Smart People

Fingal and Cork City Councils are using technology to reach unheard voices

A core responsibility of every local government is to engage citizens in the democratic process, ensuring that all voices across the community are heard and valued.

In 2018, Fingal County Council, in partnership with Cork City Council, launched the “Unheard Voices” challenge, under Enterprise Ireland’s SBIR programme. The challenge set out to find new, technological solutions that would help individuals and groups to engage with their local authority. 

The challenge focused in particular on improving engagement with young people, migrant groups, and others not traditionally reached by existing methods. Technology providers were invited to pitch ideas that would complement, rather than replace traditional methods of engagement.  

Phase 1 

In late 2018, four companies were awarded funding as part of phase one of the ‘Unheard Voices SBIR Challenge’ with each company demonstrating innovative and inclusive solutions that strive to empower communities and improve citizen participation:


CiviQ provides a new method and insights into public opinion for promoting diversity, deliberation and inclusion in public policy making and planning. The OpenInsights platform enables communities and the consulting body to capture the full range of voices on an issue, identify underlying shared perspectives, and the areas of most consensus and difference. 

OneStepCloser and Story Tracks is a civic engagement platform where people can vote for change projects with a positive impact in their local community. StoryTracks, a storytelling platform which brings local stories to life through audio and video content. Together OneStepCloser and Story Tracks inspire people in the community to make their voices heard and actively influence the change they want to see.

Smart Futures 

Smart Futures aims to drive citizen engagement to optimize public services. Their collaborative web and mobile solutions use both collective and artificial intelligence to help public administrations improve the governance and maintenance of the city. Smart Futures innovate through the usage of gamification and rewards to foster engagement and make future cities more sustainable and inclusive.”

Solonian Democracy Institute 

The Solonian Democracy Institute was founded to research and to further understanding of alternative democratic practices. In particular, the Institute looks at ways to deepen participation beyond elections and to substantially increase the number of people meaningfully involved in political decision-making. 

The four companies worked to develop their solutions, testing and piloting with both Fingal County Council and Cork City Council. Following the completion of phase one in mid-2019, two successful companies were selected for further funding and taken through to phase two: Smart Futures and OneStepCloser/Story Tracks.


Phase 2

OneStepCloser/Story Tracks: Cork Voices

In Cork, OneStepCloser and Story Tracks worked closely with Cork City Council’s Public Participation Network (PPN) to deliver an innovative, participatory grant-making portal whereby local community groups were invited to develop short video pitches for community funds. 

A wide range of exciting community projects including Cork Nature Otter Walk, Comhairle na nÓg Suicide Prevention Summer Event, and International Community Dynamics Direct Provision Workshops, pitched for funding, with local residents invited to vote on their favourite videos during June 2019.

With a total of over 2,000 votes, six organisation were successfully awarded grants between of €750 – €400, supporting excellent, worthwhile community programmes that deliver positive outcomes for the people of Cork. More here 

Smart Futures: Fingal Voices 

The Fingal Voices new mobile app, to be launched Q4 2019, will enable Fingal County Council residents to participate more in local life and to influence Fingal’s future in fun and innovative ways. The app will allow residents to participate in public consultations relating to local planning or projects via their smartphones. When residents make contributions they will be rewarded with points that can be converted into vouchers to access local amenities with participating partners. 

The app will include several innovative features to improve residents’ overall experience of engaging with their Council by allowing them to:

-Share opinions and react to proposals made by the Council by voting for different options, rating proposals and commenting on them. 

-Suggest improvements or report specific issues in their local area.

-Get information on local news and events. 

The app will be available to download from the Apple App Store and Android Play Store later this year.


Going Forward 

The “Unheard Voices” challenge has been an important learning experience for Fingal County Council and Cork City Council in exploring how technology can help promote citizen engagement and reach communities that may experience exclusion. From video-storytelling to incentivised consultations, working with industry to deliver these pilot projects has highlighted new ways of working and exposed local authority staff to innovative, smart solutions that might otherwise be overlooked. 

As part of Smart Dublin, this learning has been further shared across our network in the four Dublin local authorities.

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