Four participatory processes from 2020 are evaluated by the staff of the Office of Community Participation. What did we learn? What would we do differently?
Who are we?
The aim of the Józsefváros Office of Community Participation is to strengthen the communities of the 8th district of Budapest and to involve local residents in the decisions that affect all of us. We believe that by sharing knowledge and creating meaningful dialogue, we can find new, creative, effective and fair solutions to our common problems. Our work is organized around the following principles: clarity, transparency, accessibility, fairness, solidarity. You can read the summary of our activities in 2020 here >>>
In order to provide fair, transparent and efficient information to the residents of Józsefváros, our goal is to create customer-friendly information channels, and to ensure that the municipal processes are understandable and transparent. In this way, we ensure that all citizens have access to the information that is important to them. One of our tasks is to ensure that the leadership of Józsefváros implements meaningful consultation processes before making important decisions that significantly affect the lives of residents. It is also our job to plan and support events that create dialogue between the municipality and local communities, including community meetings and public hearings. In order to develop a partnership between citizens, civil organizations and the municipality, we also develop and oversee processes that make joint decision-making possible on certain issues, including participatory budgeting and community-based planning.
Self-reflection and shared learning are key to strengthening a culture of participation. Below, we highlight some of the participatory processes implemented by the Office of Community Participation in 2020 that have provided important lessons for us. We believe that by sharing our learnings, we can also help others to implement similar processes. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the following, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/reszveteliiroda
What does participation mean?
“Self-governance” originally means that citizens are able to shape their environment and future together and are able to have a say in the decisions that affect them. Today, local governments are the most widespread institutionalized form of local governance in Hungary. Unfortunately, local governments have grown quite apart from their original mission and are increasingly functioning as bureaucratic institutions isolated from local citizens. While the local government is a key institution in representative democracy, the application of the principles and tools of participatory democracy provides an opportunity for citizens to regain ownership and control, as well as for the local government to play its original function more sensitively and meaningfully.
It is the joint responsibility of the citizens and the municipality to ensure that the institutions of the municipality receive continuous feedback about their work and are open to the needs, suggestions and creativity of residents. Participatory self-governance is both the goal and means of politics and public life belonging to everyone where no one is excluded from the political community because of their ethnic origin, age, gender, identity, social status, religion, physical or mental condition.
Citizen participation can take many forms, intensities and levels. “Participation” is not a specific method or process, but in fact the transformation of power relations between citizens and public authorities. According to a document adopted by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe on October 1, 2009, at least four different levels of participation can be distinguished according to the extent to which citizens have a say in decisions: information, consultation, dialogue and partnership. We present two processes of consultation and two processes of partnership below.
Consultation processes in the Józsefváros Municipality
According to a document adopted by Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, consultation “is a form of initiative where the public authorities ask NGOs for their opinion on a specific policy topic or development. Consultation usually includes the authorities informing NGOs of current policy developments and asking for comments, views and feed-back. The initiative and themes originate with the public authorities, not with the NGOs. Consultation is relevant for all steps of the decision-making process, especially for drafting, monitoring and reformulation” (p. 8). In the Office of Community Participation, this definition has been extended beyond the involvement of non-governmental organizations to address a wide range of citizens.
Consultation on public film shootings
The starting point for this consultation process is that district VIII is very popular among filmmakers and therefore they often like to use the streets, squares and houses of the district as a venue for filming. This is especially true of the Palota District, where film shootings lasting several months used to take place. This is obviously a pride for the district as a whole, but it also causes a lot of difficulty for locals to live their daily lives in peace. The previous district administration tried to deal with this situation by banning filming in district-owned public areas in the Palota District. Many liked this measure, but there were also critics among local residents. As a result of the measure, while filming in the district-owned public spaces of the Palota District ceased, the number of film shootings allowed in other parts of the 8th district increased. The new leadership of the district was approached in early 2020 by representatives of local civic organizations, who wanted film shootings to be regulated in a more balanced way. This also coincided with the goals of the district’s leadership: there should be no completely forbidden areas, but there should also be stricter regulations everywhere that put the interests of local residents first, which would create a transparent framework for filmmakers and provide revenue for the municipality as well.
The consultation process
The consultation took place in February and March 2020 and the new regulation was adopted by the local assembly in June 2020.
The new film shooting regulation was prepared by a team chaired by the Office of Community Participation and attended by the head and external members of the municipal Ownership Committee, representatives of two local civic organizations (Civilians for the Palota Quarter and C8 - Civilians for Józsefváros) and the elected representatives of the Palota Quarter Municipality.
