Unheard Voices SBIR Challenge: Reaching Previously Unheard Communities

Fingal County Council serves a vibrant and dynamic community. It has the youngest population of any local authority and is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse catchment areas in Ireland.

A core responsibility of every local government is to engage citizens in the democratic process, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued.

In 2018, Fingal County Council–in partnership with Cork City Council–launched the “Unheard Voices” challenge, under Enterprise Ireland’s SBIR programme. The challenge aimed to engage young people, migrant groups and others with new technological solutions.

The challenge aimed to find new, technological solutions to help individuals and groups engage with their local authority, focusing on young people, migrant groups, and others not traditionally reached with existing methods.

Technology providers were invited to pitch ideas that would complement, rather than replace traditional methods of engagement.

Project Activities: Phase One

In late 2018, four companies were awarded funding. Each company presented innovative and inclusive solutions to empower communities and improve citizen participation.

The four companies worked to develop their solutions, testing and piloting with Fingal County Council and Cork City Council.

Pic Orla Murray/ SON Photo


CiviQ‘s OpenInsights platform provides insights into public opinion and a new method for promoting diversity, deliberation and inclusion in public policy making and planning.

It enables communities and the consulting body to capture the full range of voices on an issue, identify shared perspectives, areas of consensus and differences of opinion.

OneStepCloser and Story Tracks

Onestepcloser.to is a civic engagement platform where people can vote for projects that will have a positive impact in their local community.

StoryTracks is a storytelling platform which brings local stories to life through audio and video.

Together OneStepCloser and Story Tracks inspire people in the community to make their voices heard and actively influence the change they want to see.

Smart Futures

Smart Futures aims to drive citizen engagement to optimize public services. Their collaborative web and mobile solutions use collective and artificial intelligence to help public administrations improve the governance and maintenance of the city.

Smart Futures use gamification and rewards to foster engagement and make future cities more sustainable and inclusive.

Solonian Democracy Institute

The Solonian Democracy Institute was founded to research and understand alternative democratic practices. The Institute looks at ways to deepen participation beyond elections and to increase the number of people meaningfully involved in political decision-making.

Project Activities: Phase Two

In mid-2019, Smart Futures and OneStepCloser/Story Tracks were selected for further funding. They then got to work on phase two.

OneStepCloser/Story Tracks: Cork Voices

In Cork, OneStepCloser and Story Tracks worked closely with Cork City Council’s Public Participation Network (PPN) to deliver an innovative, participatory grant portal. Using the portal, local community groups were invited to submit short video pitches for community funds.

A wide a wide range of exciting community projects pitched for funding including:

  • Cork Nature Otter Walk
  • Comhairle na nÓg Suicide Prevention Summer Event
  • International Community Dynamics Direct Provision Workshops

Local residents were invited to vote on their favourite videos in June 2019.

With a total of over 2,000 votes, six organisation were successfully awarded grants of between €400€750. These grants support community programmes that deliver positive outcomes for the people of Cork.

For more information, visit the Cork Voices website.

Smart Futures: Fingal Voices

Smart Futures developed the The Fingal Voices mobile app. The app enables Fingal County Council residents to participate more in local life and to influence Fingal’s future in fun and innovative ways.

The app allows residents to participate in public consultations relating to local planning or projects on their smartphones. When residents make contributions, they will be rewarded with points that can be converted into vouchers for local amenities.

The app includes several innovative features that improve residents’ experience of engaging with their Council. Using the app residents can:

  • Share opinions and react to proposals made by the Council by voting for different options, rating proposals and commenting on them.
  • Suggest improvements or report specific issues in their local area.
  • Get information on local news and events.

The app is available to download from the App Store and Android Play Store.


The “Unheard Voices” challenge has been an important learning experience for Fingal County Council. We have learned a lot about how technology can promote citizen engagement and reach communities that may experience exclusion.

We have explored new ways of working with industry to develop smart solutions, from video storytelling to incentivised consultations.

This process has exposed Council staff to innovative technology and demonstrated how it can help them connect with the local community.

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