The four EUARENAS pilot cities

Work Package 4 on Piloting starts in December 2021. The aim of this WP is to test and observe how cities can apply experimental tools for deliberative decision making, and how they can optionally mainstream these tools on the level of policy. The pilot programs will be implemented by 4 cities representing different geopolitical situations and different experiences with deliberative democracy. Although the pilot phase officially starts in December 2021, the pilot cities have already begun to work together during the first year of EUARENAS. Following bilateral talks with the WP leaders, cities expressed their needs and their first ideas concerning their pilot projects. The common work on the elaboration of a road map for the pilot implementation has started early December.

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Gdansk has 450 000 inhabitants. Its territory is divided into 35 districts with relative autonomy in terms of local decisions. Gdansk was one of the first cities in Poland to introduce participatory budgeting in 2013, as a top-down process. The implementation of this tool was inspired by the bottom-up process implemented in Sopot in 2011, and by a local pilot realised in one of the districts of Gdansk in 2012. The overall process has so far attracted a high number of inhabitants (32 000-51 000 yearly) to take part in this participatory process. The critical observations highlighted that the process rather involved citizens with high social capital, that the projects were not debated upon enough in the public realm before selection and that the overall process was based on a top-down design. [1]

 

The main expectation identified by the city of Gdansk for EUARENAS piloting is, therefore, to experiment with some different deliberative tools on the level of one or two districts, to involve local citizens and help them to improve their local identities. On the long run, the city would like to mainstream the experience of other districts or, if the political conditions make it possible, on the scale of the entire city. [2]

Reggio Emilia, located in the heart of Emilia Romagna, counts a population of 172 000 inhabitants. Among the four pilot cities, Reggio Emilia is the most experienced in the use of deliberative and participatory processes in its local decision-making structure. Since 2015, the city has been developing a collaborative model of urban governance called “Quartiere Bene Commune – the neighbourhood as a common good”. Based on the level of the neighbourhoods, the model supports the involvement of local citizens into the decisions concerning the development and management of the neighbourhood by using open citizens’ labs for the identification of projects and proposals and “Citizen Agreements” for the deliberative selection of these projects. So far, 27 agreements were signed and 163 projects selected and implemented, with the involvement of 2400 stakeholders of the city. [3]

 

The main expectation of Reggio Emilia for the EUARENAS project is, on the one hand, to find good methods for upscaling the neighbourhood programs onto the city level, and, on the other, to improve their digital collaborative tools for widening the dialogue with citizens. [4]

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Voru is the only rural area among the four EUARENAS pilot cities. Voru county is a regional association of municipalities, counting 34 858 inhabitants, divided among 5 municipalities: Antsla, Rõuge, Setomaa, Võru and Võru town. As a marginalized rural region, Võru county suffers from complex social problems, such as, e.g., the aging of the population, which poses a significant challenge to the development of the county. In 2018-19, Voru county held three sessions of 48 hours social hackathons, organised by the county-level development agency. These three events were attended by a total of 316 participants (including mentors), of whom 35 teams were formed. [5]

 

Voru county is now committed to bring the experience of the social hackathons onto the political level and to try to launch a pilot project where the organisation of the local decisionmakers of the five municipalities are actively involved in the events. On the long run, the region would like to use the hackathons as instruments of local deliberative decision making. [6]

Józsefváros is one of the traditionally most diverse, and at the same time, the most stigmatised districts of the city of Budapest. The district is located in the near proximity of the city centre, counting 77 000 inhabitants. Since 2019, Józsefváros has been managed by a newly elected political leadership, led by the mayor with a grassroots civic background. Józsefváros is now facing the strong challenge of renewing its local governance structures and introducing deliberative approaches and processes. It also faces the challenge of a strongly disintegrated local society and welfare system, with an important share of people in need of social care, social housing, etc. In 2020, the District Municipality created its Office of Community Participaiton, with the overarching aim to improve social dialogue with the citizens and to create participatory processes informing and complimenting local governance and decision making. The Office of Community Participaiton has so far developed a number of community building projects, it supported the mayor and some departments in strengthening participatory approaches, it gathered a stable circle of activists who obtained a core role during the pandemic lockdown, in support of the local citizens. In 2022, Józsefváros will implement participatory budgeting into its annual budgeting process for the very first time. [7]

 

The main expectations of Józsefváros are to learn from the experiences and from the failures of other cities and to improve their access and connection to all social groups within the district. [8]

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[1] Source: case study description and presentation of Gdanks at the Kick off meeting

[2] Based on bilateral discussions and empathy interview, April 2021

[3] Presentation of Reggio Emilia at the kick off, and https://urbanmaestro.org/example/quartiere-bene-comune/

[4] Based on bilateral discussions and empathy interview, April 2021

[5] Case study presentation of Voru social Hackathons in the frame of WP3

[6] Blateral discussions and empathy interview, April 2021

[7] Presentaion of Józsefváros at the Kick off, and the Helsinki meeting; case study description of the Community office within WP3

[8] Bilateral discussions and empathy interview, April 2021