Finnish municipalities have been quite active in taking up participatory budgeting “PB” where inhabitants get a chance to take part in dividing finances in their home municipality. A third of Finnish municipalities have or are planning on using this modern method of democracy (Kurikka 2020). The City of Lahti has been implementing PB for some years in order to reach out to their inhabitants and strengthen the appeal of the city. In a recent survey conducted by the EmPaci-project and The City of Lahti among the inhabitants on participation and having a say, the response showed interest even though few were familiar with the concept (Osallistunen ja vaikuttaminen Lahdessa 2020).
PB in the Lahti Way
There are several ways to implement PB, such as holding workshops, discussions or utilizing existing structures, such as youth councils (Pihlaja 2017, 14). The City of Lahti has decided to run this PB-pilot where 100 000 euros are divided among ideas suggested by the inhabitants in a way that is open to all. The money will be spent using an area project model where the city and sum are divided in four ways: into entire city, northern, southern and eastern area – 25% each. The city has chosen three themes: wellbeing, community and environment. The inhabitants voted for a fourth theme: sports. In the Lahti model the inhabitants will first be encouraged to come up with ideas along the themes. Experts from the city will then carry out a quick review of the gathered ideas to make sure they could be implemented within the framework of the pilot. The ideas that pass this phase will then move on to the co-development phase where the ideas are worked on in participatory ways. Finally, the inhabitants get a chance to vote on their favorites. The process is very quick as the idea phase will take place in late spring and the voting will be done in early autumn. The chosen ideas will then move on to the implementation that will start in late 2020. All in all, the Lahti model is built heavily on participation and co-operation in all phases. (City of Lahti 2020.)
Strengthening the Understanding Through PB
This form of PB is a method that gives inhabitants a possibility to voice their opinions by giving out ideas and voting on them, thus influencing municipal spending. But it also provides inhabitants a chance to strengthen their knowledge on municipal finances and the rules and regulations related to it. It is not always clear to inhabitants what the responsibilities of municipality are and what things cost or what kinds of long-term implications there are related to maintenance and running costs of specific municipal projects. PB helps make these processes easier to understand and more see through which strengthens the knowledge level of the inhabitants. The inhabitants in turn can give their home municipality new information, common-sense solutions and their own knowledge which provides the municipality with a new perspective. (Ahonen & Rask 2019.)
Follow the Lahti PB pilot here!
Ahonen, V. & Rask, M. 2019. Uutta kunnista 2/2019: Osallistuvan budjetoinnin mallit ja trendit Suomessa. [Cited 23.3.2020]. Available at: https://helda.helsinki.fi//bitstream/handle/10138/304520/1985nro2osallistuvabudjetointi_2.pdf?sequence=1
City of Lahti. 2020. Osallistuva budjetointi. [Cited 23.3.2020]. Available at: https://www.lahti.fi/paatoksenteko/osallistujavaikuta/osallistuva-budjetointi
Kurikka, P. 2020. EmPaci-hankkeen OSBU-työpaja. Presentation at EmPaci project’s Train the Trainer event at LAB University of Applied Sciences in Lahti on February 18, 2020.
Osallistuminen ja vaikuttaminen Lahdessa. 2020. Asukaskysely 2019. Raportti 21.2.2020. [Cited 23.3.2020]. Available at: https://www.lab.fi/sites/default/files/2020-01/EmPaci_Asukaskysely2019_osallistuminen%20ja%20vaikuttaminen%20Lahdessa_raportti_2112020.pdf
Pihlaja, R. 2017. Osallistuva budjetointi kunnissa ja maakunnissa. [Cited 23.3.2020] Available at: http://shop.kuntaliitto.fi/product_details.php?p=3356
Annukka Heinonen, MBA, works as an RDI-specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and as a project manager in the EU Interreg funded EmPaci – Empowering Participatory Budgeting in the Baltic Sea Region project.