Citizen engagement strategy for the retrofitting package (Vitoria-Gasteiz)

Citizen Engagement in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Main sector:

  • Governance and planning
  • Citizen engagement


In Vitoria’s case, there are no house associations that could be used for distributing the communication of the project’s value proposal. There are 108 community owners (1305 private owners) who need to be engaged in the project and agree to refurbishing their houses and changing their heating system from natural gas to biomass. In this case, a gradual involvement is recommended. This means starting from an information strategy that enables people to have an overall idea of the project goals, stakeholders and value proposals and later on, engaging them more depending on the development of the products and services that are included in the offer. The more the products and services are defined, the more the engagement process will succeed. But how can innovative products and services be defined so that citizens would understand their real value? How can citizens validate whether the product information is clear enough or not? How can some property owners help to involve other property owners? These are the main questions to be answered during the process

The case has been developed as follows:

  • Disseminating the SmartEnCity project at events where the neighborhood is invited.
  • Contacting the pilot area residents to explain the value offer.
  • Setting up an information office in the neighborhood.
  • Attracting a small number of early adopters and organizing co-creating sessions on how to engage more people in the neighborhood.
  • Spreading the experience of the early adopters in the neighborhood.

Face-to-face interactions are combined with events, exhibitions and group meetings. This means both individual and collective engagement spaces are created because people want to share their issues and concerns personally as well as collectively (as they can talk about their experiences). Is also important to create spaces with early adopters and neighborhood agents who help to communicate the advantages of the project.

Once owners decide to join the project, it is the public company VISESA (VIS) who works as delegate promoter of the retrofitting actions on behalf of them. Through agreements signed between both parties, VIS manages, contracts, supervises and finances the correct design and execution of the rehabilitation works of the buildings, delivering the final product “turnkey” to its owners and charging them the cost difference less subsidies. VIS also manages the different subsidies administrative tasks (application, justification, etc.) as "one stop shop agency“, discharging the neighbours of these cumbersome tasks.

Citizen engagement:

The first step of the citizen engagement process is that the local project team invests time into making the project and value proposal understandable. The second step is to share this information with the citizens – in this case, through a big event that brings everyone together. The third step is to develop the offer – the retrofitting package – as clearly and specifically as possible. Depending on the challenges of the project, this phase takes a long time. However, this period can be used to introduce other aspects of the project to the citizens, for example district renovation in the neighborhood. For the fourth step, once the product/service is defined clearly and in sufficient detail, it is time to share it. This will be done through an exhibition with small conferences and roundtables with the project team explaining the retrofitting package to the visitors. The fifth step is about communicating a deadline by which the people have to make up their mind.

The citizen engagement strategy is a process of 3 chronologically delimitated phases:

1) Define offer, 2) Reshape offer and 3) Offer.

Each phase is determined by 4 type of actions:

a) Conditions: Frame of set of laws, standards and regulations that have to be fulfilled by the consortium.

b) Offer: Actions related to offer development

c) Resources: actions for package promotion.

d) Results: Typology of users/citizens that are being offered along the 3-stage-process.

The total amount of citizen engagement actions have been classified per typology and located the 3-stage-process. The result is a toolkit for Citizen engagement strategy for retrofitting that can be replicated depending on the replicator context and needs.


Table@H-ENEA Living Lab


  • integrating the citizen engagement strategy with the project’s value proposal
  • creating a unique citizen engagement message
  • identifying how to increase the impact of engaging citizens in smart cities
  • creating and designing spaces for spreading an innovative culture among the citizens
  • increased energy efficiency
  • reduction of energy bill
  • reduction of carbon emissions
  • greater transparency of urban processes
  • increased comfort
  • social integration
  • job creation 
  • behavioral change


Potential for replication:

The main precondition for replicating Vitoria’s citizen engagement strategy is not to have house associations that manage the neighborhood communication process.

Eukene Barrenetxe
Head of H-ENEA Living Lab
ACEDE –H-Enea Living Lab

Picture sources:
Lighthouse City Vitoria-Gasteiz, H-Enea Living Lab

Facts & Figures

Citizen engagement actions before retrofitting works started:

  • 10 public informative events
  • > 400 meetings with communities of homeowners
  • > 400 phone calls to homeowners
  • > 1600 visits attended in the Information Office
  • 650 door-to-door campaign visits
  • 1650 advertising cards in mail campaigns
Citizen engagement actions after retrofitting works:
  • Public informative events about energy efficiency awareness and recommendations to keep their renovated building comfortable and healthy
  • Meetings with communities of homeowners
  • Reports about retrofitting impact on dwellings to be used as an example at informative meetings
  • Phone campaign to gather citizens questions and doubts
  • Citizen satisfaction survey before project is ending

Lessons Learned

  • Where to have the citizen engagement activities? Location is the key!
  • Keep close to the citizens!
  • Despite main works have finished, communication must remain til the end of the project (and beyond)

Picture sources:
Lighthouse City Vitoria-Gasteiz, H-Enea Living Lab