Józsefváros Office of Community Participation
The aim of the Office is to strengthen the communities of Józsefváros and to involve local residents in collective decisions, because we believe that by sharing knowledge and creating meaningful dialogue, we can find new, creative, effective and fair solutions to our common problems. With this in mind, the principles of the Office are the following: clarity of information, transparency, accessibility, fairness and solidarity.
On the one hand, the Office functions as a watchdog of municipal decision making processes to make sure that transparency and community participation are implemented to an adequate level. In this sense, we monitor, advise and support almost all of the organizational units, institutions and companies of the municipality. In the long run, our aim is to institutionalize participation as a fundamental way of operation for the municipality. In this capacity, we collect and analyze data about the functioning of the municipality and make recommendations for the mayor on how to improve the experiences of municipal clients.
On the other hand, the Office is itself implementing projects and programs at various levels of participation.
Creating a client-friendly municipality
In the first few years of its existence, the Office was responsible for mapping the experiences of local residents as they entered into a client relationship with the municipality (e.g. asking for permits, taking care of paperwork, file complaints etc.) Based on this in-depth overview, we have developed a number of new tools and initiated many new processes that aimed to improve the quality of service provision and communication by the municipality.
Transparency and information
The basis of community participation is access to correct and understandable information. In order to provide the residents of Józsefváros with fair and transparent information, the Office is running customer-friendly platforms and channels for information sharing such as a toll-free phone number and a local district application to report problems. The Office if also does a lot of Hungarian-to-Hungarian translation where we transform official information in bureaucratic language into plain Hungarian.
The Office is organizing events and programs that help bring together individuals to solve community problems together. In addition to running volunteer projects where local residents can participate in municipal projects, we provide financial support to local informal and formal organizations to implement community-based projects and also initiate and support community projects such as community trash pick-up and adopt-a-public space. We also implement training and outreach project to change the attitudes of local residents form an individualistic to a more community-minded approach (e.g. trainings for local dog owners to help peaceful co-existence).
Supporting community organizing and advocacy
The Office is supporting local informal and formal communities with advice, infrastructural support and the implementation of joint projects to strengthen their effectiveness and develop their capacities to advocate for their constituents. We have developed and support a large-scale project of resident advocacy and representation among municipal housing residents (the district has one of the biggest public housing stocks in Budapest with around 20% of local residents living in municipal housing). We help organize regular resident forums for municipal housing tenants and we also support the advocacy efforts of a local tenant advocacy organization.
The Office organized events and programs that create dialogue between elected officials and municipal employees and local communities including community meetings and public hearings. We organize up to 20 community forums every year in the various neighborhoods of the district and on various topics of urban development. The aim of these forums is to create an opportunity for local residents to hold elected and appointed officials accountable.
It is the responsibility of the Office to ensure that the leadership of the 8th district implements meaningful consultation processes before making important decisions that significantly affect the lives of local residents including the passing of major local legislation or smaller and larger interventions in public space (e.g. open streets, redevelopment of a street or square etc.). These consultations always take place both online and offline and often involve a questionnaire and a community forum. We make sure that the surveys reach even those who do not necessarily trust the local government of have access to the internet by knocking on doors and direct outreach in public spaces.
In order to develop a more in-depth partnership between citizens, civil society organizations and the municipality and to support the sharing of power, the Office is responsible for monitoring the community-based planning activities of the local urban development company as well as developing and implementing participatory budgeting. The first such project took place at the district level in 2022 and will continue in the following years.
Galvanizing community power in times of crisis
Since the new municipal leadership came to power, the local government has had to face four major crises: 1) the Covid19 pandemic in 2020-2021, 2) an unusually cold winter in 2020-2021 3) the refugee crisis due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2022 and 4) the energy crisis in the fall of 2022. As the most agile and least bureaucratic part of the municipality, the Office of Community Participation has played an essential role in facilitating and implementing the local government’s response to these events. We always use a community-based as opposed to bureaucratic approach (e.g. involving residents as volunteers, organizing donation drives, helping connect people to community resources) when we respond to these crises to make sure that we strengthen the resilience of local society.
Get in touch with us if you
- would like to be regularly notified about the community events and participatory processes of the municipality;
- have any complaints, comments or demands regarding the clarity of information, transparency or accessibility;
- are a member of a vulnerable group (e.g. elderly, disabled, minority, poor, female, homeless or refugee/migrant) and you feel that it is important for the municipality to give special attention to the views and needs of your group;
- wish to initiate a community forum or event and you need additional help and support;
- are a member of a civil society organization or considering the foundation of one, and you would like to be informed about local opportunities and participate in the local civic dialogue;
- wish to become a volunteer andhelp the creation of a local participation program.
Mayor’s Office of Józsefváros Municipality (Baross utca 63-67.) Ground floor 3/1