and media representations of the city. I studied how everyday mobility in an increasingly segregated city is related to a range of qualities of sociocultural encounters, both within the immediate neighbourhood and across other urban areas. I argue that for many marginalised inhabitants, agency predominantly emphasises striving for normality, not a challenge to the system. This is why it is so rarely recognised. Themes such as common decency, meaningful activity and equal encounter are much more typical aims of everyday practises than those focussing on changing the conditions. The contexts explored range from the familiar and neighbourly surroundings characterised by high degree of cultural intimacy and effortlessness to spaces with unfamiliar expectations and very different cultural codes. How do people living on the stigmatised periphery establish sense of belonging in a segregated city? How is it possible retain a sense of decency and dignity in unpredictable circumstances? During my long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the area, I concentrated on the qualities of encounters and senses of agency. These are interweaved with the inhabitants’ everyday life, realised in their movement across the city and vary considerably in different contexts, reproducing the quotidian urbanity of Helsinki.



Citizen Participation, Social Inclusion and Digitalisation in the Nordic Region

COLDIGIT organises a public seminar on April 27, 2022 17.00-19.00 at Think Corner in Helsinki (Yliopistonkatu 4, 2nd floor). Experiences of the participatory practices and cultures from Gothenburg, Trondheim and Helsinki will be discussed

A public event with presentations and discussion with the COLDIGIT team brings together researchers and practitioners from the UK, Sweden, Norway and Finland to explore the most recent developments of citizen participation, especially in the Nordic context. In the seminar, we combine qualitative and quantitative orientations and look into the benefits of digital tools in initiating novel approaches, methods to evaluate citizen engagement in a comprehensive manner, strategies for participatory processes in marginalised areas and many other pertinent societal dynamics.

The event consists of brief glimpses into the cases and themes we are working with, followed by discussion with the audience. Oli Whittington (NESTA); Sanna Ghotbi, Pierre Mesure and Annie Hermansson (Digidem Lab); Siri Holen (Sintef); Mikko Rask (University of Helsinki) and Kirsi Verkka (City of Helsinki) introduce a variety of topics for the participants to deliberate upon. The event is facilitated by Pekka Tuominen (University of Helsinki). Welcome! 



COLDIGIT presented at Decidim Fest

Decidim is one of the biggest open source digital democracy platforms currently in use. Over one hundred cities across the world are using Decidim for a variation of citizen participation processes. The management and development of the platform is run by a democratic association, Meta Decidim, where members together prioritize what features they want to improve or develop next. In the Nordics, several cities in Finland, Sweden and Norway have strarted using the platforrm to run participation processes such as participatory budgeting, participatory urban planning and citizen proposals. Every year Decidim Fest is organized in Barcelona, the birth place of Decidim.

This year the COLDIGIT team were invited to present our work at the conference. Under a hybrid meeting form, much like the platform itself that facilitates both digital and face to face participation, we presented our work together with the municipality of Trondheim, one of our partners. We talked about the overall mission of our project and shared some of our findings so far. Our session was joined by representatives showcasing examples from the EU-commission, French parliament and Swiss municipalities. Among the other attendees were also representives for example Japan, the US and Dakar.

Taking part in the international digital democracy community is key for us as we intend for our research to build on a wider network of knowledge and needs. During the upcoming year alone we are going to study and interact with over one hundred user cases and tools, create a framework to measure participation through barriers and enablers and test new innovative approaches together with Nordic municipalities and public institutions. Stay tuned, as we will share more of our discoveries together with you. Feel free to get in contact if you have questions about our work (Mikko Rask, mikko.rask(at)

This post was written by Sanna Ghotbi from Digidem Lab.


The Quest for Efficient Deliberation and Proximity Democracy

The Quest for Efficient Deliberation and Proximity Democracy: The Case of Participatory Budgeting in Helsinki

All over the world, citizens have a say on how their hometowns focus parts of their budgets. Participatory budgeting is a democratic innovation for urban development also in Helsinki, where the process is called OmaStadi. With direct democracy, online democracy and co-creation as their assets, the local people had a chance to debate, discuss and vote for the allocation of 4,4, million euros in 2018-2020. In our academic evaluation report, we analyse the OmaStadi process using versatile methods and sources. The end result is an overall evaluation of success, lessons learned and recommendations.

Read the article by Pekka Tuominen, Mikko Rask and Titiana Ertiö in EuropeNow


Final evaluation report:


Take-aways from the NordForsk kick-off meeting

Image credit: Raquel Benmergui

On February, 22nd 2021, NordForsk organized a kick-off meeting for the projects funded under its Research and Innovation Programme Digitalisation of the Public Sector. Some seventy participants from all six projects took part in a series of small group discussions about stepping outside the research box, dissemination and research strategies.

Here are three take-aways from the meeting, which we’ll keep in mind during COLDIGIT’s lifespan:

1. Potential of digital transformation in the public sector. The Scandinavian countries and the UK consistently top UNs E-government Development Index . COLDIGIT is uniquely positioned to produce research that informs policies within and beyond these contexts.
2. Nordic added value through research cooperation between consortia partners. COLDIGIT will build on exceptional strong Scandinavian tradition on participatory design, scientific quality, efficiency, and trust.
3. Engagement with society. Nordic added value is co-created as dialogue among stakeholders. In COLDIGIT, we investigate three streams of co-creation, co-innovation and co-funding; co-production of knowledge; and co-construction of policies and decisions. Co-creation facilitates knowledge on the implementation and development of digital tools in ways that contribute to a dynamic and responsible digital transformation.

All in all, it was a privilege to learn about sister-projects and meet the six research teams. Looking forward to contributing alongside them in achieving the goals of the Digitalization of the Public Sector Programme.


Project Launch

The COLDIGIT project has been launched in early November, with consortium partners discussing practical matters and research agendas.