The team met several times. We first read and processed the current district and national regulations on film shootings, previous film shooting statistics for the district, and reviewed the ordinances of other settlements and districts. There were issues in the practice and regulation that we all wanted to change, but there were also elements with which we were satisfied. In this phase, we consulted with film professionals to get to know their perspectives as well. Then we agreed on the steps of the consultation, which eventually consisted of two main elements: an online and offline survey and a public forum.
The survey was compiled on the basis of the topics that came up in the preparatory team as typical problems (e.g. shooting at night, the problem of parking spaces, lack of public information), and we also left open questions where residents could indicate the topics which we had not noticed before. The survey also included problems and suggestions on which residents were able to express their views. The competent administrative office of the Municipality also commented on the issues.
In the case of the questionnaire, we set 1,000 people as the ideal number of respondents and wanted opinions from all parts of the district from the widest possible circle of society. Finally, the survey was completed by nearly 800 people. We gave residents two weeks to complete it and distributed it both online and offline. Offline distribution, in the form of public stalls, proved essential to reaching a wide range of people in Józsefváros. Most of this work was done by the members of C8 - Civilians for Józsefváros, who spent many hours in various public spaces in the district and asked residents to fill out the questionnaire. The other form was online distribution (Facebook, municipal website), which distorts upwards in terms of social class, and is typically filled by those who are specifically interested in the topic.
We processed and analyzed the responses to the survey and posted the results on the district’s website without any additional comments. We consider it important to present the results in every consultation process without any bias or official opinion, so that people themselves can see the diversity of opinions and suggestions, not just through the municipality’s filter, which ultimately determines the final form of the specific regulation.In addition to the survey, we also organized a public forum, where about 50 local residents took part. The location of this was in the Palota Quarter so that we can reach those who will be most affected by the future regulation. At the forum, we encouraged participants to fill out the questionnaire, and they could also write their questions and opinions on large wrapping papers on the spot, which then provided the basis for our discussion. We invited the competent deputy mayor of the district, an employee of the National Film Institute, and a representative of a film company with experience in the district. In the forum, the moderator asked for written and oral questions from the audience. In the end, the discussion was more similar to a joint brainstorming session than a traditional forum where residents usually ask questions and decision makers respond to them.After the forum, the preparatory team met again and members discussed which points should be changed in the regulation and how. A summary of the suggestions made here was prepared by the head of the Office of Community Participation, which was commented on in writing and orally by the members of the team. The resulting text was presented to the mayor’s office and then sent to the relevant administrative office for comment and codification. The codified text of the regulation was again commented on by the members of the preparatory team. The final proposal was discussed by the competent municipal committee and then by the local assembly. The assembly also made a few proposals to amend the regulation, which were accepted by its members and finally included in the text of the final legislation.
The implementation of the new regulation
After the adoption of the decree, the elaboration of the implementation started including a discussion of what the new elements are in the procedure, who is responsible for what within the Mayor’s Office and how we will monitor the procedures. This led to minor conflicts and misunderstandings due to the fact that some of those involved in the implementation did not fully participate in the planning and consultation process, so not everything was clear to them. Once we were done with the first version of the internal protocols and in some cases tested them in practice, we discussed and streamlined our own internal processes once again. We also learned a lot from the filmmakers, who like some parts of the new regulation and dislike others. In any case, it is important to develop an intensive and constructive relationship with the filmmakers as well so that the resident-friendly procedures could be put into practice.
As a final step, we sat down with the National Film Institute to negotiate the new regulation, where we discussed the practical details and possible pitfalls of the implementation of the regulation together with the competent members of the mayor’s office. Here, too, important aspects of the implementation of the regulation were revealed. This meeting was useful to make the new approach more prevalent within the municipality and to enable the Film Institute to inform filmmakers accordingly. The consultation with the Film Institute will be repeated in six months to assess the situation and, if necessary, adjust the regulation so that it can work well in practice for all participants.
Publicity and documentation
Each time, the meetings of the preparatory team were recorded so that participants could follow the process, and the steps of the consultation were reported on the online channels of the municipality. The public forum was broadcast live on Facebook, and the video was also posted on the municipality’s website so that even those who could not be present in person could access it. During the communication and implementation of the consultation, we paid special attention to making the language we used as accessible and simple as possible.
