Citizen Engagement Solutions

Considering the ambition and scope of the SmartEnCity project, citizen engagement and good, honest communication has been crucial from the get-go. 


Citizen engagement in retrofitting – the novelty and ambition of retrofitting in the district that needed support the most was no easy undertaking as the decision to retrofit must come from the residents. As there are no housing associations in the Vitoria-Gasteiz demo area, it thus took a lot of effort to engage each homeowner to participate in the project
The strategy that was adopted was 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 neighbourhood to keep close to the citizens was a key success factor.
  • Attracting a small number of early adopters and organizing co-creating sessions on how to engage more people in the neighbourhood.
  • Spreading the experience of the early adopters in the neighbourhood.

The approach proved successful and clear, well-defined messages hit home with the residents. The support of a dedicated project partner was also crucial as they provided technical, legal and administrative support to the residents. Post-retrofitting engagement activities included public information events for raising energy efficiency awareness, meetings with homeowners, a phone campaign to gather citizens’ questions and concerns and a citizen satisfaction survey before the project ending. Although the solutions have now been deployed, communication will have to stay until the end of the project and beyond!


  • Citizen engagement in retrofitting – as the decision to retrofit must come from the apartment owners, technical support and frequent meetings were very important from the start. The local partners visited internal housing association meetings to explain and promote the upcoming retrofitting measures, answering the residents’ questions, explaining the value offer as well as the benefits and risks of the actions. Once the decision to retrofit was made by the housing association, technical, legal, and administrative support was also provided.
  • Social innovation – a series of innovative engagement experiments expected to affect the consumption behavior of people were conducted in the pilot area. Essentially, this means experimenting with social innovation models to facilitate behavioral change and mutual learning among pilot area and Tartu residents. For this, a public lecture series “Planning an energy-efficient city” was launched at the beginning of the project with expert speakers from both Estonia and abroad. Secondly, a training program was launched: awareness-raising through training active ambassadors (the so-called Smart House Training Program) among pilot area residents. The aim was to encourage pilot area residents to learn from each other by training so-called Ambassadors in every pilot area building who would be able to help and support their neighbors in various aspects of smart house and smart city living. Thirdly, a study on attitudes towards technologies and the environment was conducted in two parts – before and after the renovation – to understand the value, beliefs and behaviors of the pilot area citizen, what supports or hinders their behavior change, and how to best engage them.
  • Artworks in the pilot area – in addition to retrofitting the pilot area buildings, each housing association could choose an original artwork to be painted on their retrofitted house or installed nearby. 15 murals and 2 sculptures have been created in the pilot area, creating a unique public art gallery that draws both locals and visitors. Each housing association was supported by expert art curators and each artwork was created through co-creation. This one-of-a-kind art project was also replicate in the demontration area of Vitoria-Gasteiz.


Citizen engagement program – the program was focused on housing associations and carried out in four steps:

  1. Establishing good cooperation and communication.
  2. Compiling a team to keep in contact with the tenants, preparing the program, ensuring communication with the tenants.
  3. Involving 30 families in the program so they would be aware of their energy consumption patterns, using the experience of the families to prepare a program to be replicated in other departments.
  4. Launching citizen engagement in the rest of the departments of the involved housing associations, scaling up the citizen engagement activities in small groups of departments by segmenting all the tenants and making targeted communications.

How to use & tips:


Read our Travel Guide for Cities to see what worked and what did not with these solutions, or go directly to our worst practices to see our most important learning points.

Links to more information:

Find the city solutions here - City Solutions / 
Read the general citizen engagement strategy here – Citizen engagement strategy and deployment plan
Read the Sonderborg report here - Sonderborg SmartEnCity Stakeholder Platform Report on citizen and stakeholder involvement strategy