The city of Lahti has recently put in place innovative measures to enhance participation in the city planning processes. This includes creating a new position within the urban planning department that focuses on participation, and launching Porukka, an app for citizens to share their views.
What are the prerequisites for public participation within the framework of a new sustainability policy? Public participation is often expressed through mobilisation around certain issues considered to be wrong. Creating political legitimacy is therefore crucial in order to deal with resistance. Communication between citizens and elected officials is key in order for resistance to urban processes and projects being handled in a beneficial way. When resistance occurs at a late stage in the planning process, it often leads to a widespread frustration between parties.
Good practices & solutions
In order to improve its work on participation, the city of Lahti has created a new position among the city planners: a participatory planner with the overall responsibility for running and developing Lahti’s urban planning participation. By integrating citizens’ perspectives at an early stage in the planning process, new creative ideas can be integrated into the project and the risk of receiving complaints at a later stage can be considerably reduced.
The city is convinced that it is important to work actively towards greater inclusion of different social groups. In an attempt to reach out to younger generations, Lahti is trying to make use of new channels, particularly on social media. New methods are tested, for instance smartphone applications: the app Porukka was developed in collaboration with a local company and continuously gathers citizens’ views and ideas about the spaces of the city. The age group primarily using the app are citizens between 25 and 40.
Outcome & opportunities
In Lahti the citizens have become a resource for the planners and the inhabitants are therefore involved at the earliest stage of the planning process. The results of the citizen dialogues are documented and are recounted in the master plan which is available on the city’s homepage. In the master plan, the results of the dialogues are visualised in graphic models, and some of the written content is marked in specific colours if it is a result from a dialogue.
With the app, Lahti has reached and engaged a much wider audience than with traditional methods. Porukka has engaged otherwise hard-to-reach groups such as young adults and families with school-age children.
Lessons learned & recommendations
Success factors identified for this initiative were the centralisation of a participator planning position, widespread political support and the mainstreaming of participatory processes throughout the city’s working methods.
Related SDG targets
- 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.
- 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries.
Project: Nordic Urban Ways