Evaluation of the process
Overall, we see the consultation process and the resulting new regulation as a success, as a relatively large number of residents were able to express their views and the new regulation largely reflected the priorities outlined in the opinions we had received (adequate information, better parking arrangements, reduction in the frequency of shotting, restriction of night shootings). During 2020, we were able to quickly remedy some of the complaints we received about public film shootings. The feedback we received from filmmakers and residents was overall positive, in which good co-operation between the mayor’s cabinet and the competent administrative office played a key role.
What did we learn?
● Completing the questionnaires in person is an essential part of any consultation process (one third of the survey responses were offline and two thirds online). Our partnership with the civic organizations proved vital in this outcome.
● Much more attention should be paid to the aspects of participation in the internal processes of the municipality, that is, we have to always remembers to involve those administrative members of the mayor’s office who will be responsible for the implementation of changes.
● Public consultation never ends with the adoption of a regulation: implementation should also be monitored, assisted and, if necessary, amended to take into account experiences and feedback.
● We consider it a shortcoming that there was no public written summary of the public forum beyond the video we recorded, which could have compared the views expressed there with the opinions expressed in the survey. Even though there was significant overlap among the opinions and priorities, this would have increased transparency.
● It is also a shortcoming that no summary was made of those results of the questionnaire and the public forum that we eventually incorporated directly into the new regulation and those that we omitted and ours reasons behind these decisions (this was discussed in detail in the preparatory team, but the public could only find it out from the final regulation that the assembly adopted).
On 17 February 2020, we published the first piece of news about the goals of the consultation and the possible ways of participation: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/74744/konzultacio-a-kozteruleti-filmforgatasokrol-jozsefvarosban
Residents were able to complete this survey online and offline: https://forms.gle/pGE1a9W9NDk5umLW8
A public forum for the residents was held on 25 February 2020 in the H13 community center: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/74763/forum-a-kozteruleti-filmforgatasokrol
We also promoted the event on the municipality’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/502330960403146
The forum was livestreamed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jozsefvaros.hu/videos/531543010804002/
Based on the questions raised in the surveys and during the forum, we wrote a Q&A document for the public: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/74770/konzultacio-a-filmforgatasokrol-jozsefvarosban-kerdesek-es-valaszok
Summary of the results of the survey: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/74810/a-filmforgatasokrol-szolo-konzultacio-eredmenyei
Video about the whole consultation process: https://www.facebook.com/jozsefvarosujsag/videos/800886177073226/
Today, residents can monitor public film shootings here: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/hasznos/75328/aktualis-kozteruleti-filmforgatasok
An accessible summary of the regulation on public film shootings: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/hasznos/75186/a-kozteruleti-filmforgatasokra-vonatkozo-szabalyok-
An accessible summary of the Public Land Use Regulation: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/hasznos/75384/milyen-tevekenysegekre-kell-kozterulet-hasznalati-kerelmet-benyujtani
Consultation on the house rules of municipally owned residential buildings
The consultation process exploring the house rules of municipally owned residential buildings was launched at the initiative of a resident: a tenant living in a municipal building asked the mayor a question about problems affecting municipal houses. In response to the question, the mayor acknowledged the difficulties of coexistence in municipal houses and promised a consultation on the subject. He commissioned the Office of Community Participation to conduct the consultation. There is a total of 140 municipally owned residential buildings in Józsefváros with several thousand residents. Most of the buildings are in poor condition, tenants often live in crowded, low-comfort apartments, and there are regular disagreements and conflicts among residents. With the consultation on the house rules, the aim of the municipality was to develop a reasonable set of house rules in the buildings owned by the Józsefváros Municipality, which also takes into account the interests of as many residents as possible.
The consultation process
The consultation took place between July 15 and August 15, 2020. The questionnaire compiled by the Office of Community Participation could be completed online and on paper as well. In addition to the questionnaire, the experiences, suggestions and questions shared through other channels were also included in the consultation, such as emails, letters by mail as well as information obtained through a public forum on the topic. Nearly 100 people took part in the consultation process and 40 people attended the public forum.
The forum was held in the Kesztyűgyár Community House in the Magdolna Quarter, because most of the municipally owned houses are located in its vicinity. The event was also attended by the competent staff members of the Józsefvárosi Gazdálkodási Központ Zrt. (the municipal real estate management and maintenance company) and Mayor András Pikó. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions both in writing and orally. In the forum, we shared the opinions received as part of the survey and participants could collect their suggestions in small groups. Participants could also ask questions of the decision makers and invited guests who were present. The forum was broadcast live on the Facebook page of the Józsefváros Municipality.
