Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.


Betri Reykjavík

Citizen Participation Mechanism

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

In 2008 the financial crisis had a devastating impact in Iceland, as all three of the countries commercial banks defaulted. There large protests in Iceland, and a collapse of trust in the Icelandic political system. Better Reykjavík was an attempt to get citizens more directly involved in decision-making and politics; not to restore trust in the 'old' system, but to start to design a 'new' system based on a more direct democracy.

What has changed?

One of the most successful projects on the Better Reykjavík platform is My Neighbourhood (previously, Better Neighbourhoods). My Neighbourhood is an annual participatory budgeting project in collaboration with the City of Reykjavík. The project has been ongoing since 2011, with 450m ISK (+3m EUR) allocated each year for ideas from citizens on how to improve the various neighbourhoods of Reykjavík. 608 ideas have been approved by citizens in the My Neighbourhood project from 2012-2017.

In 2017 the City decided to crowdsource ideas to co-create the City’s education policy on Better Reykjavík. This was the first time that actual a policy of any government within Iceland was crowdsourced. The process is ongoing, having completed the first phase of prioritising educational objectives. The second phase is ongoing as of November 2017.

+ 10-15 top priorities processed by Reykjavík City Council and voted on every month
+ Over 70,000 people have participated out of a population of 120 000 since the site opened

+ 20,000 registered users have submitted over 6,800 ideas and 15,000 points for and against

+ Over 3,000 ideas have been formally reviewed, and close to a 1,000 accepted since 2011

+ Participatory budgeting since 2011 with over 18m EUR allocated directly by citizens

How did it happen?

In May 2010, a week before the municipal elections in Reykjavík, the Better Reykjavík website was launched by the Citizens Foundation, a non-profit organization formed in the wake of the Icelandic financial crash. The platform offered all the political parties running in the elections their own space where their supporters could write, debate and prioritize policy ideas.

Only one party, the Best Party, used the website, asking their supporters to join and help them create policy for the next 4 years. The party was already polling around 40%, meaning the initiative got a lot of media attention. Over 40,000 people participated with over 1,000 policy ideas debated and prioritized in a period of two weeks.

In October 2011, the City of Reykjavík formed an official partnership with the Citizens Foundation, giving citizens a voice at the different city council committees. Top ideas from Better Reykjavík get added to the agenda every month and the city commits to process and answer them all, creating a dialogue between citizens and the city government.

From 2012 onwards, the platform also supported the Better Neighbourhoods project, Reykjavík's participatory budgeting process.