Hear what citizens have to say in Synthetron online dialogues

Case: inviting citizens to share their views

How citizens were invited by the Dutch Ministry of Environment to share their views on their future environment.


The VROM (Dutch ministry of Environment) is responsible for the environment in which citizens live, work, and relax.

The Netherlands is a densely populated country requiring careful consideration of issues such as living space.

VROM decided to set up a vision development project for the ‘Randstad’ – the urban region including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague – called ‘Randstad 2040’.

Citizen participation was key to the vision development and VROM looked for innovative ways to go about this.


As part of the ‘Randstad 2040’ vision development project, 400 citizens were invited to discuss their views of the ideal future for the ‘Randstad’ through Synthetron online discussions.

Participants had lively discussions about mobility, environment, living conditions, transportation, housing, urbanisation, etc. They visualised their ideal world, discovered dilemmas and explored the downsides of their choices.

Synthetron consultants developed the script alongside representatives of VROM. The questions were specifically made to suit the wishes of VROM.

We moderated the sessions, making sure that all participants had a good experience. All voices were heard and the citizens filtered out the most important statements themselves.


The raw data, among other things, provided the most supported statements, controversial statements, and non-supported statements.

The results of these Synthetron sessions were used as input into meetings where citizens were invited to explore the issues further. Therefore these meetings had a “head start” and could go deeper into the matter from the beginning. This proved more efficient than the traditional focus groups.

The findings from the sessions and the meetings were analysed and a comprehensive report was made. The results were presented to the Minister and top policy makers.

In the end, the Dutch parliament adopted some of the recommendations resulting from the study.