We provided information about the consultation on the online and offline channels of the municipality with the help of posters flyers and door-to-door knocking as well. We also made a short video to promote the consultation online.
The information received during the consultation was processed by the Office of Community Participation. The summary of the results was shared without any additional comments on the municipality’s online surfaces and also sent by e-mail to those residents who has previously provided their email addresses. In the course of the consultation, we mainly asked for residents’ opinions regarding the content of the house rules, but based on responses, it became clear that the problems they face in their everyday lives regarding municipally owned buildings go way beyond the topic of house rules.
In order to evaluate the results, negotiations started at the beginning of September 2020 with the participation of members of the Mayor’s Cabinet and the staff of Józsefvárosi Gazdálkodási Központ Zrt., in order to find solutions to the problems that residents raised. The competent authorities are expected to come up with a proposal to the municipal assembly regarding the new house rules in the first quarter of 2021.
One of the most important conclusions of the consultation has been that tenants feel that they do not receive adequate information about the issues that concern them. To address this problem, we started to develop a booklet for municipal tenants that includes answers to frequently asked questions as well as an information board that can be posted in every municipally owned residential building. During the preparation of these materials, it became clear that jurisdictions and legal competences were unclear in certain cases, which continues to greatly hinder the preparation of these information materials (and also the daily lives of residents).
The first version of the information materials is currently being reviewed and the text of the new house rules is being drafted.
Evaluation of the process
As a result of the consultation, the municipality received a comprehensive picture of the problems affecting the tenants of municipal houses. The number of participants in the consultation was lower than expected, which may be due to timing (summer, coronavirus pandemic), the inadequate amount of flyers and the little time we allotted for door-knocking, our insufficient knowledge of the habits of residents regarding news sources as well as to the disillusionment of residents regarding the municipality that has emerged over the years.
The fact that the problems identified in our consultation go beyond the competences of the Office of Community Participation makes it difficult to conclude the consultation process in an adequate way and to address all the issues raised by residents. In retrospect, we believe that we should have placed more emphasis on working out the terms of cooperation with the relevant municipal companies and administrative offices, as this would probably have lead to greater commitment and a more productive collaboration.
What did we learn?
● As a result of the consultation, the municipality gathered a large amount of additional information regarding the grievances of municipal tenants, which can be the basis for further interventions.
● It is good to prepare in advance for the fact that any consultation process can be much more complicated than we first imagine.
● Prior to the consultation, it is worth defining the purpose and framework of the process together with the decision-makers so that it is clear to everyone, including organizers, participants and decision-makers.
● Participants who will have a role in the implementation of the change should be involved in the planning of the consultation process from the outset. If this is not possible due to capacity or time constraints, they should at least be kept informed of the planned process in detail.
● The transfer of information based on personal contact has a great role in the engagement of residents, so even more more emphasis should be placed on direct outreach (flyers, door knocking).
● Too many forms of expression within a consultation can confuse or frustrate participants, so it is worth considering the best form in which participants are asked to participate so they do not feel overburdened (e.g. simplifying the forms of asking questions or commenting in a public forum).
● The questionnaire should not contain too many open-ended questions, as this may scare respondents (too long to complete).
● It is important that participants in the consultation receive meaningful information about the processes initiated as a result of the consultation.
This can be helped by scheduling public information steps in advance as part of the planning of the whole process.
On July 15 2020, we published the first news piece about the purpose of the consultation and the opportunities for participation (public forum, questionnaire): https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75163/jozsefvarosi-forum-az-onkormanyzati-hazak-hazirendjerol
Residents were able to complete this questionnaire online or offline: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Bgf99JMa3Bvy58G1tBs8hZ-8Su1lp5P2/view
A poster informing about the consultation process was placed in all municipally owned houses: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BZ0LIDzJ3-7KoWjcXtPykfjMhf6s7nHy/view
Video promoting the consultation: https://www.facebook.com/107247504079972/videos/350075952662456
The public forum was held on July 30, 2020 at the Kesztyűgyár Community House. Forum video: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75269/jozsefvarosi-forum-az-onkormanyzati-hazak-hazirendjerol---video
We also advertised the event on the municipality’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/909058326241336
The forum was livestreamed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/107247504079972/videos/210185367066003
Summary of the results of the consultation on the house rules of municipal houses: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75368/az-onkormanyzati-hazak-hazirendjerol-szolo-konzultacio-eredmenye
Decisions delegated to the community
One of the purest forms of participatory democracy is when those who hold elected offices passe the power of making decisions to those who are directly affected by an issue. As researcher and expert Katalin Pallai says: “Delegated decisions mean that the decisionmaker designates the area and the conditions within which he delegates the right to decide to a specific group of municipal actors. Delegated decision means that a given group can decide and implement its decision independently and according to its interests about the designated topic and within the defined framework ”(p. 21). During 2020, the Municipality of Józsefváros used this approach in smaller issues, which provide an important learning process for preparing larger decisions.
