A fundamental purpose of Smart Villages is to enable local communities to better participate in their own self-determining democracy.
Smart Village implementations are led ideally by organizations such as the local Community Council.
Community Councils, and also Trust organizations, are a key feature of improving Local Democracy, as they provide some scale and tools for digital participation in general. For example the Strathyre Trust established their own local Coworking Centre.
Smart Village web sites can help Community Councils conduct and publicize their work, through simple tools like Community Forums and document upload and share, to make the meeting minutes accessible, with follow on Q&A online for those who couldn’t attend the meetings.
Community Forums and News Bloggers
At the most simple level Smart Villages enable every resident to more easily participate online through community forums, a context for ‘Having Your Say’ on local affairs.
This can be integrated with the existing governance and relevant organizations. For example the Biggar site demonstrates how this can provide a feedback tool for the local Community Council.
Furthermore the site can also be used as a catalyst for another mode of online democracy, “citizen journalism”. This can tie in with other program themes, for example Youth Entrepreneurship, where it is via a mentoring internship approach like the Swedish Reportar project.
This matched young budding journalists with local newspapers, who provided them writing training and mentoring, to report on local news. This would be an ideal way to feed the regular front page Smart Village site news.
Communities can use the Collaborative Documents and Forum features of Smart Village sites to organize their own PB activities.
Participatory Budgeting is a form of local democracy, where communities vote to decide how funding is spent to meet their collective needs.
This approach can empower communities to proactively improve their local digital capacities and skills – For example it could be used to fund the upgrade of local broadband infrastructure.
Scotland is a particularly advanced adopter of Participatory Budgeting. For example this EU project describes how Montrose divided up £8,000 to spend on local community initiatives.
Collaborative Community Plan
Smart Villages are intended to encourage and enable better local collaboration and participation.
Residents can join their local Smart Village and via blogs, forums and other social media features participate online in their local community.
Like Wikipedia any one can edit it, making it ideal for the process of co-creating Community Plans. Being able to freely and easily contribute to the document encourages local residents to see the process as open and inviting, welcoming of their ideas and feedback.
Through social media features like commenting and alerts, this enables the process to be online, real-time and much more dynamic. Often people can feel excluded from local community planning simply because of the format of committee meetings and the other bureaucracies involved.
This makes it ideal for modern community engagement activities such as Participatory Budgeting.