Helping the city engage citizens on a complex topic

In 2015, five Ottawa city councillors wanted a better way to gather and examine ideas from residents and turned to Synapcity for help with one of the most complex and contentious topics in municipal governance: the budget.


We understood that the ward leaders needed to develop a more participatory public-engagement plan than the systems traditionally used for citizen consultation.

We developed BudgetSpeak, a series of sessions in which more than 350 participants learned about the budget—the numbers and the processes involved—and deliberated on priorities.

Residents, city staff and councillors came together to develop creative yet practical solutions. Citizens made their voices heard. The municipality listened. Councillors debated, bearing in mind the results of the collaborative BudgetSpeak sessions. Participants said they enjoyed the process and appreciated this new way to discuss Ottawa’s financial health. Councillors said residents want even more—more data, more time for dialogue, more opportunities to participate.

Synapcity “continues to make a huge impact in Ottawa,” says Tobi Nussbaum, City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe and one of the councillors who requested Synapcity’s help. He believes this organization’s ability to train individuals, facilitate consultations and advise civic leaders “is generating increasing enthusiasm about, and engagement in our city. Ottawa is an even better place as a result of this important contribution.”