Public vote on the award “For the Communities of Józsefváros”
In the framework of the revision of the regulation regarding awards and honors offered by the Józsefváros Municipality, a new award was established that can be donated to those organizations or individuals who have achieved outstanding results in their work for the inclusion, equality and safety of the residents of Józsefváros or for environmental sustainability.
According to the new regulation, any resident of Józsefváros can make a nomination for this award, and the winners will also be chosen by the local assembly on the basis of a direct vote by residents. It is important that the nomination, voting and decision-making process is clear and transparent to everyone.
The nomination and voting process
The nomination process was opened at the end of July 2020, for which residents of Józsefváros could make proposals online and offline. The possibility of nomination was also advertised in the local newspaper, posters and municipal events, and it was also sent to the civic organizations active in the district by e-mail. During the nomination process, this award was announced together with the other awards in Józsefváros so that the residents can choose from as many options as possible.
At the end of the nomination period (approximately two weeks), we approached all of the candidates to find out if they would accept the nomination. Out of a total of 12 candidates, 8 individuals and organizations responded positively, so they were eventually put on the ballot.
There were also two weeks to vote and votes could be cast online and offline. Offline ballots were distributed in the district newspaper as well as at public events. The online voting interface was set up in a way that only one vote could be cast from an email address, but in the case of offline voting we could only rely on the goodwill of the voters for not abusing the process. The vote was also advertised on the online surfaces of the municipality (website and Facebook page) with the help of a short introduction and photo about each candidate. A total of 789 valid votes were received (of which 174 were on paper and 615 online).
The counting of paper-based votes was documented with photos, and online votes were saved at the time of the voting deadline. In the case of offline voting, ballot sheets where the names of several candidates were ticked or where a blank ballot was submitted were excluded. The award ultimately went to the two organizations with the most votes.
The awards were presented as part of the district’s birthday celebration, along with other district awards. The award ceremony was only broadcast online due to the epidemic. As part of the ceremony, short videos were made about each winner where they discussed their work. These videos can later be used by the awardees as a reference, so in this way, in addition to the awards, we have also provided them with an extra resource.
Evaluation of the process
Overall, we consider the nomination and voting process to be good, as it mobilized hundreds of people and provided an opportunity for organizations working in the district to show their work to a wider audience. For the first time in the district’s history, the local community was empowered to decide who they wanted to reward for the work. The number of participating citizens can, of course, be increased, and we will certainly strive to do so in the future - we hope that if the awards become part of the traditions of Józsefváros, even more people will take part in both nomination and voting.
What did we learn?
● Offline nomination and voting proved to be essential here as well. In this way, we were able to engage people who would never have heard of this opportunity online.
● There have been few nominations for informal communities despite the fact that there are many such groups in Józsefváros who work for their immediate environment or for their neighborhood. In the future, it will be worth motivating nominations for such unregistered organizations, communities and groups as well.
● It would be worthwhile for the municipality to set up its own digital platform, which would allow one-time voting even without an email login, so that this option is available as widely and securely as possible.
Call for nominations from the municipality on July 28, 2020: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75206/jeloljon-on-is-a-jozsefvarosi-kituntetesekreInvitation for a public vote on August 17, 2020: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75235/kozonsegszavazas-jozsefvarosi-kozossegekert-kituntetesFacebook event of the public vote, where the introductory texts submitted by the candidates were also published: https://www.facebook.com/events/308172390601360/
The result of the public vote on September 7, 2020: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/szoljon-bele/75295/kozonsegszavazas-a-jozsefvarosi-kozossegekert-kituntetesrol-%E2%80%93-eredmenyek
The award ceremony was held on November 7, 2020: https://www.facebook.com/events/2928691390565512/
The videos about the winners were made and published by the local Józsefváros Newspaper: https://www.facebook.com/watch/102661061276685/311456510308064
Vote on the purchase of a new game for the Pom-Pom playground
One of the toys in the Pom-pom playground on Tisztes Street in the Százados Quarter, a wooden dollhouse, had to be demolished because it had become unusable. A decision to replace the toy had to be made shortly before the end of 2020 in order to fund the new game from the budget of 2020. The Józsefvárosi Gazdálkodási Központ Zrt., which operates the playground, asked the elected representative of the area to select the new game. The representative believed that the right game should be selected by playground users as part of a community decision-making process. He contacted the Office of Community Participation and asked us to plan the process, which we happily did.
