Government for the people – with the people

8 October 2020

A good government works for the people – or, even better, with the people.

Citizen engagement is about involving people directly in the decisions that affect their daily lives. How can this be done in the best way?

At the Nantes Innovation Forum today, Eurocities presented its principles on citizen engagement, which encapsulate the learnings from numerous experiences of cities trying to answer this question.

In her opening address, European Commission Vice-President, Dubravka Šuica, said that “European cities are leading in the way of democratic processes and open government.”

Indeed, Nantes for example, has held three great public debates on topics that are at the heart of citizens’ concerns, such as the energy transition or considering the valuable place of senior citizens in society.

The idea for these debates, which propelled the city to being crowned European Capital of Innovation, has always been to mobilise as many people, associations, companies and others as possible to engage in a comprehensive debate, come up with and test out new ideas. Each has resulted in a set of citizens’ recommendations being presented for consideration to the city. For example, an ‘office of the Earth’, which will fund 500 projects by 2025, or a recommendation that residents should not be more than 300 metres’ walk from the nearest green area, be it a public garden, park, forest, watercourse etc. and that nature in the city should become a top priority.

“Faced with an uncertain health, economic, social and climatic context, new citizen concerns and aspirations are emerging in our European cities and metropolitan areas,” said Johanna Rolland, the Mayor of Nantes and President of Nantes Metropole. Her comments were made to launch a new interactive website, featuring not only Eurocities principles on citizen engagement but many examples from different cities around Europe that help to illustrate the different approached they take.

Braga aims to bring democratic spirit to life by putting power – and city funds – into the hands of citizens to make changes they care passionately about.

Helsinki, which was struggling to respond to all the requests of citizens, is overhauling its feedback systems, incorporating automation to enable city employees to spend more time dealing with people’s concerns.

Bialystok is offering local residents the chance to become a hero – by making the case for local projects, through the development of “new football pitches, playgrounds, outdoor gyms, cycling paths, cultural and social activities, concerts…” and more, according to the city’ Mayor, Tadeusz Truskolaski.

Take a look at the full stories and publication here.


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