Funciona Madrid turns municipal workers' ideas into new services for the citizens of Madrid (Madrid Funciona)

Published on: 01/06/2017

Funciona Madrid is a project aimed at mining municipal employees for ideas for projects for new services for the citizens of Madrid. This initiative has to date generated six projects that are currently running.

Policy Context

The Law for Budget Stability (Ley de Estabilidad Presupuestaria) was passed in 2012 to curb spending in Spanish town halls and regional governments.

Madrid was one of the most indebted cities in Spain in 2015, and was pressed by law to reduce spending. One of the solutions proposed by the newly elected Ahora Madrid government was to make public spending at the town hall more efficient by using resources, in this case human resources, that are already available to the municipality. By using municipal employees to generate, execute and run projects, instead of outsourcing to consultants, and with financial support from the COTEC Foundation (a non-profit, privately financed foundation) to train employees and help manage the implementation, the town hall can still create innovative social services without significantly impacting its budget.

Description of target users and groups

Municipal workers who would like to help implement new ideas that improve the services offered by the municipality.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

In August 2015, the then new mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, sent out an internal email to all the municipal workers. She invited them to come up with projects that would improve the state of tourism, employment and small businesses in the city.

People could just pitch their ideas and let others develop and implement them, Manuela Carmena said. Alternatively, they could also take part in the execution of the projects they had proposed.

The request resulted in around 800 ideas being submitted. A panel of experts from the town hall and the COTEC Foundation selected six ideas that were considered viable with the available resources. The proponents of the projects, 32 workers from different departments within the town hall, attended workshops and orientation sessions to move their projects from the idea stage to working services.

The workers then implemented the projects in the real world.

Technology solution

The technology used was aptly simple, already available, and required next to no overhead: The mayor announced Madrid Funciona by sending an email to all 26,000 municipal employees using a mailing list set up on the municipal intranet.

System administrators then set up a special email address on the network to receive proposals.   Proponents sent their ideas and suggestions back to the address and the panel of experts from the town hall and the COTEC Foundation selected those that were considered viable.

Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

The initiative has so far generated six projects that are currently being carried out:

  • Bambú Labs is a shared co-working space for new companies. Startups are provided with a fully equipped workplace, plus training in communications and exporting to help jump-start their businesses.
  • Madrid t-cuida-t uses Madrid's network of primary health centres to help patients with chronic health issues - such as depression, obesity, and drug addiction - to find solutions that complement the purely medical treatment of their problems and help to change potentially harmful behaviours. A person with depression, for example, can be guided towards group therapy or art workshops, while someone suffering from obesity can be advised by a coach from a sports centre to help get them exercising more often.
  • Educar para conservar sets up awareness centres and conducts workshops for citizens to encourage them to play an active part in the conservation of parks and other green spaces in Madrid. The project also hopes to reduce vandalism in parks by instilling in citizens a sense of ownership of their green spaces.
  • Lonja de talento is a project to further the ideas of Funciona Madrid itself. For instance, it plans to create a platform for the municipal intranet that will allow different departments to search for talent within the municipal workforce. The rationale is that the 26,000-strong municipal staff contains a wealth of untapped talent. Instead of outsourcing tasks related to, say, artwork production, writing, and software programming, the platform will allow the municipality to use the talent already employed at the town hall.
  • Muévete en Verde plans to make the most of all kinds of places that can be turned into green spaces. The project's proponents plan to start by planting mini-gardens on the tops of bus stops and even on the roofs of the buses themselves.
  • Gestoría social aims to support citizens with personal autonomy difficulties, such as elderly citizens, immigrants, and people with low levels of literacy. The project will help them with paperwork when they are dealing with public agencies. The <I>Gestoría</I> could, for example, help a person with a low level of literacy fill in a form requesting welfare, or help an immigrant who is not fluent in Spanish navigate the red tape associated with setting up a business.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The municipality of Madrid has not so far published anything to indicate how it plans to share experience with other municipalities that want to implement their own "Funciona" projects.

That said, the project framework is simple enough to be reproduced easily. All the processes underlying Funciona Madrid were announced publicly, and the technology used to carry out the project (mainly email) is straightforward and readily available to institutions of all sizes. The COTEC Foundation, meanwhile, supports both public and private institutions all over Spain. Carrying out "Funciona" projects in other municipalities should therefore be straightforward.

Lessons learnt

Ideas submitted to Funciona Madrid had to go through a stringent vetting process. The fact that from 800 ideas only six (less than 1%) were considered for implementation indicates that most proposals were unrealistic, not immediately useful, not clearly formulated, redundant, or could not be implemented with the town hall's resources. If the Funciona project is to evolve, it would be useful to create a clear set of guidelines gleaned from this first attempt. Also helpful might be a browsable database of ideas that have already been submitted, so as to avoid duplication.

Just 3% of the municipal staff contributed ideas to Funciona Madrid. The low participation rate perhaps shows that the implications of the project were not understood, the message from the mayor was not compelling enough, or the rewards did not compensate for the effort of taking part. To promote participation in the future, it may be a good idea to introduce tangible incentives.

Scope: Local (city or municipality)


Type of document
General case study