The process of planning and voting
As a first step in planning the process, we got to know the playground, mapped potential visitors to the playground as well as the surrounding residential buildings and institutions (kindergarten, nursery). At the same time, we got to know the framework proposed by the Józsefvárosi Gazdálkodási Központ Zrt.: which games to choose from and what the deadline was for the decision.
The introduction of a ban on gatherings and events due to the pandemic and the tight timeframe were not working in favor of the process (we had one and a half months from the request to plan and prepare the process and the vote). For some time, it was even questionable whether the playgrounds would be able to remain open. (The weather was rainy and overcast during voting week, so presumably the playground was used less than usual.)
Due to the unfavorable circumstances, we had to let go of our ideal participatory process, so our plan did not include a community meeting, an expert presentation, or door knocking to promote the opportunity to participate. In the end, we could only arrange an online vote.Playground users were able to decide which game to put on the Pom-Pom playground through an online poll. Eleven days were available for voting, and we targeted 100 people as the ideal number of voters. In the end, a total of 64 people took advantage of the opportunity.
We made informational leaflets and posters about the vote. With the help of volunteers, we placed posters in the playground, in nearby institutions and condominiums, and delivered flyers to the mailboxes of the residents of the surrounding buildings. We announced the vote on the website of the Józsefváros Municipality, in the neighborhood Facebook groups, as well as in the Józsefváros Newspaper. We visited the venue once a week during the vote with the local elected representative and informed the parents in the playground about the vote.
To complete the online voting form, participants had to sign in to an email account to make sure that one person cast only one vote. On the voting form, we described the scope and framework of the vote and the expected date of the installation of the chosen game. We asked everyone to vote if they used the playground regularly. Prior to the vote, we presented the seven options so that participants could make an informed decision with as much information as possible. Options included placing another dollhouse and also leaving the area empty.
As part of the form, voters had the opportunity to write comments and suggestions about the development of the playground and also provide their contact information so that we can keep them informed about local, including the outcome of the vote. Nearly half of those who voted took the opportunity. The staff members of Józsefvárosi Gazdálkodási Központ Zrt. responded to the suggestions, complaints and questions submitted by residents.
We announced the results of the vote on the online surfaces of the municipality (website, Facebook page, Facebook page of the Office of Community Participation, Facebook group of the municipality), as well as in the neighborhood Facebook groups. We reported on the details of the vote, presented the game of choice (polyball), and also summarized the questions, complaints and suggestions of participants. The polyball, which was voted by the majority of playground users, was placed in the playground at the end of 2020.
Evaluation of the process
Overall, we consider the process to be good. It is an important development that there is local representative who is thinking about applying participatory processes. The restrictions created by the pandemic, the short time available for planning and implementation, and the season were not helpful for the participatory process. Due to these circumstances, we had to lower our professional expectations. At the same time, we were able to create an opportunity for the residents to decide directly on an issue that directly affects them. Participating in this smaller, simpler process can help residents engage in an even more complex participatory process.
What did we learn?
● If circumstances allow, there should always be an be opportunity to vote offline and it is very important to talk to the people directly affected in person.
● Participation processes should be planned with the season and weather in mind. Presumably the number of participants would have been higher in the spring, thus better representing the views of playground users.
● Voting is a good opportunity to talk to residents about things that matter to them and for residents to connect with decision-makers and elected representatives. More complex issues affecting residents came up in connection with the relatively light topic of the vote.
Information on the vote, November 12, 2020: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/hir/75519/valasszon-uj-jatekot-a-tisztes-utcai-pom-pom-jatszoterre
Information on the results of the vote on November 30, 2020: https://old.jozsefvaros.hu/hir/75580/a-tisztes-utcai-pom-pom-jatszoter-uj-jatek-valaszto-szavazas-eredmenye
Code of good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process. Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, 2009. Available: https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=09000016802eee48
Dr. Pallai Katalin: Társadalmi részvétel. Bevezetés a helyi önkormányzati képviselők számára. Települési Önkormányzatok Országos Szövetsége, 2010. Available: http://www.pallai.hu/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/toosz-ctp-tarsadalami_reszvetel_last.pdf