About a third of Finnish municipalities have or are thinking about running a participatory budgeting (PB) project. (Kurikka 2020). As municipal resources are limited, PB is often run as an additional project with limited personnel and supported by other city functions, such as communications. Various service divisions of the city have an important role in PB pre-checking and cost-calculation of ideas received from inhabitants. They often handle the entire PB implementation in Finnish municipalities.
PB Coaches promoting PB
Many municipalities have appointed special PB representatives within their organizations for making PB possible, boosting the changes, and enabling the smooth running of the project. The City of Lahti ‘PB Coaches’ from the service divisions support the pilot from within the organization and help inhabitants with their ideas in the co-creation phase. (City of Lahti 2020) The City of Helsinki ‘Stadiluotsit’ or ‘City Pilots’ support the PB process and inhabitants at their own specific areas in Helsinki. (Laaksonen 2020)
Inhabitants have the inside track
The nature of participation is to be open to all. Municipalities aim to join forces with different groups such as NGOs’ and inhabitants to get clearer picture of what is going on in the municipality, as well as to get a helping hand for PB. An inhabitant survey conducted in Lahti in 2019 showed that respondents are interested in PB, but the topic is not yet well known (Osallistuminen ja vaikuttaminen Lahdessa 2019). To make PB more familiar, the City of Lahti appointed a group of locals to act as Project Guardians for three specific areas of the city (Eastern, Southern and Northern) as well as for the entire city. They support the PB pilot by communicating with inhabitants and helping them to take part in the pilot. (City of Lahti 2020) “I participated out of general interest and have found the role of Project Guardian fun so far. We have had the chance to take part in planning the PB, as well as promoting the pilot during the idea creation phase in the spring. I’m looking forward to new and exciting experiences along the pilot,” says Ville-Veikko Vesala (2020) – one of the Lahti PB Project Guardians.
Using pears as ambassadors has proven to be a good tactic in other municipalities too, as Katja Repo (2020) from Tuusula points out: “A message is often more relevant when it comes from someone in your shoes”. PB can bring all the different groups of people together.
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.
City of Lahti. 2020. Osallistuva budjetointi. City of Lahti website. [Cited 2.6.2020]. 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.
Laaksonen, J. 2020. Parempaa kaupunkia yhdessä – OmaStadi ja stadiluotsityö. Presentation at EmPaci project’s ‘Train the Trainer’ event on May 19, 2020.
Osallistuminen ja vaikuttaminen Lahdessa. 2020. Asukaskysely 2019 – Inhabitant Survey. Report 21.2.2020. EmPaci Project. [Cited 23.3.2020]. Available at: https://www.lab.fi/sites/default/files/2020-01/EmPaci_Asukaskysely2019_osallistuminen%20ja%20vaikuttaminen%20Lahdessa_raportti_2112020.pdf
Repo, K. 2020. Community Manager, Tuusula. Osbu käytännössä Tuusulassa. Presentation at EmPaci Train the Trainer -training event 15.4.2020.
Vesala, V-V 2020. Ville-Veikko Vesala, Hankekummi – Project Guardian, Lahti. Email interview 25.5.2020
Link 1. LAB 2020. EmPaci-project website. LAB University of Applied Sciences. [Cited 16th June 2020]. Available at: https://www.lab.fi/en/project/empowering-participatory-budgeting-baltic-sea-region-empaci
Link 2. City of Lahti 2020. Lahti invites residents to give their ideas for participatory budgeting projects. The City of Lahti website. [Cited 16th June 2020]. Available at: https://www.lahti.fi/en/latest-updates/news/brainstorming-participatory-budgeting-projects-in-lahti
Link 3. EmPaci 2020. Empaci international project website. Empaci-project. [Cited 16th June 2020]. Available at: http://www.empaci.eu/
Image 1. Rene Rauchenberger, Pixabay 2020. Puzzle-kanava-veneet-vesistö-3295733. [Cited 2.5. 2020] Available at: https://pixabay.com/fi/photos/puzzle-kanava-veneet-vesist%C3%B6-3295733/